Embracing my non-monogamous self has been a long road of heartache: lies, guilt, broken trust, and a seemingly endless amount of tears. It has been a battle within myself as well as outside of myself.
Imagine in almost every relationship you’ve ever been in, constantly being told that you’re wrong, dishonest, a liar, a cheater, selfish, disloyal, or weird all because you desire to be with or love more than one person at a time. Imagine constantly being threatened that you have to choose only one or you’re going to end up alone. Welcome to my life.
For a while, I believed it. Although I know I am the most loyal and honest person I know, I had let the world convince me that I was doing something that was somehow wrong even though that is not how I felt. I believed what I was doing was causing someone else disappointment. I felt a lot of guilt; I felt somehow responsible for their grief.
Hetero-monogamy is the narrative that most of us are raised by and I’ve come to know that that is not everyone’s truth. That is not my truth.
As a non-monogamous woman, I often feel misunderstood and simplified, for lack of a better word. So today, I’m sharing 7 truths to help clarify non-monogamy.
It’s not a phase
I once told a guy I was dating that I was non-monogamous and his response was, “Only in the beginning, right?, Like after you fall in love, you only want to be with that one person, right?” Wrong. Non-monogamy does not have an expiration point.
He seemed incredibly hurt when I told him that I was talking to other people. He wanted to mend things by getting me to promise to be honest and faithful from then on out, but I just decided to end it. I didn’t like what he was implying. We clearly didn’t have the understanding I thought we did.
Non-monogamy is not a phase. It is who I am and there is nothing wrong about it. I say this to my students often and I will say it here just as much, “It’s not you who is broken; it is the culture.”
You won’t just wake up one day and suddenly be monogamous. It won’t happen if you decide to cure it with monogamous marriage vows either; trust me. You cannot just “Pray the gay away.” If you do feel like it’s just something to get over or that you just haven’t met the right person, you can only do that by first embracing it. Claim it as your truth until you decide it isn’t.
In retrospect, the first time I realized I was non-monogamous, I was 15 or 16 years old. Yes, I’ve heard a million times that you know nothing of yourself at that age. I’ll tell you this, everything that I have confirmed about myself at age 31, I’ve known since I was sixteen-years-old. Every single thing. . .it has only taken me another sixteen years to embrace all those things without guilt and without shame and to relinquish those things that do not serve who I Am.
“My man” or “my woman” isn’t appealing (and may sometimes be red flags)
As a non-monogamous woman, I am not possessive or controlling. Every essence of my being is live and let live. I am known to express feelings of compersion, and although I am not immune to jealousy, I certainly am not enchanted by the whole “my man” or “my woman” thing.
Many times my first thoughts are, “What am I, a cow!?” I don’t like the idea of being thought of as a possession. I belong to no one.
Although I know they are terms of endearment, I also know they have much deeper meaning and I’m not going to like what comes next: Unhealthy attachment, control, manipulation, and passive aggressiveness. I’m sure this won’t always be the case but this has been my experience.
And while it might seem cute and innocent in the beginning, soon your sweetie will be trying to convince you, through subtle guilt of course, that their desire to keep you all to themselves is love while your desire to love another is pure selfishness. You see what I’m saying?
Guilt or shaming won’t work
I can count the exact number of times I’ve heard a partner say something along the lines of, “I can’t believe you would do this,” or “You’re not who I thought you were.” After all that, guess what, I’m still NON-MONOGAMOUS yet I’m not in a relationship with any of them. I never understood how a choice to be with another could completely change a person’s idea of who someone is.
It’s like when you talk to someone over the phone and they make socio-economic assumptions about you based on the way you talk. Then once they meet you in person, they treat you different on some, “you’re not who I thought you were,” BS. Yeah, you know those type.
Did shaming ever work? Depends on what you mean by work. If by work you mean, makes one decide not to openly disclose their non-monogamous nature and instead resort to cheating which is still technically a form of non-monogamy, then the answer is, of course, it didn’t work!
Did you ever feel bad? Of course, I felt bad for having to sneak around behind my partner, and for feeling responsible for hurting someone that I love, but not for being non-monogamous. So what did I do, I stopped. Stopped being non-monogamous? No, silly. I stopped cheating. I stopped lying by omission about being monogamous. I started being honest with myself first.
Don’t attempt to force things where they do not fit and never try to change a person through guilt or coercion. It will backfire.
Accept me as I am or go away.
Non-monogamy is not a fear of commitment
I love sharing conversations about being non-monogamous. What I don’t like is at the end of me sharing when a person goes, “Oh, I get it. You’re just afraid of commitment. That’s what that sounds like.” No.
For me, there is some ambivalence towards commitment only because I don’t want to be coerced into committing on someone else terms, which seems to be the case with me. Who cares if they are the “socially normal” terms of committing. Being in a non-monogamous relationship with the same person for the past four years counts for some kind of commitment I’m sure.
Being non-monogamous, my ideal commitment would be between me and two others, a cisgendered man and woman, in which we sit together and define what our relationship will be. However, should I meet someone and we decide to be in a relationship, it’s not going to be a situation of, “Hey, you have to also be with my other someone so that I can have my ideal relationship.” In that same way, I wouldn’t want this scenario pressed upon me.
