Is polyamory just an easy way to go from person to person to get what you want. Or is there more to it than that?
That’s what’s on this week’s episode of Non-Monogamy Help. Listen below. You can also find the podcast on Spotify, Apple, and other providers. Or, conversely, use our RSS feed.
Thank you to Chris Albery-Jones at albery-jones.com for the theme music and a big thanks for the podcast art to Dom Duong at domduong.com.
I’ve been in a relationship with my partner for not so long. At the beginning it was like any new relationship and during that time he basically said that he had the same beliefs regarding relationships, love and marriage. He knows I come from a very traditional and religious family. After some time he started telling me his expectations on how his ideal partner should be, then says that it didn’t matter if there was love and eventually evolved to him telling me that he doesn’t believe in monogamous love but polyamory (and he hadn’t even tried it before).
He was certain that he could love the same way multiple people and that he wants to try that out and that he has seen friends who tried it and it looked good. It does go against my values and beliefs so I wouldn’t try it and he wants to do it and I don’t know what should I do. It makes me doubt if he actually cares about me because polyamory sounds to me like a lazy way of getting what you want from different people without having to make any real effort in any specific relationship to make it work since you just go to another one to fill the need you have, at least that’s what he said.
So there’s a couple of things… I find it… it’s really funny when I read “polyamory sounds like a lazy way of getting what you want”. It was actually… It is really funny because I think there is a… I don’t know if it’s a coined phrase or if it’s a common saying because I don’t really hang out in a lot of polyamory communities anymore but it’s sort of a phrase that people like to use is Polymon which is like Pokémon but with polyamory in it and it’s the idea of like that you’re just collecting people. And I do think, to be fair, that there are some people who do (and I’ve mentioned this a lot before on the column and on the podcast)… people who are polyamorous because they can have multiple shallow relationships where they don’t have to put in any any emotional labour into anyone and they can just kind of go from person to person having a good time and not be responsible.
They don’t tend to want to take responsibility in any of the relationships that they have for anyone’s kind of emotional growth or anything. They’re just kind of in it for the fun of it which is fine if that’s what you want to do. But I tend to feel like, from the letters that I get, that these kind of people end up hurting a lot of people because people… Some people are in relationships for fun. Some people don’t need to have relationships for that and I think it’s just a miscommunication and misunderstanding between people of what a relationship is. Because I think when you talk about polyamory… like the big thing that a lot of polyamorous people try to say is, especially when they’re compared against swinging, is that it’s about relationships. And it’s about love.
But what constitutes a relationship really differs from person to person like… It’s one thing between me and my domestic partner is that people that they… I would consider that they are dating and they are my partner’s partners. My partner doesn’t really consider them to be “partners”. Not say that that my partner doesn’t care about them but clearly we have a very difference of opinion of what a relationship is and what it means and what people do in them. And it can be so variant from person to person that it’s almost kind of a little bit meaningless to try and make this big distinction between polyamory and swinging in that regard.
And if that’s the way that your boyfriend wants to do things and that’s the way he wants to do things essentially unfortunately you’re at kind of an impasse that’s completely… you know. Unless you or he changes his mind, it’s just not something that you can get around, you know. You don’t seem to be open to trying it. It’s not something that interests you. It actually goes against the values and beliefs that you have. And so fundamentally the really isn’t anything you can do.
And it sounds like your boyfriend is still trying to figure out, you know, what he wants out of life and that’s fine like… A lot of people are in that stage of their life and there’s nothing wrong with that. And this happens all the time. It doesn’t necessarily mean that anyone’s in the wrong or that anyone has done anything bad. It’s just sometimes we have different experiences in our life. We discover things about ourselves and we decide to go a different way on things. So I do think that in terms of what you should do, I think you should unfortunately break up and find someone who does have whatever it is that you’re interested in or whatever relationship matches the values and beliefs that are important to you.
