PQ 18.4 — Am I prepared to give my monogamous partner time and space to process his feelings about my polyamory?
It’s been a long time since I tried to date anyone who identified as monogamous. Really not since I was first polyamorous. And the reason for that back then was that I didn’t know that many other polyamorous people. In 2009 there wasn’t much of a poly community to speak of in the middle of rural Maine (I suppose that could be different now, who knows). And even if there had been, I wouldn’t have known how to find it. In those days, I was still mostly in the closet, essentially only coming out on my dating profile and telling friends.
The first person I dated was also the person who introduced me to polyamory. She identified poly. And it was about as gentle of an introduction as I could have hoped for. I learned a lot from what she told me and read quite a bit more online.
But after that first relationship, I was pretty much on my own, having basically exhausted my entire polyamorous social network.
And like my friend had been to me, I was suddenly a lot of other people’s example of “polyamorous person.” Even though I’d really only just learned of it myself. And didn’t have a clue of what I was doing and struggled with doubts.
So when I did go on to date monogamous people (or at least try to), it was difficult to support them as they expressed doubts about polyamory as a viable way of conducting relationships. Because I was new to it, too, and didn’t have a firm base that it could work long term.
I did do my best. Listened to their processing nonjudgementally. Reassured them to the best of my ability that, sure, our arrangement was a bit unconventional, but that my feelings for them and anyone I dated were just as real as those in a monogamous relationship.
But at the end of the day, it didn’t work out with any of the monogamously minded people I dated. One boyfriend couldn’t get over his desire for the picket fence and 2.3 kids. Another told me that he didn’t see how he wouldn’t end up with a broken heart — that he just couldn’t envision an outcome where he didn’t eventually lose me to my husband. A girlfriend briefly experimented with me with her fiance’s permission before abruptly cutting things off with no explanation.
Shortly after, I began to find others beyond that initial friend who were polyamorous. Or at the very least polycurious, where perhaps they didn’t have a ton of experience dating multiple people at a time but they had known poly people themselves or at least were very interested and enthusiastic about pursuing polyamorous relationships.
And once this happened, once I stopped trying to date monogamous people, dating became a whole different activity altogether. I stopped having to explain why and was finally allowed to focus on the person in front of me and they on me, without incessantly discussing relationship philosophy. I no longer had to be a spokesperson for polyamory to any person I was dating (a huge relief).
That said, I haven’t ruled out the possibility of dating someone who is monogamously minded sometime again in the future. Just like I haven’t ruled out dating people who are new to polyamory (as many other poly vets have). And haven’t ruled out being a woman’s first same-sex experience (having actually dated a few baby bis these past few years, one who as of this writing I’m still seeing, one who broke up with me).
But in all these cases, I recognize that any of those situations are likely to create more challenge, a challenge that’s compounded when they’re combined — say, if I’m dating a monogamously minded baby bi.
I’m not a person who shies away from a challenge, but I do like knowing it’s going to be difficult going in.
The metamour angle can be quite tricky on this as well. Recently, one of my friends had their partner start to date a new person who identified as monogamous. As my friend and this new monogamous metamour tried to forge a social bond, this monogamous metamour often said things to my friend that were incredibly rude and adversarial at worst. Clunky at best.
And the amount of stress this caused my friend? Ooo boy. It wasn’t pretty. It ultimately ended up devolving into an epic war. And the new relationship didn’t survive.
“You know how I know I love you?” I said one night to my partner Justin, who had also been serving as a sounding board to this friend.
“Because I know if you wanted to date a monogamous person, I’d do everything I could to support you and to support them even if they weren’t being so nice to me. I’d try to keep my cool. Give them time to adjust. Not take what they said or did personally. Not make any processing they needed to do about me, my insecurities, or my hurt feelings. Even though it likely wouldn’t be pretty, and I’d probably have to deal with a lot. I’d do it for you.”
So I suppose if I’d do it for a monogamous metamour, I’d also do it for a monogamous partner. Even if it’s been a while and isn’t something I have to do much anymore.
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.