Tag Archives: poly

Playing at Poly

Ferns brings up (as she so often does) a good question, about how it comes across when someone identifies as poly “until they find the right person.”

What this says to me is, “I want to be with you, and I want to have all the trappings of a relationship that make me feel fulfilled and secure, but I want to be able to sever those ties at a moment’s notice when I find The One. But no, I absolutely care about you, how could you say otherwise?”

To me that doesn’t look like polyamory. It looks like play-acting relationships for practice until picking a real one. It looks like fear of being alone meeting fear of commitment. It looks like scatter-planting seeds, waiting to see which seedling sprouts tallest, straightest, most resilient before thinning the rest away like weeds.

It’s the lie that gets to me. Even if it’s not quite a lie, even when they say “I am only doing this until I find The One,” that promise is being dangled. That nurturing is being offered, and that intimacy, and it carries with it a terrible blame. After all, they told you they were only poly for now. That you might be what they were looking for, and really, whose fault is it if you’re not the one they keep, in the end? They did nurture you, after all. Gave you a chance. You’re the one who failed to be perfect.

This creates something sinister, even toxic. A relationship in constant threat of pruning breeds a fear of imperfection, of humanity, even of creative growth. You’re not one partner of several, building something either cooperative or independent: you’re in competition for a limited resource. It’s stifling. You’re reduced, finally, to trying only to be enough, and there’s nothing about that state that doesn’t breed resentment.

It also sets up an untenable situation. Poly-until-The-One people typically expect their ultimate partner-in-monogamy to also be monogamous once their soulmate-status is established. This means rejecting the possibility of compatibility with people who would not choose monogamy (like me).

Oddly enough, I take far less issue with people whose behavior is nearly identical to this but who don’t call it poly. I’ve had fuck-buddies and friends-with-benefits with the understanding that once these partners were not-single, sexual contact would end. Aside from a little sadness over knowing the sexual component of a relationship with me is, for these partners, disposable in a way that it would not be with someone they were dating, it’s fine. And I don’t resent the sexual component being disposable when it isn’t connected to intimacy.

“I’m poly until I find the right person” seems to forget that one’s partners in polyamorous relationships are people. They aren’t to be used and thrown away. They aren’t to be manipulated. And that’s what I see happening. Maybe I misinterpret, and maybe it means I’m missing out, but I wouldn’t date a person who said this at all.

Would You? Could You?

So this is a first: a question from a reader! I’m twitterpated, truly.
Even though you are poly..If you found an absolutely amazing person who wants to be monogamous with you, could you or would you consider being monogamous? Do you think that being poly is such a huge part of you that you couldn’t possibly ever consider being monogamous with someone or it’s a possibility? Why or why not?
[Necessary disclaimer: this is my personal reaction and my personal interaction with monogamous norms and expectations. Nothing here can be extrapolated to other people or other paradigms.]

The short answer? My gut reaction? No. I do not like this, Sam-I-Am.

I’ve never tried it.

I’m not going to.

I used to feel the need to justify nonmonogamy. I was asked to justify it every time I told anyone I was married and also dating. Every time the first thing anyone had to say (after they asked if I was cheating) was “Your spouse lets you get away with that?”

Lets me. Like it was more their call than mine. Like I was getting away with something. Like I needed special dispensation. What upsets me most about this is that I used to feel that way, too. That it was unreasonable of me to ask for independent relationships. That I should feel grateful to be allowed, that I had to be on my best behavior to earn the privilege of making my own decisions on my own time.

I am viscerally disgusted by the idea that a relationship somehow grants a person the right to some part of another person’s autonomy. The way it creeps. The way monogamy is normal, the idea that if I really cared about someone, I’d sacrifice the right to care about anyone else. How careful I have to be, saying this, because I know it’s going to be read as “monogamy is bad” when what I mean is “coercing a partner to be monogamous is bad.” I have NO objection to monogamous pairings in which both partners value and desire to practice romantic and sexual exclusivity. What I object to is the pressure, the normalization, the idea that if it is good and healthy for some then it must be the rule for all. I can be happy for monogamous couples without being monogamous.

