Question of the Week: December 5th, 2017.

Are you monogamous, polyamorous, nonmonogamous, polyfidelitous, or something else or in between? 

My first experience with polyamory was on AVEN almost ten years ago. I was dating an allosexual person and I remember a fellow ace on the forums told me that meant I had to be polyamorous or I was being unfair to my partner. The “had to be” really bothered me. If that conversation happened today I would recognize that this complete stranger was making a ton of normative assumptions about my partner and I’s boundaries, needs, and communication. How could I simply become polyamorous? Maybe they meant nonmonogamous, but still. Why did this stranger assume my partner wanted to be polyamorous or nonmonogamous? I’d never actively thought about monogamy or polyamory before, but suddenly I constructed a defensive identity around being monogamous. It was a sad small hurt identity that was content to huddle in my own corner and just be left alone by a bigger world I didn’t learn about. I didn’t even consciously think about this identity; it just was.

When I started informing myself about BDSM I was re-introduced to polyamory. There are many monogamous kinksters, but there are also many openly polyamorous, nonmonogamous, and polyfidelitous ones. I didn’t see any “had tos” and over time my defences slowly lowered. I learned about the very large world of dating and/or being with more than one person in consensual and respectful ways. I wish I had found that world sooner and not been defensive for so long.

About Talia

Talia is an asexual, nonbinary, vegan-feminist that drinks a lot of coffee and stays up very late playing Blizzard video games and writing fiction. They are working on a PhD in Environmental Studies where they think a lot about oppression as intersectional and impacting identities differentially. Talia has a particular fondness for asexuality, fandom, and Critical Animal Studies. Their personal blog is
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26 Responses to Question of the Week: December 5th, 2017.

  1. Sara K. says:

    I am None of the Above.

    I’ve never had a sexual or romantic or queerplatonic relationship ever, so I don’t even know what it would mean for me to be ‘monogamous’ or ‘polyamorous’ or even ‘nonmonogamous’. Thus, I don’t identify with any of these words.

  2. thebri says:

    Monogamous. My partner (he’s allo and I’m ace) and I are celebrating 5 years in January (this might be important- I didn’t know asexuality was a thing until about 2 years into our sexually-active relationship, which was… complicated. We are still sexually active but to a much more infrequent degree) . I’ve definitely had the guilt pangs of “I should let him sleep with other people” even though neither of us would like that… yet of course I’m still having those hella normative “he needs sex constantly” thoughts even though they aren’t substantiated by reality or what he has communicated to me. We have an incredibly loving relationship and with communication we both make sure that the other always has what they need. It’s taken us a while to get to a really truly comfortable place, but we did it, and I’m incredibly grateful for that.

  3. Rivers says:

    Coming from a rather conservative background, I didn’t really think about this kind of thing until I saw it mentioned in the ace community when I started following blogs and stuff. When I was nine, I decided I wanted to be single for life (still a very thrilling prospect), but as I’ve learned about and engaged in queerplatonic relationships, the thought of having that in the long run is also desirable.

    Though if I do get into a more long-term queerplatonic relationship, that leaves me with the question of what kind of relationship I would want/be willing to get into. Am I monogamous? Polyamorous? Nonmonogamous? Something else?

    I know I can and would be willing to be in a monogamous, polyamorous, or nonmonogamous relationship. I just don’t really have a preference. Or a strong desire for one over the other. It would probably depend on the relationship.

    Is there even a word for people who don’t have a preference? Could go for either? Probably. I can’t seem to find it though.

  4. Cracticus says:

    Monogamous I guess. I’m open to poly but unsure if I want multiple partners myself. I’ve been with my allo boyfriend for two years and have told him he can seek out other people if he wants to since we don’t have sex, but he’s declined my offer.
    I can definitely sympathise with being on the wrong end of the normative assumptions people on AVEN have about allos. I was a few months into my relationship when I was coming to understand I was grey-A (and not demi) and also sex repulsed. I spent a lot of time on AVEN trying to resolve my questioning and found there was an abundance of people expressing views that relationships with allos that did not involve either sex or non-monogamy are doomed to fail (or worse lead to assault). This made me uncomfortable and for a while unnecessarily insecure about my relationship.

  5. luvtheheaven says:

    I’ve never heard of “polyfidelitous” really… I mean probably I’ve heard of it but never properly looked into it. Could someone link me to a resource the recommend/trust on the definition of that and how it’s different from polyamorous?

