poly & me

my current thoughts

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I don’t really “date.” I hang out. I invite male friends from other states to visit me. I flirt with women online. I dabble with online dating sites but 99% of my partners/sex buddies are from Twitter or Facebook or are IRL friends. I have been dabbling in polyamoryishesque relationships since 2015, and one thing I keep noticing is how polyamorous cishet men and women (who date men) tend to phrase things and go about things differently.

For instance, “no expectations” seems to have two different meanings. When a woman says it, it tends to mean she doesn’t want to be pressured into doing anything she doesn’t want to do, or that she wants to move at a pace that’s comfortable for both parties. When a man says it it almost always means he wants to not have to care about your feelings and to be able to neglect you when he feels like it without being made to feel guilty— basically he wants to “do poly” on his terms without considering your boundaries or needs. He wants to center himself. Which men do anyway. I mean, our culture does it for them, so it is only natural that this is the mindset that many cishet men begin with or stick with when entering or enjoying polyamorous or open connections. If you question their motives or decline their advances the response is normally “Well you said you wanted this!” or “Why are you trying to control me?”

My last “official” relationship started out “open” and ended up monogamous, mainly because this disloyal Negro kept flirting with a woman he knew did not like me. (A woman who had convened with other women to speculate about whether I was lying about domestic violence based on the fact that I had contact with my son’s father against whom I have a protective order.) It was incredibly disrespectful and I told him so — he quickly apologized and then continued the behavior “behind my back” in a group I was an admin in on Facebook. (When you are a group admin you can still see the people you have blocked.) To top it all off, my request wasn’t for him to cease contact with her — it was for him to stop doing it in that specific space, which I thought of as a safe space for me.

Women/femmes and men also tend to treat friendships differently. I have noticed how, often, my male friends will get girlfriends and mostly disappear. Generally, both men and women are taught to value committed, i.e. sexual-romantic-intimate monogamous, relationships over platonic non-sexual ones. Women and femmes tend to maintain strong intimate bonds, especially with other women. Our quality of life as women is generally lowered when we partner with men, so we tend to better maintain our friendships for extra support. Men seem to think of friendship with women as “secondary” to their romantic connections, which I guess makes sense because we — committed girlfriends and wives and wifeys — help them live longer and improve their quality of life tremendously.

So when men venture out into polyamory, it is no wonder they tend to carry these attitudes into their connections. I have had a couple male partners who I stopped considering seriously as primary partners because of their whole “no expectations” thing. They never directly asked me what I needed or wanted, and honestly even with male friends I have known for awhile, I still find myself shutting down and just saying the nice things because I don’t want to be too demanding. It is a defense mechanism I learned so long ago, it happens automatically.

It is so hard to find a cishet partner who is not on some neglectful bullshit. I like to feel cared for but, especially after my last relationship, I am finding it much easier to be alone, rather than to deal with floating in nowhere with several men who think polyamory is just like being a single bachelor dudehoe. But there is no relationship free of expectations. We expect things from our friends. We expect things from people we are close to. If you want no expectations, which really means “just sex,” go meet people off Tinder for one night stands. Not me. I want phone calls, I want video calls, or messages. I want a friendship. I want depth.

I do have one male partner in another state who is a good friend of mine, is very supportive of me and my art and checks in almost daily, even though we can’t speak on the phone often. We laugh, and send voice messages and talk about our other partners and it’s so comfy, it’s everything I need from a connection. So I am grateful. For me polyamory is about freedom and attachment and trust and depth, but I know I probably need to look outside of cishet men if I am going to be fulfilled. Especially since a big part of me still wants a life partner — which is what I mean when I say “primary.”

As of right now I am not searching for anything too serious, but I fear when I do desire it, this is what I’ll get. And as a Black poly atheistic sex worker artist geeky nerdy single mother who only dates people of color and mainly Black men and women, I do wonder if I will ever find what I want and need.

What are y’alls thoughts on this? Do you think that cishet men new to poly need to take more care to de-center themselves and consider their partners, or at least be honest about what they are looking for? What about the “no expectations” thing? Let me know in the comments.

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