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acb2012 11-17-2012 02:34 PM

New here. Hello.
Not sure where to start but hello. :)
I am a 40-something very happily single woman. I have never self identified as mono or poly, have never really given it much thought. I've never really worried about labels much and have always just lived my relationships without thinking too much about it.
I have had one long term monogamous relationship, and it kind of felt like an ill fitting sweater. In general, looking back over my life and relationships, I've found that I really prefer a relationship style of being fairly solitary, independent, and not in a very intense relationship of any sort. I would rather live that and have a few friends and lovers who I can count on to to be there for intimacy, sex, and closeness. That sort of model works really well for me, it has in the past and it has right now. I've always been in front with my partners, they know I see other people and I know they do to. I've never really wanted to label myself poly, because I am not sure what I am doing is poly, and quite honestly a lot of people I know who label themselves as poly do things so differently.
BUT, now I have found myself grappling with definition. I started dating a man who very much self identities as poly. He's very active in the poly community. And his first reaction when I said I am not poly was to just assume I am mono. So this has led to some interesting discussions, as I have to explain that I am not, in my mind, one or the other. Now, to be fair, when he said he is poly, my first thought was "this is never going to work." In my mind at that times being poly meant a whole lot of rules, structure, and labels. After thinking about things a lot and reading a lot and talking to him a lot and other people, I see that that was a pretty bad generalization to make.
But, it seems like every time I talk to poly people, go to get togethers or what have you, as soon as I say I don't label myself poly I get labelled as a mono person. Honestly, I find it a bit frustrating. I have never felt the need to impose a label on myself but, it would be helpful in some ways to be able to have some sort of definition, at least to make other people more comfortable.
I've never felt the need or desire to label my sexuality and the way I have relationships. But gosh darn it, I do like him, and don't want him to feel such trepidation. And even now, after 6 months of talking to him about this, he has told me that he still worries that I am mono deep down and our relationship will be like others in his life when he dated a mono person (pretty disastrous). Part of me wants to say, " this one is your thing to noodle out, I have explained myself so many times and you're still hung up on this?" But most of me is just trying to wrap my head around everything and come up with some definition, so he can wrap his head around things. And so I don't constantly get labelled as mono every single time I talk to people and say I'm not poly. :)
I just don't feel like there has to be two camps, that anyone has to self identify as mono or poly and those are your choices. There's a whole lot of get area there and personally, every relationship I have with another person is a new thing.
I am seeing two other people, very very occasionally, but this just hasn't been an issue with them. I don't even think this is a huge issue with this fella, but I di care about him a lot, and want him to be comfortable and secure.
Well Long winded intro. My apologies.... I have been thinking a lot about this stuff lately.

kdt26417 11-17-2012 09:48 PM

Hey ACB,
Welcome to our forum.

Well first of all, I don't think you're obligated to label yourself as anything, especially as so many of the non-monogamous terms are so relatively new in the language, and often subject to private interpretation. But, I see your point about wanting to set your boyfriend's mind at ease.

It is odd to me to hear the idea that monogamy and polyamory (mono and poly) are the only two relationship styles, and that everyone is either one or the other. The word "polyamory" has had quite a little history so far, and "responsible non-monogamy" has been one of its meanings in the past. But I think it's more standard now to think of polyamory as a *subset* of responsible non-monogamy.

To distill all the varying opinions about the definition of polyamory, and favor what I perceive as the most common definition, I would say that "polyamory" means: "romantic relations involving more than two persons, with the knowledge and consent of all involved."

One of the big deals about that definition is the word "romantic:" It implies a relationship that is both sexual and emotional. Swinging, for example, tends to not have that emotional element, as it complicates things to "fall in love with a play partner."

From your description, it sounds like you prefer to keep your relationships pretty light. Almost like a "single but with friends-with-benefits" type of a thing. Therefore, you're teetering on the edge of what some people might call "poly," but you're well within your rights to call yourself "responsibly non-monogamous" or "single with friends with benefits."

Ultimately, these are all just words, and people don't always agree about what any one word means. Plenty of people are uncomfortable with "labeling" themselves with any word, and you're not under any obligation to wear a label. I'm sorry if people have made that a difficult issue for you; they shouldn't have done that. Still, some good comes out of it if it leads you to understanding certain words better. Understanding words (and their varying definitions) is part of what helps us become better communicators.

It's completely up to you whether you decide to wear this "poly" label. Like I said, you're just in that in-between area where "poly" could fit but it doesn't have to. It's just a word, so if it helps put other people's minds at ease, and thus helps put your mind at ease, by all means make it a label and wear it proudly. But don't feel that you have to; it is purely a personal choice.

I hope some of this is helpful to you. Please let me know if you have further questions, concerns, or comments.

Glad to have you aboard,
Kevin T.

acb2012 11-19-2012 03:45 PM

Hi Kevin,

Thank you so much for such a thoughtful response. Sorry about the delay in responding, I was running all over the place this weekend.

I don't think the two are the only relationships styles at all. I've always kind of seen relationship styles as a big continuum, and ever-shifting. But I feel a bit misunderstood by both poly friends and mono friends because I'm am not strictly anything.

And yes, I prefer to keep my relationships light, but that doesnt mean I am not emotionally involved. I am absolutely head over heels for one of the people I am dating, and am incredibly close friends with the other in a way that is better than friendship but not quite romantic love. I just don't feel the need to get into a very intense relationship right now. Probably why I don't date much locally... I really enjoy my solitude most of the time right now.

Thanks for the validation of not needing a label. It is helpful to have some framework to put myself into so other people are more at ease, but I don't feel like I need to constantly put myself in different label boxes. I've really been loving some of the posts by other members here who I think I have a lot in common with in my approach to different relationship styles.

Anyway, thanks for a lovely welcome and a very in-depth response.

kdt26417 11-19-2012 11:33 PM

No problem. It sounds like you have a good understanding of a lot of the issues, and can largely just explain your situation to people. Perhaps you could say that you are "relationship-fluid." However you want to describe it (that makes sense to you).

I wish you good luck in any case (and good love).

Kevin T.

acb2012 11-20-2012 05:09 PM

Holy cow.... that's it! A word/definition that I feel comfortable with and that people can "get." That's perfect....and definitely a "holy cow!" moment. :) Thanks.

kdt26417 11-20-2012 08:05 PM

No problem. ;)

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