    I identify as on the aromantic spectrum, completely asexual, and part of why I think I’m so panromantic in terms of the gender of the partner I’d choose (open to all possibilities) and also part of why I don’t feel particularly monogamous (pretty open to giving some kind of poly relationship structure a shot) is because of how aro I am. I’m not nonamorous, but I am aro. So the typical framework doesn’t really make sense to me. I think I figured out that for a lot of people, kissing vs not kissing is a delineation of romantic vs. nonromantic even if you take sex out of the picture, and also monogamy is a pretty intrinsic part of romantic relationships for such a huge number of folks. Yes polyamory is a growing awesome movement/identity/choice etc but. I really think not wanting sex, not wanting kissing, plus not caring much about monogamy is perhaps enough to fully make me aromantic spectrum. It feels like maybe it is.

    So I don’t really identify as monogamous or polyamorous. I identify as too aro for these categories to really be meaningful, probably. However I lean a little towards poly. A queerplatonic triad raising kids would be my dream. 😛 Or a queerplatonic arrangement where my queerplatonic partner had another non-parent partner (romantic, sexual, whatever works for them) would be fine with me, and maybe even I could have another partner too. Etc etc.

    In practice… I’ve only ever done monogamy though.

    • Sara K. says:

      To quote the glossary of the book Stepping Off the Relationship Escalator by Amy Gahran:

      “Polyfidelity. A relationship network which includes more than two partners, who all mutually agree to share sex (and possibly romance or other emotional bonding) only within that closed group. These partners may or may not all be intimately involved with each other. Usually, a new partner can join an existing polyfidelitous network only with the agreement of all existing partners.”

      My understanding is that polyfidelity is (usually) a subset of polyamory.

    • astarlia says:

      polyfidelity is basically just ‘we only date people within our closed group, aren’t open to dating other people’ so like a triad that aren’t dating anyone other than each other.

      Some great books for anyone wanting to know more about nonmonogamy are ‘opening up’ and ‘more than two’

      • Sara K. says:

        I would add the caveat that More than Two describes demisexuality inaccurately, and is generally not great at describing asexuality (I admit that I haven’t read the book – I only used the index to find every instance the book mentions asexuality).

      • luvtheheaven says:

        I like the thought of this simpler definition from astarlia because it makes the roots of the word make sense in my head and why we need a new word and what specifically it’s referring to. Monogamy is about exclusively committing to one person and Fidelity is a general word for this kind of “Faithfulness” without using the prefix mono, so it makes sense to me I guess that you’re still just as “exclusive” about whatever you decide at the time as a monogamous couple, you just have more people in the closed group, and emphasizing that instead of emphasizing the multiple people or instead of emphasizing the love.

        • Siggy says:

          Polyamory is the newer term. Polyfidelity was coined earlier in the ~70s by the Kerista commune. When people joined the commune, they would be part of a “best-friend identity cluster” which had a rotating sleeping schedule to ensure that all partners would have an equal opportunity to develop intimacy. I know someone who was in the Kerista commune…

          I think polyfidelity describes a broader set of practices than the ones adopted by Kerista, but it’s still relatively narrow compared to polyamory.

    • Talia says:

      Since other people have already shared lovely resources I’ll add my personal distinction is polyamory is usually “open” whereas polyfidelity is “closed” (in regards to the dating pool is open to hypothetically anyone or closed and limited to people in the group). In polyamory you can date multiple people and they will usually not be involved with the other people you date. In polyfidelity everyone is closely involved with everyone else in some way. The triad you mentioned is an example of polyfidelity.

      I really like to distinguish between them because some people wouldn’t be interested in open polyamory but might love polyfidelity and most of the resources out there are geared towards the former.

  6. Coyote says:

    What does poly or mono mean for a quoiro ace with no past or present involvement in romantic or sexual relationships? I know what this question is asking, and yet I don’t really know how to envision an answer for myself without some prerequisite experience…

    • Talia says:

      For me it’s more about intention and interest. Like I know I’m romantically interested in cis girls even if I haven’t had one as a girlfriend. Or maybe for you you need the experience to know?

      • Coyote says:

        I can get that it can be that way for other people who know themselves — it makes sense. But I can’t seem to get my brain around something that seems so abstractly hypothetical. Part of it is… I know the standard “ace dates non-ace who dates another non-ace to do the sex with” setup just sounds anxiety-inducing, but when contrasted with, say, “ace-ace-ace triad,” for instance, I really don’t know how I would feel about that. But also it just seems so improbable anyway, y’know? It’s unlikely I’ll ever match up with anyone, much less TWO people at once, thanks to the old #Queenie’sPuddleProblem.

        • Rivers says:

          It is highly hypothetical and abstract when you don’t really have experience or a direct desire for it. If it is something you experience or want, it can be a way to describe yourself to other people. However, if it isn’t a useful way to help describe yourself/your preferences to other people, don’t sweat about it. It simply isn’t something you should worry about if it doesn’t apply to you. And it’s perfectly okay if it doesn’t apply to you.

  7. astarlia says:

    I actually exclaimed out loud when i read ‘you have to be poly’ omg.

