Shutting Down the Non-Monogamy

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Shutting Down the Non-MonogamyJust over a year ago – in fact, to be precise, 402 days ago, because I just checked the messages that will exist somewhere in the internet for all eternity – my darling cohort/sister-slut Molly kindly tried to set me up with a friend of a friend. He seemed pleasant enough; older than me, dominant, with a not unpleasant voice, and very non-monogamous. We started talking, and at first it seemed that we matched in many important ways; we could both see the potential for some kind of future, and the whole thing had that exciting shine to it. However, close on the heels of those positive first impressions, things began to fall apart. His emotional immaturity began to shine through the cracks, and my rather aggressive fight (of ‘or flight’) mode kicked in. It was a frustrating encounter that really didn’t last long, but through it I learned something important about myself.

Let me rewind for a moment and explain what happened. As is often the case, we started by discussing our kinks, and then on to different forms of non-monogamy. With over a year of Swingset podcasts poured into my earholes and plenty of reading under my belt, I was a little more “in the know” than he, and so I broke down some of the things I knew were common to different kinds of non-monogamy, and we discussed where we felt we sat along that complex scale. I wasn’t self-describing as polyamorous at the time, but more looking for one relationship that could be open to perhaps some (progressive) swinging; he was a little closer to polyamory than I, but we felt we still may be able to meet somewhere in the middle. Not long after, he divulged to me, with some excitement, that he had a play-date coming up, and I was happy for him, until he told me that he was planning to collar this person. He had never met her before, and intimated to me that he was going to collar her because she really wanted it, and he had promised to do that for her. It was at this point that I began to grow nervous. I recently wrote about how significant I feel collaring to be, and I felt the same depth then as I do now, but even if you don’t agree with the importance and weight I give it, I’m sure most kinksters would pause at the idea of collaring someone on a first meeting. He also told me that he had been dating another woman who had no idea he was non-monogamous, and with whom he was trying to break up, but what with her being so sweet and all, he just couldn’t bring himself to be so unkind.

Alarm bells.

To me these were all just different sides of the same kind of emotional immaturity; and an inability to communicate, coupled with hasty decision making, freaks me the fuck out.

Which is where the lesson comes in. Instead of immediately stepping back and bowing out, or being patient and waiting to see what might happen, I began to put my defences up, and in my case, apparently, that means closing down the non-monogamy. Every time he would talk about either of these two women, I would throw back annoyance and frustration, and found myself attempting to police his relationship model, talking down anything he did that made me feel uncomfortable, and sounding, I’m sure, increasingly jealous and possessive. Luckily it didn’t take me that long to properly bow out, but I didn’t manage it in time to dodge his accusations that I wasn’t non-monogamous at all. A little unfair perhaps, but not wholly inexplicable given my actions; he may have been an idiot, but for my part I displayed little wisdom.

Looking back at my actions during this encounter helped me do better in the few difficult moments I experienced in the early days of my relationship with my Daddy – although, for the record, my Daddy is not an idiot – and I think overall, now, I am better at not meeting other people’s imperfections with fearful hysteria. I make a lot of mistakes, but I work hard to look at them with some hindsight and learn something. But that goes both ways; not only did I learn, from this experience, not to be hysterical, I also learned to look at the ways people treat their partners, and understand that there’s a good chance I may be treated the same way. I’m fairly sure that presented with that situation again, I would feel the same feelings. But I think my reaction would be different. He was a rather extreme case, and I wouldn’t stick around at all if it happened again. I know what I’m willing to put up with. However, in less extreme cases, I think I am learning to leave hysteria out of it, and give people a chance to grow, in the same way I hope I would be allowed a chance to grow. Like I say, I make a lot of mistakes – we all do! – and for me the most important thing is to learn from them, and anyone who has been reading my Swingset column for a while will know that I have had to do, and am still doing, a tremendous amount of work to ensure that I can be a good partner to my loved ones. Honesty, communication, taking my time, being mindful, none of these (important) skills come easily to anyone. They all take consideration; and being patient with the people I care about is just as important a lesson for me as knowing when to say no.

The one part I feel truly needs my attention, is my instinct, in times of trouble, to close down the non-monogamy. Whilst there may be situations in which relationships would benefit from a bout of monogamy, I don’t think my gut reaction is always that reliable. For a start, in my better moments I know I gain far more from non-monogamy than I lose by it; I have several wonderful partners, and I would never want to give them up for something as trivial as a short period of insecurity. Furthermore, my gut reaction comes out in ways that can be very unkind; there is no way the desire to talk down or attack my metamours is ever going to come from a healthy place. That is my issue, not theirs. And monogamy is not the best answer. In fact, more often than not, monogamy isn’t the answer at all, and I hope that as I move on, I can get over my instinct, or change it altogether, and learn to deal with insecurity in a constructive, rather than destructive, manner.

As with most things, it’s a work in progress.

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Harper Eliot is a writer and podcaster whose work mainly centers around eroticism and social observation. You can find an archive of work, and links to all her other projects, on her website Harper Eliot. Harper lives in London, but rarely sees her own house, spending most of her time on public transport, listening to podcasts and tweeting too much. Her vices include cigarettes, lubricant, Earl Grey tea, opera, nail polish, and pinwheels.

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