Can One Outsmart the Merits of Commitment in Relationships?

As posted here on kuro5hin:
The long-standing Western tradition idealizes a committed, life-long relationship. But way before the concept of tradition existed, people were procreating and enjoying it.

As much as we’d like to try, we can’t close our eyes and prevent ourselves from being attracted to others. These attractions can lead to wonderful connections, relationships, and physical intimacies. Unfortunately we can’t choose when objects of our desire will come into focus. And sometimes we’re already involved.

There are a lot of perspectives on what’s appropriate between friends, intimate friends, and exclusive partners. But these ideas are not rules, much as society seems to think. Most people adhere to the aforementioned Judeo-Christian concept of marriage. But there are (or have been) other cultures that accepted multiple wives, multiple husbands, or no rules at all.

The latter condition no-doubt existed for the majority of man’s history. While people have tried in more recent years to institute communities of complete equality where everything from bread to wives are shared, it hasn’t gained popularity in mass culture.

That’s not to say that alternative approaches to sexuality don’t exist. Some people live the single life with multiple serious partners. Others view sex casually and “live it up” every night of the week. There are even organizations, so called swing groups, where people schedule partner swaps or group orgies.

While all these approaches have varying degrees of social or health risks, I want to focus on how they question a value deeply rooted into our culture–the exclusivity and sacredness of sex. Some of these approaches attempt to reduce the value of intercourse by deeming it a more casual and purely physical activity. Others aim to make it as spiritual an event as possible.

These different approaches challenge our deepest convictions. While it may be plausible to engage in a communal style of living where everyone is equal and sex is shared, is it emotionally possible to be physically intimate with two people at once, while remaining committed to just one of them? I don’t think it is.

While much of Western tradition can be accepted piecemeal, to me the concept of commitment involves the creation of a unique bond with someone. The unique element of that bond is not merely intercourse; sex serves as a complex, climactic combination between the spiritual, emotional, and physical. And while some seem to find it possible to separate their mind from their body, I can’t engage in a physical relationship without feeling some other sort of connection.

And if sexual contact isn’t a large enough violation of commitment, I feel its accompanying emotions are. If you’re engaged with someone physically, can you do it without touching them like a lover? Is it possible to separate the pleasure from the emotion?

I don’t deny that some people can do it. But I can’t. Having multiple partners while maintaining a commitment doesn’t remove tension for me, even if my significant other would accept it. It merely takes away from the meaning behind what has been culturally and personally deemed as something sacred.

I’m genuinely interested to hear what others have to say about these values and their approaches to them. Nonetheless I feel like I’ll never be able to separate my emotions from my physicality. I’m one person and I try not to confuse those that I love. Commitment is my approach to that end.

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