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COVID / Polyamory

Quarantine Monogamy: When Someone becomes the Only One

Our stated plan to be “housemates who also date” quickly transformed.

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Written By Anne Haddox.

Photo from The Gender Spectrum Collection

What happens when two very polyamorous people with fragile parents start to co-habitate during a global pandemic? For me and my now-girlfriend, the solution has been quarantine monogamy.

Our foray into monogamy came after almost a year of dating in a way we characterized as “invested casual.” The term is not found in the index of The Ethical Slut or More Than Two, so I’m going to give us credit. “Invested” and “casual” are usually positioned at the opposite end of the dating spectrum. We combined the concepts by caring about each other and, at the same time, not feeling compelled to enter a distinct or restrictive relationship.

Although I firmly believe invested casual can last forever, this dating relationship evolved into a partnership. We eventually had a DTR following a visit to Warby Parker where we each had our glasses adjusted. (Could it get gayer?) I had to refer to my companion in the third person, and the word “girlfriend” came forth from my lips for the first time. I had previously complained about being “girlfriended” in college, when the first time I realized someone thought of me as her girlfriend was when she introduced me as such. I received well-deserved teasing for paying it forward in 2020, but in contrast to the college era, we had a conversation about the term and agreed that it felt comfy.

While dealing with intense decision fatigue from the pandemic, I needed the rest of my life to be as simple as possible.

Following the girlfriending, our stated plan to be “housemates who also date” quickly transformed. My therapist had advised me to establish house boundaries before my girlfriend moved in. “How many meals do you expect to prepare together? How many nights per week will you share a bed? What kind of notice do you expect for guests?” These were the sorts of practical inquiries I was meant to make of my girlfriend. I skipped this step. We now eat all our meals together, sleep in the same bed every night, and hug each other’s parents (and I wouldn’t have it any other way).

While dealing with intense decision fatigue from the pandemic, I needed the rest of my life to be as simple as possible. I eat the same breakfast every day (oatmeal with bananas and mini chocolate chips), do the NYT crossword every evening, and sleep between 11:30 pm and 9:00 am. I’m grateful that my relationship life has adapted along similar lines: one girlfriend, end of sentence. The urge to (temporarily) merge is strong. I can’t help but wonder, how many other couples are quarantine monogamous?

Unlike some couples who never go the non-monogamous route again, we fully intend to fuck around when the viral threat subsides.

Some couples choose to observe a period of monogamy before opening their relationship. Other couples temporarily close off their previously open relationship. In a way, we’re observing both of these patterns. The start of our relationship as girlfriends coincided with neither of us having other partners. It’s been a treat to spend time together the past few months without negotiating that Tuesdays are for other dates, and exclaiming, “I know you’re running late but you promised to take out the trash before you leave!” On the other hand, we have dated each other while juggling other relationships, and now we are in relationship only with each other. I have to admit to checking vaccine availability projections every now and then, to build a mental estimate of when it will be possible to distribute the emotional labor more widely once again.

I can’t say I ever previously understood the reasoning of closing an open relationship or promising to open a closed relationship at some point down the line.  If you’re trying to build a solid foundation for your relationship, why build it monogamously only to rebuild it polyamorously? I’ve had varying degrees of (bad) luck initiating an open relationship from a monogamous one, because people grow accustomed to life as it is. But, I have high hopes for no hard feelings this time around because it was the pandemic that forced our hand, not a reluctance to engage in polyamory. Unlike some couples who never go the non-monogamous route again, we fully intend to fuck around when the viral threat subsides. Check in with me in two years.

When the time comes to kiss a stranger on the dance floor one night and amuse myself at home while my partner is out on a date the next night, I hope I’ll remember how.

Finding ourselves monogamous, my girlfriend and I have discovered compatibility in more areas than we anticipated. We’re generally game to try what the other suggests in terms of food, sex, and entertainment, and that flexibility has helped us build a bank of mutually interesting ways to fill our days. Still, I struggle to square one notable part of this experience with my overall values. Popular culture about polyamory, by its practitioners, has drilled into me the virtues of affirming a partner’s decision to seek connections beyond my relationship with them. Such advice ranges from actively encouraging other connections to focusing on myself and my ability to deal with jealousy. An overtone runs throughout: if you’re committed to practicing polyamory, you need to be supportive of your partner engaging with other people.

The pandemic has caused me to make different sorts of attempts at being a supportive partner. I actually can’t encourage my girlfriend to meet up with a cutie from Lex, because such activity could kill our parents. Instead of trusting that my girlfriend will come home to snuggle with me after a steamy dinner date, I should trust that she’ll come downstairs for a movie after a hot cyber sesh. And I would, but without a timeline for meeting others in person, neither of us has felt motivated to pursue that type of interaction. Even outside meetups with friends take on a different tone. The conversation has shifted from asking for support I need when/after partners are absent to “Is it going to be weird to see that person and not touch them?”

When the time comes to kiss a stranger on the dance floor one night and amuse myself at home while my partner is out on a date the next night, I hope I’ll remember how.


About The Author

Anne (they/them) is a Midwestern artist with the goal of working in as many mediums as their idol Judy Chicago. With history as a zine maker, their recent projects include ceramics, needlepoint, gardening, and learning to code. Anne is also pursuing their Master’s in Library and Information Science.

Follow on IG: @annedrawscomics


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