This post is in response to anonymous questions and comments that I receive via a SurveyMonkey form I set up. If you’d like to send me a question or comment just fill out the form at this website (www.surveymonkey.com/r/XYRDXHH). I’m sorry for the delay on some of these, I received more responses than I expected and am answering as quickly as I can (without burning myself out). If you are willing to give up the anonymity and provide contact information then I will respond directly to you before (or instead of) blogging.
- I am a bicurious female in my early twenties and would like to explore polyamory more. Could you describe your journey with open relationships and how I can move past the stage of just having multiple (non exclusive) sexual partners to more so being in an open relationship with someone?
Sure, I’ll do my best ?
My journey towards open relationships started with monogamy, as it often does. Like most people, I was raised in an environment where monogamy was kind of assumed to be the ideal for everyone. I think part of the problem we face is that “monogamy” really ties two issues together that don’t need to be together: sexual exclusivity and emotional exclusivity. When the reality is that you can be exclusive in both those areas, only one of those areas, or neither of those areas and still have very healthy, satisfying, and mature relationships.
So, I grew up thinking monogamy is the only way but shortly after my engagement broke off (I was about 23) I started to realize that maybe sexual and emotional monogamy weren’t right for me. At the time I didn’t realize polyamory was really a thing. I had heard of “swingers” and “fuck buddies” and “friends with benefits”, I understand that some people are not sexually monogamous, but the idea that you could actually love multiple people at the same time was a foreign concept. In hindsight, I think it should have been obvious, if I can love two people during different times in my life then it isn’t a stretch that I could love two people at the same time. I don’t think love is really a finite resource.
Anyway, while I was in college I realized that I didn’t want to be sexually monogamous, but I also didn’t want to be deceitful so I came up with three rules that I followed. First, always wear a condom. Second, before sex with a new partner I explicitly state that I am not looking for a relationship (this had mixed results because I had several partners who saw this as a challenge… they wanted to “fix me”). Third, never have sex with a new partner for the first time if either of us had been drinking.
Those three rules lasted through college and into my time working in DC. I can’t remember how, but somehow I stumbled upon the word polyamory and started reading up on it (I highly, highly, highly recommend “The Ethical Slut” by Dossie Easton and Catherine Liszt and “Opening Up” by Tristan Taormino). I realized that I not only could love multiple people but I had a natural inclination to do so. I actually think a lot of people do and it gets people in trouble when they must suppress this natural desire. Lots of people either push down these positive feelings or they end up cheating or divorcing their current partner when they fall in love with someone new.
So, I started exploring polyamory. I went to a couple of the polyamory meet-ups in the DC area (most major cities have one or two, sometimes they even have a “next generation” group that is only for poly people under the age of 40) and I started using OkCupid as a dating tool. OkCupid is incredibly poly friendly and there are lots of poly people on there. On OkCupid I also explicitly said that I was poly, which I think is very important. Many people hide this important aspect about themselves early on in new relationships and then it becomes a problem later. It is certainly possible for a polyamorous and an emotionally monogamous person to have a healthy, happy relationship (I am actually in one… my partner is emotionally monogamous but we are sexually more open) but it is difficult and requires compromise and an easily accessible middle ground. But, it will be much easier if the relationship has complete transparency very early on. We live in a culture where monogamy is assumed and non-monogamous people need to be explicit. And remember, there is no “one and only”, there are lots of people out there that you can be compatible with and it isn’t wise to compromise who you are to gain relationship security… that decision often leads to regret and resentment.
I guess to answer the second half of your question I really only have three main thoughts:
- Be open with new partners about who you are and what your relationship and sexual orientation is. Many partners are okay with bicuriousity, but some aren’t and it would suck for you not to be able to fully explore your sexuality because you fell in love with someone who didn’t like you exploring with a certain gender. Similarly, make sure they know you are poly and you are looking to have a partner that you share experiences with and not just a bunch of non-exclusive partners. Also, if you have any kinks that are important to you then those should be disclosed at some point so that you can find out if they are comfortable either exploring those with you or letting you explore them with someone else, your sexual satisfaction is an important part of your experience on this planet and you shouldn’t be asked to sacrifice that.
- Try to be active in communities where polyamory is understood, respected, and more common. OkCupid is a good dating site and as someone who is bicurious you should be welcome in the LGBT community. If you have any particular interest in BDSM that is also a place that respects non-monogamy. And the Burning Man community is very open to polyamory and non-traditional relationships, you don’t need to have participated in Burning Man to go to the local events (though, I definitely recommend you go someday).
- Consume poly-friendly resources. The books I mentioned are good place to start, also check out Dan Savage’s podcast (The Savage Lovecast) for professional advice on a variety of sex and relationship issues, including polyamory. And there are tons of blogs out there on the subject as well that can be valuable and give a great perspective to things.
I hope that answered your question, but if you (or anyone else) has a follow-up question or want me to clarify something please feel free to message me on Facebook, Snapchat (@pneiger), or using the anonymous SurveyMonkey.