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Loyal, Honest, Faithful


“Gotta set boundaries in life.
I’ve contemplated this whole poly/nonmonogamy thing that I’ve lived for so long.
It was a nice phase
but at the end of the day
I’m a nice girl
I’m loyal, honest, and faithful
When a man has my heart, I don’t want to look at anyone else
And I don’t give it away lightly or often.”

We aren’t close. We went out a few times, had a few scenes at parties, never really kept in touch in between. Not close enough that seeing her post this on Facebook should have led to such a strong sense of betrayal.

After all, we weren’t in a relationship. Her decision to focus on monogamy doesn’t affect me.

But her phrasing does.

“It was a nice phase.”

Nonmonogamy is not a valid long-term relationship paradigm.

It’s okay for people who aren’t looking for serious relationships. It’s sowing wild oats, having fun, but it can’t build anything real.

So many people seem to think this: that seeing and sleeping with multiple people is fine, but only until you pick one to settle down with. There’s a monogamous end-game, a belief that multiple partnerships automatically mean less.

It’s an idea that sets lovers in competition with each other for the chance to cement a relationship.

It means treating partners with less care, because no matter what we say, they’ll think the relationship can’t be important, emotionally involved, or built on real connections. It means we’re more likely to get hurt, when they decide to settle down with someone else. It means they won’t expect to have to let us down gently, will be surprised and unprepared by our reactions. To them, it’s no big deal. Be cool, it was just a thing.

If you do view nonmonogamy as a phase, or as a style not commensurate with forming ties, be up front about it. Be compassionate, if one or more partners you aren’t emotionally involved in falls for you. Don’t string anyone along, don’t lie, and don’t laugh when they offer you their hearts. It’s okay to turn it down, it’s always okay to turn them down, but gently, gently.

“I’m a nice girl.”

“Nice” girls are monogamous. Nonmonogamy is perverse, hedonistic, wanton, or cruel.

If they think nonmonogamous partners aren’t nice, what must they think of those of us who choose nonmonogamy and reaffirm that choice year after year? If we’re othered, diminished, perceived as lacking in moral capacity, how well do we expect to be treated?

I don’t trust people who say “I’m a nice person.” It’s such an easy defense to fall back on, when bad behavior is called out. They can’t deny the behavior, so they twist: “I’m not the sort of person who does that sort of thing!” They may not be malicious, but they lack the self-reflection and empathy required to score highly on the recently developed Nic’s Niceness Scale.

If you think nonmonogamous people aren’t nice, don’t date us. Don’t sleep with us. We deserve better from our partners, and you don’t want us anyway.

“I’m loyal”

Nonmonogamous people are disloyal.

A person can have multiple loyalties. Most do. Partners, family, friends, communities to which they belong, communities with whom they’re allied. Loyalty need not be exclusionary, and indeed, exclusionary loyalty often reflects a moral judgment on the excluded party. Think divorced parents: the ones that demand exclusionary loyalty want their kids to pick sides. Those who ask for loyalty that can be inclusive do not. It’s a less self-centered, more positive, less jealous way of thinking.

Anyone who doesn’t believe it’s necessary to be loyal to–that is, supportive of–all of their partners has no business forming partnerships in the first place.

If you think nonmonogamous people are disloyal, don’t date us. Don’t sleep with us. We deserve better than someone who will rescind loyalty once they find the “right” partner, and you don’t want us anyway.

“I’m honest”

Nonmonogamous people are dishonest.

I have trust issues. They’ve been validated, over and over again. I’ve been told Odysseus-level lies about relationships, seen promises broken and cowardly silences maintained. And every time a lie about partners has come up and I’ve gotten any kind of explanation for it, it’s been the same: “I thought you/she/they would leave if you/she/they knew about each other.” It’s because people assume that exclusivity is desired that they feel the need to hide the lack of it at all. It’s not okay, this assumption. It’s all kinds of insulting to those of us who truly don’t desire exclusivity. We’ve said we’re poly, we’ve said what that means, and you choose to believe–what? That it’s a lie? A trick? A trap? A self-delusion? Why would a person want to be in a relationship with someone they believed was lying about their entire relationship paradigm? The point of this, though, is that the lies aren’t caused by polyamorous ideas. They’re caused by monogamous ideas incompatible with polyamory. It’s a blood transfusion being rejected; the ideas are toxic in polyamorous context*.

If you think nonmonogamous people are dishonest, don’t date us. Don’t sleep with us. We deserve partners who will respect us and interact with us as individuals, and you don’t want us anyway.

“I’m faithful”

Nonmonogamous people are unfaithful.

This overlaps strongly with loyalty, but I’m addressing it separately anyway. Let’s talk about what being faithful actually means. It means constant, steadfast allegiance or affection. It means devotion, religious or human. It means dutiful and true to its object. Faithfulness does include exclusivity to one’s partner if that’s what a couple agrees to. Dutiful and true, to whatever agreement the relationship is based on. For those of us who are not monogamous, faithful means something else. It means steadfast affection, approaching our partners within a caring framework, and maintaining the ethical duties we all have to our partners. Those duties just don’t happen to include sexual or romantic exclusivity.

If you think nonmonogamous people are unfaithful, don’t date us. Don’t sleep with us. We don’t want the stress and misery that come with your misconceptions about our relationships, and you don’t want us anyway.

