Note: This post will be a sort of a part of a 2-part follow-up to my post on Understanding and Managing Jealousy:
- Part 1 – The Implied Monogamous Relationship Agreement (IMRA)
- Part 2 – Polyamory, Jealousy, and the Eight Walls of Intimacy
If you have not read the other two articles then please take a look.
To get the most out of this article you will have to closely examine your past and present monogamous relationships as well as your thoughts, buy assumptions, and expectations in relationships to see the truth in what I am presenting. This process may be challenging for some. Keep in mind, also, that this is written in broad and sweeping terms.
This article is written from the stand point of an American in a westernized culture where monogamy is the norm and other relationships are not allowed and/or are punished. The only acceptable or even acknowledged relationship structure here is monogamy.
All relationships have a relationship agreement which governs what actions are acceptable or not – monogamy is no exception, although most do not even know that it exists or that this is a thing. The first rule of monogamy, like the Fight Club, is to not talk about the Implied Monogamous Relationship Agreement (IMRA) or even acknowledge its existence.
The IMRA is something that we are taught from birth. It is ingrained and indoctrinated into us as children. It is a fact of life and no other relationship formations can even be contemplated or considered, because the rules for all relationships are already set in stone for you before you were even born, and they are to be a visceral and intrinsic part of your worldview, understanding of life, and the way you interact with people. Its rules and your acceptance of them is implied and expected by everyone as a matter of course. To violate these rules is to court disaster from society at large.
Our culture supports, enforces, and perpetuates the existence of monogamy and its relationship agreement through books, movies, music, religion, laws, and our societal expectations of relationships. Understanding that the IMRA exists can help us to understand our thoughts, emotions and desires, to manage and understand jealousy better, and to better understand relationships dynamics.
As a note – a lot of this is perpetuated and reinforced by 2 harmful ideas: the Starvation Model of Love and the One True Love Myth. If you have not heard of these then please look them up. Perhaps I will write up a short post on this as well.
Contents of the Implied Monogamous Relationship Agreement
The IMRA manifests as a series of Exclusivity Clauses (EC) which effectively state that your partner will have exclusive access to you in the following major areas of life:
I will talk about the individual EC’s a bit more below. In my forthcoming article that talks about the ‘Eight Walls of Intimacy’ you will see how these EC’s map to the Eight Walls – hint: they map pretty closely. Certain specific life moments may have significant overlap in several areas. Flirting is a good example of this, since it could hit on sexual, social, and intellectual or emotional areas, depending on the person or the situation.
For the following discussions I am going to assume that we are talking about a person who is in some form of a committed monogamous relationship (i.e. married or dating exclusively).
Before we dive in we have to create/define one word here as it will be used for our purposes so I do not have to repeat a large phrase each time:
person-gender: a person of a gender that is appropriate for you as a potential romantic interest (i.e if you are a heterosexual woman then that gender would be male). This is typically applies to situations outside the work environment, but could apply there – each person, relationship, and situation is different.
Social Exclusivity points to only spending time with your partner and no other person-gender – not for lunch (especially if they are very attractive), not chatting on Facebook, not flirting with, not going to a convention or concert with. Your primary social partner is your exclusive partner in all things not work related and anyone else is infringing in that space.
Intellectual Exclusivity points to not finding other person-gender interesting or having interests in common (and wanting to share it with them) especially if your partner does not share it in common with you; not having deep conversations about life, politics, religion, or philosophy, etc.
Emotional Exclusivity points to only having romantic or other feelings of desire for your partner and no other person-gender – not still caring for your ex’s or even still carrying a flame for them or a previous love, not falling in love with or being attracted to someone else, not having a close friendship that is closer than an acquaintance or distant friend.
Sexual Exclusivity points to having sex with and only sexual thoughts for your partner and not finding other person-gender attractive or thinking about them sexually, not looking at porn, not admitting that they are pretty or are in great shape, not pointing out great things about them, since you should have eyes for only your partner.
Financial exclusivity points to not spending money on other person-gender – not gifts, surprise parties, trips, etc. All money should be spent only on your partner.
Parental Exclusivity points to only wanting to have children with your partner, not thinking about wanting kids with partner-gender or what your children might look like. Obviously, there are some exceptions when you already have kids with someone else, but the other rules still basically apply to them too.