When you start talking to people about non-traditional relationships, the reaction isn't always pretty. This week discuss what motivates negative reactions to non-monogamy, as well as practical tips for handling the haters and rocking tough conversations with grace and ease.
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Jase: On this episode of The Multiamory Podcast, we're talking about backlash in response to being non-monogamous. What causes it and how to handle it.
Dedeker: I think when I was little, I confused the term backlash with backwash.
Dedeker: Yes. They're not the same way word.
Emily: Wait, ew.
Dedeker: One's much more grosser than the other, but the other is much more painful than the other.
Jase: I see.
Dedeker: They're both bad things.
Jase: In planning this episode, in seeing backlash, I kept thinking about Backdraft, the movie.
Dedeker: That's a good one or also, Whiplash.
Emily: What is that movie?
Jase: It's about fire.
Dedeker: It's great. Here's the thing is that we are living at a time where I think personally, that non-traditional relationships are more visible than they ever have been before. We're tackling it on television shows, on news stories, on articles, of course, there's podcasts like us. There's a lot of people creating content. People are writing about the subject at length.
All those things aside, it's still tends to make people really uncomfortable. Usually, the idea of anything outside monogamy, whether it is non-monogamy or polyamory or swinging or open relationships or anything under that umbrella. The lack of understanding can be really hard for anyone who's trying to conduct a functioning non-monogamous relationship, for anyone who's just come out about that or anyone who's already part of a marginalized groups, such as, people who are disabled, LGBTQ, or people of color.
Emily: We're going to today talk about backlash on a smaller scale. We have already gone over more serious legal concerns, legal ramifications from coming out as polyamorous. Things like losing a child from child custody or just being fired from a job, stuff like that. More info on those things. You should check out Episode 167 for the legal side of those things. Episode 167 is a good place to look.
All of those obviously, are very serious things, but they're not probably as common as smaller day-to-day prejudices that we tend to go through. Just by merit of being polyamorous, being non-monogamous or coming out as either of those things for the first time to your friends, to your co-workers, your family, stuff like that. I was interested in doing this episode and revisiting some of these things just because a friend of mine, Mckenzie, recently, has definitely had a little bit of backlash to me about these things. It's brought up some things within her regarding probably, infidelity.
It brings up feelings about her thoughts obviously, on infidelity. Maybe even her thoughts on bisexuality or LGBTQ issues, stuff like that. Just by merit of being around the three of us, which she's been in some situations with the three of us. It's caused those feelings to come up. It is unfortunately manifested in some backlash, some difficult things that have stressed our current relationship and our friendship. That's just something that I wanted to take a look at. Why that happens? It definitely feels as though it's a prevalent thing that those of us in any different community deal with.
Dedeker: This isn't your first rodeo with us?
Dedeker: With friends of yours really, really taking umbrage to not only your relationships but also your sexuality and things like that. Is that right?
Emily: Yes, definitely. Especially, when I was first coming out, I've talked about this, probably at length on the podcast. When Jason and I were first opening up and our first coming out, being in relationships with women as well. All of those things caused one of my very good friends, Sienna to have very visceral responses to it. She was getting married at the time. Again, the idea of loving more than one person or having a meaningful relationship with more than one person just caused a lot of things to go off on her brain. A lot of triggers, perhaps, I don't really know. All of those things happened. I don't know, have you two experience similar things?
Jase: Yes, definitely.
Emily: Obviously, I know about some of them but recently even has stuff come up with friends or family?
Jase: I think that it's something that can look different in different situations. I know for me, it more often comes up in more of a subtle way rather than what you're dealing with right now, Emily. Where you have a friend who's very clearly reacting to this and struggling with it and taking some of that out on you or expecting you to do the emotional labor of dealing with her anxiety around your lifestyle choices.
Jase: For me, it's come up more in subtle ways of realizing that there's perhaps, some underlying fear or insecurity or something that will come up from friends of mine who maybe feel like I might be some threat to their way of being or some threat to their relationships even if that's not the way I'm viewing it and that's not actually the reality of the situation.
Then, it's a little bit more of a subtle underlying thing, at least right now. Obviously, when I first was coming out, there were some bigger reactions from people. I've had just more of that maybe people feeling they're not as comfortable being around me or talking about relationships with me. Almost like assuming that any conversation with me is going to lead to me trying to destroy their relationships or trying to change the way that they do things.
Dedeker: Interesting. I guess recently for me, it hit so hard because it's hard to piece out. What is the stuff that you've just gotten used to after a certain point versus what actually stands out. I guess what stands out is recently, a few months ago, a friend of my mother's, when I started talking about the work that I do and about the podcasts, really didn't have necessarily not a violent or aggressive reaction, but definitely of a negative surprise, shocked, baffled reaction. Which is strange because this person, I also learned was a huge burner and was also had been in some kink relationships in the past. It's usually the combination of those two things means talking about non-monogamy.
Jase: It's all cool.
Dedeker: Exactly. It's all cool but I don't know. I feel like I'm seeing more and more often it's starting to be a little bit of a generational thing to a certain extent. He's my parents' generation and I think he's, I don't know, it's still very much hanging on to the same thing of the assumptions of, “No, that never works, that never works, that never works. I don't care if you've identified this way for 10 years. It never works. It never works. It never works.” That's been my most recent experience with that.
