Bi and Poly Part 1: Are You Ready to Be Non-Monogamous?
Photo by Jack London
A pang of guilt struck me the moment I finally accepted the truth: I will never be happy in a monogamous relationship.
I’ve dated, slept with, and loved men, women, and non-binary folks. I’ve had everything from one-night stands to committed year-long monogamous relationships. I’ve dated guys and girls who really seemed like the perfect match for me. But for some reason, we never worked out, and I was always the one to initiate the breakup.
I had begun to think something was wrong with me. I thought I was incapable of finding true love. Why am I letting go of these fabulous people — people I get along with– people I truly care for — people who unconditionally love and accept me?
That’s when I had the revelation. It wasn’t me that was the issue. It wasn’t my partner. It wasn’t that we weren’t good for each other. It was monogamy. The cold hard truth is that I’m not suited for monogamy.
The revelation made me feel like a fraud. Being a bi writer and activist, I had written dozens of pieces attempting to dispel negative stereotypes about bi people. One of the big ones I attempt to dispel, is that we can’t be monogamous. That we need to be dating people of various genders in order to feel complete.
Here I was, suddenly one of those bi men, who realized he actually does need to be in a non-monogamous relationship in order to feel satisfied, healthy, and happy.
Luckily, shortly after having my epiphany, I interviewed renown bi activist Robyn Ochs for the Huffington Post (you can read the whole interview here). We discussed issues surrounding bi-visibility, erasure, and the future of the bi+ movement.
When I told her I felt guilty for not practicing what I preached, she said something to me that has stuck with me. She told me, “You’re not responsible for the bisexual brand.”
It sounds so simple, but I think it’s something many of us struggle with.
So many bi folks, myself very much included, think that we have to be this liaison for all bi people. That we have to represent all bi people and dispel all stereotypes. The thing is, when we tell people we’re bi, we’re often the first out bi person with whom they’ve gotten to discuss bisexuality. So we feel the weight of the entire bi community on our shoulders. We feel like we have to be this shining example of bisexuality, so that we can dispel all stereotypes. But this simply isn’t true. It’s not our job. Robyn is right. We’re not responsible for the bisexual brand.
Additionally, I think it’s important to realize that all the so-called “negative” stereotypes about us aren’t negative. Being a cheater. Being dishonest. Spreading HIV. These are unequivocally negative stereotypes about us. Things that harm ourselves and the community. These stereotypes make it very difficult for us to date, and explains why so many people refuse to date bisexuals.
But needing to be in a non-monogamous relationship? What’s wrong with that, if you’re honest and upfront about your intent and feelings? Absolutely nothing! I think we as a community need to make the distinction between stereotypes that are inherently unethical, and one’s that aren’t inherently unethical.
Don’t get me wrong, it’s bad that people assume things about us, because every bi person is different. Some want monogamous relationships, whereas others don’t. (Just like straight and gay people!) So to assume we all want the same thing is misguided, but let’s not equate things that are inherently unethical with things that society has arbitrarily deemed unethical.
With all that said, I think many bi folks would be interested in trying a non-monogamous relationship. I don’t think I’m special in that I’m in a polyamorous relationship. I think I was simply lucky that I met and quickly fell in love with a married, polyamorous man. I was lucky that I was able break free from the societal norms that claim that we should all strive to be in a monogamous relationship because monogamy is the highest (and most ideal) relationship style.
That’s why I created this video. Without pushing any “agenda,” I do think many bi folks would benefit from being in an open or other non-monogamous relationship. This video explores just that. In it, I discuss the 5 questions you need to ask yourself to decide if you’re ready for and should be in a non-monogamous relationship.
Zachary Zane a Brooklyn-based freelance writer, speaker, YouTuber, and activist whose work focuses on (bi)sexuality, gender, identity politics, relationships, and culture. He's a contributing editor at The Advocate Magazine, a columnist at Bi.org, and currently writes for The Washington Post, Cosmopolitan, Out Magazine, and PRIDE.