You can ask yourself if monogamous people can “change” or you can ask yourself why you keep choosing to expect monogamous people will change for you.
You can ask yourself if monogamous people can “change” or you can ask yourself why you keep choosing to expect monogamous people will change for you.
That’s what’s on this week’s episode of Non-Monogamy Help.
What is a monogamous-centric societal value that passed into your practice of non-monogamy?
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I’m in partnership with two people who are monogamous. And one person has been doing some serious work to unpack and unlearn and just like make serious decisions about whether or not we, we can and want to do this, the other person is happy to be with me, but does not, is not really doing some of the emotional work to be in a polyamorous relationship, while they are believing in monogamy as like, the way that life happened.
And while that sounds completely ridiculous, I am so enamoured and fascinated with them, because we share this really big dream building community. And so recently, they’ve shared with me that they’re reinforcing a rule that those spaces that were building and creating are only available to strangers and platonic relationship partners, romantic partners are not allowed. And I was under the impression that this was about our living space, or like a land base that we are living on consistently.
But they outlined to me that this is the entire world. They’re the entire world, all of the things that we ever build. No one who I am romantically interested in is allowed ever in the entire world in any of these spaces. And that feels bad. I wanted to elaborate that it absolutely feels bad. And one of my friends who is also ethically non monogamous believes that it fair to give people time to unlearn and to recognise how they could be being harmful in their long standing beliefs of monogamy.
And I think my question is like, is that real? Like? Do we allow people to unpack and unlearn and move at their own pace? Or do we acknowledge things that could mean that there’s not a future for collaboration and change, and that we just accept that some people are monogamous, and though they might fall in love with or choose to love or stand in love with people who love abundantly, that the construction that monogamy experiences in loving ways, I think that probably feels weird to even say, like that, that’s just a norm that some people are not going to shift even though they may profess to understand that they’re in partnership with people who are polyamorous.
This particular partner is like an isolated genius, and she’s brilliant and has literally no community and is comfortable resorting to community that shares maybe one identity, but that might shine other parts of her identity. I feel like it would be really healthy for her to find community. And if that’s unavailable, I’ve suggested therapy so that she has someone to vent or to talk to, or to just start to unpack and really like, delve into some hard work.
But because she’s so focused on the community building aspect that we’re doing, which does take a lot of time and energy, and money. And literally all of our energetic resources. The mental health care is not a priority. It feels confusing to me, that I see there that she feels in competition with the partner I’ve been with for nearly three years because she thinks that it’s like a sex thing or something other thing, but it’s really about how can we be most healthy together?
There are a few things about your question that I want to challenge you on because I see this perspective quite frequently, and polyamory and non-monogamy. And I think that this perspective, even if it’s not intentionally trying to make monogamous people feel bad, the result is often that monogamous people feel understandably judged by it.
And, you know, I know I feel like that’s not that — again, that’s not the intention, but it is worth really unpacking this. The first thing that I kind of want to challenge you on is that monogamy isn’t a belief. I get really frustrated with polyamorous people who say they don’t believe in monogamy. And I understand that what they mean is that that they don’t believe monogamy “works”. And I think that it’s ironic that a lot of non monogamous people say this, because their judgement of what “works” means it’s very based on monogamous centric culture.
This idea is that because people don’t stay in monogamous relationships until one person in that relationship dies, that those relationships are a failure is a very monogamous centric belief that a lot of people are challenging. Just because a relationship ends doesn’t mean that the people who are in it have failed and this is something that I really agree with Dan Savage on and I think is something that no matter what your relationship structure is, you should really really challenge within yourself the idea that a relationship must last until a person who is in it has died in order for it to be considered a quote unquote success.
People divorcing, people breaking up, and even people committing adultery or cheating on one another isn’t an inherent failure of that relationship, nor does it necessarily need to stand as a representation of whether or not monogamy “works”. So it’s very ironic to me that a lot of polyamorous people and a lot of non-monogamous people have this idea that monogamy doesn’t “work”, that they don’t believe in monogamy, based off of a judgement of what “works” that has been ingrained in them by a monogamous centric culture, which isn’t fair to judge any relationship standard on.
So monogamy in and of itself is purely a choice to have one romantic partner that can be based within certain assumptions that monogamous centric culture encourages people to believe, but it is not necessarily an inherent part of being monogamous. Compare this to gender, okay. Being a woman or identifying as a woman does not necessarily mean that you believe that women are inferior, or all of any other sorts of sexist shitty things that society says that come with the label of woman.
