I recently realized that, personally, I would be much happier in a monogamous relationship than a polyamorous one. I was previously dating two individuals, both of whom knew about the other and were friendly. I realized, though, that when I saw monogamous couples together, I felt like that was something I wanted more than what I currently had; it was totally a personal thing. I ended up breaking it off with one of the two, and we still remain fantastic friends. When I told my friends what went down, a few of them reacted in a way that didn't make me feel good at all. They seemed to have been expecting me to pick one eventually all along, and they had even guessed WHICH one I would choose. I'm frustrated because I feel like I'm now their official living proof that polyamory can't work. I don't feel that way at all though! It was entirely a personal decision, and I still support other polyamorous relationships in all forms. How do I avoid being this living stereotype?
The frustrating thing about sharing this world with other humans is that we can’t control what’s going on inside their heads. We can’t change someone else’s feelings, perceptions, opinions, or choices. And sometimes that is just maddening! I’ve been there, for sure.
I thank you, on behalf of the entire “polyamorous community,” for being sensitive to the way certain stereotypes and narratives can be harmful, and that you don’t want to perpetuate certain attitudes within your social circles. But you’re also obligated to do what’s best for yourself, remembering that it is never the job of one individual to represent an entire group.
When your friends say stuff like “polyamory can’t ever work,” just tell them what you told me: “Oh, no, I certainly don’t think that’s the conclusion to draw from this! For me, trying polyamory was a way to learn about myself and my personal needs and desires in relationships. In fact, it worked out great for me and Aziraphale and Crowley - it gave us the space to figure out the best way for us to be in relationship with each other! Permanency isn’t the same as success - just because I didn’t stay in a polyamorous relationship doesn’t mean that it was a negative experience. And this is just how things worked out for me! Lots of people are in healthy, long-term polyamorous arrangements, and it definitely is working for them!”
At that point, you’ve said all you can. If your friends keep pushing or bringing it up, you can gently shut down the conversation by saying “I don’t feel comfortable when you draw large scale conclusions about other people based on my experiences. Let’s talk about something else.” And if they don’t bring it up, don’t worry about what they may be internally thinking about polyamory - you’re not responsible for ensuring that everyone’s opinions are totally nice and accurate.