In some spiritual circles, there is a move toward open relationships, polyamory, and other forms of consensual non-monogamy. In these same circles, there is often also a counter-movement, in which people feel that they need to restrict themselves to just one sexual partner if they want to “go deep”.
What is “going deep”?
There are two main directions that most people consider when it comes to depth – interpersonal intimacy, and connection with the Divine (or higher levels of consciousness).
Interpersonal intimacy refers to the deep sharing of one’s inner world with another person. It may involve conversation about vulnerable topics, physical touch, sexual intercourse, visceral or mental empathy, embodying one’s essential self or inner child, or any other practice which allows you to share your deepest self with another.
Generally, people will only open up at the deepest level when they feel extremely safe with the other person, both physically and emotionally.
Transcendent levels of consciousness can be reached through a range of spiritual practices, including sacred sexual interactions.
In theory, the two people participating in sacred sexuality are transfiguring one another as a god and a goddess, and therefore the quirks of the two human beings involved should be irrelevant. In practice, very few people have reached this level of skill. Therefore, to allow for relaxing and opening to transcendent experiences, there needs to be a certain level of trust between the two human beings.
Why do people think they need monogamy to “go deep”?
Given the clear need for trust and a sense of safety, it makes sense that people raised in a mono-normative culture would look to monogamy to provide the foundations for going deep.
We are programmed by the media, our parents and teachers, and even, in many cases, our peers, to believe that monogamy is “normal”, and therefore safe, while anything else is “abnormal”, and therefore, on some level, dangerous. We internalise these beliefs before we even know what sex is, let alone understand the nuances of relationship agreements, consent, and commitment.
Many people believe that having more than one relationship would automatically cause the relationships to be less deep.
People who have had multiple, emotionally engaged, committed relationships at the same time, usually laugh heartily at that suggestion, because the exact opposite is often the case in reality.
In a monogamous relationship, your sexual partner is likely to be the person with whom you are most intimate, because they are the only person with whom you have sexual intercourse, and often they are the only person with whom you have a range of other types of physical affection – sleeping together, kissing on the lips, holding hands, and so on. They are also often the only person who gets to see the parts of us that we consider “not fit for public consumption” – they know us at our worst, as well as at our best.
This makes your monogamous partner the “deepest” relationship you have, in terms of interpersonal intimacy, just by being your monogamous partner.
Relative depth vs absolute depth
In other words, you go deeper with your monogamous partner than you do with anyone else. It is, in relative terms, your deepest connection.
When you are having romantic, sexual relationships with more than one person, this easy measure of relative depth is no longer available. Suddenly, you are required to consider the absolute depth of your connection. Rather than comparing the depth of this connection with all other connections to get that sense of specialness and safety, you are now forced to compare the depth of this connection with its absolute value, independent of any other relationship you might have.
The question is no longer “have I gone deeper with this person than with anyone else?”
Now, the question is “have I gone as deep with this person as I can?”
Assuming you have a partner who is interested in, and committed to, personal growth and intimacy, you will almost always find ways to open a little more, share a bit more deeply, connect at another level, drop another mask, or let go of another resistance.
If you do have multiple relationships, you may find that you drop a resistance with one partner, and then you notice it persisting with another partner. One partner may open something in you that you never knew was there. There is huge depth to be found in bringing the breakthroughs made with one partner into your interactions with another partner.
Of course, some people use open relationships as an excuse to avoid intimacy, just as others use monogamy for the same purpose.
Some people are genuinely not capable of, or not interested in, providing emotional safety for their sexual partners.
Some people have unhealed wounds, which can be triggered by non-monogamy. Others are genuinely unwilling to consider it.
If your partner falls into any of these categories, these issues should be substantially resolved before you consider exploring non-monogamy.
Pro Tip: Even if you remain in a monogamous relationship, don’t settle for mere relative depth. Actively seek out greater intimacy, authenticity, vulnerability, and absolute depth, regardless of your relationship structure.