PQ 18.1 — Why do I identify as monogamous? Is it because I only want one partner for myself, or because I want my partner to be only with me, or both?
While sometimes we tend to treat monogamy like a unitary concept, it’s important to note that there are typically two separate desires driving a person’s preference to be monogamous:
- Not wanting to share a partner with other lovers. The desire to have your partner date you and you alone.
- Not wanting to date multiple partners. The desire to only date one person at a time.
Interestingly, I’ve met monogamous people with every possible combination of these:
- Folks who only have #1. They admit that they would enjoy dating others but that they want to be their partner’s One and Only, so they are monogamous because it’s only fair that they are exclusive in return.
- Folks who only have #2. They don’t really care about being their partner’s One and Only, but they find the idea of dating multiple people exhausting, doubt their ability to balance multiple relationships at the same time, have concerns regarding sexual health and STIs, and/or enjoy the simplicity of dating one on one.
- Folks who have both desires.
- And occasionally I even meet people who have neither of these desires but feel like monogamy is simply the way relationships are done. That it’s compulsory.
Mono/Poly Relationships Can Be Difficult, Especially If You Don’t Want to Share
Mono/poly relationships, i.e., relationships between a monogamous person and a polyamorous one, can be notoriously difficult. There are a number of reasons for this: Many of our cultural beliefs about romantic relationships and compulsory monogamy will torture a person in a polyamorous environment. In addition, many of us do ourselves no favors by viewing monogamy and polyamory as polar opposites rather than as points on the same spectrum. Because it’s difficult to find a workable middle between two things if you’re convinced that one can’t possibly exist.
And when it comes to mono/poly relationships, I’ve found that some people have it way harder than others. Especially if their desire to be monogamous stems from not wanting to share their partner with others.
Typically, I find that people who are primarily driven by a desire to date only one person adjust rather well to polyamorous situations. In fact, I know several people who have found it to be quite helpful, especially if they’ve struggled in the past with lovers who wanted more from them (time, sex, or attention, etc) than they were able to provide. For them, having other lovers in the picture can actually take some of the pressure off and free them up to focus on other things (since there are plenty of other gratifying things in life outside of romantic relationships).
I’m not saying that it’s impossible to adjust to a mono/poly pairing if you have a strong desire not to share your partner with others. But it is truly a more difficult road.
Suggested Further Reading:
What’s Mono/Poly?: A Basic Introduction (has some information about ways to find support)
To Make Mono/Poly Easier, View Monogamy and Polyamory as a Spectrum, Not a Binary
Toxic Monogamy, Why Mono/Poly (and Poly) Is Hard
This post is part of a series in which I answer each of the chapter-end questions in More than Two with an essay. For the entire list of questions and answers, please see this indexed list.