“Now I’m just playing devil’s advocate,” my friend started, “but what do you tell people who ask if your lifestyle is worthwhile? I mean, if you want to get married, and it’s harder to find a partner who accepts non-monogamy, why is it worth it?”
The first time she asked this, I believed she was just playing devil’s advocate. The second time I wasn’t so sure. What did she think of me, I wondered, if she wasn’t sure my commitment to non-monogamy was worthwhile? How much of who I am did she respect? How much of who I am is shaped by being non-monogamous? And is my friend wrong to ask this?
She never would have asked whether being queer is worth it, though I’ve certainly faced scrutiny from other queer individuals for being more comfortable dating cis-men. It begs the question whether being non-monogamous is a choice, and there’s a lot of debate about whether non-monogamy is an orientation or a lifestyle choice, but I don’t have a set opinion.
Is being queer, for me, a choice? Another friend told me her issue with the “born this way” movement was that it could be bi-phobic. If you believe you were born gay, what happens if later in life you recognize you’re attracted to the opposite sex? Were you wrong about how you were born? The idea of being born a certain way only matters if there is something we have to defend. Who cares if you were born straight? Instead, if any orientation is acceptable, it doesn’t matter if you were born that way or if it is a choice! Feel free to change your mind about who you want to pursue—it’s all good!
In Ferocious Romance, Donna Minkowitz writes, “I feel like a fraud, writing about gay liberation when no one is touching me. I am not having sex so I wonder why I am allowed to remain in the order.” I’ve often felt the only way to keep my queer card is to be dating someone who is not a cis-man. Believing I need to prove any part of my identity to others nurses the inner debate of whether I’m OK as I am. Fuck that. Regardless of what is genetic or environmental or who I’m dating, embracing my queerness is shaping me into someone I like. And the same is true about non-monogamy.
Still, I want to explain why being non-monogamous is worthwhile and I also want to explain why my friend might question it. So excuse me if what follows seems in any way hypocritical.
Over the past eight or so years of being in open relationships, I’ve become more independent. I’ve developed a more open-ended understanding of ways I can be close to someone. Many of my relationships feel less confined to a label or a type. For instance, I don’t sleep with everyone I feel romantically about, and I don’t feel romantically about everyone I sleep with—but I do feel love or affection for all of them. Besides being committed to those I’m in relationships with, I think I’m committed to non-monogamy because, once again, I like who I’ve become because of it. I am not, however, claiming that being non-monogamous OR queer, kinky, or even a Christian has completely healed the cracks in my self-worth, my body image, etc.
Why does my friend potentially question whether being non-monogamous is worthwhile for me? She knows that I hate how I compulsively browse Tinder when I’m lonely at night. She knows how long it took me to stop talking to this guy I was really attracted to even when I doubted he would treat me well. She’s seen my sadness when multiple people in a row slept with me then stopped responding and how I question my ability to find a life partner when people who seem like they’d be strong possibilities reject me. She cares about me and wonders if I’d be happier finding a monogamous life partner.
Let’s say I choose to end the romantic or sexual aspects with anyone I’m involved with and become less vocal about polyamory or open-relationships. Let’s say I spend less time cultivating my friendships within the kink, sex-positive, and polyamory communities. Maybe it would be easier to find someone who would want to spend the rest of his life with me: at church, at some religious conference, at a book reading, on a trail—through my other interests. Wouldn’t this be settling?
A recent study found that forty-seven percent of people polled wouldn’t have a relationship with a bisexual person. Many bisexuals are forced to decide whether it is better to hide part of their identity from a person they are interested in. And maybe they’re happier being in a relationship than they are single and out.
I’m choosing to be single and out.
I could spend my life questioning my choices and questioning who I am. Or I could just decide I like who I am, and that my weaknesses and wounds and the difficulties of my lifestyle choices don’t mean anything about me is wrong. This doesn’t mean I’m not open to change, but at the moment, I’m not feeling strong conviction about being wrong.
[Side note: I think non-monogamy has become a litmus test to me. If someone is open to me having feelings for others, they are more likely to face other difficult or uncomfortable aspects of my identity or our relationship.]
There’s something else. In my last post I admitted I question whether I’m good enough for my life partner. Yesterday my therapist asked me if I felt confident I would be a good life partner, and my response was “Hell yes!” I think I’m a good communicator, supportive, (cough cough good in bed). Is it odd that I’m confident I’m worthwhile but not confident that a person I’d choose is going to choose me back? Sometimes this doubting makes me feel like I’m NOT worthy. I contradict myself. But I think deep down I know that I am.
My truths today:
Even if I know that I am worthy, I still have to learn to be okay with whether or not I find the right person.
Non-monogamy feels right to me, and I am own this more difficult path.