Imagine if I were to ask if anybody else out there has a kink of “playing poly.” When asked to explain what I mean by “playing at poly,” I described it as “you know, like when you pretend to sleep with everyone indiscriminately and not give a shit about what your partners think.”
Over on Facebook, I created an alt profile that’s attached to my scene-name so I could join special groups that talk about kinky shit without outing my “real life” details to people I don’t know that well. It had the added benefit of making it possible for me to join a bunch of polyamory discussion groups without being outed to my extended family and coworkers on my regular facebook account, including one specifically for mono + poly couples. I was ecstatic! I was gonna find my people!
Only, the polyfolk are the most active in the mono + poly group and there’s a lot of #polysplaining that happens where they are trying to address a struggling monoperson’s issues from their polyamorous perspective, and the monogamuggles get kind of turned off by it.
Then I found a group that was for the mono people ONLY, and I was ecstatic again! I found my people!
Only….these were not my people.
That turned out to be a group largely made up of mono people who were bitter about their partners’ polyamory. They’d spend all day talking shit about poly, blaming it for ruining lives, and going full mean-girl on the things that were discussed in other groups.
So I bailed. That is not what I wanted.
I started to think that I was some sort of wacky anomaly again. The polyfolk talk about “unicorns” and “unicorn hunters” ….maybe I was some sort of new breed: a Monocorn. A monoamorous person who is accepting of polyamory and actively works toward having a harmonious relationship with a polyamorous partner.
Recently, another poly person posted in the mono + poly group on behalf of her boyfriend, who was looking to connect with other mono people who were not bitter and angry about their partners being polyamorous.
We started talking about starting a group.
A couple of other monocorns commented that they might be interested in joining a group like that. All I’m waiting on now is for one of them to accept my friend request so I can get it started. (Facebook makes you invite at least one friend to start a group, and all my friends are polyamorous.)
Anyway, here’s what I’ve drafted as the group description and guidelines. I’m anxious to get it started….so if there are any other monocorns out there that’d like to join, let me know!
What’s a monocorn? It’s the monoamorous person that is happy (or working toward happiness) in a polyamorous relationship. Some of us take to poly-style relationships more easily than others, but the bottom line is – we don’t hate the concept of polyamory. We just don’t wanna be poly ourselves.
Still, every once in a while we need a place of support from other people like us. Our families think its a phase, our friends don’t understand it, and our partners sometimes don’t understand us either. When we attend poly events, we feel a little out of place ’cause everyone assumes we’re like them; but, we don’t quite fit in with the standard-issue monofolk either.
Please only request to join if you are the MONOAMOROUS or MONOGAMOUS part of an ethically non-monogamous, open, or polyamorous relationship. Also welcome:
- Asexual folk in poly relationships who are not romantically involved with multiple partners
- Monogamish folk who have outside play partners, but are romantically and/or sexually connected to only one partner
- Monoamorous people who are currently single or unattached, but are open to or interested in dating a polyamorous person.
This is a safe space to ask questions, process difficulties, share wins, and help others navigate the wacky world of mono-poly relationships. Your partners aren’t here. There won’t be any polysplaining.
In the event two monogamous metamours who are dating the same polyperson join the group, please be respectful of one another. Be aware that you can edit visibility on your posts so that certain group members can’t see them. Utilize this function if you feel like it will help keep the peace.
There also won’t be any polyHATING. It’s not okay to paint polyamory as an absolute evil that ruins lives. Remember that people define polyamory differently, so before you tell someone “that’s not poly” make sure you understand how they define it or be clear that it’s not poly per YOUR personal definition.
Except cheating. Cheating is not polyamory. Cheating is cheating.
Also, this is a sex-positive atmosphere. No slut-shaming, no kink-shaming, and please make every attempt to address your fellow monocorns with their appropriate pronouns. (Trans monocorns, please feel free to correct anybody who misgenders you. Everyone, please accept the correction without getting defensive.)
Even when venting, please do not attack polyamory as a concept. This group is for those who are accepting of our partners’ polyamorous natures, or at least actively working toward acceptance. It’s okay to vent and be frustrated and to question whether or not this is for you, but if you already know it’s not for you and you’re angry or bitter about it, then this isn’t your lily pad.
Oh…and if at some point down the line you find yourself leaning toward trying polyamory out for yourself, please voluntarily step away from the group. If or when you change your mind, you can come back. Promise.
If you’re unsure if this group is the right fit for you, please feel free to contact an admin. We’re nice people. At least I am.
