get the bbh newsletter
This form does not yet contain any fields.
    search bbh site
    « yvonne fly onakeme etaghene: New art exhibition "TRINITY" | Main | Public Service Announcement: Go learn some shit. (TBG) »

    What Do You Mean, You're Not Monogamous?

    Random fact- I never dated until last year, at 22. It sounds weird because I’d been in relationships before, so I checked in with one of my best friends from college and asked her if I ever dated anyone. Sure you did, she said, you married him. Luls. Dating for the past year has taught me important things about what I need from people I get involved with- my first relationship post-marriage taught me that when things aren’t working, sometimes trying to make it work is a waste of time, especially if you’re not happy. I learnt that wanting to give someone their dream relationship doesn’t work if that’s not your idea of a dream relationship as well, and that adjusting your desires to fit what someone else wants is unfair to both people. Further down the line, I learnt from someone else that compatibility matters...especially when it comes to being monogamous or not.

    I never thought of how I handled relationships in terms of monogamy or nonmonogamy, those specific labels. It didn’t occur to me that there was a term for my preferences, and when it did, I freaked out because I thought- how can someone want to be with me if I can’t give them what makes them happy? Everyone I’d been involved with deeply wanted monogamy, and they seemed to be part of an overwhelming majority. I didn’t want to not be able to give that to them, but eventually I reached a point where I had to put my foot down, throw my hands up and say- I don’t want to be monogamous. Never have. Ever. Ever. Just admitting that was step one, and step two meant that I had to get vocal about it from the jump, so that I wouldn’t end up dating monogamous people and mislead us both about what was possible. 

    Whoo, that led to some interesting conversations that raised my hackles. I’ve heard some blanket statements and generalizations about nonmonogamy that simply did my head in, so I think it’s about time we educate ourselves, open discussions, and learn from each other. Let’s tackle a few issues in bullet point, shall we? I’ll be using the term poly as a blanket term that encompasses polyamory and nonmonogamy because...well, it has only four letters. 

    ● Poly people just want to sleep with a lot of people. You can switch this up with poly people are greedy, poly people just want an excuse to sleep around, et cetera any format where it just gets reduced to sex. People practice many different forms of polyamory and nonmonogamy; sex might be a driving factor in some interactions, but in others, forming a romantic, spiritual or emotional connection is a priority. Generalizations like the above can be inaccurate and hurtful, let’s avoid them.  

    ● Poly people just can’t commit. Oh, this one gets under my skin to no end. Some poly people want commitment, some don’t. Just like human beings in general. But to assume that because one is poly, one is incapable of commitment is...just...wrong. This one usually gets linked to the first one- operating under the premise that it is impossible to commit to a person if you’re busy smanging other people, i.e. commitment always = monogamy. False.  

    ● Isn’t this the same thing as being a cheater? No. Cheating involves deceit and dishonesty, breaking an agreement you’ve made with someone. Being honest about your needs and what kind of relationship structure you can work with is something to be commended. Agreement breaking happens in nonmonogamous relationships too, and it carries as much weight as it would in a monogamous agreement.  

    ● What’s the point of being with someone if you’re going to continue smanging/dating other people? If you don’t want to be with a poly person, it’s simple. Don’t. I’ve had this argument thrown in my face, I’ve had a close friend get furious that I had the nerve to get married while nonmonogamous, even though my partner was well aware. When your commitment to someone looks different from the monogamous standard, it gets challenged and some people refuse to respect it simply because they don’t understand it or it’s something they could never see themselves doing, so they respond with criticism and contempt. your mind. Damn. I don’t go around asking monogamous people to justify their relationship choices or prove their validity to me. On the flip side, some people ask questions like this one in a genuine attempt to understand a relationship structure that differs from theirs #fairenough- as long as it’s clear that even if you still don’t get it post-explanation, that doesn’t mean it’s not valid. Also, poly relationships are so different, that you can’t expect one person to explain all the different permutations- it goes on a case by case basis.  

    ● What if you change your mind and turn out to want a monogamous relationship? #blinks. Then I’ll date monogamously. I’m not seeing a problem here. I think relationship orientation can be fluid, just like sexual orientations can be. Whatever makes one happy, really.  

    ● Did...did you just say relationship orientation?? I believe that for some people, being poly is innate and not a choice, in the same way as some people are just wired to be monogamous and couldn’t ever imagine living any other way. For me, I cannot be monogamous, not right now. If that changes in the future, so be it, but it’s not an option for me at present, which is why I identify as nonmonogamous. Sure, I *could* be in a monogamous relationship...just like I could *technically* be in a straight relationship -_- (I’m gay, by the way.).  

