In the New York Times, a poly-mono warning
Excerpts from today's Modern Love column in the Style section of the New York Times:
First Try the Pastrami, Then the Polyamory
By Debbie Weiss
Over pastrami sandwiches, my new boyfriend said to me: “One of my ex-lovers is going to be at the conference I’m attending next week. We’ll be sharing a room and sleeping together.”
I blinked away tears. “I never wanted to know that,” I said, wishing I had stayed home instead of making the 90-minute train trip to see him.
“I’m sorry,” he said. “I didn’t mean to hurt you. I was just being honest.”
But oh God, he was either honest too late or she was deliberately living a delusion. She didn't just say, "Well, I guess this was interesting, bye now" and take the 90-minute train back. (See sunk cost fallacy).
I'm not saying poly-mono relationships never work. Some poly-mono couples, especially old marrieds, find that it relieves pressure on each of them. And once in a while, someone who was looking for a monogamous partner connects with a poly person and falls in love with the joys of intimate community, a network of lovers all together on the same team.
But this needs to be their own choice going in. So lay out your poly identity, and exactly what you mean by that, before the first date. Of course this benefits you too, by filtering out poor matches who will waste your time at best and blow up on you at worst.
However, reading further, maybe she was leading him on.
My guy was an Ivy League-educated doctor with an M.B.A., but he no longer practiced medicine or worked in business. Instead, he was training to become a tantric sex instructor while working on his songwriting. His name was Howard. He was polyamorous.
I was a widow of four years after being with my high school sweetheart, George, for 32. I had dived into the cesspool of online dating looking for love, but my manic dog paddling hadn’t produced that. For now, I was settling for weird.
Howard was sweet, smart and honest to several faults. [Okay, honesty is a fault in someone you want as a partner?] I liked him, but I also saw him as an experiment. If I couldn’t find Mr. Right, what about Mr. Quasi-Right augmented by a few others?
...Worse, we were far apart in what we wanted. ... Howard wanted to move beyond the monogamous model he had been raised with; I wanted to replicate it. ...
We were both still active online, seeing other people. When Howard told me about his conference, I said, “I should be honest, too. I’ll be going on a couple of first dates while you’re gone.” But the prospect of a tentative first kiss couldn’t compete with his announcement that he would be spending multiple nights with someone else. ...
He had told me he wanted a primary partner, someone to live with and plan a future together. But there were caveats....
...“Why must keeping up with old lovers involve sleeping together?” I said. “Couldn’t you just meet for lunch?”
“I’ve been poly for seven years,” he said. “I can love more than one person at a time. Part of being poly is being able to realize your full potential.”
“But why is your potential tied up with sex?” I said. “It’s the difference between taking a pottery class because you want to try pottery and needing to sleep with the pottery teacher.”
... I asked Howard if he minded that I sometimes slept with my ex-boyfriend, a spiky-haired, green-eyed guitarist.
“No, I’m good with it,” he said. “It’s easier if we both want to spend time with old lovers.”
...Howard called polyamory “consensual non-monogamy,” meaning you could have sex with other people so long as all parties agreed. It involved a lot of mature, evolved discussion about setting parameters. ... It sounded like a recipe for disaster. You could fall in love with your fling. ...
“When I’m committed to someone,” I said to Howard, “I don’t want to see other people. And I don’t want to hear that you do.” ...
In my post-George dating years, I had developed a protective shell over my heart. Allowing myself to love again would mean letting that shell crack and fall away, not maintaining it because my partner invited strangers to trample through our relationship. The whole thing seemed so avoidable.
...Howard used the word “and” to replace “but” in conversation. He said “but” indicated an either/or situation, whereas “and” suggested coexistence. When I first met him, I tried using “and” too, hoping to see more possibilities. “I want to fall in love and still sleep around.” “I want to fall in love but still sleep around.”
Over time I returned to “but,” seeing only a linguistic conceit. ...
The whole story (March 23, 2018).
Speaking of linguistics: There in the New York Times they both confuse "polyamory" with open relationships — a more compartmentalized model better suited to Old Culture assumptions. She dismisses all of it as "sleeping around" and fears that people might — gasp — fall in love, which is exactly what polyamory is about! She hardly respects his dear, beloved people as a possible new intimate network or extended family if she's calling them "strangers... invited to trample through our relationship."
As for his part, he didn't have the wherewithal to accept her reality early and call it off.