Emily: It's something that Jase has said earlier is that there's this idea that just by merit of talking about non-monogamy or being involved in it in any way. It's going to be a bad thing for someone else's relationship or cause them that fear of the polyamorous possibility that we've talked of before. That underlying fear sometimes is there regardless of, obviously whether or not you're trying to date someone or whatever or you're not necessarily like infringing upon their relationship in any way. That idea that it could happen is something that is so scary to people. We'll get a little bit more into that later.
Jase: We're going to get into all of this more later. It made me think that there's definitely a parallel with another project that I'm working on right now that has to do with masculinity, specifically. The way we're talking about that right now. What that means to people? Then, also how it relates to polyamory. In a lot of the news articles that are critical of college courses now that are on masculinity and things like that, that are examining it. This idea that like, “You're trying to destroy masculinity by examining it.”
When people have very deeply identified with something in their life, whether that's monogamy, which we're all taught that that's something you should really identify with especially, if you're a romantic type of person. That monogamy should be something that you hold very highly or masculinity can also be an example of that. Something that you're taught. It's like, “This is a key part of your identity and you have to hold onto this.” That even just looking at it too closely is threatening.
If someone's starting to just examine it, even that alone is a threat. There's definitely something to the scariness of examining something you've never looked at up close. Even if someone's not trying to destroy that thing or take it apart, you feel like they must be because let's not look too closely over there.
Emily: Yes, Jase, that's interesting. Okay, let's define some terms that are being thrown around right now.
Jase: Yes, a lot of words being thrown around right now are things like backlash, or bigotry, or prejudice, or discrimination. For this episode, we did want to clarify two of those which are specifically prejudice and discrimination.
Emily: Yes, prejudice is, this is actually from Eli Sheff, she wrote an article in Psychology Today and this is coming from her. It's making judgments about a specific kind of person based on stereotypes assumptions and incomplete or actively faulty information. Usually, the person being judged is part of an assumed homogeneous mass of others who are different in some way from the person who is judging them.
Dedeker: Then specifically, discrimination is taking that prejudice, taking those prejudicial thoughts or attitudes and then enacting them and then applying them in real life. That can be either in the way that you behave toward the person or group of people that your prejudice against, in the way that you interact with them or even to the level of laws that are enacted that may hamper or limit or undermine the group that is being prejudiced against.
Jase: I think something that's involved in both of these is that this is a minority group. This comes up a lot in discussions about racism online where the question of does reverse racism exist and I think that-
Dedeker: Reverse sexism.
Jase: Or reverse sexism, yes. That discrimination here I think part of that is that it's something a little bit larger and more systemic and that is part of a larger structure. Just being a polyamorous person, being I'm not going to date a monogamous person, isn't discrimination. You see what I mean, that something, maybe that's prejudice of monogamous people, I can't be friends with them. Maybe that's a prejudice, but that's a very different thing from discrimination because monogamous people are not a community who's being-
Dedeker: Institutionally marginalized.
Jase: Right, exactly.
Emily: Yes, exactly.
Dedeker: Yes, yes, yes. These behaviors and these attitudes of being prejudiced or discriminating or giving some form of of backlash like negative reaction, what actually causes that? Is it just because human beings are trash? Because I could definitely-
Dedeker: - support that theory.
Emily: Yes, but no, there are actually neurological reasons, some of which we talked about in our Wired for Love episode which talked a lot about ambassadors, and primitives, and things like that within the brain. Yes, the amygdala we're going back to that, the amygdala stores fear responses and it's also responsible for the expression of those responses. The way, which I found interesting, the amygdala can store a bunch of different responses over the years and then can also express that. That's a thing like immediate response that you may have about something which we talked about the primitives in that episode.
Dedeker: The knee-jerk reaction.
Emily: Exactly, the knee-jerk reaction before you have time to really assess the situation, it's like fight or flight response that just occurs automatically, that may occur automatically if you let it. Then, something that was interesting in one of the articles that we read was that there is a strong correlation between levels of serotonin in the brain and moral social behavior.
For example, they've done studies where they see people with depleted serotonin levels and those people were found to have more aggression and less social cooperation than those with normal or higher serotonin levels. They're doing a lot of different studies about the brain and about the reasoning why people would be more aggressive towards a certain group of people because they are looking at why so many different racist riots are happening or people are lashing out against marginalized communities. They're trying to look at what is happening within the brain and why these are becoming more prevalent right now.
Dedeker: The idea being that the amygdala, it hangs on to these different responses that may have been taught or may have been ingrained in you in some form or fashion, whether that's from a past bad experience or something that, and then, if you have depleted serotonin levels that, if I'm interpreting this correctly, that leads you to having fewer inhibitions as far as being aggressive and essentially not socially cooperating, is that right?
Emily: I think perhaps they don't necessarily say that both of those things are obviously going to produce a specific response but just that their studies over time of shown x, y, and z that depleted serotonin levels also can mean that one might be more aggressive or more whatever towards another person or another group of people. Again, perhaps we can see from that that if a person has a PTSD response in the amygdala or if, for instance, has been cheated on in the past that their fear response may be to a polyamorous person or non monogamous person, "Shit, that means that that in some way is going to happen again to me therefore, I'm going to have a bad response to them," for example.