Unless you were in any way interested in trying out polyamory or non-monogamy, I don’t think there’s a point in trying to convince him otherwise because the thing of it is is that you know he might try it and he might decide it’s not for him. I think it’s easy enough to see people who… I mean think about it in terms of monogamy like… You see a lot of people monogamy works really great for them and you see a lot of people it doesn’t work great for them. It’s hard to say just from seeing people who try it and it works for them that it would work for you but he wants to try it out. I mean, I would encourage him in general like… If he does listen to this and it’s going to try out polyamory, I think that one thing I’d encourage him is just to try to stop having these ideal beliefs. Like it seems like he’s trying very hard to think about things less in a “try and see” way and more in a “what he believes in”. Monogamous love works for some people. Some people are monogamous. I think people who say… And I’ve written a column about this before.
One of my hugest pet peeves are people who say they “don’t believe in monogamy” outside… like when they apply that outside of their own lives. It’s quite all right to say that monogamy doesn’t work for you as an individual but to sort of make some grand gesture that applies to (what is it?) 7 billion human beings just because it doesn’t work for you is just absolutely preposterous. I mean there’s literally billions of people on the planet. The idea that one thing works the same exact way for every single person all the time is just a little bit silly and it’s just not realistic.
You know monogamy does work for some people and it’s a valid life choice for plenty of people. I really really get annoyed and I really don’t want your boyfriend to become another one of these people where they’re so sold on what sounds very cultish in a lot of writings about polyamory where it’s endorsing polyamory as not just a relationship style but as some kind of weird healthy way of life that’s enlightened and above anyone who’s monogamous. It really drives me absolutely up the fricking wall because it’s just not true.
You don’t have to go to any lengths in order to describe… in order to be polyamorous. All you have to do is say you’re polyamorous. You don’t have to pass a test. You don’t have to get a licence. You don’t have to go on a spiritual journey. You don’t have to be good at communication. You don’t have to be good at anything and regardless of how many people want to argue that, “Oh well you know polyamory causes you to have to communicate.” No it doesn’t. It really doesn’t. It really depends on the person. It depends on their relationships.
There are certain things that… you know, experiences that you will have you know… It’s just like there are probably different ways of coping that you would know if you skydive then if you didn’t skydive. But it doesn’t mean that, if you haven’t skydived, then you don’t have any coping skills. And just the way that people act like polyamory is some type of, you know, 12-step program for improving everyone’s life and being some type of… you know, “oh this is the way humans are”. It’s honestly the amount of BS never ends in my opinion when it comes to some of the stuff you read,
It’s fine for him to not want to be monogamous himself but monogamous love does exist. It’s valid. It’s a thing that people want. It’s a thing that plenty of people end up— you know, if you want to count a relationship success by, you know, how long people have it or the fact that no one escapes it alive or you know that one person ends up dying and if that’s what you want to measure a relationship success as — there are many many many successful monogamous relationships. And just you know… I think he should nip that in the bud if he’s listening to this. I don’t know if he’s gonna listen to this but it’s just something that I definitely have to comment on because if you do kind come to the decision that it is something you want to try I don’t want you to end up dealing with people who make you feel bad about monogamy being your choice. Because it’s a valid choice and there’s nothing wrong with it.
I don’t know what beliefs and values you necessarily hold that would indicate that polyamory is wrong in comparison with them. I think those are worth examining and challenging because I do kinda feel that some of the things that people attach onto monogamy, which I don’t think are inherent to monogamy, can sometimes actually be really toxic for monogamous people. There is a lot of things that are cultural attributes and I don’t know if you share the same culture. I’m assuming, could be wrong. But you know jealousy for example as a sign of love.
People being angry at someone else paying attention to you is passed off as this noble thing like, “oh it’s good if your partner is angrily jealous of someone else talking to you because it shows that they love you”. When it’s actually very possessive controlling behaviour and that type of casual acceptance of that behaviour leads to the abuse, when it escalates into abuse, being normalised in society which is a problem. So I do think that you know… I’m not sure what values and beliefs you’re referring to, but I do think it’s worth you thinking about because there isn’t anything inherently wrong with polyamory either.