You don’t necessarily believe that women have to wear dresses. Maybe you enjoy being feminine. Maybe you find identity within that, but that doesn’t necessarily mean that you think that everyone should be feminine. I think quite a lot of times people mistake the practice of monogamy with all of the things that society tacks on to monogamy and quite often when they criticise “monogamy”, what they’re criticising are things like that being jealous as a sign that you love someone or all of the other sorts of things that quite a lot of monogamous people are challenging today.
So that is the first thing that I would really challenge you on. It is not an inherent thing that people have to unlearn and people can still prefer monogamy and challenge those monogamous centric beliefs that society has taught them. This sort of perspective that monogamy is some sort of programmed state that people are within culture that it is an inherent ignorance and that one must unlearn and unpack this ignorance and the only logical place for one to end up after unpacking this ignorance is polyamory, or a preference for polyamory is very, very insulting to the intelligence of monogamous people.
It’s very, very crappy to be honest with you. It’s not true. A lot of people can challenge monogamous centric culture and still be monogamous in the same way that people can challenge our hetero centric culture without becoming gay. It’s it’s not something that people are going to shift unnecessarily and monogamy and polyamory I can’t tell you if they’re inherent orientations or not. I don’t know.
Firstly, for me, it feels like I can choose either one. That’s my personal perspective. But for some people, it does feel like it’s an inherent part of them and I’m not going to criticise them on that or challenge them on that. So I really think that this idea that monogamy itself is something that people have to unpack and unlearn. And that the natural result of someone challenging their jealousy or whatnot, is them becoming polyamorous is not true. And it’s something that you really, really should think about.
Wanting to be monogamous to a polyamorous person isn’t a result of a lack of unlearning. There are quite a lot of people who want to date polyamorous people who want to be monogamous and themselves and that’s a preference and it might not be something you can wrap your head around and that’s fine. As an agender person, I don’t wrap my head around having a gender identity, I don’t get it. That doesn’t mean that people who have won are wrong or that they are ignorant or need to unpack their ignorance to reach the state of non-genderness.
So I think that you need to maybe understand that monogamous people are sometimes people that have challenged certain beliefs and maybe they won’t be perfect with all of it. Just like polyamorous people are not perfect. A lot of polyamorous people still have those monogamous centric beliefs that they’ve brought over, and that they still have within polyamory. It’s not this sort of like conversion experience that you seem to kind of think that it is. So it’s a preference that they have and monogamous preferences aren’t inherently harmful.
Monogamous preference aren’t inherently ignorant and monogamous centric culture just as you know, the things that we have been taught about almost everything. Even therapy— like the reason I encourage people to get therapy is because we live in a culture that has for a very long time encouraged people to believe that therapy is bad that telling people especially men, telling people how you feel is not something you should do. That you should be ashamed of your feelings. There’s a lot about our culture that people have to unlearn and there isn’t anything inherent to the practice of monogamy that is harmful in and of itself.
Just like there’s nothing inherent to having a gender identity that is harmful within itself. And a lot of people you know, break down and challenge these assumptions without changing their identities or what they want to do. Monogamy can be and is an abundant love. And I understand again, that you’re probably trying to construct this in in a certain way linguistically. But to construct the idea that polyamory is loving abundantly is sort of conversely, making a judgement about monogamy. And I think it’s very judgmental and unnecessarily so we don’t need to do such a thing.
Now when it comes to this person that you’re dating you know, their decision to not enter into certain communities or wanting to build their own community is understandable, and maybe they don’t want therapy. This is all decisions that they need to make for themselves. And it is odd for someone to decide what sounds like that they want to construct a community which is supposed to somehow encompass the whole world, which seems a little bit odd to me, but maybe there’s something about it I’m not understanding.
And that they don’t want you to bring any of your romantic partners within that and it — within a polyamorous relationship that is a little bit unrealistic. But I do think that for someone who’s grown up in a monogamous centric culture and pretty much wants monogamy that is somewhat understandable, and I understand why you don’t understand that. I think that it’s a request that you could argue is not fair to make, but at the same time, you are also free to say no to that request, and not understanding how to balance one’s feelings of jealousy while dating a polyamorous person isn’t a result of being unenlightened.
And that is something that if someone is wanting to be monogamous to polyamorous person, I do think that there are things that they’re going to have to accept and understand. Because there is a — there is a competition here I understand that you you from your perspective, you might feel like “Oh, there’s no competition”. That’s not how this works. But understand that as abundant as you think your love is and I’m sure it is, but there are only 24 hours in a day on a very basic level.
