My former husband felt that I was unfaithful to him because I didn’t want to open up our marriage. He said that if I really believed in his love for me, I wouldn’t be threatened by his romantic relationships with other women. The fact that I didn’t sign up for this didn’t seem to matter. The thing that gets me about polyamory is the way it’s billed as an evolved type of relationship structure. As if polyamorous people are moving beyond the antiquated strictures of monogamy forced upon us by the need for financial stability, ensuring the survival of our offspring, or the materialistic desire to possess or control one another, to embrace the complex truth of human sexuality.
Listen up: I am an independent woman who is committed to equality, and I still want fidelity. This does not make me possessive, jealous, or insecure. It just makes me monogamous. And there is nothing out of date about monogamy. It’s a classic.
Poly or slutty?
I’m all for casual sex. If both parties are on board, have at it. But if you are in a serious relationship and you find yourself attracted to other people, don’t start calling yourself polyamorous so that you can justify continuing to play the field. By taking cover under polyamory, you are asking your partner to accept your slutty behavior as an identity, putting yourself beyond reproach. Have the decency to end one relationship before starting a new one.
I recognize that people have different needs, and for some, polyamory can make sense. A woman wrote to me with her personal story about unintentionally finding herself in a polyamorous relationship. She writes:
‘After meeting a man I was very attracted to on Match, we proceeded to date and become lovers. I realized early on that we were not a partner match; he’s an introvert, I’m an extreme extrovert, etc. However, we really liked each-other. I encouraged him to date other people, as he was clear he was looking for a partner. Well, after a year and half of casual dating he just told me he’s in love with three women. I’m surprised by how vulnerable I feel—but I don’t think it would be fair to ask him to ‘just choose me’ when I’m sure he’s not my permanent man. And I don’t want to let go of what we do have, which is a lot of sweetness. My feelings on non-exclusivity is that it’s a process, it’s difficult, it takes a lot of time and a lot of room for feelings. I do believe you can love more than one person, however, I’m not sure I’m up for this for the long run—but it’s not so much round peg/square hole for me, but carving out a whole new game.’
She’s gotta have it
I think it comes down to priorities. We only have so many hours in the day and so much emotional bandwidth to manage our careers, families, friendships, and self care. If you are devoting significant energy to a casual romance, you may not have the resources to also pursue the long term, exclusive partnership that you really want. Or do you? Because the beauty of polyamory is that you can maintain part time sexual relationships long term, and maybe that’s all you really have space for. More than one part time relationship can quickly add up to a LOT of work, however. If you thrive on romantic variety, then it’s worth the investment. Ultimately I think it’s vital to be honest with ourselves about the relationship(s) we truly want, and let go of other relationships that distract from that. Otherwise we are sure to never be satisfied.
Have any comments or personal stories about casual sex, slutty sex, or polyamory that you’d like to share? Write to Nina at firstname.lastname@example.org.