Dedeker: Right. I think it makes sense because I think we've seen when this fear response kicks in from people for instance with the whole "Gay Panic" thing, the idea that it's okay for me to lash out in a panic if I see someone's homosexual behavior or if I think that someone's homosexual behavior is going to affect me in some way. At least it's not actually okay, we're not saying that, but that's been used as a defense in the past.
I think we see that also in the backlash against transgender people that it does come from this fear response as well that drives it. What are the factors, and Emily was starting to touch on it, what are the factors that would stimulate that same fear response that would cause a backlash against someone who's in some form of non-monogamous relationship?
Jase: To tie it to the fear response here is that something that is perceived as a threat to our tribe, if we're thinking evolutionary psyche here, that's something that's a threat to our identity and therefore, our membership in this tribe, it feels like a very real threat even if it's not. Especially, this is something that's very different in our modern world than it would have been back living in a tribe. To use that example about homosexuality, there's this sense that, "Okay if I believe that in order to exist in my tribe, I have to be heteronormative just like I think everybody else is."
If something comes along that challenges that, especially if there's some part of me that can relate to it a little bit, that fear of, "Oh God, this is trying to take me out of my tribe where I'm not going to be safe. Where I'm gonna starve and die on my own out in the wilderness and not have the support of my tribe anymore because of this threat." That's that very visceral fear response that's in us. Yes Emily, what were you going to-
Emily: Yes, just essentially with this friend, I told her that I was attracted to her, that I found her to be sexually attractive and not really obviously with anything in mind of me saying that was going to lead to anything. I think I just did it because I wanted to give her a compliment or something, I don't even know. That has definitely caused a lot of questioning and a lot of, maybe not anger, but definitely a very specific response within her that is, I think, potentially that fear of just being different or people going to be perceiving me as gay, or as homosexual, or as bisexual, or something because Emily found me to be attractive and I don't know.
That's been really hard to deal with because I didn't think that it needed to be that big of a deal but then all of a sudden it did become this big freaking deal that I said that.
Jase: In the same way that our sexuality and that identity can become so ingrained, this is what allows me to be part of society and part of my tribe, and if I let go of that identity or I challenge that identity, I could be kicked out and abandoned and die. The same thing happens with the romantic monogamous bonds that our current society draws on because the way we talk about monogamy is so associated with feelings of safety and trust and these important-
Jase: Right. Very basic level, "Yes I need these to survive as a social creature, which is a human being," that we tie it. That's why we hear stuff like, "I'm afraid that I'll end up alone someday if I don't settle down or if I don't get someone now. I'm going to be lonely or I'm going to have no security in my life." For all these things, we've tied that to marriage. This is also something that fairly unique to human beings and even the idea of permanent monogamy, specifically, is very unique to our species. The only other features out there that are permanently lifelong monogamous or like--
Dedeker: Like gibbons?
Jase: Creatures that like parasites that will, actually, fuse their bodies with each other, so they literally cannot separate from each other, that's a very unique thing.
Dedeker: That's really gross.
Jase: Yes. More often, it's things like penguins. We have this beautiful documentary, looking at how romantic penguins are, and how monogamous they are. Leaving out the fact that after that child leaves the nest, they separate and will find other partners. [chuckles]
Dedeker: They become monogamous with that other partner for the duration of that egg.
Jase: They're like serial monogamous, exactly.
Jase: Exactly. But we're taught to think this is something universal thing and it's, actually, not. Some would argue it, it's not natural for humans either and it doesn't mean that it's bad, that doesn't mean monogamy is bad. It just means, it's not easy for us. It's not not natural. I think that when you tie those two things together, the fact that monogamy is difficult, at least in the way that it's portrayed, how it should go or suddenly I only have eyes for you. That's very difficult and at the same time, we're told that's the only way to have safety and security and have a meaningful life. When you pair those two things together, anything that threatens that, is really scary.
Dedeker: Which I think is really interesting, that we do look at it socially, as such a foundation when at the same time, if you look at the rates of infidelity and also fact that, just infidelity itself is something that like most people have some touchpoint to, whether it's you personally, were cheated on or you personally cheated on someone or your parents cheated on each other or a friend, like you've some friends and your close friends are cool, that're cheating or experiencing infidelity. It's like, by the time that you're in 20s or 30s, you have some personal touchpoint infidelity.
Emily: Or a few.
Dedeker: Or a few. Usually, probably a few.
Jase: Most likely several.
Dedeker: That's really interesting that, of course, rather than that highlighting to us how common, at least the desire for non-monogamy is for some people, but that means that there's a touchpoint, that means that there's the potential for there to be that visceral fear response in a person because usually, there's the thing that's like when we have a touchpoint infidelity, generally that's a very painful thing. It's like either we experience that pain personally or we saw our parents experiencing that pain personally or we see a friend experience that pain personally, and that's also at both sides even for the person who's cheating like usually, ends up experiencing a lot of pain on that as well.
Dedeker: It's like, there are already these builtin pathways for so many people that if something that's presented, that's outside the bound of monogamy. Even if it is ethical and honest and communicative that it can still bring up the kind of stored up fear response in the amygdala that then produces a backlash response.
