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He’s Monogamous, I’m Polyamorous — Can This Work?

Hi Yana!

I’m currently in a mono-poly relationship. My primary partner is monogamous and has no interest in being with other people. He is reading More Than Two by Franklin Veaux and Eve Rickert and is searching for resources when feelings of jealousy or envy come up. We’ve known each other for two years and have been dating for three months. I was already dating my current girlfriend when he and I started dating, and I have also ended a relationship with a boyfriend while we’ve been together. He says his biggest fear is what might happen when I meet someone new and fall for them, since that hasn’t happened yet. But I know it will, and now I’m afraid of it happening, too.

How do I stop freaking out about hurting my amazing partner while still being my autonomous, polyamorous self? We love each other and we want to put everything into making this last.

In a Poly Predicament

Dear Poly,

True: monogamous/polyamorous relationship structures can be extra tricky and take a lot of work.

False: they never work.

However, they certainly thrive stronger and longer if built on a sound, ever-updated structure.

It sounds like your primary has been (very naturally) struggling with jealousy for the short few months that you have been together. It also seems like he’s developed enough jealousy-coping strategies to at least manage these strong feelings about partners who were already on the scene when he arrived.

The idea of having a new person show up can rock the boat even with seasoned non-monogamous folks, and can definitely feel like you’re waiting for a huge, catastrophic other shoe to drop when you’re unfamiliar with non-monogamy or are naturally monogamous like your primary is. Will he be replaced? When will this happen? What will happen when this happens? Who will it happen with?

First, validate these scary feelings he might be having. It’s important for each of you to confirm for the other person that the differing, but intersecting fears you have are natural.

Then, reinforce the power you have to handle change in your relationship by making some plans to support each other before, during, and after that change…continue reading…

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Does That Guy Ask Everyone Out?? & How Do I Poly?

Hi Yana,

Where is the line between “If you like someone, ask them out!” and “Oh, that guy asks everyone out”???

— Master Dater

From your question, it sounds like you like a lot of people. Maybe you’re getting some flack for that from friends or foes? True, you don’t want to make your potential dates feel somehow unspecial because they saw you on campus asking out everyone else around you — and left them as the 24th person you’ve asked out in a day. Then again, if you like someone and want to go on a date with them, you should ask them out!

So, where’s the line? I’d draw my line around the borders of “Am I asking everyone out for genuine reasons?” and “Am I attempting to fill a void or accomplish something that has nothing to do with the human I’m asking out?” Meaning, are you on an asking-out rampage because you genuinely want to go out with these individuals? Or are you trying to put a finger in your emotional dam and any old finger will do?

Of course, you can finger as many emotional dams as you want. You know me, as long as everyone going out with each other is consenting to your dynamics and what y’all are doing together, then there’s nothing wrong with going out with a bunch of people just for fun. Not every date, hook-up, or relationship has to be goal-oriented and meaningful. But your dates should know if that’s your outlook.

As far as what everyone else thinks about your dating habits, you can never achieve 100-percent approval when it comes to sex and dating. As long as you keep your creep-factor low (like maybe don’t ask someone out, get rejected, turn to their best friend standing next to y’all, and ask her out) and respect the people you’re asking out for the unique reasons you like them as individual people, then you can forget the haters and get on with the daters!

***

Hi Yana,

I want to be able to have a polyamorous relationship. How do I find people who want to have the same thing?

— Pursuing Poly…click here to read the response…

 

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Should I Dump My Triad?

Hi Yana,

I’m a bisexual woman and I’m the third wheel to a married bisexual male couple. We’ve been dating for about a year-and-a-half and so far things have been running pretty smoothly. We see each other two or three times a week for dates, group sex, and just regular hanging out. I have casual sex with other people and am available to date, but just haven’t done that with anyone else yet.

Okay, so here’s the issue: Sometimes I feel sort of left out of their dynamic. But like, in a weird way. I don’t want to be married, at least definitely not right now, but I might at some point. I’m not jealous of their relationship, but I sort of feel like an unnecessary extra to them which makes me feel insecure, or like maybe like I shouldn’t be “wasting my time” with a married couple and should be out there finding my “real” partner? It’s weird because I don’t really think that I have to be doing these things, but then part of me does. Is this just another “succumbing to societal pressures” moment or should I remove myself from this three-way and get on my own single freeway?

