Relationships / Nonmonogamy

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"I am not poly, have always considered myself really monogamous, but I recently find myself SUPER AMAZINGLY TOTALLY attracted to this smart, sexy, thoughtful person who is poly. I’m ultimately looking for someone who wants a long-term, monogamous relationship, but I’m really open to some dating and experimenting and making connections in the short term. If things go the sexy direction, what should I do?"

- Question submitted by Anonymous and answered by Bethany Rutter as a part of Everyone Is Gay: Second Opinions

Bethany Says:

Dear potential poly,

So much of life is engineered to be a miserable, bleak, hard trek, and once in a while we get the chance to sprinkle it with a little bit of joy. Yes, you say that what you’re ‘ultimately’ looking for a long-term, monogamous relationship, but you don’t say that you’re temperamentally unsuited to nonmonogamy. My point is: who cares what you think you want in the end. When you’re given the chance to bring a bit of fun to your life right now, where’s the beef? Most people you encounter possess maybe one or two of ‘smart, sexy, thoughtful’, let alone all three, and you say yourself that you are ‘SUPER AMAZINGLY TOTALLY attracted’ to them!

My point about being temperamentally unsuited is, I think, important: if you had expressed anxiety about nonmonogamy, and if I thought pursuing this person would go against the fundamental basis for your happiness, I wouldn’t be so enthusiastic with my advice.

You know yourself better than anyone else, and you’re probably right about the fact that, long-term, you want to pursue monogamous relationships. With that in mind, though, even you’re saying that you’re ‘really open to dating and experimenting and making connections’ right now! It sounds as if you’re super into this person – for good reason – and you know that exploring this relationship is going to be worth your while. The fact that ‘thoughtful’ was one of the three characteristics you listed is good grounds for this being a person with whom you can have fun and fulfilling encounters of all types.

You don’t need me to tell you to just be mindful and cautious of your own feelings and this person’s. It can be hard to balance the opposing forces of ‘everyone has to start somewhere with nonmonogamy’ and ‘I don’t want to feel like someone’s toy who they can pick up and put down’. Be honest and respectful about the fact you’re not sure if it’s the relationship structure for you long-term, but that you don’t see the point in denying the attraction you feel.

I say this a lot, in a lot of contexts, but I think moving to a less rigid and permanent way of looking at things like relationship types and sexualities could really help people (including you!). If we took a more fluid approach to the movements and changes in state of platonic/romantic/sexual relationships, and more usefully interrogated what we want right now, rather than what we were in the past or what we think we want to be in the future, the time we spend on this mortal coil could pass more pleasantly.

I think what you need is a little push out of the nest. You’ve done most of the work yourself (read your message back again!) and you know what you want. I’m here to tell you that it’s ok to indulge that in a way that’s fun for both of you. Open up conversation with this person about what your reservations are, listen to any of theirs, and see if by the end of it you think you can offer each other something great. It sounds like you can.



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"What is nonmonogamy, and could it help me have better relationships?"

- Question asked by Anonymous and answered by Bethany Rutter as a part of Everyone Is Gay: Second Opinions.

Bethany Says:

Just like how there isn’t only one way to experience sexuality, there isn’t only one way to do relationships. Even though culturally we’re proposed with three options: monogamy, singledom or cheating, I’m here to tell you that there’s more to life than this.

There are lots and lots of ways to organize and categorize your relationships, but if you don’t feel a natural pull towards monogamy, maybe you could consider being nonmonogamous. You might have heard the word ‘polyamory’, which, in my opinion, refers to a structure of relationship. Relationships are polyamorous, people are nonmonogamous.

You can be single and nonmonogamous. Even when I’m not dating anyone, I am still nonmonogamous. It describes me in the same way as ‘queer’. It describes my inclinations and interests, even if it doesn’t always describe what I’m doing in practical terms. Just like I’m still queer even if I’m dating a man, I’m still nonmonogamous even if I have no partners at all. My default state is not monogamous. I am not working towards a point of monogamy when I start a relationship with someone.

