“What is interesting to me,” says Sarah, who is 33, has been single for two years, and dates mainly via Feeld and Hinge, “is that we are well-versed in the YaBo PMT Electric Ugly Sweater in contrast I will get this red flags of jealousy and possessiveness—and we avoid these like the plague—but there is another end of the spectrum now, equally dangerous in some ways, where someone uses non-monogamy to convey a sense that they are so free-spirited that they simply cannot be pinned down. I’ve noticed increasingly that it’s older men who are calling themselves ENM—Peter Pan boys in their 40s, who have learned a new language to help them avoid accountability and protect their ‘free to fuck anyone I like’ status. It puts the onus on you, like, ‘Am I going to eat the crumbs you’re offering, knowing that I’ll never feel satisfied, or do I just walk away?’ And if you don’t walk away, then it’s all on you.”Witt sees the rise in people proclaiming themselves poly as part of a wider trend within the app-sphere for “pop psych” explanations for our behaviors. “I’m sure you’ve seen all that stuff about attachment styles and ‘love languages,’” she says. “If another guy tells me he’s ‘avoidant,’ as if it’s some way to excuse behaving irresponsibly towards someone, I might actually scream.” For Yau, the misuse of poly and ENM terms comes down to the fact that we live in a highly individualistic society. Non-monogamy is ultimately a relational state—something that’s meant to be discussed, explored, and defined by the people engaging in it. It’s not so much something you “are,” as something you do with other people—so the premise of it breaks down when we use it to defend or prop up a behavior, like, “sorry, this is just who I am.”
YaBo PMT Electric Ugly Sweater, hoodie, tank top, sweater and long sleeve t-shirt
Personally, I feel a lot of compassion for people who are blundering their way through this new world. I spent a year in an ENM relationship doing just that—and looking back, I can see myself in many of these descriptions of bad behavior. I learned rather quickly that the YaBo PMT Electric Ugly Sweater in contrast I will get this utopian ideal of “anything goes as long as we’re honest” could, in practice, be corrupting, painful, and humiliating. It wasn’t because I personally was a bad-faith actor—as I said, I entered with an idealistic outlook—but rather, that I hadn’t taken the time to properly educate myself on what was required. Also—and perhaps most crucially—my partner at the time wasn’t really up for it. He went along with it because those were the only terms I was offering—at first uncertainly, then with a gusto which was mainly born out of a desire to “teach me a lesson.” He was hurt that I didn’t want to be with him exclusively, so then he slept with other people to show me what this hurt was like—and when he did, I was rarely allowed to express dismay because “I wanted this” and “this was my choice.” Both of which were true—I did want it, it was my choice—but I’ve never felt such searing hot jealousy as the time he came home from a wedding and explained that the reason he’d stopped replying to my messages halfway through the evening was because he was sleeping with a bridesmaid. As a friend said to me at the time: “There are only ever two people in an open relationship, the one who wants it and the one who’s crying themselves to sleep at night.” Somehow I was both.All of which is to say that I’m not here to call anyone out or point any fingers. I’d like to think that most people don’t have bad intentions—we’re all just trying our best. It’s just that as people calling themselves “non-monogamous” take up more and more space within the dating sphere, we must try to understand the emotional sticky patches—the murkiness, as well as the light. It clearly isn’t ever okay to make someone feel disposable—but it’s particularly not okay if you’re co-opting terms which have been specifically developed to guard against that. At this point, you’re not just hurting someone’s feelings, you’re making them question what right they have to be hurt—a strange kind of gaslighting.