Good Bi Love: Liars are Ruining Polyamory for All of Us

7/17/2017

I recently read an article written by Alexander Kacala on Unicorn Booty titled, “Why I Blocked the Last Guy I Slept With.”

In the piece, Alex discusses having a crush on this man he met repeatedly out at gay bars in Hell’s Kitchen. They realized they lived near one another through hook-up apps, and after Brian (name changed in article) attempted to booty call Alex repeatedly, Alex made it clear that he wanted a real date. On their real date, Brian mentioned he was just in the Hamptons. When Alex questions who he was with, Brian “got shady.”

Despite that brief blip in the date, Alex found himself really crushing on Brian, and soon after, they had sex. Right after, Brian revealed to Alex that he actually has a 53 year-old boyfriend, and that’s who he was staying with in the Hamptons. He clarified they were in an open relationship.

Understandably, Alex felt used, lied to, and betrayed. In a rather dramatic gesture (Alex admits this himself) he blocked Brian on all social media.

Recently, I experienced something similar (though not as drastic). I was on a third date with this man I had met out at a Pride event. On our first date, we spoke about how I lived with my ex-boyfriend and his wife, and how I am non-monogamous. He said he views himself the same way too. Then, after a few weeks of texting, he casually revealed on our third date that he has a partner who he lives with. This came up when we walked past an apartment, and he told me that he was thinking about buying. Then he clarified, “It’s actually my partner who wants to buy.”

Now as you know by now, I’m staunchly sex-positive and view myself as polyamorous (despite currently not dating anyone seriously). I’m all for ethically non-monogamous relationships.

But truthfully, I was pretty pissed off. Not once while we were discussing polyamory did he mention that he had a boyfriend. When we discussed his housemates, he somehow “forgot” to mention that he actually shares a room with his partner of two years. There were a myriad of perfect times he could have mentioned, “Hey, I actually have a boyfriend,” yet he didn’t. Again, I wouldn’t have cared, but I was annoyed that despite texting for weeks, he conveniently left this out of the conversation. I felt lied to.

Additionally, he hadn’t had sex with anyone but his boyfriend in two years. His open relationship was new. He said this in bed, while naked, right as we started having sex. Again, this is fine, but given how much he spoke about play parties and all the sex he’s having, I felt deceived.

Neither my story nor Alex’s are unique or new. I’ve spoken to countless gay men who have been screwed over by men in so-called open or polyamorous relationships.

These men (and to a lesser extent women) use the poly or open label as justification to screw around, without taking into account the emotions of other people. They’re not only selfish, they are also tainting the poly and open labels. They are ruining it for the ethically non-monogamous individuals who are honest and open about their intent. They’re ruining it for the guys who have tried monogamy, and realized that given their personality, are much better suited for non-monogamous relationships.

This is a big problem for the ethically non-monogamous community, as many individuals are immediately turned off when we reveal we’re polyamorous. This is in large part due to the fact that they have been hurt by people who use these labels.

However, I would argue that these men aren’t “open”. They are simply jerks.

I wish I could offer a solution to individuals misusing these labels. Alas, the only way to fix this problem is if jerks stopped using these labels to justify selfish behavior.

I do, however, have two things to say about all this.

One: I used to be annoyed by men who were vehemently opposed to dating guys in open or polyamorous relationships, but I will say I get it now. Especially if you have been deceived by someone who uses that label, or worse, had your heart broken. I empathize with your pain and frustration. I understand why you might not want to date someone who is in an open or polyamorous relationship.

Two: Those of us who are ethically non-monogamous now need to go above and beyond with regards to our honesty and intent, since there are many folks who misuse non-monogamous labels. Or, like my date, was unaware of how to approach the topic. I don’t think he was purposefully being malicious or deceitful. I think he was simply new to being in an open relationship (at least with this partner) and didn’t quite know how to bring up the topic. But what ended up happening? I felt deceived and will (probably) not go on another date with him.

So we, the poly/open community, are now held to a higher standard. As such, we will need to do even better than how we are doing. We need to be clearer in our communication and more upfront about what we want, because many folks have sadly been taken advantage by those who wrongfully claim non-monogamous labels. We also need to accept that many folks might not want to date us because of this. While unfortunate, that’s their prerogative, and it’s our job to give them that choice.

Zachary Zane
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.