Non-Monogamy and Me: A Solo Story
Hi, I’m Maia. And I’m a recovering Serial Monogamist.
For close to two decades I was coupled up in cishet monogamous relationships, cruising the relationship escalator with no thought given to what I could be missing over the sides. Monogamy was just what people did, there were no happily ever afters that included multiple partners.
I’ve been exploring non-monogamy and solo polyamory for about a year and a half now, and I’m still very much figuring out where I fit into the non-monogamy sphere.
Before I go further, a few clarifications that will help to understand wtf I’m talking about.
According to Jessica Fern in polysecure, ethical or consensual non-monogamy (CNM) is the practice of having multiple sexual or romantic partners at the same time where everyone involved is aware of and consents to the relationship being non-monogamous.
CNM is not cheating! Cheating involves deception and lying while CNM encourages open, honest communication.
The word literally means many (poly) loves (amory), where every love involved is aware and consents to the relationship structure. Fern suggests that polyamorous folks tend to focus on the falling in love part of CNM, and having multiple emotionally invested relationships rather than one romantic partner.
To me, polyamory means celebrating love in all of its forms - platonic, romantic, emotional, sexual - and not valuing one (ahem, romantic) over any of the others.
Solo poly emphasizes personal agency and autonomy, with a focus on choosing your relationships and deciding what form each of them takes. It prioritizes your relationship with yourself - yay self-love! - and often exists without traditional relationship escalator milestones of living together, sharing finances or even sexpectations.
Relationship anarchy completely throws away the social hierarchies that place romantic or sexual relationships above all other types. There is no one type of relationship that is superior to another (despite what we’ve been taught), and relationship anarchists don’t reserve romance and intimacy only for those they have sex with.
There are many other non-monogamous relationship styles that tend to be more couple-centric, but these are most relevant here.
Putting Me First
I’m still figuring out where on this spectrum I fit and I’m sure it will shift, as it has to get me where I am today. I know I feel most comfortable somewhere on the spectrum between solo polyamory and relationship anarchy. I don’t want to get married, don’t plan on having children, and will likely live alone until I move in with my bestie when we’re old and grey.
For the first time, the most important relationship in my life is the one I have with myself. I save much of my romantic bandwidth for yours truly and believe emotional and physical intimacy can exist independently.
Sex can easily be separated from romance, we’ve just been taught that it shouldn’t be. Many people don’t want to separate sex and romance, or can’t, and that’s okay. Many people can and do, and that’s okay too.
As a former serial monogamist I always joked that I was “too slutty” when I was single so I’d commit to one person to curb that, because being slutty is bad. Newsflash: it’s not. It’s pretty great.
Sex, Friends & Lovers
The only dating app I’ve tried with much success is Feeld, an app for polyamorous, queer and kinky folks to seek out kin(k)dred spirits. I’ve met some incredible people, talked to many more, and seen a lifetime’s worth of “fit, fun and sexy” cishet couples looking for the elusive unicorn. Yes, I am willing to fulfill this role, and have once so far. I learned a lot that I’ll bring with me to the next experience.
I’m learning it takes some serious self-work and self-reflection to understand what you want and to be able to communicate that to others. That’s an important skill in life period, but especially when practicing CNM.
I fuck up. A lot. It’s how I’ve learned that I get the most upset when I come up against my own boundaries, even if it feels good in the moment. Part of CNM (and monogamy!) is learning where our boundaries are within ourselves and with others - often through trial and error.
I’ve also learned that while I’m willing to be a unicorn, I don’t owe anyone sex, even couples, no matter how much we talk about it beforehand. That discussing everyone’s style of polyamory and any soft or hard limits are essential no matter how many people are involved.
Getting caught up in the moment happens. Platonic hangs can become sexually charged on a dime. When you’re building relationships with multiple people at once and treating yourself as your primary partner, you can still cross boundaries - that’s often how we discover they exist.
My favourite thing about living a non-monogamous/polyamorous/relationship anarchist life is all of the love. I’m building a support network of lovers - people I love - that spans sexual, emotional, intellectual, physical, and platonic intimacy. I don’t feel guilty anymore for being “too much” for a single partner. I value each relationship in my life without placing romantic ones on a pedestal.
How I feel about being non-monogamous evolves monthly, weekly, even daily sometimes. It’s fucking hard. And sometimes I wanna throw in the towel, but it’s also fucking fun and challenging and rewarding and has taught me so much about the kind of person I want to be in the world.
I know I’m going to continue to make mistakes and hurt people and be hurt, because that’s what happens when we share bits of ourselves with others.
But oh, the sharing ;-)