— Is Three Good Company?

Dear Good Company,

I’ve written a lot about the “Relationship Escalator” this year as alternative relationships are becoming increasingly common. In a nutshell, the Relationship Escalator is what the stereotypical suburbs are made of: boy and girl date, get engaged, get married, have a couple kiddos, and put up that signature white fence. Escalator ride complete.

You can certainly be logically on board with a non-monogamous, escalator-free life and also have a lived experience that’s a little more confusing than that. Relationships are hard work no matter what the style, and primarily dating two people leaves you with little time to seriously date others.

It seems like your current ambivalence is being impacted by uncertainty you’re feeling about your role in their future life. After about a year, the Relationship Escalator really starts rolling in traditional, monogamous relationships and couples might start considering moving in together or getting engaged, etc. So perhaps this clock is ticking in the background, nagging you to get some clarity about what’s to come next with your married men. Perhaps you’re feeling wary that your time is up considering that we have few role models for long-lasting and healthy relationships that involve more than two people…continue reading…

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How Do I Introduce My Girlfriend To Polyamory?

Hi Yana,

I recently began a polyamorous relationship with my girlfriend. We dated previously, but things didn’t work out due to extenuating circumstances, but we remained friends. We’ve recently gotten back together with a different foundation to the relationship. She had not previously had any interest in non-monogamy, but is now much more open to it. What advice can I pass on to her that may help her better establish her thoughts about the topic and follow through on meeting other people?

— Boyfriend with Benefits

Dear Boyfriend,

You’re wise to give her the space to decipher her own thoughts about an open relationship at her own pace. You’d be even wiser to not hold the expectation of her going out and meeting other people as an end goal.

Why? Because putting the pressure on our partners to force relationships with other people is generally tied up in other baggage. For example, will it reduce your guilt around seeing other people if she’s doing it, too? Does a tit-for-tat polyamorous agreement really suit everyone involved, or does that create a structure more focused on a scorecard than on the humans in the relationships?

Perhaps your girlfriend’s hesitation to see others is based on her fear of how you’ll take it. To reinforce what you’re saying in theory — that it is truly okay to enjoy other partners and come back to the security your relationship — be sure to maintain your usual level of affection and attention to her if/when she does go out with others.

But first, give your girlfriend some resources to help her sift through her own suitcases. Morethantwo.com is a website packed with poly gold as is their accompanying book More Than Two by Franklin Veaux and Eve Rickert. I also recommend Opening Up by Tristan Taormino, which is well-suited to new-to-poly readers.

But don’t let yourself off the hook just yet, Boyfriend…continue reading…

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When Did I Get on the Relationship Escalator?

Hi Yana,

I have a few questions about monogamy. I guess, part of it stemming from a recent post I saw on your Instagram — @the_vspot — about “The Relationship Escalator,” polyamory, and monogamy. In my last partnership, my partner and I were very intentional about not falling into that trajectory, but now I think that The Relationship Escalator is something that I want.

Can The Relationship Escalator coexist alongside actively constructing your relationship? I know The Relationship Escalator is the norm and people just tend to fall onto it when there isn’t intention, but parts of the escalator are things that I want — like moving in together, monogamy, or having kids. I just want these things to happen intentionally and with discussion and amendments, instead of just “because that’s what happens next.”

I can’t figure out if my desire for things on the escalator are desires I should try to resist because they stem from people drilling norms into me?

— Things Are Escalating

Wanting to move in together and have babies doesn’t make you an Escalator sheep. But stepping onto the Escalator and letting it whisk you and your partner away like some choice-less zombies might.

Offescaltor.com defines The Relationship Escalator like this: “A default set of societal expectations for intimate relationships. Partners follow a progressive set of steps, each with visible markers, toward a clear goal. The goal at the top of the escalator is to achieve a permanently monogamous, cohabitating marriage. In many cases, buying a house and having kids is part of the goal.”

