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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…

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I’m Dating Three Women; Does That Make Me Polyamorous?

Hi Yana,

I’m a 38 yo male currently involved with three women. One is a long distance relationship. We met at a concert and had one night together and stayed in touch. We speak regularly on various chat and texts. Two is a nonsexual relationship. She spends the night and we spoon. We have some common interests, but that’s it. And Three I met on an online dating site. We go out and have sex once or twice a week.

On one hand I feel like between the three, I’m actually pretty fulfilled and all my needs are being met. On the other, this is a lot of work. Even though it hasn’t been discussed, there is no expectation of exclusivity with any of them.

I guess my question is, is this healthy? I’m spending all my time divided between three partners. Should I be trying to find one person that can do it all? I don’t have any illusions that any one of these girls couldn’t just move on and/or that my relationship with any of them could change at any moment.

Have I stumbled into being poly? Maybe I’m just over thinking and should just enjoy what I have?

Three’s a Perfect Crowd

Dear TPC,

If you explore what true-blue polyamorous folks have to say about their non-monogamous orientation — which you can do extensively on morethantwo.com — you’ll find that one of the unifying concepts is the freedom from the belief or expectation that one person — The One — can fulfill all of our needs.

In the monogamous mindset, it’s believed that one partner should be and can be it all: the best overnight snuggle spoon, our favorite long-distance sexter, and our hottest in-real-life copulating cutie.

In non-monogamy, this trend is bucked and folks are free to explore a wider variety of human sexual and romantic experiences. The pressure is taken off of one person to be All The Things and having multiple partners can scratch our multitudinous, ever-changing, relational itches. As you’ve accidentally discovered, TPC, this feels nice — and is hopefully worth the work.

But is this healthy? It’s my belief that among enthusiastically consenting adults, any relational, sexual, or intimate structure can be healthy and wonderful. Are you unhealthy because you’d rather date three women than one? No. Are you a weirdo because you’d rather keep it casual than head down the aisle? Definitely not. Your body, your time, your intimacy, your choice.

However, in order to enthusiastically consent to something, each party involved should be clearly informed about what they are saying Yes or No to. You say that there are no expectations of exclusivity between you and these women. But you also say that this has never actually been discussed. And without clear communication, that healthy enthusiastic consent we’re looking for isn’t there.

My advice to you, TPC, is to discuss it…continue reading…

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Clopen Relationships: Love Advice from a Polyamorous Monogamist

I’m in an open relationship. I’m certainly not the only person in a non-monogamous relationship these days; my open status doesn’t score me nearly as many cool points as it once did, nor is it as controversial as it once was. Everything I read about non-monogamy is like “Yay! So much sex! Whoopeeee!”

Meanwhile, monogamy is written about like “Snoooooze fest. Divorce says it’s not working anyway. I am bored to literal tears.”

In my personal experience — which includes a failed marriage, several long-term monogamous relationships, some epically disastrous open relationships, and my current relationship that waffles between open and closed — I’ve found that stereotypes around these storylines have left us all with some expectations that could use adjusting.

NON-MONOGAMY: You’re doing it wrong/That shit’s hard.

Four years into our relationship and one year into our marriage, my wife Chris and I decided to open our relationship. A Capricorn and an Aquarius who’d had a bi-coastal relationship for our first year, we were already cocky, low-jealousy, “sharing” types who had cracked open the door to our relationship before — allowing casual make-outs and dates with people we affectionately called “randos” we thought we would probably never see again. But this time, when we said “open relationship,” we really meant it.

Not only did we mean it, it was my idea. Chris was working as a bartender and I was working a day job in the human services industry. Our schedules were completely opposite. When I decided to retreat to the cell service-less mountains for a month to direct a youth summer camp, it became clear that Chris wanted some…company. Her co-worker Alex had been interested in Chris for a while, so she seemed like the natural choice. Wanting to focus on my own personal growth, attracted to the freedom of disappearing to summer camp without worrying about Chris’s lack of company, I jumped at the opportunity to open our relationship. I had dabbled in non-monogamy previously in more casual relationships, so it wasn’t a hard leap for me to make. The diamonds latched to my ring finger certainly helped out in the security department. And as far as Chris was concerned, she was entering into a life with a girlfriend and a wife, so things weren’t looking too shabby for her, either.