    I like to describe myself as polyadjacent. I paid bond pretty hard. I like to have a significant person that is my person. But also… that person isn’t necessarily more important than other people? We are both emotionally close and physically affectionate with other people. I’d never want to be in a relationship where there are weird ‘this is the line at which what you are doing is crossing over from a Friend thing to a Partner thing’ is something I have to be really aware of, because…. no? That line isn’t really there for me. There are sensual things I’ll only do with partner, and I def only want one partner and to be their only partner, but that wider sense of ‘friends are just as important as relationship’ is really important to me, and I find people who are at least polyaware tend to get that more.

    Relationship anarchy is another term I quite like – can be used to mean exteme things but the basic premise is ‘friends aren’t more important than partners, only make up rules that work for your relationships – not bc society tells you that’s how things should be’

  8. Pingback: Unpacking Some of the Extreme Distress I Experienced Last Week – From Fandom to Family: Sharing my many thoughts

  9. Elizabeth says:

    I’m poly, and I honestly don’t really get monogamy, and never have. After having a bad experience with it, I decided I didn’t want to date anyone who would not be okay with me potentially dating someone else if the opportunity (and desire for it) ever came along for me. So far it never has. I am so extremely rarely interested in dating anyone at all that in the 9 years I’ve been with my partner, I’ve never actually dated anyone else. Or maybe I shouldn’t say never? But never intentionally. There were some awkward situations that could have been perceived by the other person as a date, though I meant to hang out as friends. So it’s mostly theoretical, and even though I consider having just ONE partner-type relationship to be a privilege I’m lucky to have, I like the idea that, should I ever encounter a person I have a mutual interest in, it’s okay (and encouraged!) for me to pursue that. I may not be too likely to get into any romantic relationships (or anything resembling that), but it doesn’t matter, because with romantic relationships already okay, I won’t have to dissect the relationship to figure out whether it counts as “romantic” or not. It can just be what it is, and I won’t have to worry that it’s against the rules.

    However, my partner has dated many other people. I won’t say this is uncomplicated, but most of the time her other partners (or just casual dates more often than not) haven’t caused any problems, except for the few that started getting abusive.

    Btw… Since you mention having had a bad introduction to polyamory, I will say that, totally aside from the way there is pressure to be poly in the ace community, I think that introductory materials on polyamory are… just really inadequate in general. I read this article recently that does a good job of addressing a lot of the things they don’t do a good job with. I tend to not engage much with poly communities or read a whole lot about poly stuff because of those sorts of issues.

    • Sara K. says:

      Thanks for the link – that’s a good essay. For what it’s worth, I think Stepping Off the Relationship Escalator is an introduction to polyamory (though it’s not just about polyamory) which avoids some of those problems. In particular, Stepping Off the Relationship Escalator makes it very clear that monogamy works very well for some people, featuring stories from some happy monogamous people, and that even escalator relationships work very well for many people. It also contains some discussion about how conventional norms can sneak into an unconventional relationship (which is not necessarily bad) and what kinds of rules/agreements/etc. are likely to work or backfire. IIRC, it does NOT contain discussion of learning how to ask others for what one needs in the relationship, or that it’s okay to be unhappy with a nonmonogamous relationship (though there are some stories from people who are unhappy with their nonmonogamous relationship).

      • Elizabeth says:

        Ah yes, I’ve been meaning to read that one. I’ve heard a lot of good things about it!

        I keep vacillating about whether I want to write a post about some of the hard times I have gone through in poly relationships. It’s difficult to talk about, but also important, especially since people may be using what they know of *my* relationship with C (specifically!) as a model for how to conduct an allo/ace relationship. I guess I just don’t know how to approach it without hurting anyone, including ex-metamors. Hmm…

  10. I’d say I fall somewhere in the “none of the above”/”I don’t know” territory. Given my extremely limited experience with romantic attraction–which I found pretty overwhelming–I suspect I’d be more likely to be monogamous if that were involved, but multiple QPRs seem a lot more manageable. Then again, I’m no longer set on the idea of even having any partnered relationships. Sure, it’d be nice, but it comes with a lot of complications and seems unlikely to happen for me in the long term. As long as I’ve got some good friends (and some pets to cuddle), I’ll be alright.

  11. Rachel says:

    Non-amorous. I’m single and am probably gonna stay that way.

    I struggle with aligning myself with monogamy vs. polyamory. On the one hand, as an aro ace, the terms and structure of monogamy kind of don’t work. How is one well and truly monogamous if your feelings for your SO are not qualitatively different from your feelings for anyone else? The only reasonable way I can conceive monogamy vs polyamory as an aro ace is with an investiture rather than emotion-based model.
    I’d probably be fine with poly in a vacuum, but I’m majorly turned off by the way that the poly community tends to market itself. The way polyamory is marketed to aces as a borderline mandatory model so that their allo partners can get laid has really soured me.

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