    ● Polyamory/nonmonogamy is just the newest trend. People started saying this about natural hair, did you know? iCant.  

    Feel free to add your own bullet points. 

    There are also a lot of myth that run in the opposite directions, such as claiming that poly relationships are ‘more evolved’ than monogamous ones, or that involve people treating monogamous people with disdain. Prejudice can run both ways in this case. Personally, I believe everyone should just do what makes them happy, but I do resent the fact that so many people treat being poly like it’s ‘less than’ and/or utter bullshit. I’ve had conversations with people who are vocal in their contempt and dismissal of nonmonogamous dating/relationships because they believe monogamy to be the one true way. I know some people tolerate nonmonogamy but secretly turn up their noses at it. I know monogamous people who respect nonmonogamy and simply say- hey, this is not for me but it’s not *less than* what I practice, so power to you. I’m grateful for the latter. 

    So now, I turn it over to you. What are some preconceptions you’ve had about monogamy or nonmonogamy? Have you ever encountered someone who is extremely anti- one or the other? What’s your preferred relationship structure and the challenges you face with it?



    About the author: Born and bred in the south of Nigeria, Akwaeke Z Emezi is an Igbo and Tamil free love advocate, genderqueer Nutri-C addict, and natural hair aficionado. In the space where parathas and palm oil meet, she dances reverence to dope beats and follows the Christ. As a queer bard, blogger and performer, Z infects a message of self-awareness laced thoroughly with love and bravery, believing that only in knowing and accepting oneself utterly can we truly be free. A current Brooklynite, they adore traveling and beautiful people, and are constantly pushing for a life free of fear and full of marvelous. 

    My preferred pronouns are she/he/they. Mix it up. Surprise me. 

    Akwaeke Z Emezi
    Drag King| Bard| Blogger| Milliner

    References (4)

    References allow you to track sources for this article, as well as articles that were written in response to this article.
    • Response
      seo moscow} anywhere
    • Response
      Response: caulk meaning
      bklyn boihood - blog - What Do You Mean, You're Not Monogamous?
    • Response
      Response: mejor tablet
      bklyn boihood - blog - What Do You Mean, You're Not Monogamous?
    • Response
      bklyn boihood - blog - What Do You Mean, You're Not Monogamous?

    Reader Comments (14)

    I can agree with you that poly is not about cheating if complete honesty is involved with every party involved. And I'm very tolerant of different types of sexualities because I believe ones own sexual preference is a trait they are born with.

    However, I cannot believe that poly is an inate trait one is born with. I think it's more of a learned behavior. I think it's possible to love two or more people at once for different reasons, but it seems like a selfish thing to like this one for that reason and another for that reason. It's like your taking advantage of others and picking and choosing.

    Additionally, you say that poly isn't a choice, and yet if you want to be monogomous, you simply make a choice to be. If am gay, and born this way, it's not like I can simply stop being gay just because I wanted to. It's not like switch you can turn on and off as poly seems to be.

    This isn't to say people are not entitled to be poly. I personally think everyone expresses love differently and as long as all parties are all consenting adults who are okay with the relationship, it's a good one. It's not to say it's inferior, I just don't accept it as an ingrained born-this-way behavior. It's clearly a lifestyle where you made a choice to be in such a relationship. You can make the choice to not be as well, it's up to you.

    February 8, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterMs. X

    This is EXACTLY what i've been discovering about myself as of late. I've been having a similar dialogue in my head, and it's really good to see that I'm not crazy in the beginning stages of figuring this all out. I'm still a little nervous about how to tell one of my partners, but I know it's for the best. And if they can't get down with it, then it wasn't meant to be.

    February 8, 2011 | Unregistered Commenterpolycurious

    What a progressive outlook. Very interesting to say the least but it is a FAD and I have been running into this quite of late. Everyone that CLAIMS they are POLY aren't. There are still those that simply want their CAKE and want to eat yours as well. And sadly, it's rather annoying. If those monogamous ladies come your way (must have job, ambition and goals), please point them in my direction because there is still one last remaining woman on earth that just wants to focus on one person COMPLETELY.

    February 8, 2011 | Unregistered Commenterthetruth

    @Ms. X,

    "I think it's possible to love two or more people at once for different reasons, but it seems like a selfish thing to like this one for that reason and another for that reason. It's like your taking advantage of others and picking and choosing." I really don't understand this statement. Could you clarify? I didn't want to respond in case I was misunderstanding what you said.

