I’ve been reading more and more about a new relationship term lately: Self-partnering.
It had a big pop culture moment last month when Emma Watson declared herself self-partnered in an interview.
Since then, multiple articles have spun off, and people are talking more and more about the idea of self-partnering. The concept that a person could be single but not feel lonely, because they find great gratification and partnership on their own, through a strong relationship with themselves… well, it resonates for a lot of people.
Self-partnered is particularly helpful as an identity in a culture that tends to view being single as a kind of affliction, never a welcome choice.
Anyway, the more I read about self-partnership, the more I realized it was incredibly familiar.
This wasn’t a new idea to me at all. It was just called something else.
In fact, it was eerily similar what my friends who practice solo polyamory believe.
What Is Solo Polyamory? A Few Definitions
I’m sure a lot of our readers are familiar with the concept of solo polyamory, but for those who aren’t, here’s one definition (the one I wrote for my book):
Solo polyamory (also commonly known as solo poly), is a category of polyamory that covers a wide range of relationships that essentially take a “free agent” approach to polyamory. Many solo polyamorists don’t choose to share a home or finances with intimate partners and generally tend to emphasize themselves as individuals and not part of a couple or triad.
And here’s another, from Amy Gahran (Aggie Sez) at solopoly.net, a wonderful site that I wholeheartedly recommend for any further reading you might want to do on solo polyamory:
Solo polyamory: Flipping these words around, polyamory is, broadly speaking, one approach to engaging in (or being open to having) ethically nonexclusive relationships involving sex, romance, or deep emotional intimacy. What distinguishes solo poly people is that we generally do not have intimate relationship which involve (or are heading toward) primary-style merging of life infrastructure or identity along the lines of the traditional social relationship escalator. For instance, we generally don’t share a home or finances with any intimate partners. Similarly solo poly people generally don’t identify very strongly as part of a couple (or triad etc); we prefer to operate and present ourselves as individuals.
In that article, Gahran emphasizes that there are a range of different expressions of solo polyamory. “People can be solo poly by choice or circumstance,” Gahran writes. “That is, some people prefer solo polyamory and are unwilling to strongly merge their identity or life infrastructure with their partners. Others simply happen to be effectively solo: they may desire (or be open to) primary-style relationships in the future, but they just don’t happen to have one at the moment.”
And just as seeing no one at all or having only one partner at any given time doesn’t automatically revoke someone’s polyamorous status in general, a solo polyamorist can identify that way even if they are seeing no one at all or just one person.
What this indicates to me is that the solo polyamorists I know are likely also self-partnered.
And Apparently You Can Be Self-Partnered With Any Relationship Status, Too
Well, hold up… you have to be single to be self-partnered, right?
That’s what I thought, too. Except apparently pop culture is saying that’s not necessarily true. For example, the existence of this article “How to Be Self-Partnered, Regardless of Relationship Status” directly argues the opposite, that self-partnered is a way of approaching relationships and not necessarily a status.
Anyway, I’m encouraged by the celebration of self-partnership and hope it continues. Don’t be mistaken; no one would mistake me for practicing solo polyamory. But even as a person who has spent a lot of time sharing homes and finances with romantic partners, autonomy is still paramount to me. As is the idea that I want my lovers to maintain their own autonomy as well.
I don’t think I could date someone who wasn’t self-partnered at this point, regardless of what their relationship status or orientation.
Further Reading: Solo Polyamory Raises Important Questions I’m Glad to Hear People Asking
Books by Page Turner:
Dealing with Difficult Metamours
A Geek’s Guide to Unicorn Ranching
Poly Land: My Brutally Honest Adventures in Polyamory