Polyamory: you’re doing it wrong

I have been noticing that some people in my life, who happen to be masculine-type people, are doing polyamory wrong. Could this be you? Read on to make sure you are polyamoring correctly.

  1. If, over the course of a few weeks, you go on dates with a person, have sex with them, have conversations with them, and act like you are really into them, then you are in a relationship. It’s a relationship whether or not anyone explicitly says “Let’s be in a relationship together”. Just like if you mix together eggs and bits of ham and mushrooms and grated cheese in a bowl and then pour the mixture in a pan and fry it, the thing in the pan is an omelette whether or not you say: “I am making an omelette”.
  2. If you are in a relationship with a person you have to:

    • Make time to spend with them regularly.

    • Put time and effort into dealing with any logistical or emotional problems that might come up within the relationship.

    • Prioritize the relationship: spend time on the relationship even if you have other things to do. This often involves using one of those little day-planner books that people carry around.

    If you don’t want to do these things you have to end the relationship.

  3. The correct way to end a relationship with someone is to say: “I don’t want to be in a relationship with you anymore. I understand that this will probably make you feel bad and I’m sorry about that.”
  4. The wrong way to end a relationship with someone is to just stop calling them and ignore their calls, texts and emails. This relationship-ending-method makes life easier for the relationship-ender, since they avoid an awkward conversation, but it makes life much harder for the relationship-endee, who doesn’t know whether their partner wants to end the relationship, or is just busy, or is angry or offended for some reason, or has died in a horrific skiing accident. If you do this to someone, you’re kind of an asshole.

    You can earn extra asshole points if you tell the other person that there never was a relationship in the first place. Even more bonus asshole points if you tell them they are being “unreasonable” or “irrational” when they disagree with you. Super-mega-bonus asshole points if you can get them to actually question their own perceptions and judgement.

  5. Let’s have a little review of the meaning of the word “polyamory”.

    Polyamory (n): Having relationships with more than one partner.

    I get the feeling a lot of people are focusing too much on the “more than one partner” part and not enough on the “relationships” part.

    If you agree to be in a polyamorous relationship with someone, you are agreeing to be in a relationship and do all the relationship maintenance tasks listed in Part 2. This is because “polyamorous relationships” is a subset of “relationships”.

    Here’s a Venn diagram:

    Venn diagram: an outer circle labeled "Relationships" and an inner oval shape labeled "Polyamourous relationships"

    If Person A consents to be in a polyamorous relationship with Person B, Person A has NOT consented to any of the following:

    • Casual sex

    • Being suddenly dropped if Person B’s schedule gets busy or if Person B finds another partner

    • Being told that their emotional wellbeing is not Person B’s responsibility and is not a priority for Person B

    In fact, if you agree to be in a polyamorous relationship, you are specifically agreeing that those things won’t be happening, since all of them represent a failure to carry out the relationship maintenance tasks listed in Part 2.

  6. If you would like to convey to someone that you are interested in being their friend and occasionally having sex with them, without any commitment or responsibilities and while reserving the right to drop them without warning, then DO NOT say “I’m polyamorous”, because that’s not what “polyamorous” means.

    Here are some alternative suggestions:

    • “Lets be friends with benefits.”

    • “Let’s be fuckbuddies.”

    • “I don’t want a relationship but I’d still like to sleep with you.”

  7. Why is it that I am giving you a lecture on how to behave? Is it because I am a mean nasty fun-killing sex-hating moralizing control freak who wants to create some sort of dystopian future where no-one is allowed to have sex outside of the strict rules determined by some sinister all-powerful all-knowing dictatorial feminist hive-mind?

    Actually, no. It’s because behaving like an asshole has negative consequences for the person on the receiving end of the assholish behaviour. Some of the possible consequences are:

    • Sadness and / or rage

    • Lower self-esteem and self-confidence

    • Doubt their own judgement

    • Find it harder to trust people

    • Neglect their own work / studies / activism / projects

  8. Erm, this is where I should put some snappy final statement that kind of ties it all together, but I can’t think of one. Actually I’m kind of exhausted from the effort of holding back all the angry and sarcastic stuff I wanted to add to this piece. What’s that you say? You think it sounds angry and sarcastic already? Oh man, you should have seen the stuff I held back.
  9. Thanks for reading!
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6 Comments on “Polyamory: you’re doing it wrong”

  1. blueanna says:

    Hurrah! This is a truly brilliant article, and the Venn diagram should be required reading for everybody. Thank you for writing this.

  2. Nick Levine says:

    I don’t know whether this’ll be of interest but below is a link to a 1980s article on non-monogamous relationships

    http://www.readings-only-newspaper.org/issue/1984/1984-11-11.txt

    (about half way down – search for Cosmo Girl’s Guide to Non-Monogamy)

  3. […] Polyamory: you’re doing it wrong […]

  4. girlseekskiss says:

    So, SO, SO .. much I like this blog. I have been dating for the last six months (post divorce) and I have found a common thread amongst men: Poly / Open relationships.

    The part of your blog that stuck me the most:
    Actually, no. It’s because behaving like an asshole has negative consequences for the person on the receiving end of the assholish behaviour. Some of the possible consequences are:

    Sadness and / or rage

    Lower self-esteem and self-confidence

    Doubt their own judgement

    Find it harder to trust people

    Neglect their own work / studies / activism / projects


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