I’m giving up on solo polyamory, it’s just too hard


April 1, 2013 by aggiesez

I feel like such a hypocrite admitting this, after all I’ve written over the last several months. But the truth is, I’ve been lying to myself. After a several days of soul searching following my republication of Master So N So’s guest poly Polyamory is Hard, I’ve realized that I’ve been fighting my deepest desire.

In my heart, I long to be the primary (and sole, at least for a good long while) focus of a wonderful man’s love and attention — to share my home and my life with him in every possible way, together embracing the identity of a couple, for the rest of our lives.

Yes, I know this plays into stereotypes I’ve railed against. Please understand: I’m not repudiating the solo life, or polyamory. I still believe these are valid and wonderful ways to live, for a few extraordinary people. Just not for me, not really. Not anymore.

Because solo polyamory is just too hard. I can’t take it anymore.

(Psssst… if you’re getting depressed, you might want to read this before you continue)

I can’t take the loneliness that goes with sleeping by myself almost every night. I can’t take the social isolation, and the dearth of community.

I mean, I’ve been spending a lot of time making “friends” in the local poly community, going to weekly meetups and more — but to be honest, these people are mostly just weird, selfish, desperate, and unattractive. Sure, the conversations have been entertaining in an intellectual sort of way, but nothing and no one in the poly crowd truly stirs me in a positive way. It’s just not where I belong.

I’ve finally given up hope that I will ever be treated well as a non-primary partner. Whether I’m a secondary or casual partner — if I’m not primary, then I’m always going to be disposable and no one will ever really love me.

In the real world, it’s too much to expect partners and metamours to treat me as if I matter. That’s so disappointing, but I can’t deny the reality of it. Polyamory is probably too idealistic to work outside of strictly casual, disposable connections. I still recognize and disagree strongly with couple privilege, but living without its protection is just too demoralizing.

On a daily basis, the lack of understanding and outright incredulity of others I encounter wounds me deeply. I constantly feel the need to explain and justify my solo poly life — but I feel ashamed when I do so, because I know I’m living a lie. Living outside the relationship mainstream mostly means living with pain, insecurity and stress, I’ve learned.

Plus, I worry that having been associated with polyamory — and poly people — will make normal guys not want to ever date me. I’d rather have numbers on my side when seeking a mate.

In general, intimate relationships are so hard I’m just not seeing the point in trying to nurture more than one at a time. And it’s just too hard to manage jealousy — from other people, and my own.

On that front, this admission is especially difficult: I do get incredibly jealous of women who have committed partners. I find myself wanting to pursue, even to steal, the partners of my friends — or even the partners of people I meet at social events. The temptation, frustration, and fury this fills me with has become unbearable.

But worst of all is the string of meaningless sexual encounters I’ve been distracting myself with. They must be meaningless, after all, since I’m not really hoping that any of these lovers to become my one life partner. Even though I’m very fond of each of these men. I’ve kidded myself into thinking I was building lovely friendships with them that included great sex. I detest that I’ve been lying to myself, and to them, about this. So I’ll probably stop dating them, out of fairness. (Or I will, as soon as I find someone I can be serious about, because I’m not sure I can stand being alone again.)

Also I’m just sick of enduring the hassle, humiliation and second-rate pleasure of using condoms — and pretending that safer sex is just as satisfying! Really, I’d rather be fluid bonded. It’s simpler, you don’t have to have so many awkward conversations about sexual health, and (despite what I’ve claimed before) fluid bonding really is the best symbol to the depth of commitment in a relationship, after all.

Maybe I could still be in a moderately open relationship or maybe even poly again someday — but only after I’ve gained the security, stability and (I’m ashamed to admit it, but it matters) social acceptability of having a real boyfriend on a committed path to life partnership. I could even see myself maybe getting married again someday, to the right man.

But for now, I’ve had enough. I am miserable, and I need to stop pretending that my life is wonderful. This has all been a horrible mistake. I must turn my life around and start pushing hard to find the devoted partner I need to complete me. Today is the day I begin that quest.

Yes, today.

April 1, 2013.