I’m good with commitment as I’m sure most other nonmonogamous individuals are. I’m better with compromise.
Non-monogamy does not equate to being disloyal or unfaithful
The first time I revealed to a partner that I was non-monogamous and we decided to move forward, it felt really liberating up until the point when he discovered that I was actually talking to someone else. I’d never seen anyone look more depressed in my life. Then came the whole, “You’re not who I thought you were speech.”
I really liked him, a lot and things were going well. I almost took responsibility for this once again as I cried alone in my bed that night because he refused to sleep next to me (punishment, I suppose), until I remembered that I had told him everything. There was no dishonesty. There was no disloyalty. There was no unfaithfulness. Then I grew angry, distant, and then I just told him it wasn’t going to work out.
Non-monogamy is not about disloyalty or being unfaithful.
“A lot of people describe having sex with only one person as ‘being faithful’.
It seems to me that faithfulness has very little to do with who you have sex with.
Faithfulness is about honoring your commitments and respecting your friends and lovers, about caring for their well-being as well as your own.”
― Dossie Easton, The Ethical Slut: A Guide to Infinite Sexual Possibilities
We can be present for our partner, for everything and still be with someone else, too. This for me is loyalty.
It’s not about loving one more than another. It’s not about preferring someone else to another. It’s not about choosing a side but rather about loving infinitely. It’s not about having your cake and eating it, too.
When it comes to relationships, I encourage my friends to create their own commitments and don’t just adopt the popular ones. Because what’s popular isn’t always right and what’s right isn’t always popular. Cheating is all about breaking commitments. Don’t make it a part of your commitment and it won’t be there to break.
I’ll say it again, the hetero-monogamous narrative is not for everyone.
Non-monogamy can and often does include love
After I told my ex that I was in love with someone else, he immediately began questioning himself, what did I do? Am I not good enough? What can I do differently? No matter what I said, I could not convince him that it wasn’t about him. That my desire to seek out another relationship and eventually fall in love was not a fault that needed a fix.
He could not understand how I could be in love with two people at the same time. Surely, there must be one that I prefer? There was not and eventually things ended with both. Eventually. . .
There are different types of non-monogamy and you can learn about Seven types here. My form of choice is polyamory but as I learn more about relationship anarchy, I’m beginning to think this is most like me (which is something I can explain in another post).
My forever bae and I have loved one another for 17 years. We’ve been through a slew of relationships, breakups, marriage, divorce, and six children none of these between the two of us though. In my anger and confusion of accepting myself as non-monogamous, I asked him to never call me again and he didn’t.
Seven years, three kids, a marriage, and a divorce later guess who shows up at my doorstep. I was so excited to see him. I couldn’t stop smiling. After we talked and reminisced for a bit, I told him I was glad to know that he felt the same. And in his infamously corny way, that always seems to make me laugh, he says to me, “Love don’t change (the song by Jeremih).”
He’s right. Love, true and unconditional, does not change. Time, distance, circumstances, life, or death cannot change it. It doesn’t matter how many years pass or how far away they go. Love does not require two people to be together. It doesn’t require a marriage. It doesn’t even matter if the person is dead. These reasons also do not prevent you from discovering new love. You may resist it. You may deny it, but you cannot prevent it. We seem to have the most difficult time accepting that we can all love more than a single person at a time.
Love is infinite. It is not bound by social structure or acceptance. I prefer my non-monogamy with boundless love. Because if not, what’s the point!?
Come on home, my love is
Never gonna run dry, never gonna come up empty
Now until the day I die, unconditionally
You know I’m always gonna be here for ya
No one’s ever gonna love you more than
God, your mama, and me
God, Your Mama, and Me
-Florida Georiga Line
We may decide at any time to no longer practice non-monogamy
Yes, you did see this earlier, “You won’t just wake up one day and suddenly be monogamous.” However, you may wake up one day and decide you no longer want to practice non-monogamy for whatever reason. Trust me when I say, this also happens the other way around. I have gone extended periods of time only being with a single person. Was I suddenly monogamous? No. I simply decided that I only wanted to be with that one person which I may decide again at anytime.
I’ve been asked that if I did decide this and I happened to be in an open relationship, would I require my partner to also practice monogamy. The answer is, not at all. Before you get all in your feelings about it, we do this all the time so it’s not abnormal by any standard. I know bisexual people in monogamous relationships. Does that mean they’re suddenly not bisexual? Ask them and they will tell you no. I know people of organized faith who don’t practice their religion. It doesn’t make them not what they claim to be.
I’ve accepted that non-monogamy is a part of who I am right now. People tend to think that means my bed is never empty, but that isn’t true. Being non-monogamous can be a lonely endeavor. The cultural reputation of non-monogamy has really taken a beating. People tend to believe non-monogamous individuals are promiscuous, that we are afraid of commitment, and a number of other misconceptions. Hopefully, this post sets the record straight on at least a few of those.
“Poly” by Stasia Burrington
A talented and beautiful artist and illustrator out of SeaTac, Washington. Visit Stasia’s Etsy shop to add her art to your collection.