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?

40 thoughts on “Would You? Could You?”

  1. Quite an Interesting and funny way to answer my question. So my question from reading your answer is you are very sure you wouldn’t ever try monogamy even though you said you have never tried it..what makes you sure if you haven’t tried it? (Not meant in a smartass prove yourself way just curious).

    Would you, could you have a relationship that wasn’t exclusive? Why, or why not?

    You have a point. People don’t ask me this but here goes my answer. No, I couldn’t be in a relationship that wasn’t exclusive. I know this to be true because I’ve been in a relationship that wasn’t exclusive, except we didn’t call it poly at that time. It doesn’t work for me for many reasons including insecurity and my lack of wanting to share my time with my partner. It ended for me when I called her needing her because my grandmother had passed and she didn’t have time for me because she was with him. I not only want to be someone’s only special someone and all that they need but I NEED that. I’ve tried otherwise and it just doesn’t work for me. I’ve even considered trying again and the thought of it doesn’t even work for me. So yes, I prefer, and require, monogamy. I have nothing against anyone who is poly, it just isn’t for me.

    Come to think of it I believe if I remember correctly I have asked this of another monogamous person. I believe I asked and discussed this with Ferns once in email when first exploring the lifestyles.

    1. It’s a little smartassy but that’s okay 😛

      I can come at this from a few different angles.

      My first experience with nonmonogamy came when I was in high school, long before I knew there was a word for it. I had a long-distance boyfriend who was engaged (by parental arrangement), from a nation where polygamy is legal, and who declared that it would be ridiculous for him to have more than one girlfriend or boyfriend but expect those people to be only with him. It wasn’t a terribly serious relationship and lasted under a year, but it was quite formative in thinking about individual rights in relationships.

      I’ve also been in a relationship that did limit and control my interactions with other people, without technically being monogamous (during that period I did not have other partners, but there was no rule that said “we are monogamous now”). It was extremely unhealthy and there were abusive elements. Rightly or wrongly, I can’t see any attempt to limit my relationships with other people outside of the lens of the potential for abuse. Likewise, I would never seek to limit a partner’s other relationships (romantic, sexual, friendship, whatever) because I feel that exerting that control, for whatever reason, would be abusive. If someone chose to close themselves off from taking other romantic or sexual partners, that would be fine, but I don’t believe a person can choose that for anyone but themselves.

      Finally, how do I know I wouldn’t like it if I tried it? I don’t know. I also don’t know if I’d like crawfish. They might be motherfucking delicious (I doubt it. They’re terrifying insectoid monsters and I question the decisions and character of the first person who thought “yes, I should put this in my mouth.”) but it’s irrelevant. I’ve chosen to keep kosher as a symbol of my family and history, no matter how intermittent my faith may be. Any pressure to just break down and eat a mud bug, no matter how transcendent the taste may be, is a statement that the person pressuring has zero respect for that history and faith. No respect for me and my choices. There are things more important than enjoyment. I would rather pass on a relationship I might enjoy and maintain the sense of self I derive from not ceding control of my other relationships. And again, anyone who has needs incommensurate with that may be as wonderful as anything, but they are not a good fit for me.

      1. “It’s a little smartassy but that’s okay”
        Well then spank me! *shakes tush*

        Okay, no it wasn’t meant smart ass. Your explanation this tie was what I was curious about. How you really felt inside that it doesn’t work for you is what I was looking for all along. Thanks for entertaining my questions


    2. “[Poly] doesn’t work for me for many reasons including…my lack of wanting to share my time with my partner. ”

      Now it’s my turn to be smartassy but whenever someone says something like this I think, “Do they keep their partner locked in a cage in the basement or something?”

      My ex-husband and I were monogamous, but he had a high-level tech job that monopolized most of his time; I’d go days barely seeing him. Also he had this thing where he thought he’d look “pussy whipped” if he ever declined a friend’s invitation in order to be with me, so if he and I had plans and then a friend of his asked him to do something for that same timeslot, he’d immediately say “yes” to that friend and I’d lose out. None of this happened because monogamy. It happened because he was a busy person and also kind of a jackass. See how I blame the person and circumstances for the issues rather than the relationship style?

      It’s just so weird to me. People have jobs. People have friends. People have hobbies. People have pets. People have household responsibilities. People need alone-time. And for most mono folks, all of those things that take time away from their romantic relationship are totally fine, as long as their relationshippy-type needs are being met reasonably well. But if some of the partner’s friendships were to include sex then suddenly it’s “their other partners take time away from meeeeee!”

      Also I’m poly and to me the death of someone’s loved one takes precedence over most things I could be doing, whether it’s one partner’s grandma dying while I’m on a date with another or a friend’s grandma dying while I’m on a date or a friend’s grandma dying while I’m hanging out with another friend. Again – blame the person, not the relationship style.

      Just to be clear, I’m fine with people wanting to be monogamous. I just feel like the usual reasons given don’t make much sense. I’d almost rather hear “I dunno, I just like it better that way” than “I don’t want to share my partner’s time” or “because I was poly once and my partner was a jerk.”

      Annnnnyhoo. On the topic of “but how do you know you wouldn’t like monogamy if you haven’t tried it?”…the thing is that monogamy isn’t based on *doing* things, it’s based on *not* doing things. Literally the only thing that defines monogamy is that you don’t fuck/kiss/date/love other people.

      So “how do you know you wouldn’t like monogamy?” isn’t comparable to “how do you know you wouldn’t like crawfish?” – it’s more similar to “how would you feel about never eating ANYTHING but [particular food , albeit a food you really like] again?”

      The novelty of being poly hasn’t yet worn off, for me. Every time I flirt with someone who is not my submissive, or kiss someone, or generally do anything kinda slutty, I find myself thinking “If I were monogamous, this awesome fun thing I’m doing would make my partner feel betrayed or disrespected and there would have to be a bunch of earnest discussions and work to get his trust back and blah blah blah.” I don’t need to try monogamy (again) in order to know that fun things are fun and I don’t want arbitrary restrictions on how much fun I can have.

      1. the thing is that monogamy isn’t based on *doing* things, it’s based on *not* doing things. Literally the only thing that defines monogamy is that you don’t fuck/kiss/date/love other people.

        True. I’m still poly when single. Still poly when I only have one partner. It’s the freedom to have multiple relationships and make those decisions, not a moment-by-moment count.

  2. A whole new perspective for me on Green Eggs and Ham, as an insult to autonomy/agency. No wonder toddlers rebel when it comes to eating.

    An interesting reflection. Thanks for sharing.

    1. Next up: how The Giving Tree tells children abuse is love, The Rainbow Fish promotes self-harm to bullied youth, and Six-Dinner Sid is a great jumping point for the importance of disclosure in polyamory!

      1. Shel Silverstein definitely was a complicated guy (interestingly he wrote for Playboy, and Seuss did ads for Esso/Standard Oil!)

        Looks like we’ll have to back up to The Very Hungry Caterpillar. Oh shoot… disordered eating!

        1. Have you seen Seuss’ war propaganda?

          I’m actually a huge fan of the Very Hungry Caterpillar. We teach children to ignore their bodies and tell them they’re wrong about their feelings from such a young age. The Very Hungry Caterpillar doesn’t do that. It’s affirming. The caterpillar is hungry. Hungry critters eat. You’d be surprised how rarely kids books support kids to recognize and respond to their own needs.

          1. “You’d be surprised how rarely kids books support kids to recognize and respond to their own needs.”

            Society in general encourages kids to completely ignore their needs and instincts, shut the fuck up, and do as they’re told. Oh, I could rant for HOURS.

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