“You’re non-monogamous, I thought you’d be COOL.”

I am doing this thing right now where I try to replace scorn with empathy. It’s both really challenging and sort of a relief at the same time. For me, scorn is more cutting than irritation and less productive than outrage. Scorn is a fleeting feeling of “Oh I am so much better than this person (thank god)”. Scorn is like a little pressure valve that releases built up guilt, because the things I feel scorn about in others are things I know I am guilty of myself.

For the last two days, I’ve had a tab open in my browser, unable to tell if what I am feeling is scorn or outrage. It’s an entry in a tumblr by a Toronto comic named Christina Walkinshaw. She is going on 50 first dates with dudes she is meeting on Tinder, which I’ve heard described as “Grindr for straight people”.

She recently went on a date with a guy is  in an open relationship. My reaction to reading the blog post for the first time was big time scorn. I didn’t like that she used the phrase “bing bang” to refer to genitalia, I didn’t like all of her crummy assumptions about non-monogamy, I didn’t like the way she treated the dude she went on a date with.

An excerpt:

I’m not really sure how I feel about open relationships… Sure it’s better than cheating, but if you want check out other people’s bing bangs, why not just be single? I’m confused. You “commit” just in case it’s love?

Reading this, I am trying really hard to remember what the worst most embarrassing thing was that I ever said about non-monogamy, before I’d realized it was the best fit for me, personally. I have no doubt that it was at best insensitive and at worst really dismissive. So even though she has decided non-monogamy is all about just wanting to sleep with a lot of people, I am trying to ease off on the scorn here and have more empathy. (Except for the fact that she seems determined to make “bing bang” happen, for which I have no forgiveness in my heart.)

But then there is this:

It’s 9:20pm. It’s time for me to make my move…

“Can I get the bill?”

My date looks confused.

“You have to go?”

“Yeah, sorry. I actually double booked Tinder dates for tonight. I was going to cancel the other date, but then I thought since you’re in an open relationship, you’d totally understand. If the girl you love and live with is allowed to sleep with other guys, surely a girl you’ve only known for two hours can run off to another man too, right?”

OH SNAP! (It’s 2013. I probably shouldn’t be using that expression anymore.) Just giving the doctor a little taste of his own medicine. Don’t hate the player. Hate the game.

He’s a little shocked, but how can he argue with me? He’s just spent two hours talking about how great open relationships are. He’s been a facking inspiration!

I guess this is where I veer more into outrage. Because it just seems so punitive, you know? It reads to me like she is going out of her way to treat him like he doesn’t have feelings, specifically because she thinks the way he does relationships is stupid.

There was a guy I went on a couple of dates with last summer. Five minutes after the first (SPOILER ALERT: and last) time we slept together, he grabbed his cell and started flipping through it, showing me the girls who were messaging him on various dating sites. It kind of hurt my feelings, not because I was trying to spin a mystical fantasy world where he would only have eyes for me, but because it just seemed super inconsiderate for him to be on his cell phone ignoring me to browse for his next date. I said something along the lines of “Uh, should I go? I feel weird.” He got visibly exasperated, and said “God, you’re non-monogamous. I thought you’d be cool.”

Even that guy, clueless though he was, wasn’t trying to hurt my feelings. I mean, I want to stress that I think it is completely fine to not want to go on a date with a person because they are in a relationship. But then just don’t go, you know? Don’t go, and then blast them and roll your eyes at them on the internet. That just seems super mean.

Let’s make this outrage productive. How could things have gone better for everyone?

Maybe she would have felt differently if he’d told her before they made plans that he had a live-in partner? That’s on him a bit for sure. It’s tricky, asking someone on a date when you are already seeing someone. What if you meet someone and they are cute and you smooch a little and they ask if you wanna hang out sometime? Do you tell them right away if you are already seeing someone, or does that presume they are invested enough to need to know all that? I mean, people don’t presume that they are being monogamous with someone from the first date forward, do they? That’d be something you’d wanna have a conversation about.

Those aren’t even rhetorical questions. I know this stuff is so tricky. This is why I only date people I already know, or meet through OkCupid (where I can be set as “available” rather than “single”). Any advice on how to best handle that is welcome in the comments.

Nearly a year ago, I sat in Dovercourt Park and ate Bakerbots ice cream with a charming freelance journalist named Chris. He hadn’t ever dated someone in an open relationship, but I think he was so relieved that I wasn’t vegan or something that he was up for the hanging out anyway. I’m really glad he took the chance on doing something unfamiliar, and that he didn’t just do it so he would have a weird story to tell the internet later. It was a great time that led to lots more great times, which led to a great relationship anchored by laughing and smooching and helping each other out when we’re struggling.

