Becoming “Monogamish”


By Kenneth Miller

Photo courtesy of Makia Minich.

Dumbo couple Rorrie Kutner and Liz Little seem like every other 20-something-year-old romantic pair living in Brooklyn. They sublet a room together, have an anxious miniature schnauzer, go out to brunch every Sunday, and have sex with others individually.

Oh–about that last part, they don’t think twice about it really. Most of their friends share similar relationships. Kutner and Little consider themselves “semi-open,” but more monogamous than anything.

They’re what relationship gurus call “monogamish,” and it works for them.

This isn’t a new philosophy either, really. Sex columnist and founder of the “It Gets Better” campaign Dan Savage first coined the term monogamish when critiquing his relationship with his husband of nearly 20 years in 2012. Indicating the inherent danger that comes with being in a monogamous relationship, Savage emphasized an urgent need for subtle “openness” within the dynamic of traditional monogamous bonds.

Monogamish translates as being emotionally and practically monogamous with your partner, but sexually free to explore other bodies. According to sexologists, the practice is key to not only holding down a happier relationship, but also in ending the divorce epidemic.

For Kutner, it’s about: “Not limiting myself, my body and my feelings.” She goes on to tell BTR that her relationship with Little is different from other monogamish couples she knows.

“We are 100 percent open with one another,” she states. “The truth about my [outside] sex life with Liz is what makes [our relationship] work.”

Photo courtesy of John Martinez Pavliga.

As all things, the definition of monogamish is different to each couple that practices it. To some critics, it’s no different than any other open relationship. But to partakers–like Savage–it’s simply being more monogamous than not with your partner. There’s a fine line, undeniably.

Monogamish couples may go by the idea that the longevity–in addition to the emotional trials and triumphs–of their relationships is more highly esteemed than sexual outside acts. To these couples, a random hookup on a business trip is not on par or damaging to the meaningful memories they’ve made over the course of their relationships. Accepting a partner having a small fling is a structural change for most; a new definition of “cheating” must be made. After all, some humans are inherently not destined to stay in long-term, monogamous relationships.

Empirical evidence says so. In February of 2015, a team of researchers out of the University of Oxford and Northumbria University determined humans are not uniformly monogamous creatures. Rather, their studies found it is quite natural for humans to have multiple sexual partners while remaining completely emotionally monogamous with one sole being.

Demarcated by the notion that humans are “socially monogamous,” the research team determined it most natural for humans to raise offspring together, make sincere bonds with one partner, but continue to have flings on the side. Nonetheless, a whopping 91 percent of Americans find this “adulterous” lifestyle to be more morally wrong than cloning or suicide.

Social critic and author of The Little Book of Heartbreak, Meghan Laslocky, began breaking down the unnatural state of monogamy in an op-ed published on CNN. She points out to BTR that humanity has essentially been subjected to this lifestyle since the beginning of the Enlightenment period. Highlighting monogamy’s fairly recent incorporation into society, Laslocky notes that marriage was only implemented in the 17th century to grant socioeconomic transactions amongst families. The monogamous tradition was designed neither for love nor lifelong happiness.

Photo courtesy of mrhayata.

“In our culture, marriage, love, and fidelity are for the most part synonymous,” Laslocky tells BTR. “Love wasn’t always a requirement in marriage, and now it’s the requirement. That’s great in some ways, but it also puts an enormous amount of pressure on married people to be each other’s everything.”

Laslocky is a firm believer that not every relationship is meant to be monogamish. Not every couple is comfortable having a conversation of that sort or facing the fact they cannot be their partners’ “everything.”

Nevertheless, despite the staggering 60 percent of men and 40 percent of women who cheat on their significant others, statistics show only 4 percent to 5 percent of heterosexual couples actually agree to open their relationships. Experts suggest the lack of willingness to opening relationships is derivative of trust and jealousy.

However, Laslocky adds, “Some people have absolutely no problem ever straying because it’s just not hard for them. For other people, not being able to experience sexual variety is very, very challenging.”

But, nowadays, as monogamy and commitment are seen as scary, looming concepts from above, studies indicate Millennials are pushing back the average age of marriage–if not outright rejecting it–by overtly pursuing routes of openness. Although grandparents may be upset and society may label this population as commitment-phobic, this generation is attempting to redefine what monogamy means to them.

“It’s not really about [having sex with] others,” Kutner says. “It’s about us being able to grow mentally, emotionally, and sexually together.”

She wittingly argues, “Who’s to judge anyways?”