by Amy-Willard Cross
One partner at a time please. It's what most people expect when dating or marrying.
Mormons may have their principle and polyamorists may have a reality TV show — but monogamy generally rules. Although many people admit it's hard to be with only one person, most still make the promise. The vow to love honor and cherish doesn’t say it outright, but exclusivity is implied in the “forsaking all others.”
A few years ago, filmmaker Dhruv Dhawan was getting pressured to marry and witnessing infidelity’s affect on two marriages--which made him think about monogamy.
“I felt I couldn’t keep to the vow of monogamy. I don’t want to commit to something I don’t think I can keep.”
So he's doing a film on the subject. But he’s taking an anthropological spin—after all he’s got a degree in cultural anthropology. In a 3-or 4-part series he's exploring the history around the institution: property, assured paternity, control of wealth, evolutionary biology, the 18th century introduction of romantic love to marriage, etc. And he's crowdfunding on Indiegogo.
Although monogamy affects us all deeply Dhawan says, “A lot of men don’t want to talk about it, I wanted to break the silence on this issue.” And maybe like the outing of polyamorous couples, his film represents the culture’s new willingness to talk more about sexual fidelity—its failings, our expectations and its requirement. He agreed to address the issue in his own life.
Dhawan felt he himself lacked the vocabulary to discuss the issue—as did everyone else, he’s discovered. “The code of monogamy is so strict. I didn’t know how to tell your girlfriend if you can’t be monogamous.” It could be awkward.
He since broke up with the girlfriend around whom the marriage pressure started and has met someone else. He’s deeply in love enough to say on the record, “She absolutely blew me away. It’s sweetness of her smile. I felt comfortable around her.”
Two and a half months into dating, Dhawan broached the subject. Despite his fear, his beloved is okay with it, which she admits on film. Hannah says that when they started talking she realized that her other relationships may not have lasted since she hadn’t had those awkward conversations. She felt trapped. In an e-mail, she says, “I have always been a loyal person in relationships, but at the same time I'd like to have fun flirting. I now have the freedom to date others if I want and still be in a loving relationship. So when I met Dhruv, I felt like I have fallen into the right place.”
Although he likes the idea of living and loving the same person, Dhawan says that doesn’t necessarily have to include sexual exclusivity. Why do we put more emphasis on sex rather than love? Although he might not like monogamy, Dhawan says infidelity is “from moral standpoint, it’s repulsive”
“I’m still not ready to do monogamy although I’m still madly in love with her.” Hannah’s openness to his unorthodoxy meant a lot to him. He says, “This has been the most faithful monogamous relationship--in my head because I used to fantasize about other people.”
This version of non-monogamy is two way—it doesn’t work when it’s one-sided. The gander’s sauce is offered to the goose too. Now separated while Dhruv is in Dubai, he encourages her to date other people. They go to swingers clubs and he thinks she’s “more gung ho.” And he’ll admit to pangs of jealousy, but realizes, “If someone wants to give her love, I think it’s time I get over that.”
Can we separate sex and love? The filmmaker thinks so, “I’m not with my partner, because of the sex we have, I’m with her because of her smile, because of the way she talks about mangoes and tomatoes etc, etc. I think there is way too much emphasis placed on sex.”
He also interviewes big thinkers on the topic such a Stephanie Coontz and Dr. Christopher Ryan.
As every one who has taken the monogamy pledge knows, making love to the same person can be monotonous. Dhruv says sexual variety is invigorating, “I don’t think it takes away from love-- it can build love.” He challenges the notion that one’s supply is limited.
“When I’m able to express and love to someone else,that allows me to have more love with my partner. If I’m allowed to have a tryst, the sex we have is the best. There are times I think, when I’ve had a tryst, I have worshipped her (his beloved’s) body.”
And his beloved is okay with that. And Hannah’s cool with being a Girl on Film. “We love each other more everyday and we respect each other spaces even though I sometimes invade his space a little....maybe a little more.” She thinks the film will be his masterpiece because it’s such a sensitive subject which no one really wants to talk about.
Because we’re all repressed. Sexually repressed. And this filmmaker thinks opening up the dialogue is the first step.
Photo: © william87 - Fotolia.com