I do not like green eggs and ham. I’m failing a kindergarten lesson about prejudgment in saying it, and I’m quite honestly okay with that. I’m a grown adult perfectly capable of making my own decisions. Maybe green eggs and ham are delicious. Maybe I’m really missing out on this amazing thing Sam-I-Am has to offer. But you know what? Sam-I-Am is a dick for pushing. I can like Sam-I-Am without liking green eggs and ham. I can like Sam-I-Am if he eats green eggs and ham three times a day while I have lamb tagine one day and spinach alfredo pasta the next. But if Sam-I-Am can’t respect my choices, or believes my feelings about his breakfast reflect my feelings about him, we’re just not going to be a good fit. (Also, I’m Jewish. Stop pushing your ham, Sam!)

If I met an absolutely amazing person who wanted a mutual agreement of monogamy…they wouldn’t be an absolutely amazing person for me.

Finally, people have asked me this before, and I’ve always wondered: would they ever ask the same question of a monogamous person? Would you, could you have a relationship that wasn’t exclusive? Why, or why not?

Scenes from a Break-Up

Z and I broke up. It wasn’t pretty. The conversation followed a couple of weeks of silence and a passive-aggressive facebook post, so it was obvious where it was going to lead. Still. It wasn’t pretty.

Z: “I assumed you were lying and trying to manipulate me.”

I understand this fear. I don’t understand how it excuses her lying to and manipulating me. She feels paranoia and mistrust, she decided it was true, she decided not to say it, and she decided to treat me differently based on those feelings. She decided I was lying to her. That I wasn’t invested in a relationship with her. She closed off to the relationship in response to that fear. She didn’t tell me. It’s long standing (I’ve written about it before), and we’d discussed it more than once at length.

Z: “So if I think you’re manipulative, I shouldn’t stay in a relationship, but you don’t trust either of us. Shouldn’t you not be in a relationship?”

She may be right. My trust issues are severe. I’ve hidden things I shouldn’t, and a part of the problem that led to this most recent mess came out of that. I wasn’t being open about my mental state or the effects of illness. I’m not being open about them here, even, and you folks don’t know who I am. I hide in closets sometimes, or in my car. It’s probably not healthy.

The difference, as I see it, is how we respond to fear. I am always afraid. Anyone who is allowed to get close is close enough to cause hurt, and that thought is never far away. I try not to make decisions based on fear. If I have to–if I can’t think straight anymore and terror becomes certainty and the floor falls out–it’s not an excuse to attack. It’s not an excuse to lie. It means I’m leaving.

Z: “Every time you say you want someone else, what I hear is ‘not enough, not enough, not enough.'”

This wasn’t directed towards me. It’s not the first time she’s said it. Not enough. That may be what she hears, but that’s not what is being said. I’ve always found this line of thinking particularly childish and narcissistic. “If same-sex marriages are legitimized, my heterosexual marriage means less.” “If you’re bi, you can only half-like me.” “If you want other partners, it’s because you don’t want me.” No. No. NO. Look, I get that we’re told to believe this basically from birth, because that’s a major tenet of the theory of One True Love. In reality? “I want to be in another relationship also” doesn’t say she’s not enough. It doesn’t mention her at all. The need to make herself the subject of a sentence or topic that has nothing to do with her is kind of baffling.

Also, she was dating both of us. Does she translate her own behavior the same way? Were we each not enough for her? Or did she never consider us to be in a relationship?

Z: “You’re saying this is all my fault.”

I wasn’t, and I don’t believe that. “I’m saying your choices and your behavior are your fault. And my behavior is mine.” If she doesn’t tell me there’s a problem, she’s not giving me the option of addressing it. But that doesn’t erase anything I’ve done wrong, of course not.

Me: “You’re important  to me. I’d like to know we could still spend time together, but I don’t see how a romantic relationship could work.”

Z: “It can’t.”

I respect the hell out of her for being blunt there. I should have been, and I chickened out; softened it to uncertainty even though there was no doubt that this needed to end.  Maybe I felt I’d been harsh and unkind enough in the hours leading to this, but more likely it was plain cowardice. It is not kind to leave the burden of saying what needs said on someone else, and I did.

 

As we left it, she and the Techie are still together. In theory, so are he and I. I’m wary: if she can’t be happy with polyamory and he can’t be happy with monogamy, it seems to be a pretty clear recipe for misery unless one of them changes their mind or they split up. In the meantime, I’m in a real good spot for collateral damage. But that’s hardly new.