Uh-huh. I hope you saw that coming. If not: Gotcha!!!! April Fool!!!!

Reality check: Some thoughts and data on not having a primary partner

All kidding aside: As I’ve been writing this blog, I’ve been gratified and humbled to hear from so many people how this blog has helped to validate their experiences, emotions, and hopes. My message that happiness and fulfillment do not require couplehood or monogamy resonates strongly with many people — including some who are monogamous, or who have (or truly desire) a primary life partner of their own. And I’ve been thrilled that I generally get a positive response when I insist that people who aren’t part of a primary couple are full human beings who deserve full respect and consideration from their partners, metamours, and anyone.

In the beginning of this article I trotted out every major trope I’ve encountered about what people often assume must be “really going on” with people who claim to be happy or satisfied with the solo life, and especially with being solo poly. I also showcased some fears I’ve heard people voice regarding why they remain in dead or harmful primary relationships, rather than set out on their own to see how they fare in an unpartnered context.

The hard truth about tropes and stereotypes is that they’re popular and pervasive because they often contain a kernel of truth. All of the ones I explore in this article certainly do. So far I haven’t encountered a single solo poly person who hasn’t felt undermined by self-doubt, hurt by how some partners or metamours have treated them, or unfairly judged by society at large (or even by people within the poly community).

That pain, and those obstacles, are real. They happen. But they aren’t the whole picture. Not by a long shot.

The truth is, lots of people are really just fine without having a primary partner. I’m no anomaly. And I’m seeing some evidence to back this up in my survey for my upcoming book about relationships that don’t conform to the standard relationship escalator. (Yes, it’s still open, go take my survey now if you like!)

Of the several hundred responses I’ve received so far from people in all kinds of nontraditional relationships, about one in four do not currently have a primary-style partner — although they have other kinds of relationships they consider “significant.” An additional 13% currently aren’t in any relationships they consider significant, although they prefer nontraditional relationship styles.

So altogether, nearly 40% of respondents don’t fit the primary-partner model.

Also, of the 13% of respondents who aren’t currently in any significant relationships, only a minority of them (18% of 13%) said that finding a significant relationship is a high life priority for them. In contrast, about two-thirds said they’re fine with or without a significant relationship, or that they’d like one eventually but it’s not a high priority.

Not exactly a desperate bunch.

Similarly, the respondents who have at least one significant relationship (but not a primary one) are not exactly beating down the door to shack up with a lover anytime soon. Only a handful (7%) reported that a current lover is part of their household. Nearly 40% live alone, and one quarter report that they prefer living alone. Just under one third say that they’d like to live with a lover or partner someday, but it’s not a high priority; and 20% say they’re fine living either solo or with a partner. A mere 3% said they’d strongly prefer to live with a lover or partner, and that making this happen is currently a high life priority.

My survey also asked people what kinds of relationship structures they’d prefer, or at least be seriously open to trying. Across all respondents, nearly 30% reported that being solo or a “free agent” was one of their preferred approaches. That’s nearly twice the number of people who said they’d be fine with a “monogamish” relationship (a primary couple with occasional other partners who are always a much lower priority).

Furthermore, just over half (55%) of all respondents said that living with a partner is one structure they’d like or be willing to try. While that’s definitely a majority, but it’s not an overwhelming one.

This data, plus the tremendous amount of qualitative insight respondents offered through the survey’s free-form questions, indicate that people who are off the relationship escalator and who don’t have a primary partner aren’t any more or less happy, comfortable, fulfilled, or stable than people who are in non-traditional primary relationships.

Of course, they all report ups and downs with being outside the social mainstream, as well as internal challenges of navigating relationships without roadmaps. But on the whole, being solo (or at least not having a primary partner) doesn’t seem to be making people inherently miserable.

Conclusion: Don’t leap to conclusions!

Just because a relationship style is different or challenging doesn’t mean it will suck. That doesn’t mean it’ll be great, either. It just means: relationships will be what they will be, what the people involved choose to make of them (or have the skills and courage to achieve). No relationship structure — not even standard monogamy — guarantees happiness or fulfillment.