Emily: Yes, totally. Again, we talked to earlier about like the primitive things. They can just lash out and have this very poor response to non-monogamy. When they're confronted with the idea that a potential relationship structure could be different than just two people together and that's it. Again, like I said before, the whole thing with am I presenting that, maybe I'm gay or not because Emily is interested in me or finds me sexually attractive or because I see her with Jase and Dedeker and they have such a good relationship. Now looks nice to me, does that mean that maybe I want to be polyamorous, and does that mean that I'm going to cheat on my partner.
That's like, the kind of responses that I've heard and again, it's just stemming from this one thing or just like even viewing something different than what you are and what you've always been. It's so fascinating like to see or that fear takes us.
Dedeker: Right. I just want to clarify and talking about the primitives. Primitives referred to those knee-jerk responses, those like unconscious responses from the brain, not like primitive people or anything, like that, yes, just wanted to clarify.
Dedeker: When we were talking about the primitives and the-- What was that?
Emily: The Primitives and the Ambassadors. Yes. You can find the more information if you listen to our Wired for Love episode.
Jase: All right.
Dedeker: All right.
Jase: We are going to talk about some ways that how this will, actually, come up practically in our lives like what we will confront and how to deal with that, but first, we wanted to remind everybody that, right now during September, we're doing our super cool promotion to raise money for charity.
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Ali Forney Center is in New York. They provide not only shelter specifically for LGBTQ youth, but also resources for helping them get jobs, helping them get back on their feet, and helping them to be able to take care of themselves in environment where maybe they don't have a family to turn to. Again, we're going to donate $5 for every single written review that we get between now and the end of September.
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Jase: As you're listening to this episode. If you're hearing us talking about some of these difficulties or these struggles or these kinds of backlash and you're identifying with this, if you're saying, "Gosh, yes. I have felt that. I feel like I don't have anyone to talk to about it. I don't have a support network that does get it that, I feel like everyone I turn to is just like, "Yes, of course, you're threatening everything, you're ruining everything." You can find an amazing community by joining our Patreon community.
We through our Patreon, which is, patreon.com/multiamory. We have a community of people, both in a private Facebook group and off of Facebook, we have privately hosted Discourse server, where you can actually, go and tell people what's going on in your life. Read about other people's experiences. Hear their stories. Get to respond to the episodes. Interact with things, add things, get new insides with other people add.
It's a really incredible community and that's, for at the $5 a month and up level on our Patreon or for $7, we have ad free episodes that come out a day early. At $9, we have a monthly video discussion group. If you want more or like one-on-one, real-time interaction to work through things are going on in your life or just to get to talk to people and say, "Oh my gosh. This amazing thing happened in my life that I can't share with anyone else." Really check those out, again that is patreon.com/multiamory.
Jase: Let's get back into talking about what are the ways that this sort of prejudice shows up in our daily lives? If you're someone who is a non-monogamous or polyamorous or even just considering it or, like we were talking about earlier, even just questioning or examining the assumptions of how relationships go. The first one that comes up is this automatic assumption that if you are in a non-monogamous relationship, it means you're obsessed with sex.
Part of it that goes along with this is also the assumption that being obsessed with sex is bad because we do still live in a pretty puritanical society and we have a weird relationship to sex in our society. It's just that. The irony, of course, being that most of us realize that a lot of our serial monogamous friends or just our casual dating friends are having way more sex--
Emily: Are having way more sex.
Dedeker: So much more sex. Good Lord.
Jase: - than people who are polyamorous who are actually building multiple relationships and using our energy for that. Anyway, the second one is then the assumption that polyamory is just a way to relabel cheating and that, "Okay, you're just coming up with some fancy justification for this shitty, awful thing that you're doing," which then leads back to what we were talking about earlier about people's triggers or things that activate them about past trauma that they have experienced related to infidelity and that they associate those things, just being like, "You're just trying to say that cheating's okay, but look at all this bad stuff that happened in my life because of it."
Emily: Yes, and even though there are a lot more new stories out there or a lot more articles being written about polyamory and non-monogamy, I think that they still have a lot of misinformation in them. I still find articles out there like, there was this one article from this feminist blogger talking about the trouble with polyamory. Basically, it was just a bunch of different men that were pretty much just cheating on their partners and calling it polyamory. It was sort of like conflicting like, "Well, men are socialized to want a bunch of different partners so it makes sense that they're just going to be doing this."
It was a really sad article. I was like, "This is not cool." Then also, the, "Why polyamory isn't for everyone?", I think we've talked about that before.
Jase: Yes, that freaking video.
Dedeker: Right, that video.
Emily: Yes, that video. It's just like--
Jase: It's just full of these ridiculous assumptions about what polyamory is.
Dedeker: Right, like the assumption that if you're polyamorous, you're going to be listening to your partner, have sex with someone else in the other room, and they're not going to let you join. Yes, that's going to suck.
Jase: If your partner is polyamorous, they're going to instantly have no regard for your well-being or how you're doing and just ignore you because they're having so much fun with everybody else. Just all these absurd things, and then it gets millions of views on YouTube.
Dedeker: That's why we have a podcast.
Emily: We need millions, but yes.
Dedeker: I think it is so interesting. It's gotten to the point where it's like anytime someone sends me a news article or my news feed feeds me up an article that has to do with non-monogamy or polyamory, my stomach drops. Six or seven years ago, it used to be like, "That's so exciting. People are talking about it. I want to read it. It's so great." Now, I'm just like, "How is this article going to piss me off this time?"