Many have written compellingly about why humans are better suited to be non-monogamous, and how to do it ethically. Tristan Taormino’s book Opening Up is my personal open relationship bible. I don’t need to re-write her theories here about the non-monogamist belief that one partner can’t meet all of our needs, or how non-monogamy’s emphasis on consensual choice differentiates it from cheating. I want to talk about what it’s like to practice what writers like Taormino preach.

Sure, you can read Taormino’s book and totally agree with her theories: I don’t own my partner! She’s her own person! Society can’t put me in a box! Then one night you find yourself at home, cleaning up dog vomit after a tough work shift, while your girlfriend’s off with her other partner Hot Motorcycle Guy — and in your jealous, puppy-puke-ridden mind, they couldn’t possibly be doing anything other than feeding each other expensive steaks before having simultaneous orgasms at sunset. Suddenly monogamy starts looking real nice.

The most common pitfalls in open relationships exist in the big ol’ gap between people’s expectations of non-monogamy in theory, and the hard reality of non-monogamy in practice.

Waaaitttt, where’s all the sex?

zoolanderDespite its most prevalent stereotype, non-monogamy is not all sex, sex, sex, but is actually mostly talk, talk, talk. Compared to monogamy, there aren’t as many predetermined rules of open relationships, so you’ve gotta make your own.

Many do this by designing a “relationship contract,” a verbal or written understanding of agreed-upon relationship boundaries. At first, this sounds really fun and cool, but once you start considering one, two, or ten other people’s wants, needs, insecurities, and boundaries, suddenly there’s not enough paper in the world. Throw in post-date check-ins and multiple PMS schedules and you’ll find your mouth isn’t exactly being used for the things you were hoping for.

When deciding on the structure of my non-monogamous relationship with Chris, I did what any studious, anal-retentive writer would: I assigned Alex and Chris Taormino’s book as required reading and created a due date for a draft of their hopes, dreams, and boundaries for our little arrangement. Once the assignments were completed, we scheduled a meeting with the three of us.

Pre-meet-up, Chris and I hashed out our own terms, separate from Alex: “Don’t take our dog to the park with her, because he’s like our kid” and “I don’t care how busy you are with your girlfriend and your wife, you still need to do your share of dishes and laundry.” By the time the three of us met at a cafe to hammer out the details of who got Saturday as a date night, we had put in what felt like a semester’s worth of open relationship homework. Terms were laid out, vetoed, negotiated and agreed upon. We had five typed pages when we were done.

Contract be damned, you’re just not psychic.

It’s crucial to get specific when building your relationships agreements (Who’s on-/off-limits? What activities are okay? Romantic dates? Just sex? Can you only have one-night stands, or can you date someone continuously? Will you kiss and tell or would you prefer ignorant bliss?). But you can’t predict the future.

Many newbie non-monogamists try to to build a contract by envisioning themselves in every possible scenario and conjuring up every possible emotional reaction. But it’s impossible to prevent occasional yuck in any relationship, especially an open one. Making your intentions clear and your agreements mutual and consensual is your strongest defense, and the contract process is a valuable one. But still, feelings will get hurt.

Spoiler alert: Chris and I got divorced six months after opening our relationship to Alex for reasons both related and unrelated to their extramarital canoodling. More recently, I’ve gotten back on the non-monogamy horse I fell off of with Chris, and am now on the other side of an open relationship with my current girlfriend, Sage. Our relationship door opened specifically to a friend of mine, Sebastian, who I wanted to casually sleep with a couple times a week. Busy at a new, demanding job, Sage wasn’t interested in pursuing outside sex with others, so we jumped into negotiating the terms of my sleeping with Sebastian while continuing to date Sage.

Things were different this time around. More fly-by-the-seat-of-her-pants than Chris and I were, Sage wanted to lay out definite “no”s for my sexual interactions with Sebastian but then adjust the terms over time, according to how she felt. Sage is a feelings-driven, on-the-spot processor and experiential learner, so this seemed to work for her and for us.