Need a place to vent all your frustrations without the kum-ba-ya poly-accepting atmosphere? There is a group for that. Message the admins for details.
Edit: Yay! I got the requisite friend. The group now exists.
After nearly 5 years together, she tells him she’s poly. After allowing him four weeks of “adjustment” she’s got dates lined up and tells him she’ll “probably” have sex with these guys. He’s not ready. She’s going all-in.
This is my advice to him:
I’m gonna share with you some of my thoughts on polyamory and how it can work in the abstract. This is by no means the one and only way shit works – this is just what I’ve found to be the healthiest way in my experience. Then, after that I’ll give you some examples on how to approach a very, very necessary conversation with your girlfriend and how to tell if she’s open to polyamory with you, or some sort of alternative in which she’s not really valuing your future participation in her life.
Polyamory in general can be, in many ways, a vehicle for personal growth. Some polyfolk like to say that it’s “more” love, but I think that’s just an imperfect translation. It’s “many” love. I’m going to use an imperfect analogy to illustrate the difference. You have a box of Honey Nut Cheerios, a box of Lucky Charms, a gallon of milk, a bowl, and a spoon.
Monoamory in its most ideal form is selecting one of the cereals, filling the bowl, adding the milk, and using the spoon to eat it.
Polyamory, in one of its most ideal forms, is pouring some of each cereal into the same bowl, adding the milk, and using the spoon to eat it.
Picture a monoamorous person sitting in front of their bowl of Lucky Charms sitting side by side with the polyamorous person sitting in front of their bowl of a mix of Cheerios and Charms.
The poly person doesn’t have “more” cereal. The poly person has more variety in their cereal. They have “many” cereal, not “more.”
(Don’t put the cereal analogy away yet, I’m going to come back to it later.)
Now, for this – I’m not gonna go into some of the more complex makeups of polyamorous relationships, meaning – no triads or quads or relationship anarchy types. Not gonna go into the ratio of charms to cheerios, either. In fact, for this – I’m going to focus on what I know best – which is how a monoperson (me) can be in a happy, harmonious relationship with a polyperson (my partner).
There is a metric fuckton of self work that has to go into successful polyamory, whether you’re on the mono side or the poly side. You have to be able to accept your feelings, analyze your feelings, dissect your feelings, explore your feelings, and communicate your feelings in ways that minimize their power over your actions. I’ll probably end up writing a whole book on this, so there’s no way I’m going to get through all of it in a comment, but…. the basic tenets of successful polyamory have a whole lot to do with personal responsibility, honesty, trust, empathy, and patience.
These are the bowl, the milk, and the spoon of your relationships.
When you think of your “needs” try to separate the difference between YOUR needs and the needs of your relationship. When someone is dating multiple people, it helps to think of each relationship as its own entity – therefore the “needs” that are attached to that relationship fall under the responsibility of both parties to be aware of.
Example: for me, sex is a relationship need. I have been in relationships that did not include sex, and it made me miserable. One of the things poly people sometimes say is “I can get my needs met with others that i don’t get with you…” and something they frequently advise when someone is complaining that they’re not getting enough sex with a partner is “Just go get sex with someone else!”
For me, sex is not the same as enjoying a fine, hand-crafted cocktail. That’s a want. That’s something I enjoy doing, and if my partner didn’t drink, I would be fine with finding someone else to enjoy cocktails with.
But, for a relationship (for me) – sex is a need. For me to feel happy and fulfilled in a relationship, I need fairly regular sex. Whether I had one relationship or twenty, they’d all need that. (There’s just the one, thanks.) That’s the spoon. Trust is the bowl. Empathy and validation of my feelings are the milk.
Without ALL of them, eating that bowl of cereal will be very problematic. Not impossible, but certainly not ideal. It doesn’t matter if I’m having Cheerios only, or a mix of Charms, Cheerios and Cap’n Crunch – I need to ensure I’ve got everything I NEED (and to make sure I’m not overfilling the bowl) in order to be in a happy and harmonious polyamorous relationship.
Now to the part where you need to set some boundaries and working that concept of personal responsibility with your girlfriend.
Relationships *should be* at will. Nobody should be coerced or forced to stick with a bad situation. I get that this happens, and that requires a level of help I’m not quite capable of giving – but in in this case, nobody is forcing you to stay with your girlfriend if you are not getting your needs met in a relationship.