Jase: What terrible things are they going to say?
Dedeker: Like, "What terrible things are they going to say?" Usually unintentionally, though. Usually, it's like the intention is like, "We want to explore this," but then the result is just like-- Usually, it's misrepresented. They find only those super white--
Emily: White triad of a male.
Dedeker: White triad- Exactly- of a dude and two bisexual women.
Jase: It's usually people trying to be very controlling of each other that they highlight in these articles.
Dedeker: It's usually people who've only been together like six months or something and think they've got it all figured out.
Jase: And they think they have it all figured out.
Dedeker: Or that article tries to be like, "The way it works is because you have a primary partner and a secondary partner." I'm just like, "Oh gosh. Geez. Just come on."
Emily: The other thing is that I think there's this assumption by some people that polyamorous people are polyamorous just because they suck at commitment or they're shitty at monogamy or they can't be in a normal relationship and so they have to be involved in a lifestyle that allows them to not have to fully invest in one single person. We've all heard that, just people saying, "Well, okay. You actually just don't want to be committed to anyone. You actually are just not ready for that yet.
I understand. You're just sleeping around or doing whatever while you're figuring yourself out or something."
Dedeker: Right. I see a lot of these people being like, "Well, in my day, we just called that dating around," or, "Is that what the kids are calling sleeping around these days?" Yes, it's this implication that you can't commit or you're afraid to commit or there's something wrong with you that you can't have a "normal relationship".
Jase: To bring it to the idea of why this is threatening, though, to people and why they react with this fear response, I think it's because there's this idea that if you're bad at commitment, you should be a little bit ashamed about that because I work so hard to be committed because it's not easy for me, either. Like we talked about, monogamy doesn't come naturally to humans. It's something we have to work very hard at. There's this thing of like, "If you're trying to tell me that polyamory, which in my head means just not good at committing, you're trying to tell me that that's okay--
Dedeker: That's okay to not be good at committing?
Jase: - and that that could be a good thing, then you're devaluing all the work that all of us do to have commitment and you're just trying to lower the moral quality of the people of our society." There's all of this baggage that comes with it just based off that tiny assumption that Emily pointed out.
Emily: Yes, totally.
Dedeker: Yes. I think another reason why it can produce that fear response is that for some people, it's seen as a kink, and again, as we said, we're in such in a Puritanical society.
Jase: Scary, scary.
Dedeker: Exactly. Any kinky anything is really threatening and uncomfortable for people. The idea that even kink itself can be super disruptive to the way that we conduct our society, that it can be destructive to the way that we conduct traditional romantic relationships or the way that we create families. I think this is just-- I don't want to get off at a whole tangent about the supposed attack on family values, family structure, and stuff like that, but that's all very much a part of this.
Jase: It's all related.
Dedeker: It's all related, yes.
Emily: What the hell is a family value? What constitutes that over anything else?
Dedeker: Who the heck knows?
Jase: That's a whole other thing.
Dedeker: That's a whole other thing.
Dedeker: This may also compound and be magnified by other prejudices that already exist about one's identity. For instance, assuming that your relationship format is somehow inherently related to or caused by, for instance, your race. I know, maybe you've heard it and you're like, "That's ridiculous," but it's if you-- We've talked about this before, I think with Eli Sheff, that if you already have this prejudice, for instance, that Latinas are fiery and ravenous in bed, then in your brain, it's like, "Then it totally makes sense that she would want to have multiple partners because it fits with already these preconceived notions that I have about her racial identity."
Same thing with your sexuality of like, "Well, you're a homosexual. You're gay."
Jase: Also, you're sex-crazed because of that.
Dedeker: Exactly. "You're sex-crazed because of that. I know that gays just love being in purples, or whatever, like, weirdo." I know. I'm sorry. I know it sounds weird, but I'm literally just repeating things that I've heard from other people.
Dedeker: Or if it's something like, "You're gender-fluid or you're non-binary or you're transgender," and, "You're some kind of deviant already so it makes sense that you'd want to be deviant in this way also." That's another thing that can just compound and even multiply the fear response as well. Then, of course, last but not the least, as we said, this also manifests ultimately as much more serious consequences, like we said loss of a child custody or losing your job or sadly experiencing some kind of severance of family and connections as well.
Jase: Yes, so let's get into some hopeful things, right?
Dedeker: There's hopeful things?
Emily: Thank goodness.
Jase: What can people who are in non-traditional relationships do to try to minimize the amount of backlash that they will experience or to help protect themselves against it?
Emily: Good question.
Jase: Yes. Some things to be aware of, is that some of these things can seem very small. Like these little comments or just little things you have to justify over and over. They can seem small but they do add up. As does this constant feeling of, "What things can I tell to whom." This constant thing and it's a low level but it does actually add up over time and create a certain amount of mental effort you are having to do. Then also you might have some things like friends and family who checked up on you in previous relationships. Kind of like, "Oh, good to see you," like, "How's your partner doing? How's your boyfriend doing? How's your girlfriend doing?" Whatever. Now suddenly they might not ask you those questions anymore because they don't know how to ask, or they feel weird about it, or feel like, "Now, your relationships are just sort of a sex thing and that's not something we can talk about in polite company."
Again, these sort of low-level things that can be there. How can we address these? How can we try to make things better?
