Like Dolphins F*cking, a Different Kind of Long-Distance Relationship

a dolphin mid jump
Image by ajmexico / CC BY

“You know what my favorite thing about polyamory is?” she says.

“What’s that?” I reply.

“That there’s room to have relationships that don’t follow traditional norms,” she says.

I nod. Because I know what she means. “You’re not confined to the rules of the relationship escalator,” I say.

“Yes,” she says. She starts to tell me about this one boyfriend she has. She only sees him once a year, she tells me. Twice if she’s lucky. He lives far away. They both have multiple partners besides one another. Both work a ton. And both live lives that are practically overflowing with excitement. With purpose. With meaning.

“And he’s an important part of that,” she tells me. “Just on his own time.”

I smile.

“I used to have the hardest time when I was monogamous,” she explains. “Just trying to make every relationship fit into a cookie cutter shape. A full-time entangled thing. But he’s different.”

“You light up when you talk about him,” I observe.

“It’s like we’re dolphins fucking,” she says. “Do you remember that old essay?”

“I do,” I say. “I want to say it was on FetLife or something a decade ago. Haven’t thought about it for years though.”

But I know exactly what she means. That there’s an ebb and flow to their relationship. That they mate for pleasure, whenever it can happen, whenever the circumstances can allow. Though they drift apart, they eventually find their way back to one another when the currents change. And when they finally reunite, they simply pick up where they last left off.

Technically, this is a long-distance relationship — but it has little in common with many other relationships that are called that. There’s no interim longing. No sadness. Only the thrill of anticipation and the joy at their occasional reunion.

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Queer or polyamorous dolphin sex is represented as an amusing oddity and as outside of so-called normative sexuality. Nonreproductive and nonheterosexual behaviour, however, runs counter to ideas of nature and procreation, or, in other words, the `natural’ order. Rather than saving sex for reproduction, it seems that dolphins are “playfully erotic” and androgynous. For ecotourism operators to apply their own meanings to dolphins, dolphins must be sufficiently like humans to allow a sense of connection and sufficiently different to be wild and “other.”

Lynda Johnston and Robyn Longhurst

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See also: Comet relationship (noun) – a romantic and/or sexual connection that passes through one’s life in an intermittent way.

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