If you’re not sure if you’re really non-monogamous or not, how do you label yourself on dating sites to make sure you’re not doing something wrong?

That’s what’s on this week’s episode of Non-Monogamy Help.

Discussion Topic:

What belief were you raised with that has caused the biggest impact on your relationships?

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Non-Monogamy Help

Non-Monogamy Help is a relationship advice podcast for people in non-monogamous or polyamorous relationships. With the help of a therapist with over a decade of experience, your host Lola Phoenix, answers the questions your questions about rules, hierarchies, unicorns and more.

 

This episode is sponsored by BetterHelp. Use my affiliate link for 10% off your first month.

Thank you to Chris Albery-Jones at albery-jones.com for the theme music and a big thanks for the podcast art to Dom Duong at domduong.com.

Podcast transcript

Recently I have made the realization that I very well may be non-monogamous. And it’s scaring me (this is how I found you). I only have a tangential relationship with this as well as other non-monogamous relationships (poly[am], thrupples etc). As in, I only know other people and other couples who do this and I’ve never attempted it myself.

I have been “single” for almost a decade but have had long lasting what I used to call “FWB”. But that is a poor reflection of how I feel about them. One of those long-term friends with benefits started a monogamous relationship with a man recently and the other one got married. So during the pandemic and now I have been very much alone.

I decided that the beginning of this year that it was time to start “dating”. I was raised by my grandparents (I’m 32) And with a traditional nuclear family belief that one day I will find that special someone and be committed completely to her (I’m a straight [cis] male).

But recently the few dates I’ve been on in the more I think about it the more I get terrified at the idea of being just committed to one person and having to throw away the relationships I have with the other people. So I guess my question is Is it possible to be non-monogamous without realizing it?

And how would you recommend in 2022 a 32-year-old man with very little experience would start to explore this? I only at this point use the online apps Hinge and Tinder.

But do I openly advertise that I am or that I’m experimenting? Do I tell people on dates? I feel so lost and confused and so many of my friends who are incredibly supportive are not in the position to give me a lot of advice.

Response:

It’s completely possible to be non-monogamous without really realizing it. There are totally people who feel like non-monogamy is an inherent part of their identity (or polyamory is rather). I think the thing that concerns me about your question is it’s not as if you feel yourself naturally gravitating towards having multiple relationships or maybe not— you know, wanting to only have a romantic connection with one person. 

It’s kind of the fear that you’re talking about. You know, you’re afraid of losing some of the other relationships that you have or you’re afraid of being restricted. And that makes sense. But I also kind of think that not everything is so cut in stone. The monogamy that perhaps you were raised with and I feel like you mentioned that for a specific reason. 

The monogamy that is kind of encouraged by the same people who kind of endorse nuclear family structures can be really restrictive even for monogamous people. And I feel like not everything has to be so cut in stone and binary and strict in terms of how we identify things. Some people are swingers. Some people are monogamish.

I feel like you’ve had some experience with those types of relationships. And maybe your friends are in more of a position to offer you advice than you think in terms of letting you know what their relationship structure is like and you thinking about it. I think you need to kind of ask yourself what it is that you actually want. Instead of focusing on what it is that you’re afraid of or trying to prevent. 

Because I think that being worried about losing other relationships and assuming that non-monogamy is always going to guarantee that is not really the case. Because there’s all sorts of different ways you can practice non-monogamy and there’s all sorts of different situations that you might find yourself in. And there isn’t necessarily a guarantee that being non-monogamous is going to mean that you know, you’ll be able to pick and choose whatever relationships you have in your life. 

There might be extenuating circumstances that you run across. Plenty of times in my columns, I get people who are solo polyamorous for example, who practice a very parallel form of non-monogamy and they meet someone that they’re super interested in and that person has agreed to boundaries or rules or things that are dictated by another partner. And the person who is solo polyamorous feels like someone else is dictating their relationship. 

And that sucks, but there’s all sorts of different things that have an impact on our relationships. And picking non-monogamy out of fear isn’t something that I think that anyone should really do. It should be something that you’re doing because there’s something that you want, not something that you’re trying to prevent. And one of the biggest things that I tell people who are in a monogamous relationship who open their relationship is that they shouldn’t choose non-monogamy in order to prevent a breakup, because that isn’t necessarily a good idea. 