    "Additionally, you say that poly isn't a choice, and yet if you want to be monogomous, you simply make a choice to be. If am gay, and born this way, it's not like I can simply stop being gay just because I wanted to. It's not like switch you can turn on and off as poly seems to be." That's not what I said. I said, for SOME people, being poly seems not to be a choice. For other people, it might be- I don't know, I'm not one of them. Being nonmonogamous is not really a choice I made, I've always been nonmonogamous, even when I wasn't practicing it. I'm gay, but I could technically be in a straight relationship if I chose to. I would probably be unhappy, and I would still be gay. In the same vein, I'm nonmonogamous, but I could technically be in a monogamous relationship if I chose to. I would probably be unhappy, and I would still be nonmonogamous. I've actually done this more than once. Again, a monogamous person is quite capable of technically being in a nonmonogamous relationship...they would just probably be quite unhappy. And still be monogamous. I don't know if these parallels make sense yet. But it's not a switch I can turn off and on, if it was, I'd be capable of being happy and satisfied in a monogamous relationship- which I'm not.

    Not everyone can choose to be monogamous and happy, just like monogamous people can't always choose to be nonmonogamous and happy. Unless, you also think monogamy is a switch that can be flipped on and off?

    @polycurious, love the handle ;) You're definitely not crazy, and from experience, it's best to be honest with yourself and your partners about what you want, even if you're still in the initial stages of figuring it out. <3

    February 8, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterZ

    @thetruth, do I detect a tinge of sarcasm? Lol. I mean, I don't know which kind of people you've been running into so I can't comment on them, but you did exemplify my first and last bullet points quite well #kanyeshrug Good luck with your search, criteria and all. I do know tons of monogamous people, so you're not alone in your quest.

    February 8, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterZ

    To answer this question: "What if you change your mind and turn out to want a monogamous relationship?" you state "#blinks. Then I’ll date monogamously. I’m not seeing a problem here. I think relationship orientation can be fluid, just like sexual orientations can be. Whatever makes one happy, really."

    You say you cannot be happy in a monoagomous relationship currently but if your relationship status is fluid this means there is a possibility you could change. It's possible you're only poly now because you choose to be, not because you were born this way. You can change your mind if the circumstances were right and quite easily at that. In this way, being poly is like turning a switch on and off. Poly is a choice after experiencing and experimenting with different kinds of relationships. Yet, sexual orientation is not fluid in the same way. It's not easy to change and this change (if possible) cannot come from just a simple change in attitude. Knowing ones' sexual orientation comes about through acceptance of ones self and biological attraction to men, women, or whatever.

    However "relationship preference" is not something you would be conscious of early on and born feeling. You know who your attracted to initially, but how could you possibly understand that one person will not make you happy? Relationships come about through experience and I believe your relationship preference also is discovered through experience. In this way, people may be born to be poly but discover so through trial and error, so they cannot be born knowing they are poly. And even once you are poly it is still trial and error, because something may change in your needs and thus change your view on what relationship works best for you. If relationship preference is fluid, then it is a conscious choice on the basis of experience to be poly or mono.

    February 8, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterMs. X

    I totally agree with all of this. A question, though: if relationship orientation is a thing, what would people who have no preference for poly or mono relationships be?

    Also, to Ms. X, something being fluid or changeable doesn't necessarily mean it's a conscious choice. And it's not true that someone couldn't figure out they're poly without experimenting, or that that would make it a choice. Plenty of queer people figure it out through experimentation. All these arguments could and have been used to argue against the legitimacy of queer orientations, really. (Not that I necessarily think that sexual orientation is particularly biological, always, but whatever.)

    February 8, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterTraduit

    Like arguing about sexual orientation, I find the argument about relationship orientation to be not that interesting and will probably just lead to bad places (usually either 'you can change' or 'you're defective'). I feel like whoever you want to date and however you want to date is your business, and if you're open about it then it's all good.

    That said, just wanna throw my experience in there. I've dated both monogamously and non-monogamously. Honestly, I found that there were pros and cons and I could really go either way. I'm definitely not either 'by nature', but I have dated some folks that I just think could not function or would never be happy in a monogamous relationship. So they're definitely out there.

    When it comes to it "being a fad", I feel like non-monogamies of various kinds have gotten a lot more exposure in recent years, and when folks find out about something, they're gonna want to try it out. Doesn't mean that everyone who tries it out is going to end up being non-monogamous forever, it just means they're exploring their options. Ain't nothin wrong with that.

    Z, more power to ya.