Being in an open relationship with her showed me that no matter how much you talk about or type up the situation, your feelings about what happens when it happens can and will change. Sage taught me that the hardest part of being in an open relationship isn’t my own jealousy; it is actually being present and available for your partner to express their hurt, jealousy, and other challenging feelings raised by your fun and exciting extracurriculars. Yes, feelings get hurt. So, be a compassionate and validating partner when they do.

Don’t deny Darwin.

You can’t predict how your romantic/sexual relationships are going to make you feel. Opening up your relationship with your partner with the promise that you’ll never develop loving feelings for another can lead to self-denial, confusion, and broken agreements.

This was a lesson hard-learned in both my open relationships. Simply making space for feelings to grow and change, or at least acknowledging that they might, can prevent a big mess down the line. The fear that your partner will fall in love with their secondary playmate is highest on the list for many non-monogamous types. While it’s tempting to write in big, hulking block letters on that contract “NO FALLING IN LOVE,” this puts your partner (and yourself) in a bind.

The evolution of desire is a natural and chemical part of human sexual interaction. Falling in love is an organic, uncontrollable process. Asking your partner to control the uncontrollable can lead to guilt, resentment, shame, and, in some instances, bad behavior. Listing falling in love under the “Deal-Breakers” column tells your partner that if they feel these feelings, they must squash them or hide them from you in order to maintain the relationship(s) at stake.

Instead, make space for all feelings to be confessed. Be willing to embrace change in your primary and secondary relationship agreements in order to maintain the balance of work put in and happiness realized for all parties involved.

Unlearn life lessons in limited love.

Seeing multiple people might sound great, but thinking about your partner(s) doing the same can be scary. It’s hard to shut off the nagging voice telling that you must not be “enough” for your partner(s).

Love and affection isn’t limited like a glass of water that can only be distributed to so many different vessels before running out. But the fear that our partner’s love comes in a limited quantity is real. Give yourself permission to voice your fears, to yourself and your partner(s).

Jealousy sucks!

The free-loving poly community will sing the jealousy-fighting kumbaya of “compersion,” loosely defined as taking joy in your partner’s sexual and romantic relationships with others. Sounds great! But when your partner comes home glowing from a hot roll in the poly-hay with someone who isn’t you, jealousy can punch you in the gut. Sometimes all of the positive reinforcement and patchouli incense in the world can’t fix it. Create self-care strategies to help ride it out, and end any relationship if the jealousy isn’t balanced with happiness.

You can still cheat, and you still shouldn’t.

Just because something’s “open” doesn’t mean anything goes. Relationship boundaries can still be violated and trust can still be broken. Don’t use openness to justify your shitty behavior. (You know who you are.)

You can still get dumped.

When fantasizing about non-monogamy, it’s exciting to think about all of the positives that can be multiplied by your multiple relationships — orgasms! dates! emotional support! another set of hands to make grilled cheese sandwiches! Non-monogamy’s indulgence of all your hard-ons and heart-ons can make for lots of sex, love, loving sex, sexy love and all the other terms you wanna slap on your sweet time with your sweeties. But multiple relationships can also present multiple opportunities for heartache and heartbreak.

Sage and I had finally normalized Sebastian’s role in my life as a close friend and casual sex partner. We had finally stopped talking each other in circles about polyamorous theories, our fears, our jealously contingency plans, and who would walk the dogs on Sebastian’s Date Nights. Mere days after, Sebastian decided to take himself out of the equation. I didn’t blame him — having your friend ask you if you want to be part of her open lesbian relationship (but only on specific nights of the week, and only when her girlfriend gives the green light) was a lot to ask. Being asked to do all of this and not form any emotional attachment was another request entirely. So, I got dumped.

Getting dumped by a secondary partner is a strange experience. You would think their secondary nature might lessen the impact of getting dumped, but it doesn’t, not entirely. I cried on my couch in the dark for one dramatic minute, and then fought the impulse to call Sage and indulge the selfish wish of leaning on her because I had sad feelings about someone else.

Eventually, Sage and I talked about it, Sebastian and I talked about it, and once again, non-monogamy became more talk, talk, talk than sex, sex, sex. Sebastian and I remain friends without the sex, and Sage and I remain somewhere between non-monogamous-by-theory and monogamous-by-practice.

MONOGAMY: You Can Still Be Progressive. Promise.

