Sexperts David Matteson dispels hook-up culture and relays the difficulties of constantly being in a relationship.
While I frequently utilize this column as a space to discuss the issues plaguing the hook-up culture of our generation, I have a confession: in the past five years, I have only been officially “single” and hooking-up for a period of six months.
The truth is, that this persistent standard of always having a companion has often served as my own Scarlett Letter of sorts. In a generation obsessed with hooking up and moving on, those of us who are so kindly labeled as “serial monogamists,” stand out like sphinxes amongst meerkats.
My choice to proudly display my affection in a series of open, honest, and healthy relationships does not make me any better or worse than my single friends—the only difference between me and them: commitment and monogamy. But the truth is despite this hairline of a distinction, single people treat me incredibly differently than the way I treat them. Like an animal in a zoo, I often feel the eyes of my single friends cast upon me in judgment and awe.
It starts with the label itself, as if the fact that my luck in love has left me with some rare untreatable, affliction—serial monogamy disease. The tone of the term is often prescriptive and judgmental, and has the implication that because of my choice to be “in a relationship,” I am somehow unaware of the trials and tribulations that plague the “single” mind. I prefer to think of myself as lucky and grateful to have found three men at separate intervals in my life that I felt the need to stand by and say, “In this world of lost souls vying for each other’s attention, I choose to be with you, and only you.”
In an effort to further enlighten my “single” reader, I have decided to dispel three common misconceptions regarding the “serial monogamist.”
I am not a well of endless advice. Often when interacting with my single friends, they ask me for advice in handling their current pursuit in love. While I optimistically hope that this is because of my pseudo-authority seemingly instilled upon me by the decision to routinely publish my thoughts on dating, love and sex, I have gathered the sense that the persistent questioning comes from a position of craving for the life that they seem to think I am living.
Single people seem to think that monogamy is some sort of option presented à la carte. In an effort to order it off the menu, they seek out their closest serial monogamist friend for his or her dining advice. The truth is, monogamy is not some foreign word on a Vietnamese restaurant’s menu that you have no clue how to pronounce. Relationships and monogamy are rather easy to achieve, it is about having an open and honest connection with another human being and voicing this decision—simply use the numbers to order, and you’ll soon be chowing down on phở.
The truth is, when faced with these calls for advice on everything from first dates to kinky sex, I am not always the best source. Sure, I have run the gauntlet a few times, but I don’t always know what to say. Every situation is different, because everyone is different. I can enlighten you with a tale on how I managed to turn a one-night stand into a long-term relationship, but the truth is that this isn’t a model that will work for you. Building a lasting relationship is not like Ikea furniture, there is not a step-by-step guide to follow.
I too have known heartbreak. When they’re not asking for advice, my single friends are often sharing tales concerning their failures in love. I am always willing to listen, because that’s what friends do, but frequently these tales end with the conclusive statement, “You wouldn’t understand because you have found someone.”
I never disagree with the person who says it, but secretly I resent this summative statement, which seems to imply that I have never had my heartbroken. Trust me, I have. I have had my heart wrenched out of my chest and shattered, and I can empathize with your pitfalls. No relationship is perfect. I have fought with every boyfriend to varying degrees, which always leaves me bruised and battered. So don’t discount my ability to listen and understand just because I am in a relationship.
Likewise, while I am lucky to have a handful of incredible friends who are willing to listen to my own romantic pitfalls, most of the people I confide in are those in relationships. Sadly, this is because I have come to learn that my single friends are not always the best listeners. My friendships with singles are seemingly one-sided. I’m sorry, but when I fight with my boyfriend, I want to talk about it as much as you want to talk about why last night’s suitor hasn’t texted you all day. Difficulties in a monogamist relationship are just as arduous to endure, and sometimes I need a shoulder to cry on. Yes, I understand that despite the fighting, he and I are still together, but that doesn’t make it any easier, and unfortunately, I am not able to quickly “perk up.” Not all single people are like this, but empathy and compassion is a goal we should all value: singles and serial monogamists alike.
I also have sex, and I also want to talk about it. The first few months of a relationship are so exhilarating for a multitude of reasons, especially for introducing your new lover to all of your friends. Beyond these initial meetings though, my single friends often seem uninterested in hearing the details of my monogamist lifestyle. Often they are thrilled to share longwinded, detailed stories of their triumphs in the sac, but when they finally catch their breath and ask me, “How are you and your beau,” I only have the chance to utter, “We’re well,” before my friends begin yet another enthralling story about another hook-up.
The truth is, I have great sex with my boyfriend—sex that comes from experience and connection and takes time to fine-tune all the little details of. And guess what single friends? I want to share those tales with you as much as you want to chronicle your own adventures.
No, I’m not single. No, I don’t want to be single. Every so often, usually in response to my confiding concerns for a future with my partner, I have a friend advise me that they think I should try being single for a while. I have even had a professor look at me once and say in regards to my academic future, “Well, you seem to always be in love, David. You should start thinking more about yourself.”
Experiences like this exasperate me. The truth is, that my lifestyle of continual companionship is not one that I am ashamed of. There seems to be this misconception that being “single” is something we should all be prescribed for an incremental period—a time where you are expected to soul search and experience some sort of personal growth. Unfortunately I think that this is a farce devised by single people to justify their solitude. During my tenure of monogamy I have certainly grown professionally, academically and emotionally. I do not feel as if I missed out on some sort of college experience because I am committed to another. In fact, I feel that my partner is someone who challenges me and pushes me closer to success everyday. Finding someone that you are able to engage and learn from is a goal we should all share for our romantic endeavors.
I harbor no ill feelings towards my single friends, and I rationally understand that my continual “in a relationship” status is something that puzzles them. But the truth is that there is no difference between us, my life is no better or worse than theirs. I am just lucky to be able and willing to let love into my life—an achievement I wish everyone to experience in this world of lost souls.