There’s all sorts of reasons why people might break up that have nothing to do with non-monogamy or generally speaking, when people do that they’re trying to save a type of relationship that no longer exists. So I think you need to approach this less of what you’re trying to prevent, and more about what you actually want. I also think you need to kind of avoid labelling yourself at the moment and just see how dating goes. I think you’re kind of expecting way too much out of yourself right now to know exactly what you want. 

And I think like in the beginning of my book when I talk about anchors and finding your ideal — there’s lots of different examples I give of boundaries people might have, or things that they might want out of relationships, like do they want to live with their partner? Do they want to buy property with their partner if that’s an option even for them? Do they want to have children? Are they willing to take care of children from another partner’s previous relationship? 

So all sorts of different things can help you figure out what you want. But I think that there is some aspect sometimes of non-monogamy that is and can be very relational. I’m kind of in that situation myself where I’m more like polyam ambiguous. Like, I am not fully sold on, you know, any particular way of going about things. And I could end up in a polyamorous relationship. I could end up in a monogamous relationship at this point. I don’t really know. It’ll depend. I know that I value my freedom. 

I know that I probably wouldn’t want to be in a monogamous relationship that’s a very stereotypical one where basically I would have to pretend to be only ever interested in my partner etc. and so forth. So it just depends and I’m not personally like labelling myself on dating sites as polyamorous because that’s not the only people that I’m interested in. If you feel like you’re definitely not interested in monogamy right now, then I would put that on your profile because then that sets the expectation for the other person. 

And then if somebody is interested in you, but you know and you say, “I don’t know is that I’m interested in monogamy” then at least they have a heads up so they’re not disappointed. But I don’t think that you need to, like fully label yourself and put everything on every dating site, have what you want it because it seems like you don’t necessarily fully know right now. And that’s okay. I think a big part of your stress is expecting you to have all the answers. 

And you may not have all the answers right now you may still be exploring how you feel. And that’s okay to do. So I think just put that you have an interest in polyamory on your profiles and look for polyamory meet-ups. That might be a lot easier than finding people on dating sites. And talk with people and get to know things and allow yourself to be a little bit lost, because you don’t necessarily have to have all the answers right now.

You don’t have to decide what it is that you fully want right now. And you could be someone who is okay with non-monogamy and has an interest in it but doesn’t necessarily have to be. So it just depends on what it is that you want. I think I would do a little bit of mental exploration of what your ideal is. If you want to get my book. It’s at Non-MonogamyHelp.com/book and go through some of the exercises about finding your ideal and that might help you figure out like the physical aspects of the type of life that you want to lead. 

But you may also not fully have a strong opinion about that right now. Like even myself right now, I’m enjoying living in a certain way, but I could see myself living in other ways. Like it’s kind of a little bit open. So sometimes things are not fully decided yet. So don’t put so much pressure on yourself to have all of the answers for everything right now. So yeah, to sum up, I think that it’s very possible to be non-monogamous inherently. If that’s, you know— I’m not one to question that if that’s how people feel. I’m not that way. 

Personally, I don’t feel like non-monogamy is an inherent part of how I need to do relationships. But other people are different. There’s billions of people on the planet. So of course there are more than likely some people who feel like this is the natural state of where they find their affections going. I think that I would re-examine your fear and the assumptions you’re making about non-monogamy in terms of it preventing that fear. 

Think about what it is that you want. What reasons do you have for choosing non-monogamy that aren’t trying to prevent something from happening? And accept that maybe you’re a little bit— not lost, but you’re not for sure where exactly you’re going. You don’t have to necessarily be— I mean, I really don’t want to— do I want to do Lord of the Rings quote? But like not all those who wander are lost, like… you don’t have to know exactly what you want right now. That’s okay. 

And just accept that maybe you’re a little bit like seeing what happens, seeing where life takes you. And that’s okay, it doesn’t have to be all decided in stone right now. Try to avoid labelling yourself at the moment, but just put something in your profile that you have an interest in non-monogamy or polyamory. 

Go to some polyamory events and meet-ups and see who you meet and see who you talk to. Talk to your friends or anyone that you know that is in a non-monogamous setup. about their relationship and how they manage things and what their setup is and if they want to talk to you and think about it and how it applies to yourself. 

And don’t worry so much about not having all the answers you don’t need to. So yeah, I hope that helps and good luck.