Chris says he finds being non-monogamous completely rewarding. He likes that we are always honest with each other and he doesn’t have to try to read my mind. He likes being close friends with Jairus, and how fun and supportive our whole crew is. He likes that he and I invent meals together while heckling the CBC. He likes that none of that means he can’t make out with women at parties.

Hearing about those make outs is a) hot and b) exciting, because I know that Chris wants to meet another stellar gal and raise children with her some day. I love thinking about this. He is such a loving, brilliant, and reliable person that he’ll be a fantastic husband and father. But of course in order to make that happen, he has to go on dates … presumably while still dating me! Reading Walkinshaw’s blog makes me worry about women going on dates with him and then being mean, rather than giving the whole thing a chance. Please don’t do that? To anyone?

As Chris explained to his parents (they love me, by the way): “It’s weird for about five minutes, and then it’s just life.”

Me and Chris and Jairus and Jairus's famous sister Eternia

Me and Chris and Jairus and Jairus’s famous sister Eternia

41 thoughts on ““You’re non-monogamous, I thought you’d be COOL.”

  1. This is great, Audra – it brings up a lot of issues I’d never really thought about as at this point I’m a serial monogamist. Also about dumb stuff I’ve thought and possibly (cringe) said out loud about polyamory (sp?).

  2. “Reading this, I am trying really hard to remember what the worst most embarrassing thing was that I ever said about non-monogamy, before I’d realized it was the best fit for me, personally. I have no doubt that it was at best insensitive and at worst really dismissive.”

    I nominate “I don’t [believe in monogamy], except apparently when it comes to you.”

    But it’s quite likely that you were otherwise relatively polite on the topic around me.

  3. I’ve sorta-kinda-maybe-i-guess-not-that-we’ve-said-anything-about-what-we’re-doing-either-way had a couple “date-y things” with this guy who is non-monogamous – and the few people I’ve mentioned this to fortunately don’t think anything weird of it at all. Plus, dude also grew up similarly Catholic so he wasn’t really the horndog-around type anyway. (In fact, the only beef I have with the guy is that this is long distance on top of it and dude is AWFUL at staying in contact….)

    Not sure what this says, except maybe that I’ve picked really good friends.

  4. I am of several minds regarding the topic of non-monogamy. I believe that my scatter-shot view stems from my one long-term interaction with someone who’s polyamorous; I admired his willingness to be open about it, but he was a massive, MASSIVE asshole. I believe he still is, actually. He is dating my BFF, and after six months of interacting with them I had to cut him out of my life.

    I imagine not all poly people would swear rigorously in front of my children and describe graphic sexual positions in front of my BFF’s conservative Mormon parents. But because that guy is the only one I’ve known and because that Being Poly seems to be his only interest, it has admittedly colored my view on non-monogamy.

        • I just think that a partner’s parents are not authority figures in adulthood.

          This guy may well be a jerk, but sexual positions and swearing are WAY LESS harmful to children and way less rude to others than being Mormon.

          Like, I get that he offended them, but it was from a starting position of them thinking they are loved by God and going to heaven and no one else is.

          • I dont’ think this is about “harm” to children, I think it’s about respect. I may hate my partners’ parents but I am still polite to them out of respect to my partners. Being intentionally confrontational *is* going to blowback on my partner and it’s inconsiderate of me to generate that kind of static for them just because I think I’m cooler than their family.

            If the family behaviour is something I really cannot tolerate I just won’t be around them. I won’t go to their house and then be a dick to them.

    • Also, ugh, I didn’t think about how my comment came off. I am extremely open to all kinds of lifestyles and know lots of great people (and douchebags) who adhere to all sorts of creeds. But I am desirous to get the bad taste of my mouth from this guy, and I want to know decent non-monogamous people that I can replace my yucky experiences with.

      • Unfortunately there is no orientation that is immune from douchebags.

        (I’m poly and I like to *think* that my family and I are good people. But I’ve dated a few nightmares as well.)

    • Monogamous people can be dickwads too. That person’s bad behaviour has nothing at all to do with his relationship leanings, and all to do with him being a dick. Basing your opinion of poly people on him would be like basing your opinion of women on The Black Widow.

  5. I agree! I was a dick on that date. If someone’s happy with they’re lifestyle, I should be happy for them, and not try to challenge that. I love being single, and the opportunities it brings to make new connections with people. Perhaps I thought he just didn’t belong on our playing field.

