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Tuesday, December 28, 2010

Caution, possible potholes ahead!

One of my beliefs about polyamory is that trying to convert a monogamous person to polyamory is a big no-no. That isn't to say I don't believe monogamy is a viable relationship model. I even know of poly folks who have multiple partners, one of which is monogamous, something I tried once but didn't work. In my life I've even had a few monogamous relationships though I have never tried to convert anyone.

Recently I met someone who was monogamous and knew very little about polyamory. We talked about polyamory and I made it clear that although we seemed to have a good emotional connection, because she was monogamous I was only interested in a friendship. For a day or two I didn't talk to her which I didn't think was unusual since I often don't talk to my friends for a few days. When she reached out to talk to me again she asked me something that threw me for a bit of a loop. She said, "I don't understand why you will only allow a friendship with me. As you have explained to me, your version of Polyamory is based on the concept that there is the possibility of a relationship with anyone. We seem to have an emotional and physical connection yet you refuse to discuss the potential of us having a relationship because I have traditionally been monogamous and don't identify as polyamorous."

After thinking about this for a while I realized she had a very valid point. To deny the possibility of a relationship with her simply because of her monogamous past seemed to contradict my poly beliefs. I had to take a step back and think about my beliefs a bit. Excluding her from the picture, I had to examine why I avoided relationships with monogamous people. In the past I've avoided them because to me trying to incorporate a monogamous person into my poly lifestyle is a minefield. In my experience, the relationships I've had with monogamous folks tend to involve a lot more jealousy and end with a lot of disappointment for everyone. Sometimes the monogamous person enters the relationship with the hope of "converting" the poly person back to monogamy. And again, the relationships end badly. The bottom line; they just aren't worth the trouble. But is that a fair assessment? If my poly beliefs are that a relationship is possible with anyone, and each relationship I have is defined only by the needs of those in the relationship, should that exclude those who prefer monogamy?

My feeling right now is that I was being somewhat unfair, both to her and to my beliefs. I wasn't honoring either of them. The result, which I often enjoy, was a paradigm shift. I began to believe that although I may have concerns, which are most probably valid, if those concerns were addressed the possibility of a relationship should be allowed. What has followed since has been a lot of conversation about polyamory and our desires in a relationship. Many of my concerns have been addressed while others, although acknowledged, are unable to be answered at this time. (Really, who can predict exactly what a relationship will look like after it is created, or if it will be durable?). The result is that we are now progressing with the possibility of having a romantic relationship. Conversations are continuing and we are making plans to see each other again in the context of a date.

What are your thoughts on all of this? Do you avoid dating people who identify as monogamous? Do you make exceptions? If you typically avoid dating monogamous people, what will make you take a chance? Is avoiding monogamous people consistent with your poly beliefs?


  1. You might be making a mistake with saying she has a "monogamous past" when that's probably who she is. But I'm really curious about both sides of this question. Can a mono and a poly have a relationship with without either one pressing for "conversion"? Probably comes down whether a mono can without being "converted". I hope so: I've got a really huge crush riding on it.

  2. Thursday,

    Actually, I used "monogamous past" specifically because the woman said she had been traditionally monogamous, didn't identify currently as polyamorous, and in fact didn't know what to label herself at the moment as her relationship beliefs were in flux. Any other label on my part would have been a guess.

    I think a poly-mono relationship is possible because I know of a couple of Vee configurations where one leg of the Vee is a monogamous person. It seems rare but works in the cases I've seen because the poly person and the mono person accept each other as they are and don't try to convert each other. The other piece is that the mono people seem to apply the "monogamous" label only to themselves, rather than to their relationship. i.e. I'm monogamous, my relationship and my partner are not.

    Best of luck with your crush and thanks for the comment!