I’m not trashing primary relationships. Obviously, primary-style relationships are indeed what many people want, and they can work well. After all, three fourths of the respondents to my survey are in a primary partnership. But even given the ample social privilege and support that primary relationships receive, that configuration probably wouldn’t be so popular in nontraditional relationships if it tended to make most people really miserable.

The point is: a lot of people, including many people who are in significant intimate relationships, are doing quite well without primary partners. It’s not the most popular approach, but it seems a very viable one.

So on this April Fools day, you may choose to be skeptical of the new Google Nose scent-based search, or of bacon-flavored Scope. But you can believe one thing: Lots of people feel good about being solo and poly. Sure, it’s challenging sometimes for social and personal reasons. So what? Welcome to life.

32 thoughts on “I’m giving up on solo polyamory, it’s just too hard

  1. Keizick says:

    I love this! Best April fool’s I’ve seen yet. My mouth was open the entire time!

  2. splott says:

    Yeah, I figured it was April Fool’s post…but still hit entirely too close to home for me. :/

    • aggiesez says:

      Yep, I realize a lot of what I said would hit people close to home. That’s why I said it. These tropes are popular and powerful, because there is a kernel of truth to them all (as with any trope or stereotype.)

      Solo polyamory isn’t always easy, and people do give up. But I think people often give up because they leap to conclusions, and don’t realize that it really is a great choice for many people. When you’re in the midst of a hard time, it’s tempting to only see hard times ahead and disaster for everyone else on your path.

  3. harukifan says:

    Best April Fool’s EVER. But seriously, my wife and I have talked about these issues a lot (as we’ve discussed the possibility of having a poly relationship with a single woman). We would want to be very mindful of the non-primary partner’s needs to make sure we’re not standing in the way of her being happy/finding a primary relationship (if that’s what she decides she ultimately wants). I would imagine that being a solo poly person has its own challenges outside the “safety net” of being in a couple. But we seem to know so many sexy single moms who can’t find a good single man to date, and apparently are open to other possibilities…

    • aggiesez says:

      Kudos to you for being honest about what you’re seeking and for educating yourself in order to be as respectful, considerate, and ethical toward potential solo poly partners. You might just want to check yourself on a couple of assumptions that your comment hints at:

      1. Solo poly women may not want to date both of you.

      2. Solo poly women who do want to date both of you may want to keep that relationship fairly casual. They also might want to have non-primary (as well as just primary) relationships with others too. They have just as many choices as you do — actually, probably more!

      3. Being in a primary couple isn’t inherently much of a safety net. There are plenty of really miserable, dysfunctional, doomed primary couples out there — poly and otherwise. Yes, the primary couple structure does get a ton of social recognition and support, so it often persists where other unhealthy relationships fall apart. That doesn’t make it an inherently “safer” option, or a better one.

      4. Polyamory, and dating a couple, isn’t necessarily something that people (including “sexy single moms”) resort to when they’re unable to find a “good single man.” People don’t necessarily (or even usually) arrive at solo polyamory because they’ve somehow “failed” to land a socially acceptable monogamous mate. Solo poly people not desperate for partners; we just look at love from a perspective of abundance, autonomy and options.

  4. Rachel says:

    What a dirty trick! You got me there. I’m relieved that I now don’t have to follow through on my compulsion write a long comment on this. I just don’t have the energy for it.

    I’m wondering what you think about any connections between feminism and poly, especially solo poly. I know this is loaded, but it’s been on my mind lately. Actually, dating in general and feminism have been on my mind. I would like to read a post on this topic.

    Thanks for sharing!

  5. E.H. says:

    I read along, and initially I found myself thinking ‘Sure…ok…I guess…but…’ and I was surprised to find myself feeling quite relieved that you were pranking the world, because I truly value your sanity and wit and will to be who you are, and I think I’d have been sad for you if all that other mess had actually turned out to be the content of your heart. ;-D

  6. Alan M says:

    Gah-Damn, that’s the SECOND TIME TODAY I’ve been took by an April Fool’s joke!! I think I love you.

