Polyamory / Relationships / Self Worth

Polyamory and Non-Monogamy Didn’t Work For Me, and That’s Okay


Written by Olivia Roberts.

As a human living in 2020, I’ve been on dating apps. I’ve seen profile upon profile of people claiming “poly” or “ethical non-monogamy.” A while ago, I matched with someone who didn’t mention either of these things in their bio, but eventually told me they were non-monogamous. I told them that I wasn’t, and that it doesn’t work for me. In response, they said, “Oh, it’s so beautiful.”

Is that supposed to mean my preferences are ugly?

Most likely, I’m reading too far into it. “Oh, it’s so beautiful” isn’t necessarily meant to be belittling. But it does imply that they think by trying it, I would find it “so beautiful,” and maybe my life would feel more rewarding or I’d feel more fulfilled. And, aside from the obvious that shaming anyone for anything is pretty wack, it’s also very triggering.

But I don’t want to date three other people or seek my love in many different relationships! These relationships fill me with jealousy, low self-esteem, and unwavering anxiety!

I feel like I’m being shamed by some stranger, especially because I have tried non-monogamy. It wasn’t beautiful and, without a doubt, was not rewarding. It was a disaster. I was jealous all the time, I felt bad about myself, I would constantly compare myself to other partners —

I’ll stop there. There were so many bad things I felt while in this relationship, and I called it off because I started to recognize how unhealthy it was. I put myself in a situation I already knew probably wouldn’t work for me because I know I’m capable of all of these negative and self-deprecating thoughts. I put myself in a scenario where I knew all of the rules, so I felt a thousand times worse when it all started to take a toll on what I struggle with every single day.

I’m sure there could have been better boundaries established but, honestly, I don’t think those would have even helped. I think not being in that situation in the first place would have helped.

The reason I even got involved: I live in a city where a monogamous relationship is pretty hard to come by. My community is full of folks who do not abide by “traditional” societal norms, and that’s amazing! What is not so amazing is that it can be a little difficult when I am a monogamous, sensitive, adult baby. Dating is already hard enough, but it’s a lot tougher when you are monogamous and the person you’re interested in and finally feel an organic, intense, and wonderful connection with already has a primary partner, or is dating, like, three other people. They seek their love in many different connections and relationships and find that a fulfilling experience.

But I don’t want to date three other people or seek my love in many different relationships! These relationships fill me with jealousy, low self-esteem, and unwavering anxiety!

Look. Polyamory and non-monogamy work for some people. If that’s your thing, and you’re having fun, and you feel comfortable, confident, and happy, then I’m so glad for you!

I am also jealous of you! Which is probably the biggest and most easily identifiable reason why I can’t do it.

While I know that jealousy can also be part of a monogamous relationship, the difference is that I didn’t put myself in a situation where it has been agreed upon to do the thing that makes me jealous. I don’t have to sit there and hold my tongue to avoid looking and feeling like a hypocrite. While I envy those who find comfort and understanding in a non-monogamous relationship, I know it is simply not for me — my brain and my anxieties healthily remind me that I find comfort within myself and only one other person, who in turn finds comfort in themselves and me.

I’ve been realizing that I live in a place where the Not Norm I grew up with is now the New Norm, and I feel that I do not fit into that New Norm. (We could dive into structures we teach our children and how we condition them, but that’s for another day.) Per the conversation I mentioned above, I feel like I have been looked down upon for not being capable of that sort of relationship and that sort of love.

It makes me feel as if people view my inability to be polyamorous or non-monogamous as a reflection of my ability to be “chill,” or an accepting, open-minded person. And that sort of perceived reaction from my peers and the community I associate myself with sends me into an internal spiral. My thoughts start to cycle: Why can’t I do these sorts of relationships? What’s wrong with me? Why am I so sensitive? Why am I not more self-assured? I will never find anyone, I am incapable of love, jealousy makes me undesirable, I am unlovable.

If you feel that something isn’t for you, you do not have to put yourself in a situation just because your friends/community/dating pool is doing it.

So I spiral, and then I realize that this makes me feel as if everyone thinks this and that about me. I’m sure realistically few do. It’s mostly me who thinks that about me!

If you feel that something isn’t for you, you do not have to put yourself in a situation just because your friends/community/dating pool is doing it. Listen to yourself when your insides scream, “Danger!” They are trying to tell you that you know who you are deep down. We shouldn’t have to waste our precious time and energy changing a fundamental part of ourselves when it’s perfectly okay to be the way you are, to date the way you are, to seek love the way you are.

It is perfectly okay for all of us to have different ways of showing our love, expressing our love, and being in love.

Living in a world that is becoming more open-minded and tolerant makes me feel good. It’s inspiring and beautiful and I’m so happy to see all sorts of folks representing all sorts of different lifestyles. But I’ve forgotten that that doesn’t mean I have to sacrifice my peace of mind trying to make myself fit in with a lifestyle that is not right for me.

I am not at fault for knowing where I draw my line. I am no less than anyone. I am capable of love, and being loved, in my own way.

About the Author

Olivia Roberts is a book editor based in the Bay Area. She has a lot of feelings (too many) and isn’t quite sure what to do with all of them. When she isn’t writing about all of these feelings, she’s likely taking a nap with her cat.

Follow on IG: @absolutelynot | Follow on Twitter: @

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