 

Obviously this is only a few snippets of the conversation, the comments that most upset me. Obviously this is only my interpretation and perspective. I’m upset. These are patterns I don’t find acceptable and I am known for showing little compassion and no flexibility when faced with things I don’t find acceptable. It means there’s a fundamental incompatibility. It doesn’t mean she’s a monster or a villain or a Bad Person. I’m not interested in any support/commentary that feels the need to say she is.

Overprocessed

“You’re not saying anything.”

“I’m a sex toy that caters. I don’t figure I get much say.”

Z’s face goes slack. Anger, restraint. “Do you have any idea how insulting it is for you to say that to me?”

I do, and I regret it. “Defense mechanism.”

Too many words, too late at night. They both say they care. I deflect. There’s mention of romantic attachment. I acknowledge, question relevance. I don’t trust hierarchical relationship structures. The Techie doesn’t say anything. Z says she doesn’t know how else to practice poly. I’m trying not to shut down, failing. This can be a conversation, but not at six in the morning, not after four hours of this. I accept the term “dating,” if tentatively. There’s more to discuss.

Spouse is furious. He hates the Techie. He cries, threatens, manipulates, cries. The reaction surprises me. It’s too strong. I can’t manage empathy; I don’t understand. It hurts to comfort him while he attacks. It hurts that he sees self-defense as an attack. I’m frightened and shut down, curled into the closet messaging strangers for support. Wondering why I ever thought human interaction was worth the work.

Two days, more than twelve hours of difficult conversation. I dredged up ancient history with Spouse. I felt forced into it, but no less guilty. Still wondering whether human interaction is worth the work.

Today’s been stable. Work, meetings, listening to Nightvale radio. No difficult conversation. But stress hasn’t gone down. I’m not certain it will.

I do this to myself. Poor choices, I guess.

10 Things No One Warns You About Nonmonogamy

Nonmonogamy comes with some well publicized high-risk areas. There are plenty of articles out there about overcoming insecurity and dealing with jealousy. Careful thought has been put into handling STI and pregnancy risks. And communication! I swear if I read one more article about how important honest, open communication is in poly relationships* I’m going to snap and start maniacally disclosing All The Things to random people in the streets.

But there are other things that change. Little things. Polyamory affects aspects of life that don’t seem to have anything to do with relationships at all.

For instance:

1. You will never again just share a story even tangentially related to your partners with monogamous friends.

It’s no longer possible. If they think you’re monogamous, you omit details and use creative phrasing to keep the relationship ambiguous. If you’re out, every conversation involving any of your partners becomes a conversation about their opinions and/or befuddlement about polyamory itself. I’ve been spending the night at Z and the Techie’s place a night or two a week. Sometimes a classmate will ask if I can print or bring something from home. “No, sorry, I’m not there” demands an explanation. Out or not, there’ll be questions about whether Spouse freaks out when I stay the night elsewhere.

2. The amount of time you spend doing dishes increases exponentially with each additional partner.

Spouse and I don’t live with any other partners. But Polly Pocket comes for dinner maybe twice a week, and I cook at the Techie and Z’s place twice a week, and one morning I realized that they think Monster energy drinks are breakfast so suddenly I have a massive waffle making project on my hands…on and on and on. I run the dishwasher every two days and still scrub a sink load of dishes by hand almost daily and I swear I have no idea how we use so many forks so quickly.

3. 97% of movies and TV shows will make you roll your eyes.

The other 3% have no hint of a romantic subplot***. The rest of them? You’ll be mumbling under your breath about the obvious solution to the love triangles and sexual tension. You’ll practically scream at films like Pirate Radio when our protagonist is crushed (crushed!) that the woman he falls in love-at-first-sight with has sex with someone else. She’s ruined. Purity culture! You’ll want to love Lost Girl, but you can’t because the succubus protagonist’s (literally suicidal) choice to be monogamous because that’s what good people do drives way too much of the plot.

4. If you think adapting to one person’s schedule is hard…

…try syncing your calendar with three partners, who may each have a number of other partners whose schedules need to be taken into account as well. And if your partners aren’t on similar sleep schedules? Learn to love caffeine pills. Spouse and I wake up at or before 0700 on weekdays. When I spend the night at Z and the Techie’s place, we may not collapse into bed until dawn or later. If I stay at their place on a weeknight, nevermind even attempting sleep; I’ll just write a few emails or read on the phone until it’s time to get ready for class or work.