This people who agree to be in a relationship with you, whether they agree to be monogamous to you or not, they have to understand that they are agreeing to a situation where they will not get 100% of your time. In the same way that they would get more of your time if you were monogamous to them. And that is a difficult thing that a lot of people who are not familiar with polyamory might not really understand that they’re agreeing to that until the kind of fit hits the sham for lack of a better term.
Like they don’t really get it in the same way that some people agree to long distance relationships without understanding how being in a long distance relationship will feel. And then when they’re in that long distance relationship, they try and make it work and it doesn’t work. So I think that the kind of biggest “mistake” or you know, for lack of a better word, it’s something that happens to people who are unfamiliar with polyamory and it’s not because they’re stuck on jealousy or anything like that.
But it’s because they’re used to monogamy and because the monogamy is the relationship model that has been sold to them for whatever reason, they you know— there are people who, if they challenge themselves a little bit and step outside of the box might not want monogamy but for lack of for you know — that is a journey that they have to take themselves. It’s not a journey that that you can take for them.
And if they agree to be monogamous to you they may be monogamous to you in their own practice, but they have to respect the fact and understand the fact that you are not monogamous to them. And I think that this, this request, this idea of like I’m gonna build this community and you’re not allowed to bring your partners into it is a little bit unrealistic. And it’s sort of analogous to the idea of like, if you were monogamous being like, “You can’t bring anyone you’ve ever had a crush on or bring anyone who you’ve ever dated before”.
And some communities that would actually be really easy because people don’t necessarily like they don’t necessarily talk that much to their exes or things like that. But in some communities where people don’t really talk to their exes, or see their exes, this isn’t necessarily an unreasonable thing. So I think that this request is something that is kind of like the idea of not being friends with your exes anymore. For some people, this would not be a difficult thing because they don’t really have that.
For other people, especially in LGBTQ communities, in smaller communities, and the polyamory community tends to be quite small in a lot of places. It’s not really realistic to say, “Oh, you can’t be friends with your ex” or “you can’t ever talk to your ex” because usually your ex is like at all the events etc, and so forth. And that may not be something that this person really understands. And I think that it’s worth remembering, though that yes, because this person is monogamous. They may not necessarily be familiar with that sort of idea of confronting the fact that their partner is with somebody else, but also that their fear and that is kind of rooted in truth.
She is in competition with the other people that you’re dating because you only have 24 hours in your day, and you can’t give all of your time to her, no matter how abundant again, that you think your love is, and I’m sure it is. I’m not judging you. But you are— she is in competition with those other people in one way or another and they feel like she is and that is a very valid feeling. So it does make sense that she maybe what she is requesting instead of it seeming like “Oh, you can’t bring any of your partners in here”. Maybe what she wants is is to have the community that you create together, to be free to be something that’s just for you too.
And I think that sometimes things like that even even amongst people who are polyamorous sometimes things like that can help when people feel like there is no relationship escalator — and if you’ve not if you’re not familiar with that concept, I definitely recommend you look it up. When you don’t have these milestones within a relationship where, “Okay, we’ve been together. We move in together. We get a dog together”. Things like that, that make you feel more secure within one another. Sometimes a lot of polyamorous people will do something like “Oh, I’ll only go to two theme parks with you”.
Or only do this thing with you or Friday night is our date night. Some people create some type of thing that’s just for them both. Because that can kind of make them feel a little bit more secure. Perhaps this is kind of where she’s coming from. It’s less of trying to control you and more like “I want to create this community with you and I would like that just to be for us to I don’t want there to be complications in it. I want to enjoy this community space without having to worry about being reminded of the fact that I don’t have all of your time and there might be some part of this”.
That’s denial. There might be some aspect of this that is denial, which does happen a lot of times for people who choose to be monogamous to a polyamorous person. It’s a little bit out of sight out of mind, a little bit Don’t Ask Don’t Tell in some instances because if they don’t have to see your other partners, then they can kind of believe within their brain that you’re monogamous to them.
The biggest question here for me though, is that despite all of the work that you’re doing towards yourself towards health, why are you consistently choosing people who tell you that they are monogamous and that they want monogamy and you’re basically still choosing that situation? You’re choosing a situation where you know somebody isn’t familiar with polyamory. You’re choosing a situation where like you think you can change people.
You can help them unpack all of this, you can help them awaken themselves to this new life. And that is something that you might want to explore. Why do you choose to be in relationships with people who want monogamy? What is it about that, that attracts you? And what it is? What is it that makes you not walk away? And I know that you said like this person is very interesting to you. You’re very enamoured by them. I totally understand that.