If she is serious about exploring polyamory WITH you, then she is going to have to give you more than a couple weeks to adjust to the idea. That means having to listen to your fears, your insecurities, and your concerns and *validating* them. Not ignoring them or telling them you won’t know until you try or saying “eeh…i’mma do what i want, deal with it.” She’s got to LISTEN to you and understand what your issues are, even if she doesn’t feel them herself.
I remember I once worked somewhere that was folding into another company. They offered everybody who was leaving severance: One month’s pay for every year you worked at the company.
Your girlfriend basically gave you a WEEK per year you’ve been with her to adjust to a BRAND NEW RELATIONSHIP.
She thinks “But at least I’m being honest!” And yeah, she’s being honest. She’s telling you the truth – that she wants to date and sleep with other people.
But is she being honest about wanting to be sure that you’re okay with it? Is she being honest about wanting very much to keep you as a priority in her life?
Her recent actions tell me not so much.
And when people’s actions don’t match up with their words, I start to question just how “honest” they really are.
The NCSF has a listing of poly-friendly professional counselors. If she’s serious….truly serious, ask her to go with you to a counseling session. Ask her to read the books with you and discuss them. Ask her to go to local support group meetings or to join the poly groups on FB to get some feedback and learn how to poly in the most ethically responsible and healthy ways.
If she won’t…
Then just remember. Your relationship is at will. You deserve better than a handful of cereal with spoiled milk and no bowl.
I used to love rules. Rules, when my life was very completely out of my control, helped me make sense of things. I had rules for who I’d date and what I’d do with them and when. I had rules for who could do what to me and under which circumstances. I had rules about rules, and I was really great about closing loopholes in rules so that I would know exactly what to expect from whom and when.
I clung to the fantasy of a 24/7 D/s relationship. The idea of someone else making the decisions for me and absolving me of the need to willingly take care of myself appealed to me in the wake of my husband’s unexpected death and the realization that I’d lost my entire identity in that relationship.
And you know what? I don’t fault myself for that. It was my coping mechanism, and it worked for a while.
I didn’t know who I was, or who I wanted to be. All I knew was that there was too much stuff for me to carry by myself. I felt I would never be unearthed from beneath its heavy burden. As such, I was attracted to the “fixer” types. The “daddy” types of nurturers who wanted to help me get better. The ones who would set the rules down with the intention of moving me past my hangups and phobias.
And over time, they started having results.
I stopped being afraid of making decisions for myself, and graduated to just not liking it. I started to realize that I was entrusting some pretty important (and some not so important) decisions into the hands of people who weren’t particularly good at taking care of themselves, much less others. I began to understand that our dynamics had shifted – because I’d gone from the bird with a broken wing who needed a cage to be transported safely from point A to point B, to a fully-healed bird ready to take flight – were it not for the owner who kept clipping my wings.
The rules no longer felt like they were being set to help me. They felt like they were being set to control me, and I no longer wanted to be under that 24/7 type of control.
The rules were condoms.
The rules I put on myself and those I allowed to be put on me were an imperfect attempt to protect myself from ….whatever was out there. Just like condoms, the only way to truly be safe is abstinence; and I wasn’t willing to be kink-abstinent anymore.
Now I’m in a relationship with only one rule: Honesty. Everything else between us is more of a request. We’ve got a 24/7 love and trust dynamic. The D/s part is significantly more fluid.
I see people talk about setting “rules” for their partners to follow …especially when they’re opening up to some form of non-monogamy for the first time. Things like “My partner can sleep with whomever, but no emotions,” or “no sleepovers,” or “not in our home,” or “anything goes but kink is only with me,” or “I’m the only one they can use this term of endearment with.”
It’s a condom. These rules are meant to control your exposure to potential harm, but they’re not foolproof. Try to make a rule that your partner will never develop feelings for a sexual partner and be prepared to find yourself on the business end of a Klingon pain stick.
If you want to feel the full spectrum of sensation in your relationship once adequate trust has been established, then it might be time to assess the value of loosening up some of the rigidity of those relationship rules.
It might be time to explore the flexibility of allowing your partner to take flight, and see how they still come back to you – again, and again.
And if they don’t?
If you’d be happy with the bird in the cage whose wings you gotta keep clipping, then you do you.
I wouldn’t be, neither as owner nor bird.
Chatting with my partner the other day about TV shows, as we do – and I mentioned Bewitched. He crinkled up his nose. He didn’t care for it much. I thought about it. I generally love shows about kick-ass supernatural stuff. If its got magic or time travel – I’m in! Especially with a female heroine.