5. The relationship webs get seriously tangled.

Incestuous is the wrong word, but it sort of conveys the right idea. Poly networks form and break multiple connections among the same handful of people. It makes sense. Unless you live somewhere with a large, dynamic, easy-to-find poly community, partners of partners are going to be the simplest way to meet other nonmonogamous folks. Once you start trying to describe those networks, it feels a little like a stand-up routine about a family reunion in Alabama**. For example: I’m seeing my Spouse’s girlfriend’s ex. I’m also seeing his girlfriend. No, not Spouse’s girlfriend, her ex-whom-I’m-seeing’s girlfriend. Oh, and she’s casual play partners with one of my play partners. No, not that “she,” the other one. Actually, nevermind; it might be easier if I drew a chart. (I did draw a chart. it’s in my about page.)

6. People expect you to be jealous

Even when you’re not.

Polly Pocket is young. She is tiny and bubbly and pretty and sweet. My female friends think this is the worst thing ever. “She’s so pretty! Aren’t you worried?”

“No.”

“What if Spouse thinks she’s prettier than you?”

“What if?”

The way they talk, it sounds like they’re only nonmonogamous so they can reaffirm that their primary partners like them best. I hope I’m wrong about that, because the idea is disgusting and they are my friends. But the conversation inevitably acts like one has to be jealous or disdainful of metamours. Nonsense.

7. “So…do you have a boyfriend/girlfriend/husband/wife/six or more cats?” or “Are you taken?”

People try to assess availability to a relationship by asking whether you’re already in one. This should annoy monogamous people; even if being in one relationship precludes forming another, the question implies a sort of ownership****. I have a spouse, a girlfriend, and a lover. I don’t have time for another relationship, not really, but it’s nothing to do with having been claimed.

8. That sense of control? Gone.

The idea that you control your partner or they control you has to go. You don’t give permission to do things and you don’t need permission to make your own plans. You’re not “letting” each other do things, you’re acting autonomously. And dear god is it wonderful.

Now, I realize many poly relationships do have rules and a higher degree of control than mine. And there are constraints to some degree; if I have plans with someone I have a responsibility to keep them. If I’m not going to be home it’s only fair to give Spouse advance notice so he knows to make his own dinner plan or that he should expect to be spending the night alone. There’s a lot of communication that has to happen for that giving up of control to run smoothly and not make anyone miserable. But I said we weren’t going to talk about communication in this post, so we’ll leave it at that.

9. Being friends with exes becomes normal.
Because poly is rarely on the standard assumed relationship escalator, expectations and norms surrounding the life course of a relationship can be very different for poly folk. Permanence is not necessarily expected nor necessarily a sign of relationship success. If you’re already thinking about relationships differently, it’s a lot easier to realize that the end of a relationship doesn’t have to mean that one of you is a terrible person. Maybe scheduling was too complicated, or an incompatibility arose, or one of you just didn’t feel a sexual or romantic connection anymore. Granted, not all poly people can be friends with exes. Sometimes breakups still are because one or both parties did something monstrous and ending contact is for the best. And of course some monogamous folks can stay friends with exes, which is great. The point is that it’s far less likely to cause major strife in continuing or future relationships to remain friends with an ex than it is for monogamous folks to do the same. It’s rather a relief.

10. Meal planning and grocery shopping can become almost comically complex.

I keep kosher(ish) and have allergies to a couple of quite common foods. Spouse doesn’t eat onions and tries to limit dairy. Polly Pocket is easily overwhelmed by new flavors, and I’m beginning to form the impression that she’s been exposed to approximately nothing before. The Techie doesn’t care for dinners without meat, and is used to cooking robust American meals with ingredients I can’t have. Z doesn’t care for bread. When I make a grocery list for my weekly trip I take all these things into account as well as who’s eating with whom on what night, what I already have in the pantry, and what the Techie and Z are likely to have on hand. My grocery list starts with a giant chart of meals.

 


*Monogamous people, by contrast, need communicate only in the three days around the new moon, and then only by means of interpretive dance.

**In fairness to Alabama, the only time I’ve been hit on at a family reunion was in Texas.

*** Reason #843 that the Gregory Peck/Richard Basehart Moby Dick is one of the finest films I know.

****Reason #579 that normative cis het monogamous relationships are a form of power exchange that’s maybe less than completely consensual. I’m not knocking negotiated D/s, I’m talking about assumptions of power and control brought to relationships because they’re normative and never challenged or discussed by their participants.