On the cusp of 2017, New York branding agency Sparks & Honey released their annual trends report A-Z Culture Glossary of 2017, which has a reputation of being 81 percent accurate in predicting what will be at the forefront of pop culture in the coming year. Polyamory, conscientiously sharing love between more than two people, made the list of 100 up-and-comers, which also includes elusively hip topics such as: death positivity and the museumification of everything.”

This month alone, a cool 85 percent of questions submitted to The V-Spot have been about non-monogamy. Polyamory is on people’s minds, but that doesn’t mean you can’t be or love being monogamous. Further, being monogamous doesn’t require an “escalator” ride.

In my opinion, it’s not the Escalator that’s negative — many enjoy it. It’s how people use it that matters…continue reading…

 

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Am I in a Healthy Open Relationship?

Hi Yana –

I’m in a happy, long-distance monogamish relationship with the human of my dreams. Really; things are so good. This is my first time having an open relationship, and I think we talk through things really well and effectively. He has several partners (all of which I’ve met and adore) and I can say really genuinely that I’m happy that he has these other sexual relationships in his life.

The thing is, even though I was the person to suggest an open relationship, I’ve had yet to “take advantage” of our arrangement, if you know what I mean.

There are a few reasons for this. I have a lot on my plate; between school and work and volunteering, there are no days off in my schedule and limited “free” time. It feels like a lot to prioritize my friendships, let alone go through the work of introducing a new romantic/sexual partner into my social circle.

The few people I had periodical, casual sex with prior to starting this relationship are not comfortable continuing sexual relationships with me after I’ve started this relationship (a decision I understand and respect). And honestly, I think I harbor a little bit of lovesickness for my partner, and therefore I don’t want to put myself (and truthfully, another person) in a situation where I can’t be fully present in our sexual encounter because I’m wishing I was with my partner and not them, you know?

On some level, I know this is okay. But I can’t help but ask myself, am I doing “monogamish” right? Is it okay that for now, I like having the option to sleep with other people even if I don’t readily take advantage of it?

Sincerely,

Lovesick Monogamish

 

Dear Lovesick,

Leaving the proverbial door open even just a tiny crack on any and all tethers to one particular place, person, or thing makes a world of difference in my commitment to that place, person, or thing. It’s not that I want to flake on my responsibilities or relationships: it’s more that if it’s my choice to be here I will be here more and better than ever. On the flip side, if I perceive no breathing room or exit, you bet I’m going to spend my time clamoring to find and utilize one.

Maybe you just find comfort in knowing that if you want to experience sex with someone other than your long-distance love, you can. But that doesn’t mean you HAVE to. Just because you’re surrounded by delicious cupcakes doesn’t mean you have to eat them all or even swipe your finger through the frosting. But put you in a room full of desserts and tell you not to touch any of them and you might start feeling extra sweet in the tooth and/or resentful of whoever slapped that rule on you.

So much of what you’re saying here in regards to protecting other partners from your lovesickness, keeping strong boundaries around your friend/school/volunteer time, and being extra comfortable with his other partners all sounds like you’ve got a really healthy relationship-self balance going on here. Whether monogamous or not this is quite a feat in itself so pat yourself on the back!

Many folks who practice this style of non-monogamy, where their partner sees a lot of other people but they don’t, come up against extra skepticism from friends, family, and acquaintances. People can easier accept the novelty of “having your cake and eating it too” as long as it’s “fair” even though non-monogamous relationships that rely on tit-for-tat scorekeeping often crash and burn; faux fairness is often masking some deep-rooted not okay-ness with relationship agreements.

I would imagine that you get a little extra of this skepticism due to your perceived gender imbalance of him “being able to sleep around” and you “just letting it happen”. But it sounds like you know and feel much better than that. If it’s my stamp of approval that’ll tip the scales in favor of you internalizing the belief that if it works for you, him, and the rest of the crew then it’s A-OK then yes! You seem happy! Stamp! You’ve got it!

 

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Open Sex, Closed Conversations

Hi Yana,

I’ve been in an on-again/off-again, oftentimes long-distance, relationship with my for-now ex-boyfriend for six years. Right now we have a “when we’re together, we’re together” arrangement and we’ve defined our relationship as open in the past.