    February 9, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterKat

    @Kat, thanks! :) I definitely agree that people are trying it out, I think that some people are doing it irresponsibly and that's giving it a bit of a bad rep among some people who have experienced or heard horror stories lol.

    @Traduit, good question! Lol. I would just ask them what relationship structure they identify with, if they don't identify with any, then #shrug, I guess they don't identify with any. I'm curious what other relationship structures are out there beyond poly/mono. And thank you for the point about fluidity, that's extremely pertinent.

    @Ms. X, thank you for replying cordially, I've seen a lot of online discussions deteriorate into virtual yelling matches :/ That being said, I disagree with several of your arguments. "Yet, sexual orientation is not fluid in the same way." That's not true, sexual orientation IS fluid for a lot of people, and like Traduit said, fluidity does not equate choice. It's "not easy to change" sexual orientation precisely because it is not a choice, you don't choose who you're attracted to.

    I also never said I was born nonmonogamous- I wasn't born with a relationship or sexual orientation, I don't believe I was born gay either. I think it's a part of my identity that simply grew and developed as I grew and developed to where I am now. So the arguments around being born one way, et cetera, simply make no sense to me.

    "You say you cannot be happy in a monoagomous relationship currently but if your relationship status is fluid this means there is a possibility you could change. It's possible you're only poly now because you choose to be, not because you were born this way. You can change your mind if the circumstances were right and quite easily at that." I take a lot of offense at these statements. I have never said my relationship preference is fluid. I have never been monogamous, I have never wanted to be monogamous, and I don't see myself being monogamous in the future. I said, it CAN BE fluid- it's not for me, and I put in that caveat because like most humans, I'm incapable of predicting the future. A monogamous person could find themselves in a poly relationship, that's no reason for me to invalidate their identity as a monogamous person. And again, fluidity =/= choice. Also, for you to completely disregard my own statements around my identity is quite disrespectful- I clearly said that being nonmonogamous is not a choice for me, it is who I am. So you coming in and telling me I could be wrong about myself and my identity, and going on to tell me I can change my mind under different circumstances without any difficulty is, to be honest, nonsensically offensive. It carries the same respect and tolerance as homophobic claims that queer people can change their minds 'under the right circumstances' and easily, too. It is not your place to police my identity, even if you don't understand it. I also feel like you're making inaccurate assumptions about what I've said, attributing statements to me that I did not make. My words are picked carefully, I'd like them to be read carefully.

    This went longer than intended. I'd prefer us to agree to disagree and call stalemate, rather than continue with insulting presumptions that the ones that have been made, simply so civility can be maintained...#dropsmic

    February 9, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterZ

    Whenever the topic of non-monogamy comes up in a queer context, I'm reminded of Dean Spade's essay "For Lovers and Fighters," with this quotation in particular:

    Sometimes I see it emerging as a new sexual norm, and a basis for judgment and coercion. In some circles I’m in, it has become the only “radical” way to be sexual. Those who partner monogamously, or who just don’t get it on a lot, are judged. I also see, perhaps more frequently, the poly norm causing people to harshly judge themselves when feelings of jealousy come up. Having any feelings at all, and especially admitting them, is so discouraged in our culture. We are encouraged to be alienated from ourselves and others, cure ourselves of bad feelings through medication and “retail therapy,” and made to expect that perfection and total happiness are the norm while anything other than that is some kind of personal failure or chemical imbalance. This results in a lot of repressed feelings.

    I like what he said there because it's uncomfortable truth - the idea that yes, marginalized people do have to contend with being dismissed or vilified by the larger culture, but that those people are not necessarily immune to enacting the same kind of in-group/out-group bullshit themselves. I wish this came up more, because queerness, to me, is a welcome site for gray areas and gradients, for defying fixed definition. Maybe this is just something that has come up in the places that I've read, but it often seems as if there are two camps digging in their heels, and neither the twain shall meet. The way I see it is this: if the rest of our identity markers are rich enough and personally important enough to defy easy definition, why is non-monogamy so often discussed in such a binary way? And, if the mosaic of queerness is meant to have space for people with incredibly variant ways of life, then why are people not working a little harder to check their policing of others within their communities? (I'm thinking of thetruth's comment above - no shade meant, but to me that came off as someone responding to the issue as if it were addressed to them personally, without considering where others are situated.)

    I believe that learning, by trial and error, what happens to satisfy one's soul is a wonderful thing, in whatever form it takes. It's probably a process that many of us take at least partially for granted, given that queerness, as an "othered" identity, compels queer people to think about their needs/desires/etc. more critically than cis straight people. That being said, I would love to hear more critique from within poly communities about non-monogamy. It's not as if polyamory's going anywhere, so I think it's perfectly capable of withstanding genuine examination (as opposed to uninformed anti-poly people providing disparaging commentary because they're personally squicked).