For the majority, monogamy is the cultural de facto: boy marries girl, boy never flirts at work or masturbates in the shower or even thinks about watching porn because girl is all boy will ever need. There are also 2.5 kids and a white picket fence. De facto monogamy doesn’t acknowledge the possibility of non-monogamy. It was built on social constructions and is supported by laws involving tax breaks and idiots fighting against marriage equality. It’s notorious for ending in cheating, divorce, child custody battles, and jealousy-induced violence.

Because monogamy is “just the way things go,” we rarely think about it as a specific relationship style that we can choose (or not) with its own positives and negatives. When explored in terms of what a couple wants, instead of what a couple should do, a closed relationship or “chosen monogamy” can be just as intentionally constructed and progressive as an open relationship. While tired phrases like “the old ball-and-chain” put monogamy’s apparent drawbacks up front, monogamy has its perks:

Less time wasted with the green-eyed monster

Jealousy crops up in every relationship, but it’s a larger, more persistent beast within open ones. Constantly processing your value to your partner while they’re out on dates with others is emotionally draining. If you’re monogamous, you can save your jealousy for your best friend’s new car or your co-worker’s promotion instead.

More focused free time

Polyamory preaches that “love is limitless.” But time isn’t. Having one partner is high-maintenance enough. Once you’ve got several relationships the calendar really starts filling up. When practicing monogamy, the amount of extra time I have for yoga, schoolwork, and sleep is borderline-magical.

It’s cost-effective

Having a weekly date night with three partners is just downright pricey. Plus, if you love being spoiled like yours truly, it’s nice having all of your partner’s resources instead of a measly third.

Fewer trips to the clinic

Monogamous sex isn’t inherently safer sex, but having one partner does mean there are fewer variables to consider in the safer-sex element of your life.

We heart stability

Humans are habitual creatures. We like to order the same double latte at the same cafe every day, and sometimes we like to have the same person to have dinner, sex, and vacations with. Especially if you’re a busy professional, dealing with personal or family illness, or just love alone time, you might have other priorities besides juggling multiple, moving pieces in your romantic/sexual sphere.

Since Sage and I have found ourselves back in Monogamyville, we haven’t talked much about leaving it, aside from casual jokes made about making my two-hour commute to graduate school easier by finding a partner in my school’s state to spend the night with (after all, sex and practicality are two of my favorite things). While I’m sure we’ll eventually return to non-monogamy, the hustle-and-bustle of grad school, dog care, demanding day jobs, and oh yeah, finding some alone time in the midst of it all makes monogamy the best choice for us at this particular time.

CHOOSE YOUR OWN RELATIONSHIP ADVENTURE

The truth is, all relationships — open, closed, or slightly ajar — have the potential to exist somewhere on the ever-sliding scale between totally blissed out and totally fucked up. While it’s easy to imagine an open relationship exploding into a tearful tornado of jealousy, self-doubt, and hurled iPhones, anyone who’s ever been monogamous can certainly say the same.

Instead of blindly following the age-old monogamous screenplay laid out for us by our parents, movies, and tax structure, we can consciously commit to one person in a way that works for us, because we want to. Instead of being up on our “evolved” polyamorous hipster high horses, unaccountably sleeping with half the town in the name of the New Age without any thought to the real feelings of our multiple partners, let’s look at both open and closed relationships as two equally valid, messy, complex choices. Then, let’s all make our relationship choices with a strong commitment to the happiness of ourselves and our partner(s), whether we’ve got one or one hundred.

 

Originally published on The Toast: 

Clopen Relationships: Love Advice from a Polyamorous Monogamist

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Help! Poly & Jealous!

Dear Yana,

My girlfriend and I have been polyamorous for three years. We have established boundaries and as far as poly relationships go, it’s been pretty smooth sailing. Usually I’m a very low-jealousy partner.

But lately she’s been flirting with this one woman that I think she wants to date and it feels like all of my normal jealousy strategies have evaporated. I can’t stand how it makes me feel and lately we’ve been arguing a lot about this other woman.

Can I ask her to stop seeing her if it’s this toxic to our relationship? Why am I so jealous all of a sudden? How can I squash it?