But there has to be something within yourself that goes “I am polyamorous. This person is monogamous. We don’t want the same things. We are incompatible even if we seem compatible, and I’m going to walk away because I know that I will eventually be more hurt by this even if I’m not hurt now”. There’s not something in your brain that’s doing that. I feel like there’s something in your brain that’s going maybe even more interested in people that you think you can change. And that might be something that you might want to think about.
Because that’s kind of the bigger question here. It’s not “Will monogamous people ever change”? But why do you continue to choose people who have to change in the first place? And that’s something that you might need to work on a little bit. Because there isn’t a point really, in some ways in choosing someone who has a very different idea of a relationship, because at some point, there is going to be a shit hits the fan moment where the rubber is going to meet the road and it’s not going to work.
In the same exact way of somebody who really wants kids choosing people who say they don’t want kids. There is a fundamental difference here in how you choose to live your life and you were deciding, you know, these people are telling you they’re monogamous. It’s not a secret and you’re deciding to stay anyway. And that is something that needs to be unpacked a little bit more. Maybe there isn’t necessarily this idea that the monogamous people you’re dating need to change. Maybe you need to change who you decide to stay with.
And even if you’re attracted to somebody, maybe you need more control within yourself to step away from a relationship you know, that won’t serve you. Even if you’re attracted to somebody because you know, that in the long term you will you will be hurt. And there is kind of a tendency in some people to choose relationships that they know won’t work, because in some ways that means that they avoid intimacy. It is an avoidance of intimacy in some instances, and it’s also somewhat comforting to them as odd as that seems.
Sometimes choosing a relationship you know, won’t work. It is somewhat comforting and maybe you feel comforted by the fact that you’re polyamorous and this person’s monogamous. And you’ve constructed this sort of perspective that you know more than them you are more somewhat more enlightened to them. They’re the ones that need to unpack their shit. They’re the ones that need to work themselves out. And not you and maybe you feel comfortable in that. Maybe that’s more comfortable for you than dating someone who is polyamorous and knows it.
And then you know, who knows what’s gonna happen then? Maybe that feels if you’re constructing monogamy as this belief that needs to be challenged and work through. Maybe it’s actually more comforting for you to be the one who has already worked through that than if you were dating someone who is polyamorous and maybe they’re in a higher echelon of having broken down all of their monogamy feelings, and now you’re the one who needs to work on yourself. So that might be something that you want to think about.
Why do you choose these relationships? Why are you choosing to be with monogamous people? When you know that you will face these challenges? Is it part of an avoidance of intimacy? Is it part of an avoidance of, you know, wanting to have a little bit more power in the way that you the way that you perceive monogamy? So yeah, to sum up, I do think that you need to challenge some of your perspectives on monogamy. And the way that you’re constructing this, I don’t think you’re intending it to sound judgmental or you’re intending to judge, but the way that you’re constructing this is kind of is — how do I how do I make a comparison?
The way that you are constructing this almost feels a little bit like almost a little bit religious in a way. Almost a little bit fundamentalist in a way. And the idea that there are people who haven’t yet worked through haven’t yet accepted the Savior haven’t yet. You know, we’re all you know, all of us are sinners, but some people are more sinners than others and some people have to work through and I know that this isn’t what you mean. But when you construct the belief this way, it is. It isn’t a kind of a membership, and a kind of, “I’ve become a better member than you” and that will set you up for failure actually.
Because again, like you’re assuming that monogamy is a an inherently harmful thing and inherently ignorant choice and that you’re creating this binary of the Enlightened versus the unenlightened. And that is always going to be more harmful for you in the long run. Because you will always then have this anxiety about being the unenlightened and so I think that’s worth thinking about. I do think that the requests that your partner has makes sense, is kind of unrealistic in some aspects, but it really depends on the context that they’re putting across this request.
For some people, this would not be a problem. For other people, it would, it’s okay. If it’s a problem for you, you can walk away from this request. You don’t have to honour it. And it doesn’t have to be necessarily that they need to work on themselves. If this is a request that they have, then it might be something that someone else could honour. So that’s where thinking about and it may not come from a place of wanting to control you.
It may come from a place of wanting to have something between you that is just yours, which is something that even people who are polyamorous do tend to sometimes want within relationships as a way to make up for the lack of the relationship escalator. And last but not least, the biggest question here really is to examine why it is that you continuously choose monogamous people, and what that might mean for you and what that might say about your own fears and your own assumptions within relationships. So yeah, I hope that helps and good luck.