Emily: I mean, we talked about this a little bit, how to survive in a monogamous world episode. Goodness, that was-
Dedeker: San Diego tour.
Emily: Yes, how time has flown.
Dedeker: - time for us to revisit it, do a little refresher here.
Emily: Indeed yes, and we talked about this a lot too. Just like find your tribe, really build your own community of people with whom you don't really need to omit those parts of your life .
As we've said before, it's so nice going into a party, for example, with multiple partners or seeing ex-partners or seeing metamours or whatever and being like, "Wow, okay. I am a part of this community and how lovely is that. I don't have to act as though I don't know these people or they don't exist or something. I am not cool with that person because I used to date them and it ended horribly and I never want to see them again." Something like that.
Instead, it's really nice to find the people who are your chosen family members. Also try to come out, as we've said before if it is comfortable, if it is safe for you. But think about it because there are some family members potentially who may never really understand your lifestyle. If you have an 85-year-old grandfather who is very religious and maybe it's not going to be fair or good to come out to him, or kind to him, kind to yourself, then maybe don't do that. Maybe think about that before going there.
If you do have family members who are really important to you, who you think will understand, who it is safe to come out them then talk to them about it. Show them that it's not like just a phase in your life. That you are happy in this chosen lifestyle and what you're choosing to do at this point.
Jase: Realize it might take them a while to get there, but the sooner you start that process, hopefully, the sooner they'll get there.
Dedeker: Another survival tactic or a preventative measure, I think, I am going to out on a limb here and actually say, this is optional because I think this depends on.
Emily: I think they are all optional [laughs].
Dedeker: Well everything's optional in that case.
Emily: You don't have to listen to this podcast.
Dedeker: Yes, God, you can switch off right now, we don't care.
Jase: She said it's optional, I am turning it off.
Emily: Please don't.
Dedeker: [laughs] Okay, I just want to particularly emphasize the optional part of this one. That's to get to educate others if you are able to do so.
I know there's a lot of discussion about like, "Is it really the responsibility of a marginalized community to educate the people who are marginalizing them." I don't think it necessarily is. We've dove into that a bunch and talking about emotional labor. This is definitely something that people who do identify as trans or people of color or people who are already spending so much energy just to survive in the world that like also expecting them to educate the ignorant is just another thing on top of the pile.
That's why, if you feel doing this would not be detrimental to you or to your mental health, then yes, educating. Of course more awareness brings more acceptance for everybody. If people are interested, you can provide articles or books or this podcast or even sharing your personal stories to help the people around you understand and for you to show them how this is something that's good for you. It's something that is valuable for you.
Jase: Maybe dispel some of there misconceptions.
Dedeker: Exactly. We will talk about that a little bit more toward the very end of this episode. Also feel free to integrate - - I think that connecting to a community is good. Connecting to a polyamorous community or non-monogamous community is good. However, it's also good to find ways to grow your support network and to connect to a community that isn't just based on polyamory, I found. If you can find friends of yours who are comfortable with you and who are kind to you about what your relationships are, or if you're able to find some other community that's based on something else.
If you're able to find your DnD community or your rock-climbing community, or your salsa dancing community that also happens to be a place where you feel like you can be open about who you are and not have to hide it. That's also fantastic because it is really good to be able to melt the "normal world" with your very not normal-seeming world. Sorry, I really want to emphasize putting normal in quotes because it's all relative. But I just think it's really important to be able to build your support network out that way.
We think, those are some of the preventative measures that you can take. We also wanted to talk about specifically, like, if you're in the face of a negative reaction, like, it's happening to you in the moment or you're anticipating like, "I know when I talk to my dad about this. This is going to be a bit of a tough conversation or if I talk to my ex-partner about this, this is maybe a difficult conversation." We have some tactics that you can employ actually in the moment, or as you prepare for that moment that can help you get through it with some ease and some grace.
Jase: Yes, first is to take some time before you're in that situation to write down the questions and the assumptions that you think that you'll come up against. This episode is a good resource for those, also our episode about some of the most common questions. That's a good one, there's lots of articles.
Dedeker: I wrote an article on Bustle, it came out around Thanksgiving time and it was specifically about handling questions from your family about being non-monogamous and how to answer them.
Jase: This list could be different depending on the person or your relationship to that person. But to get a sense beforehand of like, what are the things that I think they might ask. Then to think a little bit and maybe even write out how you like to answer them or what sort of resources you think it would be helpful to provide. I think, especially, if you're newer to non-monogamy or polyamory yourself, it can be really helpful to have other resources. Either just to reference or even to give to people.
I really recommend Dr. Elisabeth Sheff's book When Someone You Love Is Polyamorous. Both is a great way for you to get information to give to other people or to even give them that book if it's someone who is willing to read a pretty short book dispelling some of those myths. But to be able to give like a succinct answer and try to avoid getting caught off guard by something so then you don't have that moment.
I know I've had so many times in my life in general where someone asks you something and you don't have a good comeback and they're like, "Aha, see." Then the next day you're like, "But this, like oh and now I have a perfect response. No that doesn't makes sense, they thought they got me but they didn't. I was just too slow." To kind of help avoid those situations.