— Green-Eyed Girl

Dear Green Eyes,

One of the reasons jealousy is known as the green-eyed monster rather than the green-eyed bug is because sometimes it’s just not that easy to squash. More importantly, in many fables about monsters and the heroic, everyday people that conquer them, these heroic people emerge victorious not because they simply squashed the little jerk and moved on with their afternoon, but because they used some combination of life-lessons, insight and witty strategy to overcome their sizable enemies. This is what you need to do with this jealousy.

First: Learning moment! Polyamory, poly for short, is the practice of dating/sleeping with more than one person simultaneously with the consent of all parties involved — so, no, not the same as cheating.

First, no one is immune to jealousy — regardless of what type of relationship you’re in. Not even the best of the best of practicing poly folk can claim to never feel a twinge of envy every now and then. One of the first layers to shed before tackling this jealousy, though, is the shame that often comes with it. You’re not “bad at poly” because you feel jealous. Jealousy happens. It’s the actions you take in the name of jealousy that tip the scales in negative directions.

Which brings us to … No, no you cannot ask your partner to stop seeing this person because you cannot tolerate or handle your own jealous feelings. Controlling another person’s actions with your emotions and/or in order to satisfy your own emotional needs is emotionally manipulative and/or emotionally abusive behavior.

If your relationship agreements with your partner have been violated in some way — ie. Do you have agreements about how new partners are introduced? Are they lying or withholding information from you? — then speak to your partner about that violation. The difference lies in the belief that you and your partner are free agents who can make their own choices and build their own relationships within the boundaries of what the two of you have mutually agreed upon.

So, what can you do?…continue reading…


Upcoming Workshops on Polyamory & Open Relationships!

<click images below for details & tickets>

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Upcoming Workshop! Polyamory & Open Relationships 101

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Polyamory & Open Relationships 101:

Exploring Non-Monogamy 

Monday, July 11th

6:30-8:30pm // $20 // 18+ // limited seating

at The Easthampton Co.Lab (at Eastworks) // Easthampton, Ma.

2-Class Discount Special! Purchase tickets to both Polyamory workshops (Polyamory 101 on 7/11 & Polyamory 201 on 7/25) upfront and save $5! See Eventbrite for ticket details.

>> PURCHASE TICKETS HERE <<

 


Workshop Description:

Despite its most prevalent stereotype, non-monogamy is not all sex, sex, sex, but is actually mostly talk, talk, talk. Unlike monogamy, open relationships rarely come with a list of pre-determined rules, so we need to make our own. But how?

This workshop offers a guide through this very terrain, introducing participants to the many different forms of non-monogamy (polyamory, open relationships, monogamish relationships, polyfidelity, clopen relationships, etc) and helping participants consider if these alternatives to traditional monogamous relationship styles are right for them.

Topics will include both the joys (sexual variety! honest communication! self-growth!) and challenges (jealousy! creating solid relationship agreements! communication!) of non-monogamous relationship structures with a focus on helping students gather the tools needed to embark on their first(ish) non-monogamous experiences.

Participants should bring a pen and notebook as each participant will walk away with a customized collection of worksheets & reflections to get them started on their journey through non-monogamy. Single folks, partners, couples, triads — all relationship configurations and styles welcome!

>> PURCHASE TICKETS HERE << 

Workshop Rules:

This workshop aims to be open to all sexual identities, orientations and bodies & is taught with the belief that our sexual experiences & selves exist on a spectrum. Yana’s workshops work to create a welcoming & comfortable space for all to explore crucial aspects of our holistic, sexual selves such as pleasure, communication, consent & the body. All participants are reminded to help in the creation of this safe space by refraining from substances & come-ons during the workshop and to use mindful language when asking questions or making comments.

About the Presenter:

Yana Tallon-Hicks is a pleasure-positive sex writer and educator who’s been stumbling her way through polyamorous, monogamous, open, and clopen relationships for over a decade. Yana currently studies Marriage & Family Therapy at Antioch University on her path to becoming a sex therapist. She practices couples and relationship counseling at Couples Center of the Pioneer Valley as their LMFT graduate student intern for reduced, sliding scale fees. Her sex writings have appeared in both national and local publications and can be found most regularly in her weekly sex column, The V-Spot, on the back page of the Valley Advocate. Read more about Yana on her About Me page.