I crave novelty over stability. And I’ve often been told that means there’s something deviant about my behavior.
For a long time, many of us believed in the human sexuality spectrum. First proposed by Alfred Kinsey, the idea was that we aren’t normally “100% heterosexual” or “100% homosexual,” and that most of us exist somewhere between those two boundaries. Although the spectrum idea has been debunked recently — as it turns out people are mostly either heterosexual or homosexual, but have lots of differences in their degrees and preferences of heterosexuality or homosexuality— I do think it was an interesting and different way to think about human sexuality. It was considered “wrong” to be gay for far too long and Kinsey’s work gave us the important thought contribution that humans aren’t meant to be placed into neat little boxes.
Similarly, the idea that it’s wrong to crave sexual novelty — has been having a “moment” since the Stone Ages. Now, although non-monogamy and polyamory are becoming more common, most “out” non-monogamous or polyamorous folks are met with comments of confusion and disgust. Why would you ever want to have sex with more than one person for the rest of your life? What’s wrong with you that you aren’t happy settling down with one person?
The deviance that was once assumed of LGBTQIA members of society is happily changing. That said, that deviance is now being transferred to anyone that might want something outside the “normal” relationship or sexuality structure.
And it’s not just sexuality — it’s any way of living that’s outside the “norm.” How often do 20- and 30-something millennials hear about the “lazy” or “entitled” nature of our generation because we don’t want to live exactly the same lives as the generation before us? And how often do childfree women hear about how “selfish” they are for not wanting children? Is it “lazy” and “entitled” not to want to a stable life with a 9 to 5 job and a large home purchase we’ll be paying down for several decades? Is it actually “selfish” not to bring a life into this world when you know you aren’t meant to be a parent?
Or is it just that some of us value novelty and experience more than stability and comfort?
It’s time to ditch the idea that there’s something deviant about seeking novelty over stability. In our bedrooms and in our lives.
I’ve always been a novelty-seeker, but I wasn’t able to identify it as such until very recently, when I realized that I wasn’t the only person I knew who didn’t value stability. While the idea of coming home to the same person, in the same house, after working at the same job, in the same place year after year is good for some people, to me, it just felt constricting. So I ditched it – I ditched the idea that I should try to find happiness in one person, one house, one job and one place. I quit my job to travel the world – and I decided that I hated monogamy in the process.
I now believe that our natural human inclinations to seek novelty or stability exist on a spectrum — just like the spectrum we once believed existed for human sexuality. And neuroscience confirms it: Neuroscientist and author Jaak Panskepp studied what’s called “seeking” behavior in animals and found that the need to “seek” new things is inherent. It’s the same reason why people fail to understand that winning the lottery won’t make them happy forever: it’s not the money, it’s the excitement – the newness. After a while, the newness wears off, so we’re perplexed as to why we’re not happier with just the money. It’s because we’ve acclimated to it – and we’re no longer “seeking” and the act of “seeking” itself makes us happy.
But there’s nothing wrong with that – even though thus far, our culture has lead us to believe stability is the best goal. Seeking novelty doesn’t necessarily mean seeking adrenaline (though sometimes these things go hand-in-hand); it just means valuing new experiences rather than the same old.
Some of us are on an extreme of novelty-seeking: I consider myself to be in this category. I crave and chase novelty in every aspect of my life from sex to work to play. Others of us are on the stability-seeking extreme: those who couldn’t imagine traveling at all or those who crave the comfort and stability of one home, or one partner, or one job.
Most people, however, probably land somewhere in the middle. And we probably crave different versions of novelty and stability in different areas of our lives. Maybe you’re a single woman that wants see the world, but ultimately wants to settle down with a husband and a family. Maybe you’re a woman with a partner that you love, but couldn’t ever imagine settling down in one physical location.
Regardless, it’s time we throw out the idea that one, stable, constant life is right for everyone.
Single people who are single by choice are often treated like interesting, outlying societal artifacts that belong in a museum. Who on earth would choose to be single? Why be single when you could be “happily” coupled up? Women who chase this life must have a screw loose. Why can’t they just be “normal”?
But there is no “normal.” Some of us are meant to live stable, relatively constant lives, finding comfort in routine. Others of us are meant to live ever-evolving, wildly variable lives, seeking novelty at every turn. And most of us are likely somewhere in between.
And there’s nothing wrong with either.