People do and can love more than one person and you know… Your issue in terms of, you know, feeling like “It makes me doubt if he actually cares about me” and “It’s kind of a lazy way of getting what you want from different people”… It’s really hard actually. Like there are some people… and we make that kind of funny joke about Polymon and the idea of people trying to collect people and generally speaking those kind of people who just date as many people as possible just tend to have very low threshold of what they consider dating or you know what they consider a relationship which is up to them and I’m not judging that.
But having multiple relationships is hard work. If you actually provide support and care for someone as a partner, as a romantic partner or however you want to do it. Just like, you know, having friendships and having a lot of deep friendships can be a lot of hard work if people need you. It really depends on the person. So I don’t think that it’s that your partner doesn’t care about you.
People are interested in polyamory for all sorts of reasons. And I think we make this assumption that because monogamy sells you this idea that, you know, you’re true love and you’re soulmates and you complete each other and all that sort of stuff. And that in a way is kind of harmful for monogamous people because it gives them a false expectation. Because monogamy is hard work too. All relationships are hard work, especially the more you’re kind of living together all the time and being around each other all the time. That can be hard work regardless of whether you’re monogamous or polyamorous.
And so I think that people get this feeling that “oh well if my partner wants to date other people then I must not be enough”. And I talked about this in the podcast and the column before but it’s not really how it works. Just like if someone has one kid, they don’t have another kid because one kid wasn’t enough. That’s just not how you know… You don’t have one best friend and then decide to meet other people and make new friends because having that one friend isn’t enough. Like it’s just not how it works. It’s not a matter of whether or not one person is enough or not. It’s… Different people bring different things into your life and that’s why you have more than one friend.
That’s why you know you don’t say to your parents… you say to the other parent “oh well one parent’s enough, thanks. I don’t need you. Bye”. Its… Different people bring different things into your life it as long as you know you can have a lot of stable really loving relationships, whether they’re romantic relationships or friendships. I think one of the things that I really like about polyamory is that it encourages me to rethink my assumptions about which relationships are or should be valued.
I think our society encourages us to see romantic relationships as the most important relationships and other relationships as less important which I don’t think is the case. I think friendships are extremely important and very undervalued in our society. So you know, I think that you’re making an assumption about your boyfriend’s motivations behind polyamory and also kind of about the way people do it. I will… I don’t doubt in all honesty that there are some people, and maybe your boyfriend is one of them, who see polyamory as just a collect them all thing where they can have one person for each need they have. And you know what, if it works for them and that’s how they want to do it and they’re not hurting anyone and they’re very clear about the expectations then I think that’s fine.
I think it becomes a problem when someone is you know… There’s a miscommunication about what a relationship means and someone is expecting emotional support and not getting it from someone because that person’s kind of just there for the fun of it. That’s when there’s problems but I think it doesn’t really matter. Like you know whether… Your boyfriend could honestly care… You can mean the world to him and if you have this fundamental difference of compatibility which is he wants to try polyamory and you don’t… Not only do not want to try but it’s actually against your values and beliefs and there isn’t really anything that you can do about that.
I think unfortunately in this case, it’s quite simple. You just have to break up. Yeah. I wouldn’t encourage you to go against your values and beliefs to save a relationship. I think if that’s honestly how you feel, then that’s how you feel and that’s valid. So yeah, that’s kind of like the only thing that I can really suggest if you’re really against even trying it.
If you do change your mind about that, I would encourage you to think about the reasons you’d be interested in non-monogamy, if you wanted to and not just do it for the sake of one person. Or look there a lot of probably things written online about monogamous people who are in polyamorous relationships. Like where they are monogamous with one partner but that partner sees other people. That’s a thing that can happen and I’ve seen happen reasonably successfully, however we want to define success in relationships. So it is a possibility but at this point… yeah.
I think if if you’re really against it, there really isn’t anything you can do but go your separate ways and you know it’s better to actually go your separate ways on a positive in more or less like in a… both coming to the realisation that you just have a basic incompatibility instead of trying something and you both getting hurt and then separating on a bad note. I think… yeah. Better to separate now instead of waiting until it explodes more or less. I’m sorry I don’t have better things to say or better ways you can work around it but I really think that’s probably for the best and I hope this helps and good luck.