Common Questions From my Mono Friends (Part 1)

Originally I had planned this massive post which answered a LOT of questions. Then I realized that’s too much reading for the average casual blog reader, so I decided to split this post up into three parts, which I will release every other day this week.  Check back on Tuesday and Thursday of this week for the ongoing adventures of “Common Questions!”

Hello my monogamous friends! If you’re reading this, it’s (hopefully) because you’re curious about this thing called polyamory. You might have some preconceived notions about this whole “poly” thing, and I would like to help you better understand who we are, and what we do. If you have other questions, please email me directly at  compersionator@gmail.com

To my poly friends, I would love to make this an ongoing feature, in which I address questions that your mono friends might be asking – so please read, and let me know what I’m missing out on! And as always, join the discussion in the comments section if you find my viewpoints to not match yours. I’m not the authority on any of these questions! This is simply my observations and perspectives. I try to value and honor all viewpoints as much as I humanly can, and want this blog to be a dialogue as much as it can be.

So, enough of all of this chit-chatting…bring on the questions!

Question #1: So, you’re cheating on your partner?

Nope, not cheating. Cheating implies that my partner isn’t aware of what I’m doing, and if she did know, she wouldn’t be cool with it. But not only do my partners (note the plural here! Poly means more than one!) know about my relationships with others, they have their own relationships. We share openly about who we are dating, and who we are sexually active with. Further details might or might not be shared, depending on the boundaries established in each relationship.

This might be one of the hardest ideas to get your head around. When I’ve talked to my students about polyamory (in the context of the class I teach on interpersonal communication, in which we discuss various types of romantic relationships), some students equate any kind of relationship outside of monogamy to be “cheating.”  To really understand what cheating is, we might look to how we use the term in other contexts. Some people cheat on their taxes or on a test (not MY students of course! ;).  Almost every time the term cheating is used, it is to connote dishonesty of some kind. There is NO dishonesty going on in a relationship that is being conducted in an ethical manner. The ethical part indicates that honesty is paramount.

Now, cheating still can, and does occur in polyamory, but based on my observations, it’s at a much lower rate than in monogamous relationships. Why?  Probably because with polyamory, you don’t have to lie! So why do some people still do it? Great question! Something I will bring up in a future blog post! (note to self…do that!)

Question #2: So you just have commitment problems then?

Well yes, but polyamory has nothing to do with that! (Just kidding!!!!) But seriously, there seems to be a myth that exclusivity is synonymous with commitment. True, exclusive relationships are usually committed relationships, but non-exclusive relationships can also be committed. To me, commitment entails putting myself in a person’s life in such a way that I will always be there for him or her. I am committed to many people – my co-workers, my friends, my lovers. These commitments are all unique – some require more time, some less time. Some require more energy, some less. Some require a lot of love, some require none. The investments of time, energy and love that I make with my lovers is the way I show my commitment to them. This is no different than the time, energy and love I devoted to my monogamous relationships I was in prior to discovering my poly orientation.

Note that I discuss investments of time, energy and love. However, one of these things “doesn’t belong here.” What I mean is that two of those three investments are finite, while the third is infinite!  That’s right, the love I have to give (and the love you have to give!) is infinite, it knows no end. We are inherently limited in time and energy, but love is an endless natural resource. How is that possible, you may be asking?  Wow, another great post for another day! (At this rate, I’ll have posts through the year 2022!)

And that’s it for today…check back on Tuesday for Part Two of “Common Questions” – until then, you stay classy Internet!

This entry was posted in Bridging the Gap, Commonly Asked Mono Questions and tagged , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

14 Responses to Common Questions From my Mono Friends (Part 1)

  1. mik1999 says:

    great questions; great answers; sad in a way that these questions even need a response

    • I know, it is sad, but at the same time a good thing, especially if we can get more monogamous folks to read this! We all know some mono folks in our lives, so let’s spread the word about this blog, and get them in here reading it! Bridging the gap is so important!

  2. #2 bother’s me. People assume I am not committed when in fact I am super committed to everyone in my family, not just the adults but the children too. In some ways it’s more commitment because it’s more people. I have the opposite of a commitment problem. I have a problem letting go of commitments. This plays in with infinite love. I love forever because I choose love over hate. I just accept that when it is over, it’s over and I will grow to hate if I cannot let go with love.

    • It seems that many monogamous folks have a limited view of commitment. This is why it’s one of the first misconceptions I wanted to talk about. I have had this conversation with more than one person, who was convinced I couldn’t possibly be committed if I was with more than one person. The “Commitment = Exclusive myth” is perhaps the best piece of societal programming out there!