But he was right on with the nose crinkling. There was something about Bewitched that always did rub me the wrong way…
…and that was Darren.
Darren knew Samantha was a witch when he married her. He forces her to suppress who she is – to the point of being ANGRY with her whenever she uses her magic. Now, the idea of not wanting people to find out I can understand. Major Nelson and Major Healey over on I Dream of Jeannie didn’t want Jeannie to expose her magic to the other muggles, but I don’t recall they ever forbade her from using it when nobody was watching.
But Darren…he was actively witch-shaming his own wife, AND THEN HIS DAUGHTER!
Guess what? It’s time for a SURPRISE METAPHOR!
I see a lot of folk over on the polyamory discussion forums (not here, elsewhere) complain that their partners struggle with them being poly. Now, when it’s the case of a previously monogamous couple opening up, I get it. That’s a transition that I can’t even imagine taking on.
But I’m seeing it from folk who were openly polyamorous BEFORE they get into these relationships – and then the people that they’re dating start asking them to change.
DON’T BE A DARREN. I guess that’s what I’m trying to say.
Of course, unless you’re old enough to have watched Bewitched either in its first run or on re-runs on Nick at Night, you haven’t the foggiest clue what I’m talking about.
But that’s okay. If you’re that young, then there’s time for you to figure all this shit out later.
First, I’ll establish my credentials:
I’m a monogamous (or mono-amorous) person in a relationship with a polyamorous man. My monogamy is my choice, not necessarily his preference just as his polyamory is his choice, not necessarily my preference. We’ve been at it for just over a year now and it’s going really swell.
I have, prior to this relationship, attempted to date in the polyamorous way two (or three, depending on how you define it) times. All those other attempts were total successes if you measure success by learning from your utter failures.
That’s it. There are no degrees, no fancy letters after my name to indicate that I am in any professional way qualified to offer advice. I’m just a monogamous woman in a happy poly relationship with very few major hiccups.
I read a lot. Talk a lot, too, to other people in situations similar to mine. Usually the biggest issue I can identify is that the mono person is applying monogamous concepts to their poly relationship and it’s backfiring.
I call that cooking poly ingredients with a monogamous cookbook. The example I’ve given most often is the difference between traditional pasta noodles and healthy (gluten free) zoodles, or zucchini noodles.
If you boil skinny strips of zucchini the way you would boil spaghetti, you’re gonna end up with a soggy, mushy, mess. It’s not gonna taste good, look good, or be at all satisfying.
But, if you take those zoodles, and roast them in the oven (or saute them in a pan) with olive oil, you are gonna LOVE it! Unless you really hate vegetables.
And if you really hate vegetables, you really oughtn’t try to date poly….er…i mean, to cook zoodles.
OK, so that metaphor is out of the way.
Here are some common issues that I’ve seen come up when people try to cook poly ingredients with the mono cookbook:
1. You’re trying to experience the future of your relationship.*
You may have read/heard the concept of the “relationship escalator.” It’s kind of like the idea that there are benchmarks for your relationship that mean it’s “leveling up,” or “succeeding.” You date. You kiss. You fuck. You meet the parents. Move in together. Get joint bank accounts. Spawn. Get a life insurance policy. Buy a house. Invest in an RV. Move to Boca.
Things don’t seem to work that way in poly relationships. I think it’s best not to expect them to work that way at all. What I’ve seen from most smooth-running poly relationships is that the relationship is taking place right now. Every day that shit is working out well is a GREAT FUCKING DAY.
Especially for the poly person. You and me? The monogamuggles? We’ve got it easy. One relationship. One sexual partner. One birthday/anniversary to remember. One potential date to your cousin’s wedding.
They’re in a constant state of juggling. Now, that’s on them. Life choices and all. They wanna do it, and you love and accept them for who they are, so…if they wanna juggle they get to juggle. But all that juggling means that they probably do not have the wherewithal to think about where they might be in three years time in terms of your relationship.
You’re lucky if you can get them to plan a week in advance.
For the polyfolk who are reading along and dating and/or considering dating a fine, upstanding monogamuggle (or anybody else, really) – remember that the other side of this equation is that your juggling skills should be advanced enough that you can handle your number of balls without constantly dropping them. If you’re oversaturated with partners and someone keeps getting hurt because you are not effectively juggling, you should..uh….look into that. Just sayin’.
