Stop Projecting Your Relationship Goals On Me

8/13/2018

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Like many young boys, I dreamed of getting married. I was convinced I would marry my first girlfriend when I was 13. (We met at a musical theater summer camp and dated for a whopping month, until she broke up with me because I wasn’t “experienced” enough.) I then thought I would marry my first “real” girlfriend at 17. And all throughout college, I was positive that wedding bells were in my immediate future.

In fact, I thought I would be married to a woman by the time I was 25. And by the time I was 30, I had planned to have both a son and a daughter.

The thought of being polyamorous or married to a man wasn’t something that even entered my mind because I didn’t know that polyamory was an option, and I didn’t yet realize I was attracted to men (and all other genders, too).

Now at 27 years-old, I can safely say that I probably won’t be getting married in the next 10 years (or ever), and as for children? I just don’t see them at any point even in the most distant of horizons.

Looking back at my white picket-fence fantasy, all I can think now is LOL. While I won’t be hyperbolic and claim that the fate sounds like one worse than death, I will say that it really doesn’t seem like being married monogamously to a straight woman would be right for me, at least at the present time. (I never say never!)

And before I continue, I want to make abundantly clear that if you’ve been introspective and think a monogamous, married relationship is what you want, then go out and get it! There’s nothing wrong with that. I’m not one of those polyamorous people who shame you for being monogamous, claiming it’s “unnatural” or whatnot. (And to be honest, those people are annoying as all hell and need to stop. They’re hurting their own arguments and creating further divide between the monogamous and poly/open communities.)

I want you to do what’s best for you, as long as you’ve actually thought about it: You’re not being monogamous simply because it’s the norm. You’re doing it because you think that it’ll make you feel the most fulfilled in your relationship. I respect you for that. Similarly, I want to do what’s going to make me feel the most fulfilled in my relationship, and I hope you’ll respect me for that too.

Now, after clearing my throat, I need to speak freely. I’ve noticed a pattern among the men that I’ve dated since moving to New York.

Some background first. While dating, I make it very clear from the get-go what I can offer in a relationship as well as what I’m looking for out of a partner. On the first date, I always talk about how I dated a man with a wife, and how that was the healthiest relationship I was ever in. I also discuss how now, I would like to be in an open relationship. I’m not sure exactly how that open relationship will manifest itself (and it will depend on the person I’m dating) but that is what I see my future holding.

These men understand… or at least they claim to. After 5 weeks, on the dot, they ask me to be monogamous. When I tell them no, they get frustrated with me for being unable to commit. I feel terrible and like the bad guy, despite the fact I had my relationships intent so clear from the beginning.

While venting to my therapist, she told me that people have a natural tendency to hear what they want to hear. I understand that. Of course I do. But it’s irritating when I am being so forthcoming, only to then be shamed for what I made clear from the start.

Every single monogamous-oriented gay boy laments hookup culture, and claims that all guys want to be in an open relationship. And then you have open relationship-minded people, like me, who complain that with growing rights (like same-sex marriage) more and more gay/bi boys want to be monogamous and abide by social norms than ever before.

Needless to say, queer men are diverse and there are plenty of people who fall into each of the two camps (and all kinds of other camps). But what I’m (slowly) getting at is this: stop projecting your expectations onto others. Stop assuming people will change for you. Nor should you change fundamental things about your identity or relationship-style for anyone else. When someone tells you something that you don’t like to hear, don’t ignore it, or worse, ask for clarification. You simply need to take it.

For example, one guy I dated got frustrated when I said I viewed him now as a friend. I explained that if he wished to continue hanging out with me, that is how our relationship would manifest. I thought this was as clear as day.

This led to a 30-minute conversation where he explained that our relationship was clearly more than a friendship, and he’s open to see how things work out. When I saw him next (which was actually a month later because I was traveling), I clarified to him that we’re clearly just friends, and he was livid.

At that point, I was shocked. I said I viewed him as a friend, because that is what I meant. I didn’t mince my words at all.

So everyone, myself included, needs to listen to what people say. If someone says they don’t think they can do an open-relationship, I’m going to stop the relationship right then and there — instead of continuing on, hoping that they will change their mind for me.

Similarly, I want the men (and women) I’m dating to start taking what I say at face value, instead of hearing whatever it is that they want to hear.

Until we can learn to this, we will keep falling into the same dating traps of being utterly confused when someone acts on the things they’ve been saying they want to do all along.

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.