    • (It’s me! Walkinshaw!) We actually had a great date! As you see in my next blog, I show remorse for my behaviour.

          • Also, talking about open relationships is so touchy. If I had shown I was super into them, some other mean person like you would have attacked me on taking another view. You just can’t win on the internet…

          • I think most of the criticism is not that you’re not into non-monogamy (because who cares?), it’s that you knew he wasn’t monogamous and you still went on the date, apparently just to get in that weird dig about your second date.

            (Okay, and your interpretation of why non-monogamy is dumb isn’t great either, so certainly it’s hard not to want to explain to you.)

            If you’d said “Open relationships are super cool, I’m into this!” then you might get some asshole remarks about how you suck for that. True! But the other direction just made you into the remark-maker. I’m not seeing a great argument there.

        • I clearly don’t have thick enough skin for this. I’m so sorry you think I’m an awful person. You don’t even know me… This depresses me way too much…

          • I don’t think you are an awful person! I think you behaved poorly on this date, and then you said you expressed remorse in your next blog and I didn’t see it. I don’t have a lot of patience for “I was drunk” as an excuse for thoughtlessness.

  6. I think Walkinshaw’s nastiness and assumptions about non-monogamy primarily say a lot about her, personally. Secondarily, I think they reflect some messed up societal ideas about relationships, sex, and whatnot that are magnified by her personal nastiness.

    Let’s face it, whether you’re getting it on with someone or not, it’s just plain rude to make a date with them and spend your time with them looking for something else to do. It doesn’t matter the person, and it doesn’t matter the occasion. Similarly, it’s just plain rude to tell someone you’re cutting a planned time together short so that you can go spend time with someone else, especially if time limits weren’t part of the original plan. (It’s totally okay, I think, to tell a friend “I’d love to get together for coffee with you, but I promised so-and-so I’d meet them at 4:00–can we get together at 2:30 so we have time to chat before I run off?” That way, you’re being up-front, and everyone’s expectations are clear.)

    Secondly, it’s telling to me that for her, relationships are all about whom you have sex with. I mean, I like sex. I like having sex with my sexy people. But for me, a romantic relationship is about commitment and the amount of emotional space someone takes in my life and I take in theirs. Part of the reason I’m non-monogamous is that there have always been people in my life who were of paramount yes-I-will-always-make-time-for-you, part-of-my-indefinite-future importance, whether or not we were having sexytimes, whether or not we had sexyfeelings. It’s super easy to have sex without commitment. It’s actually harder to have commitment without (at least the potential for) sex. And having those commitments lead to all sorts of difficulties in my monogamous relationships, because my partners expected that they’d always come first because we were having sex.

    I think a lot of people think non-monogamy is about having sex with a lot of people, because in our society, sex is the thing that differentiates (albeit imperfectly) committed relationships from casual ones. And sex outside the monogamous relationship is the thing that often signals the end of the relationship. Extra-monogamous sex is often cast as wanting to be about getting it on with someone new. So I guess for people used to thinking about things that way, non-monogamy must just be about sex.

    So for me, I’m not non-monogamous because I fear commitment. I’m non-monogamous because I adore commitment. I love it so much that I make a lot of commitments! To my friends! To my lovers! To my lovers’ lovers (sometimes!). I’ve just decided that sex and commitment aren’t the same thing.

    So I think Ms. Walkinshaw has internalized a view by which romantic relationships are about whom you’re allowed to have sex with. If no romantic relationship, then sex with whomever you fancy who also fancies sex with you. If romantic relationship, then sex with romantic partner. If non-monogamy, then you must be looking to have sex with everyone PLUS your romantic partner.

    It also seems that she’s got some baggage around what gives you the license to treat people badly. She, it seems, would be hurt if her partner slept with another person. So the guy she’s dating must be hurting his partner, so it must be okay for her to behave hurtfully towards him.

    That messed up in all kinds of ways.

    It’s really sad that some people (not just Ms. Walkinshaw. I’m also thinking about those horrible people in that horrible reality show we watched), basically see intimacy and dating as ways to treat people meanly.

    • I know! I was a dick!
      -signed, Christina. (I don’t know why I have a weird akismet code for a name. Clearly I have a lot to learn about everything…)

    • You’re mean too. Everybody is mean on the internet. I get it. We all need to “agree to disagree.”

        • You keep saying that you were a dick and that you feel bad about it. So out of curiosity, what have you done to make up for the actions that you now admit were “dick”? Have you contacted your date to apologize?

      • Yep. I’m mean. Just ask my kid.