  3. monogamousbychoice says:

    Okay, you’re committed until you aren’t. I get a sense that poly people don’t expect any relationship to last and they spend a lot of time and energy preparing for them to end. I read a lot of “nothing lasts forever” and “happily ever after is a myth”. What I don’t hear is “I made a choice, I promised someone I loved to hang in there for better, for worse, for richer, for poorer, in sickness, in health till death do us part.” You get a few years in, and it’s “I love you alwa….squirrel!” What exclusivity gives is an undivided house. The world will always clamor and rage outside your doors, trying to distract you and drain your time and energy from your relationship. It’s a choice between spending it deepening and building one fantastically solid relationship that lasts a lifetime (I’ve seen this work more often than not) or dividing it among a bunch of shallower relationships that you’re prepared to see falter and die. It takes more depth of commitment and focus to keep renewing and reenergizing one really good love that occasionally gets stale, than it does to juggle a bunch of part-time affairs with a bunch of shiny new people. Seriously, how deeply devoted can you be to someone you only see once a week, when they’re all spiffed up and on their best behavior? It takes a lot more to blearily look at each other over coffee after a sleepless night with sick kids and think, “You! You with the wild hair, wrinkles and bags under your eyes! I love you, you cranky bitch! I’m going to spend the rest of my life with you!” And mean every word,

    • You set up commitment like it’s an either or thing, and I disagree. I would love to find the person who I can adore to the day I die. I don’t think that also precludes me from sharing my love with other people as well – maybe multiple people who I can love until we’re all old and gray.

      You say you’ve seen this work more often than not – you must not be looking at current statistics of divorce – and that doesn’t even include the number of people who were in long term relationships that were never married, but broke up anyway. The majority of our romantic relationships do not work out. Since the birth control pill brought about the sexual revolution (women now had control over their reproductive rights and were able to “enjoy sex” without worry about pregnancy), our world has changed. For the vast majority of people under the age of 50, sex and sexual compatibility are now very important aspects of our life. Ask anybody who has been married for more than 10 years how often they have sex now compared to when they first started having sex. Almost 100% of them will say they have sex less now than they did at the start. Then ask them if they just don’t like sex anymore. Again, almost 100% of them will say they do – but they’ll make up excuses about time, about kids, about stress, about work, about fill in the blank – because we don’t want to say the words – our partner isn’t exciting to us anymore. Is that bad? No. It’s just the way mother nature fucks with us. At the start of a relationship, our body releases hormones that makes us want to have sex a LOT. To make a baby, to keep our race going. But because our instinct is to have a diverse species, those hormones die off after a time, and we’re left with a much lower level of attraction. Until we meet the next person who makes those hormones go vroom vroom. But our society has told us that we must mate for life. And so we try to tamp down those feelings. But anybody with a moderate sex drive feels them anyway – and we become bitter, because we feel trapped. Because we’re not supposed to talk to our partners about this. Does it suck? Yes. but that’s our reality.

      We can love more than one person. But it takes strong communication. Having the will to do that is tough. It sounds like your husband isn’t willing to have that communication with you. It sounds like you’re not open to being non-monogamous. It sounds like the two of you aren’t compatible. And I’m sorry for that. I’m also sorry that you have such a negative view of polyamory because of what your husband has done. I assure you that he’s not doing polyamory. He might feel polyamorous inside, but he’s not being ethical, and therefore he’s not practicing polyamory. Please refer him to these comments, so maybe he’ll see what he’s doing is wrong. There is still a chance to repair what you have, but it’s going to take a shitload of communication. And he’s going to have to set aside his selfishness to get there.

      • monogamousbychoice says:

        Both of my grandparents, 63 and 58 years. My folks, 54 and counting, my aunt and uncle, 58, my other aunt an uncle, 50 and counting. My brother and his wife, 38 and going. My cousins, all still married to first spouses. I would be the first divorce in our family’s recorded history. I know monogamy and marriage work. When I see it fail, it’s because the people in them fail. Marriage isn’t to blame, people are. There are more broken relationships littering polyamory than there is in monogamy. Y’all just accept it as inevitable. “Of course I’m going to get bored with you and want something different. Buh-bye.”
        My assertion is that you can never know everything there is to know about someone. You can only give up on looking. I’m bored, I’m done, oooo, squirrel! I’ve watched my folks go through Heaven and Hell, highs and lows, and what I’ve seen them do is dig in and reinvest, drill deeper to strike another level of intimacy. They’ve been through financial troubles, illnesses, cancer, total devastation from a tornado, arguments and more than likely, boredom. What they didn’t do is accept that boredom and cheating were inevitable because nature made us animals incapable of making choices contrary to our hormones. They live and love purposefully.
        Marriages fail because people have become spoiled self-centered, needy brats. Expecting every need to be fulfilled, happiness and excitement all the time. God forbid we should roll over and look at the person we pledged to love forever and decide to invest our time and energy in rekindling the romance. Life isn’t all roses and romance, love isn’t all giddy and giggly. Love is getting up with the sick kids and letting your spouse sleep because you know they need it. Love is realizing that the hot sexy chick you fell in love with is still your love even though there’s wrinkles and gray hairs and sagging body parts. Love is realizing your boredom has more to do with your attitude and choices than it does with biology and your spouse’s shortcomings.
        And same? If every time you touch someone special is “same”, then maybe you need to step up your game. I asked my mom, she said they remodeled their sex lives more than their bedroom. They, together. I wonder how many couples fall into the Escape Song category. Remember that irritating song? Do you like pina coladas? Bored, must find someone new, oh hey person I vowed to love, didn’t know you liked all these cool things. The poly version would have ended, “But hey, I still want someone else, you’re still boring,”
        I’ve been making love with the same man for 20+ years, I’m pretty sure we’ve only scratched the surface of what’s possible, but hey, I’m still just boring old me with the same old body. So of course, he wants someone else. It’s nature right? And you definitely can’t fight nature.

