Monogamy as a Choice Rather Than a Default: Do We Really Need Yet Another Way to Be Incompatible?

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Hi Page,

I’ve been reading your blog for several months now. I like your writing because I feel like you talk about polyamory and monogamy in ways that are realistic and like you can understand a person pursuing either relationship style, so long as people are treating each other in a healthy way. 

I don’t know if I’m polyamorous…or monogamous. I’m what some people might call a late bloomer. I haven’t really had relationships yet, even though I’ve been social on the kink scene for a little while. Most of my beliefs about relationships come from watching the people around me date. I haven’t met anybody I click with (I did have a crush, but I don’t think they liked me back) and I want to know as much as I can before I get seriously involved with anyone. 

It’s been really interesting the last few years or so, watching as polyamory gets more and more awareness. I know it’s not just your blog but part of a wider movement. But I wanted to ask you something since your writing has been a part of that increasing awareness, at least for me (and probably other people). 

It makes sense to me that poly people would want their way of life normalized and accepted in a broader way. But isn’t there a downside to this for the rest of us? Especially those of us who are yet to have a relationship…

People used to assume that everyone wanted a monogamous relationship but not anymore. It’s yet another thing that can be a dealbreaker. Monogamy is a choice rather than a default. I get wanting greater acceptance for your lifestyle, but I just had to ask… when it comes to dating, do we really need yet another way to be incompatible? 

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Thanks for writing. I’m glad you’re enjoying the blog, and I hope that it’s helping you figure out what you want — and not just in regards to where you fall on the monogamous/nonmonogamous spectrum. I think it’s great that you’re taking some time to figure yourself out and observe before diving in. Good on you. I’m sure those observations will serve you well once you get into the thick of things yourself.

Greater Awareness of Polyamory Didn’t Create This Incompatibility. It Only Changed How We Talk About It.

As far as your question, I get where you’re coming from and completely understand that impression, especially since you haven’t had a lot of firsthand experience with relationships. The fact that I (and others) are writing in a way that’s increasing public awareness of polyamory could very well seem that by doing so, we’re creating an incompatibility that wasn’t there before.

But here’s the thing: That’s not true. The incompatibility was already there. This isn’t a new thing. There have been relationships for quite some time where one half wanted to be monogamous and the other half didn’t.

The difference was that people didn’t talk about it as explicitly before. And if they did, it was always in a way that negatively judged the half that wanted to be non-monogamous. Even if that person didn’t actually act on that desire and cheat, just by admitting that they sometimes fantasized about doing so or even that in an ideal world they’d prefer an open relationship for years and years was something that nearly everyone would consider a betrayal.

So if you were a person who would prefer a non-monogamous relationship (or in a lot of cases, were simply attracted to other people), you were faced with a rather undesirable set of choices:

  • Tell your partner about those desires, hurt their feelings, and be branded by them (and anyone they told) as a scoundrel.
  • Lie by omission by not telling them (or flat-out lie when they asked you such questions as “were you looking at her?” or “do you ever think about anyone else during sex?”), attempt to lie to yourself in order to suppress those desires, and feel extreme stress and cognitive dissonance by doing so.
  • Break your relationship agreement and cheat.

This difficult set of choices is a lot older than the word “polyamory” (which as a term was reportedly coined in the 1970s by the Kerista commune). These tensions have been documented for centuries in art and literature.

So while it may seem that way sometimes, no, the polyamory acceptance movement isn’t creating an incompatibility — it’s changing the way we talk about one that has existed for a very long time.

And sure, it might be a bit of a hassle to have another important variable to discuss — alongside the other usual suspects: whether you want kids, do you prefer living in the country or the city, etc.

But trust me, it’s better to be clear about these things going into a relationship than to have them surprise you a decade in.

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Have a question about a post? Maybe need some advice about a relationship or situation? Write me. I love getting messages from you.

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Books by Page Turner:

A Geek’s Guide to Unicorn Ranching

Poly Land: My Brutally Honest Adventures in Polyamory 

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