Possession

There’s an undercurrent to monogamous norms that bothers me on a fundamental level. I’m not saying it exists in every monogamous relationship, but the idea is prevalent. It’s so ingrained in the narrative of relationships that people can’t seem to wrap their heads around the alternative at all.

The idea is that your partner is *yours*. That being in a relationship means you get to control them. It isn’t even subtle. And it’s more than a little frustrating. Folks have no hesitation about making assumptions about how a relationship works, and starting a conversation without checking those assumptions in the least. In the last month folks have said to me or my partners:

“You let your husband date another woman?”
No. Spouse dates Polly Pocket. I am happy to be in a relationship with him. His relationship with her does not diminish that. I don’t let him do a damn thing; he’s an autonomous human being.

“Can I play with Spouse?”
How the hell would I know? Ask him! I would get this, if context were different. If she were making sure we didn’t already have plans together. But she knew we didn’t. She was asking me for permission to do something with him. I can’t consent for Spouse. I can’t negotiate for him. Those conversations have nothing to do with me.

“No, you want to have sex with her and that’s okay *but*…”
There were about forty caveats. There was hemming and hawing. I felt uncomfortable enough to offer to leave the room so they could hash it out. Almost awkward enough to say nevermind the sex, it’s not worth it. They’re a married couple who are poly, but that seems to mean something very different to her.

“It’s okay, I know I’m not enough for him.”
Bless your heart dear, he don’t need you. Not enough? Is sex like oxygen now? There has to be a certain supply or he’ll fall to the floor in a dead faint and never recover? Please. He don’t need you cause he don’t need anybody. He wants more sex than you do, fine, but that ain’t nothin’ to do with you being enough. Don’t stay and be unhappy because you felt inadequate, that’s good for nobody.

“You know your man’s making out with another woman over there?”
This was said to Z, and her answer was “yep, I make out with her too.” And she did, shortly after she got back to us with drinks. Good times.

“You got two beautiful redheads? You’s a lucky man!”
God, this one pissed me off. He’s lucky, but I’m not? She’s not? Last I checked the three of us were each with two sexy partners. Z and I aren’t the Techie’s harem. He didn’t catch us like fish and mount us on the wall. (Against the wall…that might be another story.) We’re each with him, we’re with each other, and nobody’s “got” anyone. Ain’t none of us trophies.

“Are you taken?”
God, the ways I want to answer this one. “Yes, thank God you asked, I’m a prisoner, please help!” “Oh, yes. As often as I can manage it, in ways you can hardly imagine.” I’m not quite that sarcastic, or quite that lewd. Almost, some days, but not quite. “Wrong question.” has become my go-to response, but I’ve been known to flash the wedding ring (and yes, reinforce the false assumptions about what it means) with the overly persistent.

Beyond things directed at us personally, I see things like this all the time in my Facebook feed:

20140428-010933.jpg

“How to keep your woman/man”:
Why do we need different lists for men and women? And imply all women want to cling like dryer sheets and men would rather not engage?
And don’t forget, relationships are for straight people who don’t understand each other because men and women are different species and/or lack common language. And of course, your partner is something to lure, catch, and keep, not a person to build a relationship with such that they want to be near you.

The core issue here isn’t monogamy. If two people decide to make their romantic and/or sexual bonds exclusive, good for them. The assumption, though, is toxic. The assumption is that a relationship (or at least a “serious” relationship) automatically strips a person of the right to make decisions about other relationships. The assumption (made explicit in some scripture) is that a relationship is not an agreement of two autonomous people but a single unit the members of which are incapable of decisions or actions regarding individual needs without securing the other’s permission. And all these helpful outsiders’ comments, no matter how well meaning, come from the assumption that possessive monogamy is the only valid format a relationship can hold. They undercut nonmonogamy.

disclaimer time
I’m not talking about agreed upon D/s dynamic here. Negotiated power exchange is awesome and absolutely ought to be respected. This ain’t about that. This is about norms that erase individual autonomy, that in effect project a specific power exchange onto persons in a relationship and treat them as though they fit it without bothering to treat them as individuals first. This is third parties projecting relationship norms onto everyone they meet and often refusing to listen when corrected.

Loyal, Honest, Faithful

 

“Gotta set boundaries in life.
I’ve contemplated this whole poly/nonmonogamy thing that I’ve lived for so long.
It was a nice phase
but at the end of the day
I’m a nice girl
I’m loyal, honest, and faithful
When a man has my heart, I don’t want to look at anyone else
And I don’t give it away lightly or often.”