      • Divorce rates among people who married more than 30 years ago are very different than people who have married in the last 30 years. I think there’s a reason for that. I don’t think it’s because we’re more selfish or more distracted. I think it’s because our culture and society has changed to recognize that there is more out there, and sexual compatibility is a big part of that. This is a spot where I feel like you and I just have a fundamentally different worldview on things. I respect what you’re saying, and while I disagree, I can see why you believe what you believe. But I also think that your very negative experience with poly (caused by the unethical actions of your husband) has biased you against it. You seem like a fairly open-minded person, so I would ask you to think about what you’re saying – it’s estimated that up to 5% of the population is engaged in ethical non-monogamy of some kind (and to reiterate, I don’t feel that your husband is in that percentage)…do you feel that all of us (that includes me, thus I use us) are spoiled, self-centered and needy? And that is why we are poly?

        I’ve been poly, I believe, for my entire life. I haven’t practiced it until the last 3 years. But for the last 20 years, I had short term relationship after short term relationship, and couldn’t figure out what was wrong with me. Then I found poly, and discovered I could have a long-term relationship – if I was free to pursue more than one at a time. There are lots of other men and women like me.

        There are also plenty of selfish monogamous people – people who have horrible fights, make a horrible home and example for their children, and refuse to divorce, because their parents never divorced or their church says it’s a sin or they think it’s better to “stay together for the kids.” And yes, there are selfish people who identify as poly – I don’t think that everybody who identifies as poly is practicing poly, though. If a person says they’re poly, but they don’t treat their partners with respect, care, love and honesty – then, in my opinion, they’re not practicing poly. I know a LOT of people who claim to be poly, but in my opinion, they’re not BEING poly. I hope that makes sense.

      • monogamousbychoice says:

        My response was addressing the “almost half of all marriages fail” meme of polyamorists trying to prove marriage and monogamy doesn’t work. You give the statistic of 5% of the population being polyamorous. If you’re saying all those divorces are because people decided they wanted more sex or to be poly, then that’s a whole lot of divorces for a small number of people.

        My feeling is that more people get married with the divorce already in mind. My family would be appalled at one of us having “starter marriages”. You don’t get married because you’re bored, or you want a fancy wedding, or you can try it on for size and get a quickie divorce if it doesn’t work. People used to get married believing the vows they took, knowing it would be work, knowing that there would be plateaus and valleys, probably a lot more often than peaks. And they accepted that you worked through them instead of bailing. When divorces because mainstream, accepted, expected and celebrated, the divorce rates shot through the roof. Why suffer through hardship and boredom when you could just skip out and start over? Why remain faithful when it’s just too hard and no fun? Life is ALL about fun and happiness and instant gratification, right? So take out the idiots who had no business getting married (most of Hollywood), the serial divorcers (Johnny Carson comes to mind), and were is the REAL divorce rate? The people who really tried but couldn’t make it work? I think Liberals inflate the divorce rate to normalize a culture that devalues commitment. Those are the lazy, selfish people of whom I was speaking.

      • When I pull out the “half of all divorces fail” it’s to point out that lifetime monogamy is really a thing of the past. If you look at the other half of the population, the ones that DO stay together – how many of them have affairs, but never divorced? The statistics are pretty high. It seems that remaining faithful to one person for life isn’t the path for the majority of people. And why should it be, outside of religious beliefs? What makes a person who decides to mate for life better than a person who doesn’t mate for life? That’s a value judgement that I don’t feel comfortable making. I would rather a person have 10 relationships over the course of 50 years, and be ethical, faithful, honest in all of those relationships, than to have a person have 1 relationship over 50 years, and end up hurting that person with lies, cheating, abuse and dishonesty.