Dedeker: You slow again, Jase. You slowbie. I just want to put it out there and I don't want to turn this into a challenge. Honestly, I feel like I've not received a question that I haven't heard before about non-monogamy in at least five years. I think I've had that conversation so many times in my life, not just in my personal life but also through my work and through my job and through interviews and stuff like that. That, I am waiting for someone to ask me a new question. I am excited, I am waiting, I don't know about a "got you" but more of a like, "Oh, that's a new angle I hadn't thought about answering." Like I'm ready. It's like everyone hits all the same questions. I don't want this to sound like a brag but I just - -
Jase: Okay, your humble brag aside.
Jase: I think the reason why that feels that way is because you've not only just talking to people in your personal life but also in this podcast and being sort of a public figure about it. You've had to answer questions a lot. You've kind of gotten through that variety and you've taken-
-the time to think about those questions even writing blogs about them or recording episodes about them so that when people ask them now, it's like, "Oh, I kind of know- -."
Dedeker: Could do it in my sleep.
Jase: I know how to answer this in a short way. I know how to give them a longer answer. I know how to give them an answer if they're struggling with it versus if they're asking from the outside. Like you kind of know all the variations on it. I just want to say like you'll get there if you're newer to getting this questions either newer to being out or newer to polyamory or non-monogamy, that you'll get there but also there’s ways you can get there faster. That would be things like this.
Kind of writing down these questions and thinking about what your answers would be to them. Then the other things and this is one that isn't talked about as often, but I have personally found to be very useful. It can take a little bit of finesse, I guess. This is now to take not just the things you think people will ask you, but to take the assumptions that they're probably going to have.
Again you can pull these from those lists of like common misconceptions, from stuff we've talked about in this episode. Things that you just think they might be thinking, is to take those common assumptions and work them into your conversations with these people. That you're out too or that you're having these conversations with. In order to have a way to kind of dispel these myths that they might be thinking without them having to ask you about them.
Emily: Oh yes it's all about sex, of course. No, actually it’s not, blah blah blah.
Jase: Right. To do it in a way that allows them to save face. You're not saying you probably think that it's this but is not. Trying to do that like, "I'm going to challenge you," kind of thing, because that's not going to get anyone on your side. If your goal is to have people be supportive of you that's not a good way to do it.
But if it's more like in the conversation could be like, "Oh men, I was listening to this podcast recently and they were talking about like, how come and this absurd belief is that there's like a sex addiction that's part of these so that we’re always going after people's relationships and trying to break them up so that we can sleep with everyone and like that's so ridiculous. Like, that's totally not that, it's in very much this other thing. To kind of like obviously try to do in a way that is organic and not just out of the blue, but to kind of- -
Dedeker: The finesse comes in that you're referencing?
Jase: The finesse yes. Is to kind of bring up some of these things to dispel those myths without them having to like walk into that wall and be embarrassed about the fact that they had this misconception.
Dedeker: You mentioned allowing the other person to save face. I think that's really interesting because it's like what I see like online at least. It's that it ’s like, no one is embarrassed about having assumptions. It's that someone is assuming like, "Oh, you're a sex addict." If the person is like, "Oh no actually." People make that assumption a lot but actually is not the case that the other person is not like, "Oh, I'm so embarrassed that you corrected me." It's more like, "I don't give a hoot." Tell me about the same-
Jase: It's the same thing we've talked about with like online arguments or with disagreements, is that if you try to just like push back sort of exactly counter to something that you're getting from someone, their response is to dig in their heels and push back harder. That's not going to get you anywhere. That's not going to get the two of you to agree if anything is going to push you further apart.
We’ve seen that in politics, we see it in personal lives, we see it on Facebook every day. That's not the way to win anyone over or to educate anyone. No, I think the thing is you're thinking about the internet which brings out the absolute worst of people all the time.
Dedeker: It's a different context.
Jase: What I'm talking about here is people in person.
Dedeker: Okay. All right. That’s fair.
Jase: It’s the same thing of like if you kind of go along and it's like, "This relationship feels weird because of something." Then you' either figure out like, "Aha, you're assuming I'm this." Accusing, "You're a bad person because you made this assumption about me and you're wrong." That's a very different feeling to get that from someone then hearing them dispel that myth in conversation where you might in your health go, "Oh gosh, I'm really lucky that I never said something or acted on that assumption because I did assume that."
Like, "Oh, okay. Cool." Or I can ask questions now and go, "Oh really, but what about this?"
This is something that we've all actually probably done a lot of times in our lives and are just not even aware of it. When you're talking with someone who's from a different country than you or is of a different race or different sexual preference or sexual identity. Any of these things that they will talk about like, "Oh, yes. This thing that I have to deal with," or like, "Oh gosh it's definitely not like that even though I know a lot of people assume it is."
In our minds, we're going, "Oh okay. Let me adjust some of those assumptions I had," rather than waiting to make a fool of yourself. Then you're stuck in that situation of, "Do I dig in my heels and now try to like defend this position or do I have to be embarrassed and look bad." Either one of these situations is not good. Is kind of giving people the opportunity to not be put in that situation which will end up being better for both of you.
Emily: To kind of piggyback off of that maybe. If you're in the middle of a conversation online or otherwise. Maybe it's not going very well.
Jase: That's terrible
Emily: What? Why?
Jase: Just online people are awful like Dedeker was pointing out.
Dedeker: No I just think people are awful. I think that's the difference.