If I’m in a relationship with one person, and then I start a relationship with another person simultaneously, then it could be said that I’m polyamorous because I have multiple partners.

To recap: nonmonogamous means you’re not motivated by, or seeking, monogamous relationships. Polyamorous means you’re in multiple relationships simultaneously.

Unfortunately, there are a lot of negative stereotypes surrounding nonmonogamy, and a lot of assumptions about the nature of these relationships and the people who have them. It’s like an expansion of the stereotypes around bisexuality: that nonmonogamous people are greedy, untrustworthy, inconsistent. That it’s a young person’s game. That you’ll ‘make up your mind and settle down eventually.

In actual fact, there’s no reason why nonmonogamous people should conform to any stereotype in particular. The only way to define or characterize a nonmonogamous person is by the fact they choose not to have monogamous relationships.

A useful way to think about it is to ask ourselves why we separate romantic and sexual love from all the other kinds of love we experience in our lifetimes. You have more than one friend, right? And you don’t necessarily do the same stuffwith all your friends. Some friends are better at making you laugh, some friends like going to the cinema with you, some are good at listening to your problems, others you only see once or twice a year but they’re still there for you. Think about what you get out of this multiplicity and diversity of friendships, how much having all these different experiences nourishes and enriches your experience of being here.

Even if it’s important to you to have one Best Friend who should be there on call with unconditional love and support and fun, that doesn’t mean that you don’t also have other friends you hang out with and have fun with in different ways.

Then apply that to romantic and sexual relationships. Films and books have filled us with the supposedly dreamy notion that our ‘one true love’ is not only out there, but fulfils every one of our needs and wants, and if they don’t, then they’re not actually The One for you. But that feels like a lot of pressure to me. I, for one, know that I have a much nicer time when I judge and am judged on what I’m willing and able to bring to a relationship? When you’re not looking for someone to tick every single box, you’re more likely to be able to focus on what their good bits are and the ways in which you work well together, rather than wailing that they don’t love your favorite band or prefer being the big spoon.

For me, that’s what underpins my nonmonogamy. I don’t want anyone to be committing in ways they don’t feel comfortable committing, and I don’t want to make promises I have no intention or ability to keep.

As far as I’ve experienced it, attraction isn’t a switch you flip. When you enter into a new relationship, you don’t flip the switch to the ‘off’ position to ensure you only have eyes for your new person. If that happens of its own accord, then you’re probably naturally monogamous. But if you’ve always got that curiosity, that thirst to get to know other people, to explore your attraction, then that doesn’t make you a bad person. Asserting your needs and boundaries, asking for a style and shape of relationship that suits you and allows you to keep exploring shows you respect yourself and your partner.

No, it’s not like cheating. Cheating is much more common than ethical nonmonogamy, and in a strange way, much more culturally accepted. It doesn’t, however, show you have any particular respect for your own boundaries or your partner’s, and can cause untold levels of pain, hurt and stress. Nonmonogamy isn’t all plain sailing forever, but what relationship is?

Even if you decide monogamy is the style for you, it’s always worth asking if the emotional and practical commitments are suiting you and your partner, and if you both feel like you’re getting what you want and need out of the relationship. Keep checking in with whoever you’re dating, and most importantly with yourself, and ask if things are feeling comfortable for you. Shaping your relationship how you need it to be is a great, liberating act that I can’t recommend enough.


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"The girl I’ve been dating for about a month and a half just told me she’s in a relationship. An open, long distance relationship, but a relationship. Now… I know I should cut her off, but I care about her too much to do so. Am I stupid for continuing to see her? :("

- Question submitted by Anonymous

Dannielle Says:

Here is a life spoiler alert: NO ONE EVER DOES WHAT THEY SHOULD DO. EEVVVAARRRR. We follow our stupid idiot hearts and ignore our brains until we are crying in a puddle and convinced we will never feel love again. So, I will give you advice, but I am doing it knowing FULL-WELL you will probably ignore me bc kisses.