Well, things are shifting again and we’re thinking about moving toward being more seriously together, but still long-distance and open. If we decide to get back together, I’d like one of my boundaries for our open arrangement to be that he not sleep with anyone that I know personally. But now I’m not sure if I want to know if he has slept with anyone I know during any of our in-between times.

On the one hand, I feel like I might make myself crazy if I don’t ask and am left wondering. On the other, I once accidentally found out that he did sleep with a friend of mine during a time when we were broken up that also made me feel really bad. What would you do?

— Friends with Benefits

You’ve combined some of the most challenging relationship dynamics: long-distance, open, long-term AND on-again/off-again!? Damn. Something tells me you might be a glutton for punishment, but that’s 50 shades of a different column for another week.

There’s a common Don’t Ask/Don’t Tell “policy” generally popular with folks new to non-monogamy. DADT tells partners “Do what and who you will, but I don’t want to know anything about it.” Though I get the appeal of DADT for non-monogamy newbies, it does little to shield folks from tough feelings. Instead, it sets people up to deny jealousy rather than learn from it, it closes partners off from each other rather than holding open space for others, and these arrangements typically end with everyone in worse shape than if they Did Ask and Did Tell.

Me? I would want to know. When Dorothy pulled back the curtain on the all-powerful wizard in the Wizard of Oz, she found he was just a nice, lil’ shrimp of a man. Meaning, our minds can play some terrible tricks when we’re feeling emotionally raw, downright jealous, and awfully creative; a fleeting thought that he may have slept with a mutual friend can magically become a convincing story about him randomly meeting Jennifer Lawrence at a cool underground party in NYC and having the best sex of his life with her in some glamorous penthouse because JLaw is basically someone you know right because you just loved her in Silver Linings Playbook and now your ex is going to be famous and you will be nothing. Nothing!

In reality, the people your dude has slept with are all real people — with qualities both wonderful and flawed, sex moves both explosive and meh, and their own set of insecurities and relationship baggage. But, if you never peek behind the curtain, you’ll never know this for sure…continue reading…

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I Told My Boyfriend I’d Try Monogamy, But …

Hi Yana,

I’m in a relationship with someone who I really love and we’ve been together for three-ish months. Before we started dating he knew I wasn’t a huge fan of monogamy, but I agreed I would try and now I’m feeling trapped. He’s so important to me and I don’t want to lose him. I guess I don’t know how to talk to him about it because I want to be in an open relationship, but I’m worried he will get super mad. Help!

Oh No, I’m Monogo

Hi Oh No!,

When a monogamous person hears the telltale phrase “We should see other people,” they’re more likely to hear “I’m breaking up with you” and not “… AND keep seeing each other in an open and mutually satisfying relationship!”

Because monogamy has long been the preferred Western relationship style — what with the institution of marriage and fairytales — the monogamous mindset is a strong one that many of us take for granted. This means that when you tell your boyfriend that you want to be non-monogamous, rather than coming across as a valid, natural, or viable option, this might instead sound like a direct threat to your relationship.

A common response to emotional pain or threat is anger, especially when interpreted through male socialization. So yes, it’s possible that he may express anger when what he really feels is pain and fear. Unless this expression of anger is dangerous or abusive to you or him, it doesn’t need to be a reason to avoid stating your non-monogamous desires.

You say you don’t want to lose him, but if you decide not to tell him what is true for you, you will. Maybe not now, but certainly later.

My advice is to be both firm in what you do and do not want out of your relationship with him and also prepared with some options for him to look into for himself such as resources about polyamory from monogamous people (morethantwo.com has a whole section devoted to the complexity of navigating polyamorous/monogamous couplings). Give him the space to feel the big feelings and move through them rather than stuff them down (again, unless they are dangerous or abusive to you or himself).

Before you talk with him, sit down with yourself and determine what it is you envision for your relationship with him moving forward…continue reading…

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The V-Spot: I’m a Queer Woman in a Hetero Marriage

Dear Yana,

I’ve been thinking about writing to you for a long time. My husband and I are about to celebrate 11 years as a couple and we’ve been married for six. It’s been amazing and so much fun to spend all of this time on planet Earth with such a soul-mate dreamboat of a life partner.

