I am a mono guy and was talking with a former poly gf about how jealous I would get, thinking about her being together, intimately, with another guy. It really bothered me. I was saying how I need to find a way to deal with it. She said that at the root of my issue is that I view her as “property”. I disagreed. I wanted her to be able to do what she wanted to do and with whomever, but it still drove me crazy. Was I viewing her as property? And do mono guys have the most problem with this?

It can be really aggravating when someone tries to tell you what you’re thinking and feeling, so know that I am present to that frustration. If you genuinely believe that your struggles with her polyamory don’t stem from you seeing her as “property,” well, ultimately you’re the expert on what’s going on inside your own head.

That said, there is a lot to be said for how capitalist and patriarchal ideas worm their way into our minds and hearts and senses of self. Our culture has long liked to treat relationships as economic transactions. You can see it in our language- a simple example like “you’re mine” and “I’m yours” being used as statements of love. There is an underlying assumption of “possession” in many relationships, and what do you “possess?” Well, property.

So, some people who practice polyamory, non-monogamy, or relationship anarchy do a lot of work to uncover, understand, and challenge some ideas they’ve just absorbed through their culture. Your ex may have been trying to let you know that some of your actions and behaviors seem, to her, to have been informed by these ideas, and to encourage you to interrogate some of your assumptions about relationships and possession and how they work. That she did so by making the annoying mistake of presuming to speak for your internal perspective doesn’t mean it’s not worth examining this.

As for your question about whether mono guys have the most issue with this, I don’t know if there’s been any research on that, specifically, but it is true that our culture sends very specific messages to men about “possessing” their partners. That doesn’t mean all monogamous men see their partners as property, just that a monogamous man may be more susceptible to that kind of thinking, even in subtle or unconscious ways.

Here are some readings, if you’re interested!

Of course, you may just be oriented monogamously, and your inability to feel okay in a polyamorous relationship isn’t an issue of philosophy but rather just of who you are. That’s okay too! If talking to your ex is bringing up feelings of guilt and judgment, you’re under no obligation to keep talking to her.

If someone points out something about you that makes you feel challenged and threatened, sometimes the right call is to try and make space to hear and understand what they’re saying and then examine and work on the dark places in yourself that they shined a light on. Other times, the right call is to decide that they don’t speak for you, and their truth is not your truth, and the healthiest thing is to reject their description of you. It can be really, really hard to tell the difference, and mistakes in that area can be pretty consequential, so it’s okay to be struggling with this.