Fannie Fierce

Open or Closed

Filed By Fannie Fierce | November 23, 2007 7:36 PM | comments

Filed in: Living, Marriage Equality
Tags: polyamory

Dear Fannie,

What are your opinions on polyamorous relationships? After a rough relationship that ended over infidelity and trust issues, it became clear that the man I loved could only operate in an open relationship. For my personal comforts, I cannot separate romantic intimacy from sexual activity. What was left was two different relationships posing as one; me with only eyes for him and him with a few people on the side. This felt like torture and thus ended. Can two people with different views on sex and intimacy work it out? Or do we have to draw a line in the sand?

Appreciating Your Insight


I’m sorry to hear about your burn from a previous relationship plagued with sex view dissonance. I first want to set up some vocabulary basics on which I want to discuss this topic. Polyamory, according to Wikipedia, is “the desire, practice, or acceptance of having more than one loving, intimate relationship at a time with the full knowledge and consent of everyone involved.” This is different from polygamy, which is one partner (usually male) married to, or has sexual relationships with, multiple partners (usually female, at least historically speaking). I’m opposed to polygamy, not only because it is deeply ingrained in heterosexual marriage and profoundly patriarchal, but also because it is hierarchal and the benefits flow inward to the prime partner, while the spoke relationships get the raw end of the deal.

I don’t like to make blanket statements. Well… maybe I do, but they’re blanket statements with gaping holes in them to avoid being reductive. But if I were to make a blanket statement regarding non-monogamy I would be for it. And a lot of that opinion is based on the rabid anti-non-monogamy propagated not only by marriage politics, but legitimacy-seeking “LGBT” sell-outs as well. However, as I’ve stated in the past, the only kind of non-monogamy I support is honest and consensual non-monogamy. And I mean actually consensual. What I don’t mean is caving into your boyfriend’s desire to hook up with other guys and leaving you in the dust, as it sounds like you did. Any kind of poly relationship decision should be made together and not as a compromise.

One of the reasons I support polyamory, when it works, is because I think that monogamy sets unrealistic expectations on your partner. Monogamy demands that one person fulfill all of your sexual, emotional, psychological, and intellectual needs. I have serious doubts about the viability of that claim. In the end I believe that every successful monogamous couple is, in part, polyamorous. Even if you only are sexually engaged with each other, at some point you realize that there are some needs that you have, whether sexual or personal, that your partner can’t provide.

AYI, I think you’re right that two people with completely different views on sex and intimacy probably won’t work out. However, I think that it may be helpful to understand exactly why your partner is interested in seeking to fulfill his needs outside your relationship. Sometimes those needs don’t involve infidelity. Also, if your boyfriend feels that he needs to have sex with someone else for whatever reason, that is he has a fetish that you are unwilling to participate in, then you can encourage him to have you be a voice in that process. If he just has a wandering eye, then I think that you have more of a justification to demand a little more commitment. However, you may want to consider being a part of your boyfriend’s extra-relationship sex. Inviting a third can help your boyfriend satiate his sexual urge for many partners and reinforce your place in his heart and his bed. Remember, just because your partner finds other people attractive doesn’t mean he doesn’t still want you. There’s a reason why he keeps coming back to you.


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Dear Appreciating your insight,
Dear girl, I am a one person lover. I want their full attention and devotion while we are together. We both have seperate emotional needs that are full filled mainly by our companionship. Out side friendships are just that. We are free to have them becuse our love is supported by trust and confidence. I hope that you will find a person who will be worthy of you.
Your friend, Kelli:)

Wow, good advice to a complicated question.

But with gay male couples, some mention of HIV must be made. It raises the stakes considerably, since lies and betrayal can literally mean unknowing infection. When non-monogamy becomes an option, discussion of safer sex practices is absolutely essential. In short, communication and total honesty is even MORE important.

And, frankly, for some, the possibility of introducing HIV into the relationship raises the spectre of "is non-monogamy worth it?"

The point is, it's something that must be included in the discussion.

(And I don't mean to imply that monogamous gay couples don't need to be aware of safer-sex practices, and have openness and honesty too.)


Thanks for your comment. I agree, any discussion on non-monogamy needs to include a discussion about safer sex practices. It was unreasonable of me to assume that people would protect themselves. Oh, what a world it seems we live in (thank you, Rufus).

However, I feel that when non-monogamy is implemented responsibly, honestly, and openly... those couples will know to use safer sex practices; not only with outside parties, but between themselves and their primary partners as well. Monogamists frequently begin having sex unprotected, even after being together after only a few months. It becomes an issue of trust to ask your "monogamist" partner to use a condom. And so when infidelity happens, and then concealed (as it often is)... monogamists will be at risk because of the way monogamy constructs those discussions on safer sex.