“When a man has my heart, I don’t want to look at anyone else. I don’t give it away lightly or often.”

Nonmonogamous people give their love lightly, often.

Love does not work that way. Our hearts are fragile. Poly people may share ours with more than one person at a time, that’s all. It’s still thrilling and frightening and terrible to fall in love**. Heartbreak still hits hard, and still makes us cautious of getting close to another person again. When someone has my heart, it doesn’t mean I forget or stop caring about others. It means that this person, no matter what, will be a priority. It means I will take time and effort to make them a part of my life as long as they want to have a place there. It means I will not take their presence for granted, will always be grateful for the moments they choose to share.

If you think nonmonogamous people feel love differently, or less, please think again. We may not fall in love with every partner. We may not fall in love with you. But we might. We deserve not to be treated as objects, even if we aren’t in love. You deserve not to be treated as an object, even if you aren’t in love.


* Note that I said in a polyamorous context. The ideas work fine in their own system–your blood for the most part is safe and healthy in your own body. The transfusion of those ideas to a system with which it is incompatible is what causes harm here. I’m not calling monogamy a disease or unnatural or toxic, I am saying that a simple incompatibility exists between some of its core precepts and the healthy practice of nonmonogamy.

**I do not have a healthy relationship with this process. Your mileage may vary.


I don’t speak for all the poly people. Some folks probably think I’m wrong to varying degrees. That’s cool. Best to have a conversation about it before starting a relationship though, yeah?

Categories: Uncategorized Tags: , ,
  1. writingthebody
    April 4, 2014 at 5:13 pm

    All true. Sigh, all too true. What I really like about your blog is your ability to analyse things. That is all too rare. The fact we all have multiple loyalties, that even dogs can manage that, seems to be beyond most people’s comprehension. But what I really like is that you do not impose this model on those who want to be monogamous….it is just a matter of finding out who we ourselves, in our innermost core, really are.

    • April 5, 2014 at 4:16 pm

      Nic the overanalyzer at your service! Just because it’s important to me to have the freedom to form multiple relationships doesn’t mean others value the same thing. I’d be kind of an ass if I acted like my choices were more valid than others’.

      • writingthebody
        April 6, 2014 at 3:04 am

        Yes, you are right of course….this is the domain where people really do have the right to choose their idiom. I guess you are asking for that right to be respected….

  2. April 4, 2014 at 8:10 pm

    Ugh. Your gut feeling is exactly what I felt about this part:

    “but at the end of the day
    I’m a nice girl
    I’m loyal, honest, and faithful”

    Which to me has the CLEAR implication that poly people are none of those things in a ‘come to jesus hallelujah, I have seen the light and been delivered from evil’ kind of way.

    Even if it wasn’t intended that way, the thoughtless implication is there.


    • April 5, 2014 at 4:34 pm

      The implication is definitely there. Still feel bad about taking it personally. It’s just strange to see someone Spouse and I both played with not so long ago suddenly professing the virtues of (heteronormative) monogamy.

  3. April 5, 2014 at 9:29 pm

    That Facebook status is like a precision-engineered grenade lobbed at non monogamous people. The writer may not have consciously thought “I feel like pissing off the polys!” but she damn sure has some biases or issues she needs to deal with.

    Actually, I get the weirdest feeling from her wording that she’s actually still poly at heart but just overreacting to a recent heartbreak or something. It’s got a “the lady doth protest too much” quality about it. I could of course be wrong.

    • April 6, 2014 at 1:44 pm

      *laugh* Oh good, I’m not being paranoid! “precision-engineered grenade,” indeed.

      There’s no recent heartbreak but major recent life changes: she just moved really far away which is why she’s a former play partner rather than a current one. I do wonder if maybe she has the Feels for a monogamous man and is trying to convince herself that it’ll be better somehow. Then I feel bad because maybe she does want the monogamy and who the hell am I to be cynical about motives over here? Buh.

  4. April 23, 2014 at 3:21 pm

    There was a girl once, who wanted to date me; I ended up seeing two other people not her. She wrote a poem about how Unnamed Person liked her lovers like a bunch of grapes, just all over the place and pampered and non-choosy, whereas *she* liked her lovers like single individual fruits that she actually properly savoured.

    In retrospect it was probably a good idea that we did not get together.

    (I might even be almost-monogamous these days. But not because I’ve Seen The Light. Just that I don’t seem to want anyone else besides my wife right now enough to put the effort in. But who knows, that may change. (And it’s part of our agreement, too.))

    But yeah. I totally feel you on that post feeling like a kick to the gut. A “nice girl” indeed!

    • April 23, 2014 at 4:23 pm

      (Er, the possible future non-monogamy is part of our arrangement. If that wasn’t clear. She being one of the two people I was seeing in the first story, and actually far more comfortable with me as a poly person than I sometimes am myself!)

      • April 23, 2014 at 5:30 pm

        Geez, a poem likening partners to consumable objects. Way to show she thought of them as people.

        Poly isn’t for everyone, and neither is monogamy. Poly people can have one or no partners at a given moment and not be actively seeking more. Monogamous people can become nonmonogamous and vice versa. That’s all fabulous. The problem is her need to shame and vilify polyamorous people like this. It’s doubly problematic because she was poly for a number of years; she can make these statements from a place of perceived authority.

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