A close friend who’s been single for a very long time, sent me a text saying he and this girl he’d been meeting on and off over the last several months decided to be exclusive. While I was overjoyed, I also thought it was a funny way of saying it. Maybe because I fell in love in another era where people would say I love you instead.
Do we now assume that people are in an open relationship by default, that there is a need to explicitly clarify otherwise?
There have always been people who didn’t subscribe to monogamy but in general, we are less likely to take monogamy for granted today. We live in the world of Tinder where you can go from one person to the next in just a swipe. Before your relationship with one person has ended, another has already begun and so we find ourselves being fairly non-committal to either relationship, just to be safe. There’s no incentive to stick it out and make it work with anyone because our choices are infinite, right?
When people explicitly state that they want to be exclusive, it’s a big step. Even if it is for a limited duration, it’s huge because then you become accountable for your commitment through the life of that relationship – be it physical, emotional, intellectual or social exclusivity.
But accountability takes the joy out of love, or at least love as we know it. Love as we know it (thanks to media) is about uncertainty, that ever fleeting feeling of elusiveness and it’s about being young and irresponsible. Love as we like it isn’t about being accountable – because you know, love makes us do stupid things.
Most people don’t make it past this first step of establishing accountability because it’s hard to stay exclusive. Strangely, we embrace uncertainty in love better than certainty in a stable relationship. We are so used to going from one stage to the next – being single to getting into a relationship to making it exclusive that we don’t know how to cope with the stability exclusivity brings in our lives.
The few of us who brave the exclusivity, stay on in the memory of that ever fleeting feeling of elusiveness that preceded this life of accountability because it’s what makes the mature aftertaste worth it.