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Ryan is a young Generation X’er, while she’s an older Millennial.
While both generations were raised by Baby Boomers – who not only initiated the sexual revolution, making acceptable the concept of sex outside the confines of marriage, but who then went on to mostly pair off in traditional marriages – hers was the generation in which the greatest percentage of those partnerships ended in divorce (the divorce rate peaked in the early Eighties, right around the time it’s believed that the Millennial generation began).
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.
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).
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.
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.
“I thought, ‘All right, the long-distance shenanigans are over now, we’re moving in together, and it’s time to have a real go at this,’” he says, taking a sip of his beer.
Moreover, they see themselves as part of a growing trend of folks who do not view monogamy as any type of ideal.
“There’s this huge group of younger people that are involved in these things,” says Ryan – an observation that seemed borne out of a monthly event called “Poly Cocktails,” held at an upstairs bar on the Lower East Side a few weeks later, in which one would have been hard-pressed to realize that this wasn’t your run-of-the-mill mixer (a guy who’d wandered in accidentally must have eventually figured it out; he was later seen by the bar grinning widely as he chatted up two women).