        Except that trick never works. The time I said something about being the meanest parent ever, he totally contradicted me! “No you’re not!” He said, “You’re a nice parent!” Then we had this weird conversation in which I tried to convince him that I was mean for not letting him stay up late or do whatever thing I was not letting him do, and he reasoned with me that I was supposed to not let him do those things because I’m a grownup, and I’m really nice.

        Nobody can deflate on hyperbole like an earnest 9-year-old, I tell you.

        Anyway, I’d probably feel sorry for being mean to you, if I could discern the barest hint of cruelty in my comment above. Okay, I actually attribute “nastiness” to you. But you, yourself, say that you behaved like a “dick,” so I guess maybe I wasn’t mean, so much as accurate.

        You know what would have been cool? If, instead of just dramatically self-flagellating and calling yourself a “dick” all over the place, then calling other people mean, you’d engaged with my comments (or the comments of anyone else here) like a grownup, point-by-point. If you’d maybe discussed why you felt like disapproving of or not getting someone’s relationship structure made it okay to be rude to them. Or why you don’t think that, but behaved as though you did. If you’d talked about how you see love and commitment, and why you find it weird to be open to being committed to more that one person at a time, but not to go on a date with a different person practically every night (I don’t think there’s anything wrong with dating a different person every night, incidentally! Except it’s tiring, but that’s your lookout. If that’s what floats your boat, and the people you’re dating know what it’s all about, go! Date! Blog about your dates! If you needed my blessing (why you would is beyond me), you have it!).

        That would have been cool. That would have been interesting! We could have had a conversation!

        But you responded to Audra’s post by calling her “mean” (seriously? Is that what passes for dialectic for you? “You’re mean!”? What are we five?). You responded to my comment by saying “Yes, I was a dick,” as though that had anything to do with my comment (hint: it didn’t.), then said that I was mean (okay, in what regard? Or is it just that I said that you behaved nastily?), then spouted some irrelevant platitude about agreeing to disagree, as if we had engaged in any sort of argument. (We didn’t. Nothing you said counts as argument. Flailing and self-flagellating, maybe. Not arguing.)

        My dear Ms. Walkinshaw, you have provoked discussion. That means that you have succeeded on the Internet. You are provocative. People engage with you. It’s a considerable pity that you don’t seem to be able to engage with them, respond constructively or even relevantly to their points, or even see where they’re discussing how your behaviour connects to anything outside your shallow little dating game. What a sad waste.

        Now, you see that last paragraph? That was kinda mean.

  7. Chris is charming indeed. As one of his best friends, it was “weird for 5 minutes” until I saw how happy he was, and how wonderful you are!

  8. Jennie was nothing but a gentle, wise, and clarifying teacher of emotional truth.
    Audra, thank you for this article and this necessary analysis. Everyone needs to take responsibility in their contribution to EVERYONE’S pain, and the poisonous patterns we may be perpetuating upon other innocent people.
    It’s just insensitive to say “well, you’re non-monogamous, so I should be able to FLAGRANTLY display an interest in other potential lovers directly in your face, just because I have an extra few minutes with you…”

    akismet-458121c84793bc7c041ba28429463077 wrote: “If the girl you love and live with is allowed to sleep with other guys, surely a girl you’ve only known for two hours can run off to another man too, right?” And I felt this: “Well, it’s unfortunate that you decided to amputate your first date without any graceful social anaesthesia or compassion… and it would suck for HIM if he was gaining feelings for you (Christina), parallel to the fact that he lives with and loves another woman, because you were insecure about yourself because he has another lover’s -consent- to be on this date with you. Christina, what if your own unfounded jealousy tried to cripple a possibly mind-opening, heart-expanding, totally new and mature type of relationship for you, him, and his lover?”

    Another thing that ETHICAL POLYAMORISTS DO, is have complete and total respect for everyone else’s time and schedule.
    I would never sabotage a perfectly pleasant connection and commitment with someone because they were dating someone else. That’s just self-destructive to one’s own heart and happiness.

    I hope that guy gets some sort of healing appreciation, respect, apology, or the honor of sacred relationship cherishing his 100% honesty. And I hope Christina akismet-458121c84793bc7c041ba28429463077’s ego can humble itself, and try to open it’s mind to learn about what HEALTHY open relationships are about, and what the beautiful freedom and joy that loving polyamory is genuinely about.

    thank you Audra. much love to everyone, may your hearts bask in truth and orgasmic happiness.

