Because they started off dating long-distance (Ryan was living in Colorado at the time), it was understood that they would not be exclusive: They initiated a policy Leah describes as “don’t ask, don’t tell.” But when Ryan moved to New York and began living with Leah a year and a half later, he assumed they would transition immediately into monogamy.
One of the things all the therapists had noticed over the past few years was “that couples – and these are younger people, twentysomethings, maybe early thirties – are negotiating what their brand of monogamy can be.
They are opening up to having an open relationship, either in totality or for periods of time.
By the end of their dinner at a small Italian restaurant in New York’s West Village, Leah is getting antsy to part ways with her boyfriend Ryan, so that she can go meet up with her boyfriend Jim.
It’s not that she means to be rude, it’s just that Jim has been traveling for work, so it’s been a while since she’s seen him. As her “primary partner” and the man with whom she lives, he is the recipient of most of Leah’s attention, sexual and otherwise, but he understands her need to seek companionship from other quarters roughly one night a week.
Once Ryan learned that a permanently open relationship was what Leah wanted, he says, “There was a side of me that was ecstatic – the teenage boy in me that wants to fuck everything I see.
But the other side of me was concerned about what this means in terms of intimacy and how the dynamics would work. It’s skirt day.” Kristina is wearing long, soft curls, dark crimson lipstick, a black shirt that’s open in the back and a sequiny green miniskirt over bare legs.
And in this, Millennials realize that they’re pushing the boundaries of the sexual revolution beyond what their parents might have expected and their grandparents could even conceive.
By and large, Leah and Ryan feel comfortable with friends their age knowing that they sleep with other people, but are not as comfortable telling older people (for this reason, and for fear of professional repercussions, they’ve asked me to change their names for this article).
In other words, Leah’s is a generation that has been raised with the concept of sexual freedom and without solid guidelines for how to make monogamy work.
That some brand of non-monogamy would appeal to large numbers of them is thus unsurprising.
For Kristina, two boyfriends are exactly two too many. When she arrived at Syracuse freshman year, Kristina had certain ideas about what her romantic life would entail.