If yo girl being in a relationship with someone else makes you feel shitty, you should stop seeing her. If it makes you feel anxious and taken advantage of, you should stop seeing her. If you constantly feel like you aren’t good enough, and wonder why she doesn’t want to be with just you and it makes you feel uncool and worthless, you should stop seeing her. You should be REALLY HONEST with yourself and your feels because if you try to avoid them, statistics show that they will 100% build and build over time and you will feel EXPONENTIALLY SHITTIER #sciencefacts.

However, there are plenty of working relationships btwn people in similar situations. If you are okay with her being in another relationship and you are completely honest with yourself and your feels, you can maybe make it work.

I don’t have the ability to do that, but I also don’t have the ability to stop making out with someone I want to make out with when I know good-and-well it’s a terrible idea… So, GOOD LUCK TAKING MY ADVICE.

Kristin Says:

Yup yup yup, this is one MILLION percent based on you and what kind of relationship you want. From the tone of your question, it sounds like you are upset. You totally have room for all of those feelings, but it does sound like the girl you’ve been seeing is just being honest with you about her situation, and hoping that you will still be on board.

This is, as Dannielle mentioned, where shit gets TRICKY. You already sound upset, so you have to really sit with those feelings and pull them apart, bit by bit. Make a list if that is something that will help you, and jot down all of the feelings and why you think you are feeling them. Do you feel betrayed? Do you feel confused? Do you feel sad or unsure or angry? Every time you write a feeling, write for as long as you can/need about WHERE that feeling comes from. Sometimes this will just help you vent, but other times it will help you clarify the feelings (“I am angry because she should have told me sooner… but it has only been about a month so I guess it is pretty soon… so I am angry because I just wish this didn’t happen”).

After you do some work on what the feelings truly are, you should talk to your girl. Be as honest with her and with yourself as possible. If you want to try this, absolutely try it… but you have to keep being honest with yourself and with her! If you keep picking fights over who ate the last Twizzler and you KNOW it’s actually you resenting her other relationship, YOU GOTTA BE REAL.

No one wants to deal with fights about Twizzlers that carry the weight of the world. Capeesh?

Be real. Be strong. Be honest.
Good luck.


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"I have an on and off again relationship and right now it’s off … he wants to have sex and I do too but I’m scared he will just leave afterwards …. is it worth being friends with benefits?"

-Question submitted by Hanna

Dannielle Says:

No amount of ‘doing it’ with someone is worth emotional hurts SLASH heart ripping… I hope that makes sense. I know you like him PROBABLY A WHOLE LOT and you enjoy having fun with him A WHOLE LOT, but there comes a point when you have to do what’s best for you.

Right now, you are literally saying to us ‘this already hurts my heart, should i keep doing it?’ AND TO THAT I SAY: no. Do not. It will probably be hard to cut all ties at first, but it will be worth it, you’re putting yourself through a lot right now, and this relationship isn’t fair to you.

It’s one thing to be emotionally ready for a friends with benefit-ship and it’s a totally different thing to NOT be ready but to push yourself into it anyway. It’ll mess with your head, trust me.


Kristin Says:

I SECOND THAT VOTE. No. You should not.

You literally just said “he wants to have sex.” So you KNOW what he wants, and you KNOW what you want, and you KNOOWOWWWWOWOWWWWW that those two wants do not align. Sorry for the scream-wail on the third “know,” I was just feeling dramatic.

I am sure the sex is awesome and I am sure you just want to be able to put your heart aside and have fun and hope that maybe this time something will click in his brain and he will want to be with you and all the problems will vanish in a sea of kisses and naked bodies… but that only happens in movies, you guys.

He is who he is. You are who you are. One night of sex for another several weeks of heartache, generally speaking, ain’t worth it. Bite your lip, invite some friends over, and watch a crappy horror movie with a bowl of popcorn instead of giving into that desire. It’ll only hurt your heartbones in the end.

Also featured in “The Hook-Up” on MTVAct and MTV’s It’s Your Sex Life