      • Okay, the whole “Big bang” thing does sound like scorn.
        But the rest? Right there with you in Outrage, hon, and the Outrage is sitting firmly on “using polyamoury/non-monogamy as an excuse to be inconsiderate”.
        Whether it’s someone who IDs as “non-monogamous” and treats her partners like they’re disposable or interchangeable (loving no-one, rather than loving many? If I can put it like that?) or someone who IDs as “monogamous” (or hasn’t really thought about it enough to bother IDing as anything in particular) who equates “really does care” with “there can be only one” and, based on that, treats committed-to-many people like crap.
        Either way, it sucks. 😦

        Anyway. Moving right along.
        Ms S.

  9. “I thought since you’re in an open relationship, you’d totally understand. If the girl you love and live with is allowed to sleep with other guys, surely a girl you’ve only known for two hours can run off to another man too, right?”

    That, right there, says to me that this person Does Not Get It. And by ‘It’, I mean ‘basic consideration for other human beings’. Seriously, lady, to use the same analogy as jennie1ofmany, if a friend had arranged to spend an evening with you drinking coffee, and then half way through that evening suddenly stood up, announced that they had double booked you, with NO warning, and walked out saying ‘oh, but you’re dating fifty guys, you have plenty of companionship’… would you not be the slightest bit pissed that you’d arranged to set an evening aside for them, prioritised them over the other things you could have been doing, and been given no chance to make other arrangements? If that’s expected behaviour for you and your friends, I’m glad not to be your friend, let alone a lover.

    Same goes for the guy who was messaging other dates in bed. Sure, maybe if you’d talked about it, said ‘do you mind?’ and just been chilling out, but when someone has prioritised spending time with you, and you’re ignoring them to do unimportant shit… would you do the same at a family dinner? Seriously?

    But I’ve heard this crap before from other people who Did Not Get It. People I thought I was in actual loving relationships with, right up until they summarily dumped me to be monogamous with someone else, with a rather callous “You have other lovers. That means you don’t care about losing one, right?” Man, that one still stings most of a decade later. (NB. I’ve had other partners leave me to be monogamous in ways that didn’t hurt. It was the assumption that I wouldn’t care and wouldn’t miss them that really sucked. To this day I still wonder how they could possibly have even MET me and still thought that.)
    … but I can kindof understand the logic system, in a way. If you start with the assumption that ‘love equals exclusivity’, then anything that doesn’t demand exclusivity isn’t love, so you won’t miss it. Just like you won’t miss a friend you just lost, because you have other friends, and you can only care about one friend at a time, or that child or parent you lost, because you have other family members and you can only love one family member at a time. Yeah… that makes TOTAL sense, right?

    At least this guy found out that she Didn’t Get It after only a couple of hours, not an entire relationship.

    • (I note in hindsight that I didn’t entirely specify who each of my paragraphs was aimed at, and it might be a little confusing that I switch between general audience and aiming directly at specific people, since it’s clear that at least the lady with the ‘fifty dates’ blog has been reading this comment thread. If not the messaging-in-bed guy. Hope folks can grok it anyway!)

  10. We defenitely should not assume monogamy from the second we start dating someone, but people who are not monogomous should not assume that it is totally OK to leave out this part of your life and assume the other person will be totally comfortable with it.
    This has been my experience in the three instances I have had the misfortune to interact with people who like to call themselves polyamorous. I, personally, think that enforcing monogamy on people as some kind of universal rule is ignorant and hurtful. I don’t hate non-monogamous people.
    But my experiences have all been misfortunes because every time I was confronted with an utter disregard for the importance of sharing that term. In one of those instances, one of my roommates came home talking about how he had just fucked the girl I was seeing. When I talked to her about it, she acted like I should have known all along that she would sleep around with many people. He knew I was seeing her too, and didn’t think it was maybe a little insulting.
    Not because I felt entitled to own her, or because I wanted to tell her what to do, but because it was insensitive and presumptuous. It is not OK to keep this under wraps because you want to get your way. You cannot force people to give you a chance just because you think you really deserve it.
    I would never go on a date with someone who was actively dating someone else. This is not the same as assuming you are instantly monogamous to me. Being in different stages of knowing people does not equate with being in an actual relationship, wheter or not it is a monogamous one.
    I have the right to make that choice, and nobody has the right to take that choice away from anyone else by not being open about their love life.

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  12. What a self-righteous love-fest all this is. I’d like to deconstruct the very fucked-up perspective you have on Chris and non-monogamy, but the tone of this whole screed reeks of objective RIGHTNESS. You know everything and people who act/interpret any social mores different is close-minded, small and just plain wrong. You’re just the worst kind of person.

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