And also: I just keep wanting to hook up with other people.

Five years ago, I hooked up with someone. And then I hooked up with someone else a couple years later. I told him and we went through a harrowing process of separating for a while, talking/crying for a million hours, bringing all of our shadows out of the closet, and reaffirming our commitments. The last several months have been really healthy and strong. And now I have a crush on a woman. This time I told him first and things have been really hard ever since.

We seem to have arrived at a fundamental schism: I feel like the truth of the person I want to be in the world is polyamorous, and his truth is monogamous. How do we reconcile that?

I don’t want to hurt him. But I also don’t want to not live my truth. But then, I’m like, should I just be going to therapy or something so that they can implant in me whatever mechanism he has inside of him to make him fine with monogamy? Ugh.

— Too Late to aPOLYgize

It takes a lot of emotional muscle to do the heavy lifting it sounds like you’ve both done to move through your transgressions and into your new relationship. And that’s exactly what this is: a new relationship.

As Esther Perel talks about in her amazing TEDTalk “Rethinking Infidelity,” after an affair, no matter how long-lasting or fleeting, the old relationship as you know it needs to be deconstructed and rebuilt anew with the raw material you now have in front of you: your self-assuredness in your queer and polyamorous identities; his new understanding of how/if/when to trust you; what he’s willing to forgive, forget, or hold onto; and what you’re willing to put aside or prioritize for yourself.

Relationships don’t thrive because we squash our differences, they thrive because we learn to integrate, tolerate, and celebrate what makes us different from each other. They thrive because we can support one another in our personal growth process while still remaining connected to each other.

This almost flies in the face of what we’ve been told — that relationships are about being more similar than different, and are more about compromise than self-definition. This is especially true for the monogamous ones.

The first step to getting anywhere near a place of seemingly contradictory-yet-connected co-existence is to define yourselves, for yourselves. As Perel waxes so damn poetically — Can you turn the crisis of infidelity into an opportunity?…continue reading…

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How Do I Get Better At Poly?

Hi Yana,

I heard you on Dawn Serra’s podcast Sex Gets Real and really appreciated what you had to say about personal boundaries in new polyamorous relationships. I’m a straight guy and my wife just started sleeping with another woman a couple of months ago. I thought I would be fine with it, but then when they started having real feelings for each other I got super jealous and asked my wife to stop seeing her.

Now my wife is really hurt. I’m trying to be more positive about the whole poly thing and am trying to get better about it and go to poly meetings and stuff like that, but it’s really hard.

I thought poly was just sex, but I guess it’s also about having feelings for other people so I should’ve known better. I’m sure I’ll come around to it eventually. Any suggestions on making it easier?

— Fighting My Feelings

Dear FMF,

Non-monogamous relationships (much like all relationships) are hard work. While monogamy typically has unspoken rules that people adhere to (don’t have sex with other people, the goal is marriage, let’s spend most of our time together), non-monogamous relationships such as polyamory don’t. Folks in non-monogamous relationships have the freedom (and challenge!) of creating relationship agreements that work for all people involved.

In non-monogamous relationships if the “don’t have sex with other people” rule is absent does that mean that all expectations are out the window? No way. My first question for you, FMF, is what were/are your agreements with your wife for your non-monogamous relationship and what was the process like in making them?

From your question, it sounds like 1.) You were a little blindsided by your wife catching feelings and 2.) Aren’t super into it. Like all consent practices, an important aspect of the process is that everyone involved is adequately informed as to what they are agreeing to.

This is what’s so problematic about proposals like “Netflix and chill?” If I say yes to this, what am I agreeing to? Five minutes of Netflix and an hour of sex? One episode of Broad City and 30 minutes of making out? Binge-watching Stranger Things and stuffing our faces with popcorn?

If your agreement-making process with your wife was the equivalent to “Polyamory and chill?”, not nearly enough time was devoted to creating your relationship agreements. This lack of informed, enthusiastic consent has led you both to a place of hurt feelings and at least the temporary halting of her relationship with her female partner — a painful place for all of you!…continue reading…