Word Counting Non-Monogamy


Word Counting Non-MonogamyThis column is going to be difficult to write. I can feel it in my body, in my simultaneously frantic and vacuous mind. Shall we count words? This is thirty.

I could draw some brilliant parallel between my current state of mind and non-monogamy. Well, I say “brilliant”, but I think we all know I mean “barely tangible.” Although the atmosphere around that contrast of frantic and vacuous is not altogether absent when I think about my partners. I hear lots of people talking about how one of the benefits of non-monogamy is that you don’t have to fulfill all of your partner’s needs. One person can gather his or her satisfaction and happiness from various people, putting less strain on each individual relationship; and I suppose that when non-monogamy is working really well, the people involved will feel that not only are their needs being met, but there is space for even more. I think I imagine good non-monogamy as an overflowing of satisfaction (and I don’t just mean sexual satisfaction). Like popping reams of bubblewrap. Have I lost you yet? This is one-hundred-and-ninety-three.

But of course, the difficulty of this is that if, for example, you have a partner who fulfills a specific need – let’s say an unusual fetish – and they are the only partner you have who can truly meet this fetish, and you break up, or fall out, or for some reason that need is no longer being met, what happens to the need? Your other partners are in no way responsible for that need because you had given the oneness of it to their ex-metamour. Are you not then in danger of letting that fetish slip through the cracks and out of sight, under the surface? When that kind of imbalance occurs, I think the sense of it is comparable to that frantic/vacuous juxtaposition: there is a vacuous space where that need once was, and there is the frantic energy of being without it. Still with me? This is three-hundred-and-forty-nine.

If you’re thinking I’ll be able to tie this up into a neat little answer of an ending, you would be oh so wrong. But I suppose it – once again – all comes down to good communication. Which, as we all know, is not my forte. I do believe I use some of the worst tactics at my disposal in my attempts to communicate. The good news is that no one else seems any better at it than I do; so by comparison I’m not quite the monster I might appear to be on the surface. Everyone is just about keeping their heads above water. The bad news is that no one else seems any better at it than I do; so I’m fairly sure we’re all doomed. After all, if everyone fails to communicate, won’t we all fail in the end? Could we perhaps subcontract responsibilities?

You’re good at maintaining the fun, flirtatious nature of relationships? Excellent, you can support us all in that.

And you? Oh, yes, you’re good at listening and observing and noticing when things don’t seem quite right? Perfect – I’m putting you down to lead our compassion workshop.

And thank God for Captain Communication: without you we’d all be lost.

This, by the way, is five-hundred-and-sixty-three.

Personally, I don’t know exactly what I bring to the table, but I feel rather reckless rather too often, and like I say, I have no neat ending for you here. Except to say that of course, we have all lived – at some time or another – with a lack of satisfaction when it came to some or all of our needs; and we survived it. It’s difficult, but we did it. So I suppose the worst case scenario here is that we look after ourselves, which isn’t so bad really. Right?

And we’ve overshot by sixty words. Damn it. This is six-hundred-and-sixty


Harper Eliot is a writer and podcaster whose work mainly centers around eroticism and social observation. You can find an archive of work, and links to all her other projects, on her website Harper Eliot. Harper lives in London, but rarely sees her own house, spending most of her time on public transport, listening to podcasts and tweeting too much. Her vices include cigarettes, lubricant, Earl Grey tea, opera, nail polish, and pinwheels.

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