    (The first was after my MiL in the old age home told the whole family that she’s been very depressed lately, got some bad news from her doctor, was too miserable and finally broke down and did something she’s never done before, called a suicide hotline. There she spoke to a nice man from Pakistan who spoke excellent English and was very supportive but asked if she could drive a truck. Huh?

    I called my wife. Then phoned MiL. April Fool. We were supposed to get the joke that a Pakistani was trying to recruit American suicidals to drive truck bombs. I called my wife back, but she had already left for work and was so rattled that she got stopped for speeding. Other members of the family emailed back during the day to say they were not amused at all. Including my BiL who has a knack for crappy practical jokes of his own. Oh the family I married into.)


    Alan M.

  7. Eponine says:

    My reactions to this post: “OMG, really? No kidding!” -> “Oh well, people do change sometimes” -> “Wait, it’s April Fool’s Day today…” -> *fast forward to the disclaimer* -> “What a relief, and what a nice joke!” 🙂

    It’s interesting to read the preliminary results of the survey. I have a primary relationship, but I checked being a free agent as one of my preferred relationship model. My long-distance non-primary is also totally happy without a primary of his own. Looking forward to your book, and more solo poly stories on your blog!

  8. This was the first blog I read by you. Wonderful intro!

  9. Jessica Burde says:

    Okay, you got me. Damn woman! At first I was, “You have to do what’s right for you.” Then, “Okay… this doesn’t sound like her, but…damn.” Then, “OMG, WTF is this?” I was debating whether it would be more appropriate to keep quiet out of respect for your choice or stage an online intervention. Then APRIL FOOL’S!!! OMG I don’t know if this awesome or horrifying, but amazing job.

  10. Just found you through Dee, and even not knowing you, was puzzled by the beginning of the post. Love the positivity and the humor.
    Can’t wait to continue reading you, and have already opened the survey.

  11. melanie says:

    You totally got me! At first I was all, “Whatever floats your boat! You have to do what makes you happy!” Then I was like, “This is totally not her.” hahahahaah

    I am such a delightfully happy solo poly. I rarely have a lonely night. I value having the house and bed to myself often. I’m madly in love with one of my boyfriends and taking a break from the other while he works through some tough family stuff. I couldn’t be happier.

  12. […] favorite April Fool’s prank this year came in the form of a blog post. First rate. I experienced a range of emotions as I read it, and not only got a relieved chuckle […]

  13. Harper Eliot says:

    Jesus… you scared the living daylights out of me. Terrifying, haha.

  14. Mallory says:

    I have never been part of a poly community as such. I have always simply been non-monogamous without a whole lifestyle built around it or a rationale. It just is my nature. I am not possessive and I do not want to have to answer to any one person about everything I do. I don’t think it is inferior or superior to being monogamous. I could have only one relationship for decades and still be non-monogamous, because I would not commit to exclusivity, just as having sex with one gender would not make me no longer be bisexual. When a minority group looks for acceptance, it often over-defines itself. It is freedom to be unique individuals that matters most in the end, however.

  15. Gretchen says:

    Holy heck.. I dug this one out of the archives and skipped the date entirely. I’m reading it through thinking wow, really?! You can really, actually flip like that? You can give it all up, your independence, your self, your spirit, just for a dude? ONE DUDE?! Nah, I don’t have those feelings, that’ll never be me. Each to their own, but So. Freaking. Relieved.

  16. Just found this blog, and I fell for the joke, and my mouth was wide open having read other parts of the blog. Being that the content looks to not be updated on the blog, I fell even harder thinking you gave up writing

  17. Jess says:

    Whoa…. I’m so glad that was April fools! I was reading this, feeling more & more concerned, feeling like oh wow damn, I feel so much compassion for this human who discovered EVERYTHING they thought they wanted in a relationship was wrong! Wow that must be extremely difficult… They sound like they are really hurting.. They’re rejecting everything that they once held dear… Wow…oh. lol! So glad to hear it was a prank and despite the difficulties of life as solo poly, it is where your heart lies. I feel really relieved for you even though nothing happened!! ^_^

  18. Kate says:

    Well, damn. Unfortunately for me, I was nodding along and saying yes, yes, that’s how I feel. More fool me.

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