    And scene. ^_^

    February 9, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterJu

    @ju, #slowclap. That was awesome. Thank you so much for the link to the essay- I confess I'm totally one of those people who judging themselves harshly when jealousy comes up. But that's because I have issues with 'power' balances in relationships and jealousy's been conditioned to mean 'I have less power', which freaks me out. #tangent.

    I'm a fan of genuine examination of non-monogamy, I wish there were more conversations amongst interested parties about issues of practicing nonmonogamy that are pertinent to actual practice, not (as you pointed out) issues brought up by people who don't get it and come in with prejudice.

    I also agree that there's a hard divide and people seem reluctant to meet, perhaps this is due to what each has experiences from the other. I can imagine that several poly people turn against monogamous ones because they've been told so often that there's sth wrong with them for being poly, and really, society is set up to accept monogamy while rejecting nonmonogamous structures. On the flip side, I also know monogamous people who are offended by nonmonogamy because they see it as insulting to their personal values, morals and beliefs. They then put themselves on a moral high ground and freely pass judgement on poly folk, widening the divide. There can be such a lack of respect in both cases.


    February 9, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterZ

    I would like apologize if any of my statements came off as offensive, Z. I didn't mean this to be so. I meant only to engage in an arguement of a subject I was trying to understand and comprehend. I never meant to be offensive and do believe people are entitled to live and love how they wish. I concede that my arguement was flawed in that I was going off of the q/a portion of your original post rather than arguing with your original statements of knowing yourself to be non-monogomous. In my defense, the arguement and statements are now very confusing in my mind and hard to continue with the arguement. I also believe it's impossible for me to argue that you cannot be how you believe and feel you are, so I do not argue this.

    Thank you too for responding even though I came across as offensive or ignorant, please know that I do respect you and was not intending to demean you or "change" you. My only intention was to argue and maybe change my own assumptions or yours on the subject, nothing more. I have the deepest respect for your willingness to participate in this arguement and wish you well. Again I apologize once more for anything I did that may offended you. My best wishes.

    February 9, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterMs. X

    @Ms. X, thank you so much for that comment. I apologize if I came off as harsh in any way- I'm used to people turning nasty after a certain point of disagreement, and I steel myself for hostile responses. You proved me wrong, it's humbling. It makes more sense now I know you were going off the general statements and not necessarily making personal references to me. Thanks again, I appreciate it very much and I wish you the best as well. Peace.

    February 10, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterZ

    Well, Poly, Mo or Non-Mo, I choose to reach out to another person why'll in a relationship with a person for over 10 years, I'm not happy in the relationship, but we have 2 beautiful girls together, and despite my attempts to end the relationship prior to getting myself involved with another person that as well is in a relationship with kids. I felt lust, love, and alive. "Mi QUERIDO" I’m going to say is a pro in the cheating game, didn't have any intentions to leave his baby mom. I couldn't let him go.... We continued to call each other and we would see each other, at first once a week , to every other and now 1mnth, 2 mnths go by in a window of a 6 month affair in which he makes sure not to get caught, and we avoid communication after we see each, I just now understand why, to kill the oxytocin high. I felt very good, and high as a kit, amazingly great, but I crashed after 48-72 hrs, I wanted to call him, tell him I loved him, but I didn't. NOW! It’s been 30 dys since we last seen each other, I have him in my thoughts; my subconscious thoughts don't want to let him go.
    He fights me; he rushed me with the honey moon affect in the begging, when we first meet, and said the most beautiful things to me. I’m hurt and anger. I’m our last great sex and lust encounter; I told him “I’m not here to give you a BJ but for you to do me!" I said it out of hurt. After lusty sex and sex talk, that I turn him on, and he wants to feel me all over and man handle me, His last statement was not to appealing, "I should start charging, I have a special price for the ones that keep coming back". I'm more then hurt but disappointed, how do men not have feelings, or a hart?? Is he hurt as well? By me saying “I'm here for sex only"? Well I'm in love with him; I want him and want to have lost of sex with him, or has oxytocin taking over me?


    December 7, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterMarylou Carrea

    PostPost a New Comment

    Enter your information below to add a new comment.

    My response is on my own website »
    Author Email (optional):
    Author URL (optional):
    Some HTML allowed: <a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <code> <em> <i> <strike> <strong>