Why I Identify as Polyamorous Even Though I'm Single
By Zachary Zane
When I tell someone I’m polyamorous, I receive one of a few responses. Response one: They have no idea what the word means, and I have to explain it to them. I say, “I am open to loving multiple people at once and having sexual relationships with more than one person at the same time.” Response two: They believe it’s unethical, or more often than unethical, illegitimate. It’s not a “real” relationship. At which point, I start my prepared rant explaining to them why I believe they’re wrong. Or lastly, option three, I receive, “So how many partners do you have?” I typically receive this question from people who know what polyamory means and don’t think any less of it than monogamy. They simply haven’t met someone who openly identifies as polyamorous.
I respond to them truthfully. I have zero serious partners. I have a bajillion non-serious people with whom I’m sleeping. However, that’s not polyamory. That’s just screwing multiple people without commitment. I have a few people I like more than fuck-buddies, and I do go on dates with them, but that’s just dating. Then there’s the woman I’m dating who I do like, but we don’t live in the same city, and have no plans to move to the same city, so I’m not exactly sure what’s going on there. Again, I’m not committed to any of these individuals, and I haven’t made a verbal commitment saying I would like to have a serious relationship with them.
When I tell people I’m poly and single, I confuse the few people who (thought they) actually had a decent understanding of polyamory.
All of this begs the question, “Why do I claim the polyamorous label even though I’m single and ready to mingle?”
There are a few reasons.
First and foremost, I don’t think polyamory should be dictated by whom I am (or am not) in a relationship with. I feel that polyamory is part of my identity, more so than simply a lifestyle. Whereas my identity is determined by innate forces within me — my thoughts, my desires, my attractions — I don’t view the term “lifestyle” as being strictly determined by internal factors. I think there are external factors that contribute to one’s lifestyle. One’s lifestyle is influenced by cultural norms as well as the people you surround yourself with.
I’ve made this distinction before with regards to sexuality, in my column, Good Bi Love. Being gay is your intrinsic attraction to the same gender. Having a gay lifestyle involves obsessing over mediocre pop artists, going to nude beaches, spending too much money on brunch, watching RuPaul’s Drag Race religiously, etc. You can be a gay man who doesn’t have a gay lifestyle or engages in gay culture. You are still, obviously gay. You like men sticking their penises up your butt. That’s super duper fucking gay. Not partaking in gay culture doesn’t change your emotional and physical attractions to other men.
Since I believe that polyamory is part of my identity, as opposed to my lifestyle, I think it exists independent of my how many partners with whom I’m currently involved. Just like being gay. You’re still gay even when you’re single.
Second, I want people I’m going on dates with to know exactly the type of relationship I’m looking for. I want all my cards to be laid out on the table. While I’m looking for love and commitment (aren’t we all?), I’m not looking for monogamy. I don’t believe that commitment and monogamy are synonymous. I believe sexual exclusivity and monogamy are, but commitment can take many diverse forms. Additionally, commitment extends far beyond sex. If you believe that commitment is simply being sexually monogamous, I believe your relationship is doomed to fail. Commitment is about being there, emotionally and physically, for your partner. It’s about compromise. It’s about curbing your desire to say, “I told you so” when your partner royally fucks up.
I’m aware I may be scaring some folks off by being so upfront. Perhaps if I waited until our third or fourth date to say I’m not looking for a monogamous relationship, they’d already like me enough to give it a shot. They’d trust me enough to know that I’m not using polyamory as an excuse to sleep around. (God knows I could do that without claiming the polyamorous label, and I did for many years.) Or, conversely, they’ll be more annoyed. They’ll feel lied to. They’ll feel like I wasted their time. I, too, will feel like I wasted my time if the response I receive after telling the person I like that I’m polyamorous is “I never want to see you again.” I’ll not only feel like I wasted my time, I’ll be sad and disappointed.
So I say it from the get go. Yes, it may scare off some people, but for me, it’s better. I feel more honest. I don’t waste my time. I don’t get my hopes up only to be let down a month later.
Third, and lastly, although it sounds corny, I do it for visibility. I think the average person confuses polyamory with a swinger’s lifestyle. When they think of polyamory, all they think of are crazy sex parties with red lights, scented candles, and smooth techno playing in the background. Yes, undoubtedly this can be a part of being polyamorous, if you so choose. (FYI, I do so choose.) However, when I’m open about being polyamorous with folks I meet, both on dates and in a platonic capacity, I dispel stereotypes and preconceived notions about polyamory. Not that I deserve a statue made in my honor for this, (though I will gladly take one), but I think it’s a good thing to do. It’s good for me. It’s good for the polyamorous community at large. It’s good for everyone!
There you have it: Why I identify as polyamorous even though I’m single. Sure, it may confuse people. It may even turn some people off from having an intimate relationship with me. But it’s part of my identity. It’s part of who I am, regardless of who I or am not sexually involved with.
So to all the other poly folks out there, go ahead and hit me up.