Emily: Well, okay. If you're in the middle of a conversation with someone. You're talking to them about polyamory maybe for the first time. Maybe you're coming out and potentially it sounds going very well. Try to do things like highlight where you and the other person agree. Trying to find ways that you both are in the same group, like together. For example, someone talks about, "Oh well, you're polyamorous or I think there are no non-monogamous people in general might be more susceptible to STIs."
Therefore, I don't know X,Y and Z. Just saying something about STIs. You could say, "Well, I agree with you. I really take sexual health seriously." Then sort of can continue moving on from that sample. You both are obviously agreeing about the sexual health aspect.
Jase: It's like they think they're bringing something up that you disagree with and you're saying, "Actually, no, yes. I agree with you. That's important to me too."
Emily: Exactly. Or they talk about, "Oh. Well, I really don't like cheaters. I think that's awful. This just sounds like another way of cheating." You can say, "Yes, I also agree that cheating and infidelity are really destructive. They're really hurtful but actually, that's not what this is," et cetera et cetera.
Again you're showing that both of you do agree on a topic but that that's not necessarily what this is about by any means. Like what their preconceived notions of it are. Then, also again, if it's gone really off the rails, know your boundaries in these situations. Try to figure out maybe when it's time to end the conversation. If there's insults being thrown at one another, if there are raised voices. Again, if you're online and there's been like five responses- -. I forget, what is these five response thing?
Dedeker: We talked about this on online argument episode, that's like there is actually a study done that if you're having an online debate and there's been more than - -. Let's say you're debating with someone and it's been more than five replies and neither of you are changing your position or like no one is giving in in any ground or no one is changing their mind. Like the debate is not going anywhere. It's been more than five replies then it's time to end it.
Jase: Just leave them.
Dedeker: I think you can kind of apply that to real life a little bit also, that if you're finding that you're talking in circles and that this person is kind of giving the same argument back to you. I don't know if you even want to count literally. I don't know if the same number system would apply.
Emily: Five times
Dedeker: Yes, That you can reach a certain point where it's clear like, "Okay, this isn't going anywhere and so it's time to end the conversation." Again like we talked about way back in the online arguments episode. Once you’ve gotten to that point where it's clear like, "Okay, this isn't going anywhere." Maybe it's the five replies thing. Maybe it's like, "Okay, this person has like now like leveled a personal insults at me and I have a boundary against that, I'm not going to continue this conversation."
The best way to get out of it is see if you can identify what the core disagreement is and then state it non-violently, very carefully stated. Then stop and then extract yourself somehow. It could sound something like this. You could like once you realize, "Okay, this isn't going anywhere. It's time to end this conversation." It could be- - It seems like your perspective is that monogamy is something that's required for a relationship to be healthy.
My perspective is that honesty and communication is what's required for relationships to be healthy. I think we value different things in relationships. Then leave it at that and however you want to end that conversation whether it's, "Okay, let's not talk about this or let's just stop talking about this." Or if you're stuck with them and then it's like, "Okay, let's just go out and get ice cream and talk about something else," or something like that.
It could be something like, "Okay, so it seems like you're concerned that my heart is going- -get broken that my partners are going to hurt me. I feel like I'm in relationships where I'm safe and loved and I think that we just see things differently." I know that leaving these conversations isn't always so nice and neat in that way.
Jase: It's not like online where you just log off.
Dedeker: Where you just log off or block them or whatever you want to do. It's not like if you're like, "Okay, I think we see things differently, so let's end things there." That the other person is definitely going to be like, "Okay, sure, cool." Maybe they will, I don't know. I think the important takeaway is just take care of yourself. It is okay to leave an argument if it's starting to become detrimental to you, or it's okay to leave a conversation like this if it's becoming detrimental to you. Just make sure to maintain your boundaries and take care of yourself.
Along those same lines, it's also important to know when to not even start this conversation. Again, value yourself, prioritize yourself, save your energy, save your emotional labor. It may mean like, "I'm just not having a good day today, I cannot tackle this conversation with this person now." It doesn't mean necessarily that you'll never talk to them about it but maybe it's going to be at another time, when you actually feel like you have the energy or the emotional labor to give to it.
I think we see this a lot online, where someone says something really absurd that we disagree with. But if we know that it's like, "This comes from my historically super conservative uncle, who is also really transphobic and homophobic." Knowing like, "You know what? Maybe someday I'll have a talk with him about this. But right now I'm trying to get some stuff done. This is also going to be upsetting to me and I just can't do it right now."
It is okay to pick and choose your battles to a certain extent. Just making sure that you are taking care of yourself, you're prioritizing your mental health and your energy.
Jase: We would love to hear from you. Do you have any techniques that you've found that have been really effective for making these interactions go better, or better ways of taking care of yourself? Anything like that. We would love to hear your take on this. How has this been for you? What's it been like?
Emily: The best place to share your thoughts with other listeners on this episode's discussion thread in our private Facebook or discourse forum. You can get access to these groups and join our exclusive community by going to patreon.com/multiamory. In addition, you can share with us publicly on Twitter, Facebook or Instagram. You can email us at email@example.com. Leave us a voicemail at 678MULTI05 or you can leave us a voice message on Facebook.
Multiamory is created and produced by Jase Lindgren, Dedeker Winston and me, Emily Matlack.