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How Can I Be Poly, With a Heart?

Hi Yana,

I’m in my early 30s and have been polyamorous for a couple of years. Not long ago my wife of 13 years and I split. Now I’m kind of going through a dating/poly crisis. I strongly identify as poly despite not really having a primary relationship.

Here’s the rub: I don’t really have trouble meeting/sleeping with women. And I’m always very upfront and honest about being essentially unable to see myself in a monogamous or serious relationship again — maybe ever. Yet I’m really not into hookups or one night stands. But when I think about moving in with a girl or joint bank accounts it fills me with terror.

That being said, I really crave emotional connection and intimacy beyond 20 minutes of humping and an awkward hug. And although I’m always really honest, I still feel like I run the potential likelihood of hurting people if they grow emotionally invested.

How do I date in a way that is both ethical and casual? Am I doomed to too casual if I don’t want to hurt people?

— Heartfelt Humper

Dear HH,

A common misconception of polyamory — aka, having relationships with more than one person simultaneously — is that it can only be done once you’ve hit the emotional killswitch. Though many believe that being non-monogamous is all about rolling around in a sea of naked hotties, being both an ethical and polyamorous person actually requires lots of emotional empathy and processing.

Clearly, some ladyloves have been hurt in the wake of your polyamorous preferences or you wouldn’t be writing in. The solution to preventing this kind of pain isn’t to hit that mythical emotional killswitch or to go monogo; it is to take responsibility for what you can control and accept what you cannot.

To be an ethical polyamorous dater you should take responsibility for your own emotions and actions. Continue to state your relationship preferences upfront: “I’m not monogamous,” “I like to be emotionally connected to those I sleep with, but I’m not looking for an emotionally intense relationship.” You own yourself, HH, meaning that you can and should draw boundaries around your own body, heart, and mind, including how much emotional energy and time you want to put into another person. This is allowed! So stop beating yourself up.

Here’s what you can’t control: You can’t make someone want to be polyamorous or be good at polyamory. You can’t control how emotionally invested someone becomes. This is especially true when sex is involved. When our brain’s pleasure centers are activated, all kinds of attachment chemicals fly around, such as good ol’ oxytocin which is released during orgasm, creating an innate bond with those we bang...continue reading…


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UPCOMING WORKSHOPS ABOUT POLYAMORY!

Polyamory 101: Exploring Non-Monogamy || July 11th || Easthampton, Ma

Polyamory 201: Designing & Sustaining Your Non-Monogamous Relationship || July 25th || Easthampton, Ma

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We Never Talk! But I’d Like To…

I know you do sex advice, but I need some relationship advice. My boyfriend and I have been dating for about half a year and he shows zero emotion. I want to bring it up to him, but not in a way that will make him clam up more, ya know? Any advice would be awesome. Thanks!

— Emote My Boat

The longer I contemplate this question, the curiouser and curiouser I get about what the exact situation is here. Are you in love with this guy and you want to know if he’s in love with you? Have things been kind of lighthearted so far and now it’s time to have the DTR (Define the Relationship) talk, but he’s just not picking up the breadcrumbs you’re dropping?

Did you go on one of those YouTube binges of videos about courageous puppies who were found abandoned and injured so they lost their back legs, but now they’ve been lovingly outfitted with amazing doggie-mobility devices and they can now play fetch like their puppy peers and your boyfriend somehow DIDN’T SHED A TEAR and now you suspect he’s a heartless robot?

First, here’s what we’re up against: an ingrained socialization that tells young men that they can’t emote and still be men unless that emotion is anger. This same socialization tells young women that they should shoulder the weight of everyone else’s emotions, but shouldn’t burden others — especially their boyfriends — with theirs.

What you can do, EMB, is be brave and unapologetically, emotionally expressive.

If “an eye for an eye makes the whole world blind,” emotionless for emotionless makes the whole world disconnected. You say you don’t want to ask him to express his emotions because you fear it’ll push him further into his emotional clamshell. Are you also worried this would turn you into one of those girls who “nags” her boyfriend about emotions?

But more importantly: How does his lack of emotional expression make you feel? Hurt, abandoned, unclear, insecure, disconnected, invalidated, underappreciated, and lonely are some words that pop into my mind when I imagine my own partner shutting off his emotions in our relationship. Maybe some of those ring a bell for you…continue reading…