For any of us that have been in a long term relationship, we know it’s only natural for them to change over time. As you get to know somebody on a deeper and deeper level, your comfort with that individual and how much you share with them changes, creating what is often a vast difference between how you acted when you first met versus how you might act a year or two down the road. Often, the shifting of this dynamic is what makes a relationship even stronger, or inevitably tears it apart.

This dynamic has always been present and will continue to be present as long as there are relationships to be had, but how that dynamic influences the choices of the two individuals involved will continue to change with the times. This is especially true when it comes to relationships that exist within the fast paced world we live in today.

As a result, we are being presented with options that have never existed before, and how those options might change long term commitment and the dynamics that exist within relationships has yet to the fully seen.

But we can certainly infer what those implications might suggest.

Image credit: Pixelicious Photography

The New monogamy

Amidst the vast amount of choice that now exists because of social media and dating apps, there is a dilemma that has become present in the face of traditional monogamy. We are faced with the possibility of being presented a stream of potential partners on a daily basis that would outnumber the amount of potential partners one would be presented with in a lifetime only 50 years ago.

Because of these endless options, we must recognize that emotional and mental attachment between long term couples (and even couples just starting out) is becoming more fluid, and it will most likely continue to progress this way in the coming years. The idea of a middle ground between monogamy and polygamy is starting to surface as a more enticing and accepted option, especially to the newer generations, that comes with an agreement of primary connection to the main partner while being free to explore outside connections of varying degrees to others, as long as it does not threaten the primary relationship.

The key to experiencing success in these new types of relationships is complete transparency and communication between the partners. The implication of this type of relationship is not that outside sexual and emotional exploration leads to the partnerships destruction, but that the secrets, lies, denial, and sneakiness that traditionally accompany these actions do.

Now I realize this sounds like nothing more than standard polygamy, but there are certain key differences that lie in the focus of this type of commitment. It is not an active attempt to include other partners in the relationship (which exists within standard polygamy) but a passive acknowledgment that other attractions happen and that acting on those attractions does not necessarily have to spell death for the current long term relationship or marriage.

But of course, this model of long term commitment is not without its drawbacks.

Image credit: Pixelicious Photography

Security in Tradition

There are certain questions that will eventually need to be addressed if a couple chooses to follow the above model. What happens if a more intimate connection develops between your partner and someone else? At what point does the dynamic change from monogamy with less restrictive boundaries to simply being a polyamorous or open relationship, and what repercussions does this present for the pre-existing long term commitment?

These are questions that do not present themselves when it comes to the traditional model, as they are presented as pre existing boundaries. When it comes to pure monogamy, violating the established relationship by forming an emotional or physical connection with somebody else is usually considered cheating, and more often than not spells death for the pre-existing relationship. But in exchange for this security, when must one commit to being completely monogamous? When does exploring other options no longer become an option?

For many, it depends on the seriousness of the commitment between the two partners. Maybe a few months into the relationship is where it’s no longer acceptable, maybe marriage is where you two choose to draw the line, maybe it’s if you mutually decide to have children. In any case, communication will still dominate as the most important aspect of the relationship, and is essential in determining what is acceptable and what is not.

Image credit: Pixelicious Photography

A Solution For Changing Times

But is this to much to be asked of someone in our world of option and abundance? Is expecting a romantic interest to commit to exclusivity limit your options to being almost non existent? If you are a traditionalist, are you simply dooming yourself to a life of singledom in the name of your values?

I don’t necessarily think so. Although it’s true that monogamy is not for everybody, and that the number of people who feel this way is likely to increase in the coming years, there will probably always be those that prefer a relationship to exist solely between two committed individuals who have no interest in pursuing other possible partners or sub relationships. We reached out to Jimmy Chan, a wedding photographer from Montreal, someone who is certainly no stranger witnessing couples tying the knot. This is what he has to say:

“Despite young couples being less interested in marriage and ever increasing divorce rates, one would believe that the wedding industry is doomed. In fact, it is thriving and behind the lavishness and extravagance, there’s still that magic in proclaiming your love and commitment in front of your family and friends on a wedding day.

“Bonds are strengthen via adversity. The past challenges with your partner, how you come out on top of such struggles, are good indicators of a lasting relationship. Money problems are notorious for breaking up families so have both parties commit to a monthly budget and learn how to manage expenses together. Then try financing a vehicle, finally moving on to a mortgage. Having kids is also a huge commitment, what about the idea of having a dog first? Set small goals then move up gradually.”

The success of either model lies in rejecting the idea that an individual within the couple should be allowed to assume monogamy without discussing it with their partner or taking into consideration what that partner might value for themselves, and how one’s own values might differentiate from the other. Equally toxic is trying to secure monogamy via threats of what might happen if the partner violates it.

Going about any relationship this way will only lead to a cycle of dishonesty and betrayal.

In any case, partners, especially those already in long term commitments, must be honest with one another. The must accept that attractions to others are inevitable and natural, and have nothing to do with how much one loves the other, but they must engage in ongoing open communication of what is acceptable and what is not within the relationship they have mutually committed to.