We aren’t close. We went out a few times, had a few scenes at parties, never really kept in touch in between. Not close enough that seeing her post this on Facebook should have led to such a strong sense of betrayal.

After all, we weren’t in a relationship. Her decision to focus on monogamy doesn’t affect me.

But her phrasing does.

“It was a nice phase.”

Nonmonogamy is not a valid long-term relationship paradigm.

It’s okay for people who aren’t looking for serious relationships. It’s sowing wild oats, having fun, but it can’t build anything real.

So many people seem to think this: that seeing and sleeping with multiple people is fine, but only until you pick one to settle down with. There’s a monogamous end-game, a belief that multiple partnerships automatically mean less.

It’s an idea that sets lovers in competition with each other for the chance to cement a relationship.

It means treating partners with less care, because no matter what we say, they’ll think the relationship can’t be important, emotionally involved, or built on real connections. It means we’re more likely to get hurt, when they decide to settle down with someone else. It means they won’t expect to have to let us down gently, will be surprised and unprepared by our reactions. To them, it’s no big deal. Be cool, it was just a thing.

If you do view nonmonogamy as a phase, or as a style not commensurate with forming ties, be up front about it. Be compassionate, if one or more partners you aren’t emotionally involved in falls for you. Don’t string anyone along, don’t lie, and don’t laugh when they offer you their hearts. It’s okay to turn it down, it’s always okay to turn them down, but gently, gently.

“I’m a nice girl.”

“Nice” girls are monogamous. Nonmonogamy is perverse, hedonistic, wanton, or cruel.

If they think nonmonogamous partners aren’t nice, what must they think of those of us who choose nonmonogamy and reaffirm that choice year after year? If we’re othered, diminished, perceived as lacking in moral capacity, how well do we expect to be treated?

I don’t trust people who say “I’m a nice person.” It’s such an easy defense to fall back on, when bad behavior is called out. They can’t deny the behavior, so they twist: “I’m not the sort of person who does that sort of thing!” They may not be malicious, but they lack the self-reflection and empathy required to score highly on the recently developed Nic’s Niceness Scale.

If you think nonmonogamous people aren’t nice, don’t date us. Don’t sleep with us. We deserve better from our partners, and you don’t want us anyway.

“I’m loyal”

Nonmonogamous people are disloyal.

A person can have multiple loyalties. Most do. Partners, family, friends, communities to which they belong, communities with whom they’re allied. Loyalty need not be exclusionary, and indeed, exclusionary loyalty often reflects a moral judgment on the excluded party. Think divorced parents: the ones that demand exclusionary loyalty want their kids to pick sides. Those who ask for loyalty that can be inclusive do not. It’s a less self-centered, more positive, less jealous way of thinking.

Anyone who doesn’t believe it’s necessary to be loyal to–that is, supportive of–all of their partners has no business forming partnerships in the first place.

If you think nonmonogamous people are disloyal, don’t date us. Don’t sleep with us. We deserve better than someone who will rescind loyalty once they find the “right” partner, and you don’t want us anyway.

“I’m honest”

Nonmonogamous people are dishonest.

I have trust issues. They’ve been validated, over and over again. I’ve been told Odysseus-level lies about relationships, seen promises broken and cowardly silences maintained. And every time a lie about partners has come up and I’ve gotten any kind of explanation for it, it’s been the same: “I thought you/she/they would leave if you/she/they knew about each other.” It’s because people assume that exclusivity is desired that they feel the need to hide the lack of it at all. It’s not okay, this assumption. It’s all kinds of insulting to those of us who truly don’t desire exclusivity. We’ve said we’re poly, we’ve said what that means, and you choose to believe–what? That it’s a lie? A trick? A trap? A self-delusion? Why would a person want to be in a relationship with someone they believed was lying about their entire relationship paradigm? The point of this, though, is that the lies aren’t caused by polyamorous ideas. They’re caused by monogamous ideas incompatible with polyamory. It’s a blood transfusion being rejected; the ideas are toxic in polyamorous context*.

If you think nonmonogamous people are dishonest, don’t date us. Don’t sleep with us. We deserve partners who will respect us and interact with us as individuals, and you don’t want us anyway.

“I’m faithful”

Nonmonogamous people are unfaithful.