        Now, I’m not saying that monogamy can’t work. It can work, for many people – probably even MOST people. I’m saying lifetime monogamy can’t work for a lot of people. And if it does, it means having really open and honest communication from the very start of the relationship; which doesn’t happen, in my opinion. When we are “falling in love” we seem to think that this person will be the last person we’ll ever feel those feels for. Because the “falling in love” phase of a relationship is so intense, the sex is so amazing, the attraction is so strong – we think, “how could I ever feel this way again?” But then as the hormones die down, and we settle into the long term attraction – it’s not as intense. The sex isn’t as hot. The attraction is still there, but it’s more of a best friend attraction than a love attraction.

        And that would be FINE, if we just talked about it. If we acknowledged this change in attraction AS IT HAPPENS. But that would require all of us to acknowledge that “soul mates” don’t exist. That here is no ONE person who is perfect for us. But almost the entire system of monogamy is built on this idea that there is just ONE person out there for us. And the person we decide to marry must be that ONE. But that’s bullshit. There isn’t just ONE person. But if we decide to attach ourselves to one person for life, we don’t acknowledge that there might be other people out there who could get our motors running – and some of them maybe even better. IF we did acknowledge this…if we taught our children how to deal with this, I think monogamy could be saved. It would mean, though, talking about that hot guy or girl that you’ve been “innocently” flirting with at work or at the coffee shop. Flirting without the intention of it going anywhere. You would need to tell your lifetime partner everytime that happened, to reaffirm that you are CHOOSING to stay with him or her. But we can’t even mention that we have that attraction, because our society says that having attraction for a person outside of our ONE is wrong. Again, bullshit. It’s human nature to have this attraction. And I believe that pushing down this attraction is what causes a LOT of cheating. This in turn causes a LOT of divorce.

        And what happens after they get divorced? Almost all of them continue on to the next monogamous relationship – and start all over again. Most do not become polyamorous.

        When I first became poly, I believed that everybody should be poly. I still believe that everybody DOES have the capacity to love an unlimited amount of people. I know this in my heart. But I also know that our society has programmed us to only be with ONE person. So I now realize that my best hope is to help all of the monogamous folks out there – people like you – to become better at being monogamous. To stop the inherent lying that comes with traditional monogamy. See my posts on “Not everybody is poly” to help explain this more. I don’t believe everybody is poly. I don’t think everybody is monogamous. I actually think most people would be OK with “monogamish” if our society was cool with it. And our younger generations are, for the most part. Today’s teenagers will grow up to know that having multiple relationships, physical or sexual, isn’t inherently a bad thing. And I firmly believe it’s not – no more than homosexuality is inherently a bad thing. It’s just a human thing.

        I don’t know why you think this is liberals doing this, by the way. Plenty of conservatives are out there being pretty shitty people – look at one of the most conservative governors of the past 20 years, Arnold Schwarzenegger, and what kind of an asshole he was to his family. I think saying this is a conservative or liberal issue makes it seem like one side is better than the other. There are assholes who are liberals. There are assholes that are conservatives. If we stop using labels and start looking at the people, maybe we can figure out how to be better.

      • monogamousbychoice says:

        Have you ever asked yourself why monogamy is supposedly a “thing of the past”?
        I don’t by the biology reasoning. We’re sentient beings with free will, not animals.
        Too hard? Not willing to sacrifice? That doesn’t mean marriage is unworkable, just that those people aren’t willing to work.
        Outmoded means of legally binding two people? Don’t get married, you can have the same legal rights with wills, powers of attorney, etc. Also easier to dissolve when you’re ready to bail and you don’t have any vows to keep you from doing what you want.

        You’re defending 5% of the population, I’m wondering about the rest of the divorced people. Marriage doesn’t fail any more than polyamory fails. The people who choose to get married and divorced repeatedly fail. And to condemn an entire institution because of those people makes as much sense to me as my condemning polyamory because a majority of people are selfish assholes does to you.

        All I’m asking if for polyamorists to stop trying to use statistics from a failing ME culture to prove polyamory is the wave of the future. There are other options, such as holding people responsible for their choices and teaching the realities of marriage beyond the wedding and honeymoon. I swear to God, it’s harder to get a handgun license than a marriage license.

        I had to giggle about Schwarzenegger being “conservative”. Only in California. I said Liberals used it as a means to excuse and normalize the behavior rather than trying to change the behavior and improve monogamy. You can’t uphold your vows? No problem! Nobody else is so it must be normal and better. And sometimes sliding morals and decaying social mores aren’t better (see the Fall of the Roman Empire).

        But I do agree that this absolutely needs to be discussed before starting a relationship with someone. “Do you have problems with monogamy? Do you think you’ll get bored and itchy and develop problems with monogamy? What do you consider to be fidelity, faithfulness and commitment? Here’s what they mean to me. My definitions aren’t better than yours, just better for me.” I solemnly swear to address this if I ever decide to date after I get over this heartbreak. I will NOT be blindsided again. Nobody should have to go through this.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s