Bottom line, my mono friend? Try not to get ahead of your relationship. I know it sucks that your partner doesn’t live with you and possibly never will. It is nice to wake up next to their smiling face, and their relationship choices mean that’s always gonna be limited to ‘not every night’. All the more reason to enjoy every opportunity where waking up together is an option and not worry so much about whether they’ll relocate in three years when you graduate from college and get a big job in the city. The day for that question will come…in three years.
2. The nature of their other relationships may (and likely will) change.
So, when you sign on they have one, or two other partners and a couple play partners here and there and a casual one-off they see once in a while, and you decide that’s a set up you can live with.
Yeah. Umm….there’s no guarantee that any of those relationships won’t change over time. In fact, it’s pretty darned certain at some point, they will. The casual person might become more. The metamour you’re used to might move away. The once-in-a-while person may move into town and become a hell of a lot more frequent. The point is, you gotta work on keeping your focus on your relationship with your partner independently of who else might be on their leader board.
That might mean being hit with the realization that you were not the final piece of the puzzle or the one thing they didn’t have that they needed to make them feel complete.
Oh man, that ego takes a HIT when that happens. And all those insecurities bubble up and make you feel like you don’t matter and the little demons in your head start lining you up side by side with all those metamours and compare you to them….
It’s hell. Seriously.
But if you can maintain focus on YOUR relationship with YOUR PARTNER, you can usually (hopefully) overcome a lot of those brain goblins that get in the way.
That being said, if you end up feeling like you’re not getting the love, attention, or time you need in order to be happy, it’s always your option to walk away. After all, your relationship qualifies as one of the ones that may change.
3. Your parents probably won’t get it.
Substitute parents for boss, friends, psychologist, hairdresser, manicurist, or that loud-mouthed lady who waxes your legs. Someone in your life will probably not get it. We’re used to people being happy for us when we’re in relationships; but when we’re in poly relationships a non-zero portion of the people who would normally be happy for you are now in a constant state of hoping it all goes away because the idea of it makes them uncomfortable.
They call it being “worried” about you, but really? They’re waiting until they get to say “I always thought you deserved more.”
It’s a weird feeling, and a little bit isolating. You end up feeling like your friends aren’t really your friends, or that your family isn’t all that supportive, and the next thing you know, you’re hanging out with a lot more poly people ’cause at least they get it; but then they keep forgetting (or not understanding) that you’re NOT poly and you still feel a little isolated.
So. Yeah. When that happens, shoot me a message. We’ll start a support group.
4. Expressions of love aren’t all-consuming and can’t really be weighed or measured
They don’t wanna be your “everything.” In fact, some of them might be a little confused/on edge about the notion of being responsible for all your happiness. That’s not how they’re wired and they don’t always put in as much effort into understanding your wiring as you do theirs.
It’s a common thing I see, where the mono person bends over backwards and a half to make room for and accept the poly person’s life choices and proclivities, but the poly person doesn’t take into account that having a monogamous partner also takes a bit of acceptance on their part.
So, when you say things like “I only want to be with you,” and “I don’t know what I’d be without you,” and “I want to spend the rest of my life with you and only you and nobody else but you,” they’re like….gasping for air.
You gotta learn how to translate your proclamations of all-consuming love into terms that show you understand that they are their own people who have responsibilities and commitments in excess of the ones they’ve made with you.
They love you. Probably. I mean, I hope so. But, yeah – assuming that they do, in fact, love you – then you are gonna have to learn to trust that and not let things like “they didn’t text me back for three hours” translate in your head that they don’t love you as much as you love them. You can’t measure love.
And time isn’t indicative of love.
Now, as far as the “they have to understand the way you’re wired” thing, try to remember when you talk about how you love or why you didn’t do anything on Saturday night, that their polyamory is their choice, and your monogamy is yourchoice. They are not to feel responsible for you being lonely when they’re out with their other partner. You are not to make them feel responsible for it.
I mean, you can and they might but that’s gonna end badly and be kind of unhealthy. Try to stay away from that.
Try to remember that neither way is “better” or “worse”. Neither way is more “evolved” than the other.
The evolution is in accepting each others’ different outlooks and still managing to build a relationship around them.
I’ve only got those four for now, ’cause this post is long enough and I’ve already posted two others today.
*Update: Since posting this, I realized that it’s centered more around my experience as an unmarried, non-nesting partner of a polyamorous person. Your results may vary, and definitely if you’re married to your partner and/or transitioning from a long-term monogamous dynamic to a poly one. I haven’t done that, so I don’t have anything concrete to say on how to manage it.
If you’re interested in any of my other poly-related writings, the easiest way is to follow this link to the polystuff section of my public blog