The following advice is aimed at adults who have been dating for a good decade already. In my opinion, you should do whatever you want with dating in your twenties, within the bounds of treating people with feelings like you would want yourself to be treated, of course.
The proverb ‘All’s fair in love and war’ is never literally true, but is whimsically true when you’re dating in high school and becomes less true the older you get and the more you should expect of yourself and others. When you are young, too much about your core self is malleable, and that’s how it should be. Other than those occasional high school sweethearts who got lucky and have been together ever since, dating in your twenties should be viewed as an experiment to find out what you want out of a partner, and what you are prepared to offer yourself.
However, at a certain point you need to get your romantic shit together. In a sense, every romantic relationship you will ever have goes through a “high school” stage in the beginning, during which you’re just getting to know each other and it’s OK to find some unforgivable deal-breaker, and break up with caring, but without much else owed to the other person.
This ends after a couple of months. The longer things go on, the more you will “owe” the other person. If you’ve just ghosted someone you’ve been seeing regularly for six months, unless you did it because you fear for your personal safety or something, you’re not a kind person.
I was poly for about four years, and have been in a monogamous relationship for over two years. Being poly was a wonderful thing, and taught me a great deal about what I wanted and what I didn’t. It started after being burned out on a decade of serial monogamy.
Being poly taught me that all those years, I was essentially monogamous for the wrong reasons. Because polyamory is less accepted by society, friends, and family, people tend to enter into relationships with whoever they went on a few dates with merely because they’d like to continue seeing them. This is not enough of a reason.
Actively learning what I wanted out of a relationship taught me how to be monogamous for the right reasons. When I was poly, I used to joke that “it takes three or four men to make one good boyfriend these days” and I was right. I knew I was ready to give it up when I found someone who felt like three or four men put together. He was enough, and then some. But I’m not talking about heightened passion or otherworldly attraction. I’m talking about the more rational process of someone possessing 90 per cent of the traits I had always wanted in one person, and didn’t really think I’d ever find.
I’m writing this today because over the past few months several of my friends have gone through painful breakups. They had been together anywhere between six months and five years, yet all of them had lovers who said to them some dreaded version of “I love you, but I am not in love with you any more”, “there’s no spark any more”, etc.