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The classic job interview question is, where do you see yourself in five years? The thing all the adults ask us as kids is, what do you want to be when you grow up? Planning for the future is fairly integral to our lives, but oftentimes we don’t realize just how much our relationship status can affect our future plans. 

Monogamy, eternally, has been so normalized that it is the expectation set out not only by our friends and family but by our economic system as well.  

The Norms

It will come as no surprise to most when I say things are more expensive now. Because they are. We’ve all heard about inflation and heard our parents and grandparents comment on the price of gas these days in the car. Perhaps even noticed for ourselves how the price of coffee or chocolate is different now than it was when we were young. At this point, we all know that splitting the cost of living is necessary and combined finances in a marriage are one way to ensure that all costs are taken care of. While it may not still be true today given how quickly the made-up economy can change, married couples of the past few decades also saw a greater increase in wealth than non-married or single people. 

In 2005, U.S. data from the National Longitudinal Survey of Youth found that married subjects experienced a 77 percent increase in wealth over that of non-married participants. Married couples are more likely to buy homes or make other investments that the majority of single people may not be able to afford. Plus, making one big, scary commitment makes other commitments seem less intimidating. 

Combined finances also have the advantage of being more expansive than separate finances. Inflation has made living on a single income next to impossible for most North Americans, and combining resources has become necessary rather than optional. This is why many people split rent costs on apartments rather than living alone. According to World Finance, there is little difference between home insurance or heating cost for a space used by one person or by two people, so splitting the expenses between two incomes lowers the cost considerably; which leaves room for the many other expenses of living. 

Plenty of other benefits or services are provided exclusively to married couples as well, such as access to family healthcare plans or the ability to visit one’s partner in the emergency room. In addition to the visitation rights, some home and auto insurance companies offer lower insurance rates to married couples. 

The Struggle

Now, there is nothing wrong with monogamous relationships or with the desire to get married and live happily ever after. The problem is that not everyone wants that and sometimes it is difficult to navigate the world when you are expected to marry. 

For example, there are those of us who are aromantic, someone who does not experience romantic attraction, and may be uninterested or repulsed by romantic relationships and actions. To clarify, not all aromantic people dislike or avoid romantic relationships, but some do and it is important to recognize that not centring a romantic relationship in your social life is often looked down upon by the wider culture. 

On the other side of things, there are those of us who are polyamorous, who do not dedicate themselves to a single partner but instead engage with multiple partners. Polyamorous relationships are often loving partnerships built on communication and trust just as monogamous relationships are. Our monogamy-centred society may have us believe that dedication to more than one person is impossible, but that is not the case as there are plenty of long-term polyamorous relationships that thrive on the basis of devotion to the other participants. 

Unfortunately, there is not yet a way to recognize these partnerships legally. If a polyamorous person wanted to get married for the financial and legal benefits, they would be forced to choose one of their partners and leave the others out. This may not be a big deal because it is just a piece of paper, but it does mean that there is always someone left out in the hospital waiting room because they are not a legally recognized family member. Frankly, communication in a relationship is hard enough without the added feeling of exclusion to one of the relationship’s members.  

If you do not fit into the alloromantic, monogamous norm of a relationship, then envisioning your future is not as straightforward as it is for everyone else. Even if you don’t want to be married right now, there is a sense within the majority that one day we will be. One day we’ll settle down with “the one.” When that happens we’ll be going out with our friends occasionally between work and family time and we’ll hear about our friend’s very relatable problems surrounding their own attempts to balance work, friends and family. That’s just the vision most of us have implicitly. 

Everyone who doesn’t fit into that, who can’t imagine that life even as a distant possibility, have a much harder time trying to envision what their lives will be like when all their friends are married or hoping to be. If all your friends are married while you have no interest in such a relationship, how do you avoid feeling like a third wheel when you hang out? How do you relate to their lives and what do you say when they come to you for sympathy? 

If you are polyamorous, how are you going to share a life with your partners without excluding anyone? How can you choose just one of your beloved partners to marry? How much will it suck to see everyone else be legally bonded in their monogamous relationship while you and your partners have to find alternatives? 

Some Kind Words

Sadly, I cannot change the current societal standards. At least, not alone. I’m also not all that qualified to advise in this area because I’m just as lost in the sea of expectation as anyone else is. So, here are some hopefully validating things that I’d like to make clear to help anyone who loves differently feel a little less alone. 

First of all, there are many types of love and commitment for our resident aromantics to engage in. Queerplatonic relationships, for example, have a lot to offer for anyone who wants commitment but not romance. It is also possible to start a family without a romantic partner, through adoption, artificial insemination and even by finding a special group of friends. None of these relationships hold less value or are any less important than a romantic one, even if some might say that you are missing out. You’re not. If romance is not something you are interested in, then trying to be in a romantic relationship would be like eating something you are allergic to uncomfortable and detrimental to your health. 

Secondly, for all the polyamorous people out there, you’re navigating a pretty complicated dynamic out of love for your partners. I’m sure that you’ve had to find a lot of creative ways to navigate the usual struggles of romance, on a bigger scale. Maybe you can’t marry all of your partners, but you can still share your life with them. You can get a house to live in together, create a safe space and leave the world outside for a bit. Nothing you feel for any of your individual partners is somehow less valuable just because you also feel that way about someone else. You aren’t selfish, dirty or insatiable for having multiple partners. You have a lot of love to give and you give it freely. There is nothing selfish about that. 

Despite all of the challenges of not fitting the mould, no one should be anything but who they are and love however they want to love. Whether your love is platonic, monogamous or polyamorous, there is room for you in this world. Even though we may have to carve out spaces for ourselves sometimes. Your future may not look the way anyone expected it to, but you can make it happy regardless. 

Levi Hearne

Toronto MU '24

I'm a first year English student at Ryerson and a Toronto Film School graduate. My hobbies include learning about ocean critters, caring for my houseplants and acrylic painting.
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