This overlaps strongly with loyalty, but I’m addressing it separately anyway. Let’s talk about what being faithful actually means. It means constant, steadfast allegiance or affection. It means devotion, religious or human. It means dutiful and true to its object. Faithfulness does include exclusivity to one’s partner if that’s what a couple agrees to. Dutiful and true, to whatever agreement the relationship is based on. For those of us who are not monogamous, faithful means something else. It means steadfast affection, approaching our partners within a caring framework, and maintaining the ethical duties we all have to our partners. Those duties just don’t happen to include sexual or romantic exclusivity.

If you think nonmonogamous people are unfaithful, don’t date us. Don’t sleep with us. We don’t want the stress and misery that come with your misconceptions about our relationships, and you don’t want us anyway.

“When a man has my heart, I don’t want to look at anyone else. I don’t give it away lightly or often.”

Nonmonogamous people give their love lightly, often.

Love does not work that way. Our hearts are fragile. Poly people may share ours with more than one person at a time, that’s all. It’s still thrilling and frightening and terrible to fall in love**. Heartbreak still hits hard, and still makes us cautious of getting close to another person again. When someone has my heart, it doesn’t mean I forget or stop caring about others. It means that this person, no matter what, will be a priority. It means I will take time and effort to make them a part of my life as long as they want to have a place there. It means I will not take their presence for granted, will always be grateful for the moments they choose to share.

If you think nonmonogamous people feel love differently, or less, please think again. We may not fall in love with every partner. We may not fall in love with you. But we might. We deserve not to be treated as objects, even if we aren’t in love. You deserve not to be treated as an object, even if you aren’t in love.

 

* Note that I said in a polyamorous context. The ideas work fine in their own system–your blood for the most part is safe and healthy in your own body. The transfusion of those ideas to a system with which it is incompatible is what causes harm here. I’m not calling monogamy a disease or unnatural or toxic, I am saying that a simple incompatibility exists between some of its core precepts and the healthy practice of nonmonogamy.

**I do not have a healthy relationship with this process. Your mileage may vary.

DISCLAIMER

I don’t speak for all the poly people. Some folks probably think I’m wrong to varying degrees. That’s cool. Best to have a conversation about it before starting a relationship though, yeah?

Nice Shoes

This woman fascinates me.

Let’s just call her Z. We’ve been spending a lot of time together. It’s a little awkward: she’s still seeing and living with the Techie, so I find myself trying to steer around my own emotional context when he becomes the topic of conversation. The night of awful conversation and confrontation seems to have knocked down a lot of barriers to completely frank conversation, so shy and awkward as we are, we’re still communicating more than I manage with most people. It’s kind of awesome. She’s super awesome.

I’m pretty damn attracted to her.

We played a bit, before all the nonsense went down in December. She and the Techie co-topped me one night, and we played around with clothespin zippers at a party. She made it clear her interest in doing toppy things at me wasn’t sexual. So we hang out, dye each other’s hair, bake, rearrange the house, talk too late. On Valentine’s day I brought her chocolate and the world’s most awkward card and we spent the evening alphabetizing erotic magnetic poetry. The last week or two, I’ve been over there late–I spent the night last Wednesday, and was there until almost 0300 this Monday. This meant seeing the Techie, which (damn it) is actually not awkward or unpleasant at all.

She’s gotten flirtatious. I figured this was a sign of her being more comfortable around me, not actual attraction, but I enjoy it anyway. I texted about having brownies in bed, joked that if I joined a monastery but could still have this kind of unabashed hedonism in the bedroom, that’d actually be kind of okay.

Z: “Or you could come over here…(this is my less than subtle attempt at seduction)” … “I even have a nun costume!”

Me: “yes you do. You have been quite clear previously about not having sexual interest in me. So this is my confused face.”

Z: “People change, and attractions. The more I get to know you, the more intimate the non sexual relationship becomes, the physical attraction has always been there, but the sexual attraction is new.”

Me: “…processing error…” [I’m so eloquent]

Z: ” >_> I uh…I’m…dammit.
That is…
I mean…
Nice shoes, wanna fuck?”

The thing is, I do. I probably shouldn’t, but I do. Because she makes me smile. Because she’s covered in ink (I can’t resist body art). Because she’s beyond resilient and I am completely in awe of her. Because anyone who can enjoy standing in front of a refrigerator alphabetizing magnets with me for over an hour is definitely my type.

