The Polyamorists Next Door

Exploring the world of consensual non-monogamy

Why I Am Not Polyamorous, But You Might Want to Be, Part 2

Leaving a poly relationship, and three reasons I do not identify as polyamorous.

This is the second part of a three-part blog explaining why I am not polyamorous but you might want to be. The first part explained why I started studying polyamory and how my relationship fell apart because of making many cliché polyamorous mistakes. This second part details how I came to leave Rick and the three main reasons I am not polyamorous, each followed by the quality or characteristic that could contribute to polyamory working for other people.

Leaving Rick

 

Two people walking away from each other on a beach.
Even after five years of trying to make it work, it was hard to break up.
google images
When I realized I had to choose between Rick and Steve – not the ideal poly model, but a surprisingly frequent poly occurrence when things go south – I chose my one and three year-old children. Because Rick was their father, and things had been good with him in many ways for the 10 years before the poly debacle, he seemed like the logical choice. For the next five years I tried everything I could think of to stay with Rick – got a new job in a different state and sold our house so we could move away from the small town we had shared with Steve, got couples and individual counseling, married Rick, and went through bouts with exercise, meditation, aromatherapy, and denial. None of it worked very well, and I was plagued by lingering feelings of betrayal. One night I came home from work and thought to myself, “I need a drink if I am going to deal with this family life tonight” and it suddenly dawned on me that my next coping mechanism was going to be alcoholism. That same night, I made the decision to leave Rick because it was not going to be good for anyone if I crawled in to a bottle of chardonnay.

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Poly Single (in practice)

After being with Rick for 15 years, I wanted some time to myself and had no interest in dating. My kids remained my most important relationship, with work and roller derby competing for secondary status. After more than a year of loving being single, I started thinking about casual dating and rapidly realized that I had become the unicorn – an unattached bisexual woman. At the time I did not consider myself to be polyamorous because I was not seeking an ongoing relationship, but many of the people who responded to my profile in an online dating website were polyamorous or at least mono-flexible. In retrospect, I see that my behavior could have been categorized as that of a poly single or solo poly, primarily because so many of the people I dated were poly.

Monogamous (mostly)

After I had sown my wild oats, I fell in love again (something that does not happen very often) and simply stopped dating other people. Not because she asked me to, or because we had a big talk about it, but because I was just not interested in other people. Now “Kira” and I refrain from polyamory for three main reasons.

 1. Low(ish) Sex Drive

While I enjoy sex, my partners have wanted to have more sex than I wanted in every serious romantic relationship I have had except for one. In addition to the mellow sex drive, I am surprisingly vanilla for a sexuality researcher. As an intellectual I intellectualize things that frighten me, so I have ended up studying polyamory and sexuality because each of them freaked me out until I understood them.

*Poly leaning: If you enjoy sex and like new partners but want to keep your long-term relationships, polyamory could offer you an honest route to sexual variety.

2. Too Busy

My external life is so full with work, parenting, roller derby, volunteer work, animal tending, and daily minutia that sometimes I barely have enough time for Kira. With free time in short supply, I also don’t get to see enough of my beloved friends I already know. Attempting to include additional intensive relationships sounds more exhausting than exciting.

 

A woman with her hands on her head surrounded by images of people and things.
Like the rest of you, I often feel like I have too much to do and not enough time to do it.
google images
 *Poly leaning: Are you willing to prioritize spending time and energy on relationships? Polyamorous people tend to be just as (or more) busy as everyone else, but the polys are generally willing to structure their free-time, work, and living arrangements around supporting their relationships, rather than the other way around.

 3. Love of Solitude

While I am quite social and enjoy spending time with people, I love to be alone and find it challenging to carve out enough time to be by myself. My internal experience is quite engaging, both because my mind is busy thinking about the books I want to write and how to refine my fourth round of data collection, and also because I am emotionally high-maintenance for myself. With such a full brain and hectic emotions, I relish time to myself to let go of external stimulation. Adding more partners would cut in to the scarce time I do get to be alone.

 

A woman standing alone next to an alpine lake.
Keep calm and introspect on.
google images

*Poly leaning: Would you generally rather be with people than alone? If you are an extrovert then polyamory can be good for you, although some introverts find smaller poly groups quite comfortable as well. 

While I do not identify as polyamorous, I am also not in a traditional monogamous relationship. In the final installment of this topic, I explain my monogamish and polyaffective relationships.

Elisabeth Sheff, Ph.D., is an expert on polyamory and sexual-minority families with children.

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