Most of my friends identify as monogamous. They are lovely and caring and only want to see me happy! I am delighted to have them ask me questions about ethical non-monogamy, open relationships, and polyamory.
Every now and again during the course of these discussions, someone will say something to me that I’m sure feels benign or even complimentary to them, when really it’s offensive or harmful to me or the people I love.
So if someone you care about is polyamorous, or you find yourself in the casual company of a poly person, here are 7 things to avoid saying so that you stay awesome and everyone wins!
1. So who has sex with whom?
I think people ask this question out of a genuine curiosity. It’s probably natural to wonder how this whole exotic polyamory thing plays out when the lights go off! I know people assume I have sexual relationships with people in my polycule that I do not, and I don’t care. But the deal is, that is nobody’s business but mine and the people I’m in relationships with – both sexual and non.
Plus, poly ain’t all about the sex! We do lots of stuff. With clothes on.
Mind your own beeswax!
2. You’re better looking than her other partner.
This is probably the most harmful of the bunch. This statement is just the easiest example I could think of, but I want to call out all comparative statements. What’s so crazy is that they come from a place of good intention; our society has us conditioned to compete for affection so people will attempt to be supportive by telling poly people they’re winning some imaginary contest.
But healthy poly doesn’t function like that.
I don’t care if my boyfriend’s wife is prettier than me or a better cook than me or has won more Olympic medals than I have! This is not a competition. I know my partners are with me NOT because I’m better than their other partners, but because I am my own awesome individual self.
AND – they won’t be seeking other partners because I’m not enough. They’ll fall in love with other awesome individual people for reasons that have nothing to do with me.
3. How can he do that to him?
This statement refers to the idea that if someone has more than one partner, the partner that is longer term has “given permission to cheat” for lack of a better analogy.
It fails to give us credit for the ethical aspect of what we do. Abuses can happen in all relationship structures, but to assume poly is inherently abusive is insulting. Believe it or not, we have in-depth conversations about this stuff. You don’t get to successfully polyamorate (please appreciate my verb) without communicating.
What if I were to tell you I think it’s incredibly selfish of your partner to expect you to only ever love them? To rob you of the opportunity to connect with others like I do? You’d probably think I was a dick and didn’t understand your relationship.
4. I just don’t see that working out long term.
Thanks? I mean, I know you care about my long term happiness and all, but in case you haven’t been paying attention… a lot of relationships don’t work out long term, and most of them are monogamous.
5. That problem you’re having is because you’re poly.
A close cousin to #4, this comment cracks me up because no one ever points to monogamy when those relationships are struggling.
I am so tempted to flip the script sometimes and just offer up MoreThanTwo.com as a solution for all mono relationship issues – because if poly is always the issue in mine, it stands to reason that mono is always the issue in yours.
I won’t do that, of course, but I’m going to need people to stop blaming polyamory itself for all issues in polyamorous relationships.
6. Don’t you secretly wish she’d leave her for you?
No. I don’t wish any of my partners would leave their other ones “for me” because that’s selfish and ugly and awful and please don’t ever ask me that again because it makes me feel like I haven’t slept in six years.
You know what? It makes me disgustingly happy to see my partners enjoying their other relationships. I root for their exciting adventures as pairs, their hot sex lives, their futures together… I get a stupid smile on my face when they kiss or snuggle or say wonderful things about each other.
And do you know why? Because I love them. Because their happiness meets a need for me. The very last thing on earth I would want is for them to have their heart broken in a break-up. If I wanted that, I wouldn’t deserve them.
I’m poly, not a home wrecker. Poly is pretty much the opposite of that.
7. I could never be a side piece.
Oh. TWINSIES!!! I could never be that either! High five!
But I get this from people who see me as the equivalent of a part-time relationship. I gotta tell ya though, I am a whole person and as such, my relationships are whole also. Read: full time.
You know what is also true? There are plenty of poly people out there for whom a less-than-full-time relationship is wonderful and amazing and meets their needs perfectly. Saying you could never do what I do or what they do is kinda judgey. It may be totes true, but saying it to a poly person is unnecessary.
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So look, I’m not one of those poly assholes who thinks my relationships are some evolved form of love that trumps monogamy. I don’t see any relationship structure as superior to another, but I do know what works for me.
I get excited about answering questions, dispelling myths, and talking about how happy I am with all of it.
I only want people whose relationship structures are supported and encouraged by the majority of society to pause before commenting on ones that aren’t. Because that’s just how to be a good human!