I probably shouldn’t. Because she’s having continuing issues with the Techie, and while I’m not remotely interested in monogamy, I don’t think it’s a good idea to try to form a new relationship if an existing one is thoroughly problematic. Because she lives with him, and I’m a little paranoid that if we were involved he might either become awkward and distant again or overly keen. Because I’m anxious and afraid.

We revisited the conversation, decided to put it on hold until her relationship with the Techie is more stable. It’s the right idea, but still frustrating and unnerving.

So of course we’re going to a play party tomorrow. We’ll hash out what I ought to bring in case we want to scene (now that I’ve organized all the toys). The plan is that I’ll likely spend the night in their spare room again.

Apparently I am very fond of subjecting myself to massive amounts of temptation.

Sleeping Arrangements

It doesn’t have to be a problem. It shouldn’t be a problem.

It’s a problem.

Spouse has been seeing this girl a few months now. The young one who used to date the Techie. Let’s call her Polly Pocket: she is adorable and just about pocket-sized.

We’re all going to a play party tomorrow night. We’re going to be out late–some parties I’ve barely hit the front door by dawn–and it doesn’t make sense to drive her all the way home and then turn around and go back to our place.

There are two logical options. (1) We can all take one car, Polly Pocket can come home with us, she and Spouse can share the bed and I can sleep in the living room. (2) We can take two cars, Spouse can go back to Polly Pocket’s place and spend the night, and I can come home and have the whole bed to myself.

Spouse wants to invent options 3-7 and get upset at me for not liking them. Option 3: we all three share a bed. Hell no. We tried it when she crashed here after the Techie debacle. I got up and moved to the couch. Too crowded, and I’m not a cuddler, and there was unfamiliar movement and breathing…ugh. There are very few people with whom I can share a bed and not be miserable. All of them are either partners/former partners or my sister. Option 4: Polly Pocket and I share the bed, Spouse takes the couch. This is ridiculous. They are both snuggly types, I am not. He is in a relationship with her, I am not. I don’t want to share personal space that closely with someone I’m not in a relationship with. Option 5: make Polly Pocket take the couch. I guess we could, but again with the snuggle compatibility and I don’t want to make her feel exiled. Option 6: I get the bed, they inflate the air mattress and sleep on the living room floor. This makes sense if I am an evil and insane person who will make Spouse and his partner sleep on a glorified pool raft that is likely to be punctured by bad cats in the night. Since I’m not, and it isn’t cat-proof, and loud to set up, and also this idea is crazy…no. Option 7: “I just can’t date anyone else this is too complicated.” *facepalm*

Spouse keeps saying it doesn’t seem fair to kick me out of the bed. He isn’t kicking me out, he’s not listening when I say I don’t want to be there. And yeah, this would’ve been more navigable if we still had a two-bedroom apartment, but we don’t. Sometimes I’m going to have to move over a little to make room for other people in Spouse’s life. It shouldn’t be a problem.

So why is it a problem?

Please let me just say “no.”

I’m sorry.

I’d have said it earlier if I’d known you were flirting.

I’m really dense about these things.

I think we’re better as friends.

Yes, I do like spending time with you.

No, it’s not because you’re fat or short or whatever it is you’re insecure about.

Yes, I think you’re pretty.

Why does it matter why?

I think we’re better as friends.

Maybe I’m happy with the way we are.

Maybe I don’t want to have sex with every friend I find attractive.

Maybe I’m scared of getting closer to you.

Maybe I don’t want to be closer to you.

Maybe I don’t have time.

Maybe I’m picky.

Maybe a more intimate relationship wouldn’t work because we’re glaringly incompatible.

Maybe not all relationships need to level up to maximum intimacy. You won’t get an XP bonus.

Maybe it doesn’t matter why.

Maybe you’re just not special.

Fuck, there’s no nice way to say that, is there.

I mean it when I say I’m glad to see you.

I smile when you text just to say hi.

I like you just fine.

But–

I could say the same about almost everyone in our social circle.

Maybe you’re just not special.

If you’re not special

(breath catching in my throat, fingertips twitching towards you almost without thinking, when my phone buzzes I hope it’s you, I call you before my own mother when something exciting happens in my life, on my mind like Willie Nelson *special*)

Don’t make me tell you.

Don’t make me hurt you.

Please let me just say “no.”

It doesn’t matter why.

I don’t want it. You can’t change my mind and I don’t want you changing yourself.

I like you as you are.

I like us as we are.

Please let me just say “no.”