Non-monogamy makes dating harder for men!
Let me reiterate that: no, it doesn’t.
This is directed squarely at the largely cishet men so many of us have come across complaining about how non-monogamy makes dating more difficult for men. And, to a lesser extent, their well-intentioned partners trying to help (e.g. posting in ENM groups to “promote” their man <cringe>) since they’re “such a great guy!”
Stop it. Please. Non-monogamy does not make dating harder for men. At most? Non-monogamy makes dating trickier in general. Something about reducing the dating pool down to maybe 5-10% of the population has a tendency to do that. But hey . . . it must be so much harder for men! And unfairly so! Or not.
We men are what makes it harder for us. Directly or indirectly, we have been that problematic dude. We’ve stood by while our friends show up as that problematic dude. I’ve been there. It starts with us and we need to be the frontline in unfucking it.
But more than anything: non-monogamy takes dating culture and turns it on its head. It strips away the systemic elements that benefit men in a patriarchal society. It empowers the individuals in the relationship, creating a more even playing field. All this as the world itself churns along progressing in these realms as well. This means if you want to have an easier time dating, you’re going to need to become a better version of you. It’s going to take work. Uncomfortable work. Emotional maturity, vulnerability, pushing back against cultural norms, discomfort and more.
Unfortunately, the culture most of us were raised in left us ill-prepared to navigate the complexities of non-monogamous relationships. Lucky for us we all have the ability and access to tools to change that. From learning how to properly communicate and honoring the F-Word feelings to learning how to handle complex emotions such as jealousy. For instance, feeling possessiveness of sexual and/or romantic partners tends to be a common part of gender socialization for hetero-normative men. Needless to say, when your partner(s) are dating multiple people, possessiveness will go over about as well as a fart in church.
This part is going to be largely anecdotal, but I’ve heard it reiterated by enough others to lend credence to it. My experience with women has been nearly identical every time. From close friends to acquaintances to women I’ve dated. Each of them have echoed each other without a single deviation: the effort from most men is so low. And they’re not only talking about the effort many men put into their dates, but the effort they put into bettering themselves. Ask around; I bet you’ll get pretty similar responses.
So how do we begin to unfuck what’s holding us back?
Let’s use the example of one of the most common cliché questions we all get? “What do you like to do for fun?” Share openly! Big and small. Cool and nerdy. I can easily provide a list of probably two dozen things I like doing just off the top of my head, several of which I’m really into! Be enthusiastic about it. To quote my partner Rusty, “If you don’t find yourself interesting, I won’t either.” Not everyone will find you interesting, but if you engage with folks as an authentic version of yourself, you’ll be interesting to the right people.
Then we get to the toxic end of things. Below is just a short list of some of the more common problematic approaches we as men tend to take in relationships, not necessarily exclusive to ENM:
-One Penis Policies (OPPs)
-lack of emotional vulnerability/awareness
-expecting our romantic partner(s) to be our sole source of emotional labor and expecting them to do much of it for us
-wanting to be involved in their partner’s relationships like it’s some kind of a spectator sport (extra common when it’s a same gender relationship)
I’m not saying it’s only men who do these things, but it’s far more prevalent with us. I could write a blog on each of these, but for the sake of brevity: if you find yourself doing any of these things, sit with them and figure out why. And then fix it. And if you’re unsure of how to fix it? Reach out to a non-mono community, ask your guy friends who appear to have it figured out, see a non-mono friendly therapist! Leverage the tools around you so you can do this work. And no, your partner is not one of those tools. At least they shouldn’t be your primary tool.
The issue us men seem to wrestle with the most is honoring the autonomy of our partner(s), and by extension, their agency. In a lot of ways this ties back to some of the aforementioned toxic behaviors; many of those will drive you to limit your partner’s autonomy/agency. But we also limit our own autonomy and agency out of fear. Fear of being judged, fear of losing existing partners, fear of the unknown. It takes a lot of courage to let go of this need to control others, but doing so is a critical step towards not allowing others to control you. I promise you’ll be a far more appealing prospective partner if you don’t have to run everything by an existing one.
If you do your work beforehand, the version of you showing up will be better for it.
So if you find yourself struggling with dating while non-monogamous? Look in the mirror. Seek what makes you uncomfortable and ask yourself why. Sit with it and delve deeper to see if there’s more to it. And most importantly, find ways to address your feelings of discomfort without transferring the burden of that responsibility onto your partner(s). It’s something we all need to do from time to time. We are all beautifully flawed works in progress.