One Reader On The Joys & Stigma Of Having Only One Romantic Partner


The topic of long term relationships, and the stigma surrounding those who have only ever had one partner, both romantically and sexually,  wasn’t something I’d given much thought to before Lucy reached out. Lucy wanted to see a depiction of modern love and relationships in mainstream media that wasn’t, for once, focused on everything that had gone wrong.

So here’s Lucy, in her own words.

Matt and I started dating in our last year of high school; I was 17 and he was 18. We’re now going on 25 and 26, and are neither married nor engaged, but are building a house together. By my calculations, we’ve been together a little over 7 years.

Early on when we’d been together around four or five years, we got quite a few “Wow, that’s ages!” comments. But as we’ve grown older, and more of our peers are settling down, it’s not as strange to people – the comments have simply switched to, “So when are you getting married?”.

Matt’s the only person I’ve ever slept with, and having only one sexual partner isn’t something I broadcast; mostly because I’m a relatively private person, but also because of the stigma I feel when it comes up in conversation. I can’t help but feel an air of judgement from people, even though I know this is unintentional on their part. It’s not so much the words or comments, but rather the facial expressions and tone that come with the general response of, “Really…?”.  When I’m in conversations with friends who have had lots of sexual partners, I sense that in their minds they think I’m missing out, but to me that really all depends on what someone’s definition of “missing out” is. Missing out on what?

It’s so cool feeling comfortable and confident with another person during sex; being able to laugh and have fun but also to feel safe to experiment and be honest about your needs, preferences and fantasies. Plus, intimate and meaningful sex, practically on tap? Don’t mind if I do! Occasionally I think about having one sexual partner as this overarching concept, influenced by the weird construct of “body count” that seems to have gained traction on social media in recent years. “Body count” now impacts our perception of a person – how did we get to be this way? I think perhaps this is something that plays on Matt’s mind more than mine because of the stereotypes of sex that men have to navigate. If I’m to be extremely blunt, I don’t think we should be measuring our value or worth by the number of people we have or haven’t had sex with.

If you’d told me when Matt and I first met that we’d still be together – and in love! – 7 years later, I would have laughed and said, “No way!”. That’s partially because I’m a child of divorce and partially because, like a lot of teenage girls, I spent many years convinced that I wasn’t deserving of the beautiful, healthy and special kind of relationship I’m in now. I also thought I was majorly punching above my weight (and still kind of do…). Don’t get me wrong, it hasn’t been the easiest ride and we’re not perfect, but we’ve been through so much together and it’s been a privilege to watch Matt evolve into the most amazing human.

There’s a lot of discourse out there, both from my friends and the Internet, about your twenties being a decade for exploration, travelling (pre-COVID!) and finding yourself. But who says you can’t do that with your partner? Who says you can’t grow into the person you were destined to be with the support of a partner who wants the best for you? Who says you can’t go on a journey of self-discovery to become the best version of yourself with someone by your side? Your twenties can be extremely difficult in a lot of ways, and I’m just so grateful that for me, it was something I could navigate without ever feeling like I was alone.

Mainstream media discourse is largely geared towards “dating fails” and that’s because it’s something a lot of people can relate to it. But maybe we should start shining a light on what a healthy, happy and – for lack of a better word – successful relationship can look like? There are few things in life as special as being with someone who knows you better than you know yourself. Despite my best efforts to conceal my emotions, Matt can read me like a book and always says the things I need to hear, rather than what I want to hear. I always feel seen, heard, understood and deeply loved. I feel as though I can do anything because, regardless of the outcome, I know he’s in my corner.

Header image via Tumblr