What is ethical non-monogamy? This episode is an impromptu primer on ethical non-monogamy. Here you will learn what it is as Jillian North joins host Peter McGraw to discuss its principles and different forms. Jillian is an award-winning salesperson, world traveler, writer, and painter. At the end of the podcast, Peter and Jillian talk about online dating for the ethical non-monogamist. Join them as they tackle this interesting subtopic on singlehood.
Listen to Episode #4 here:
What Is Ethical Non-Monogamy?
This episode is an impromptu primer on ethical non-monogamy. You’ll learn what ethical non-monogamy is. My guest and I discussed the principles of ethical non-monogamy. There’s some bonus material if you want to stick around at the end where we talk about online dating for the ethical non-monogamist. Our guest is Jillian North. Jillian is an award-winning salesperson, world traveler, writer and painter. Welcome, Jillian.
Thank you, Peter.
This is an impromptu one. We did not plan to have this. We had dinner and got talking about this project and I sprung this idea. The reason we’re going to have this is going to be a little shorter than the typical, at least maybe who knows where this will all go. In a text message with me, she used this term ethical non-monogamy. Admittedly, that’s only the second time I’ve come across this term, which I’m surprised by. The other time I came across it was on a dating app. A woman who said, “For you, ethical non-monogamous guys, stay away.” I was like, “This is exactly the kind of thing that we want to talk about on the show.” I asked if she wanted to do it and she yes ended and said, “Yes, let’s do it.” What is an ethical non-monogamy?
In my opinion, ethical non-monogamy is only available to people who truly understand and take seriously the significance of human relationships. There can’t be a motivation of personal gain or conquest. I believe it has to be with the objective of sharing new experiences with quality humans.
I know what non-monogamy is. That’s having multiple partners, sexual typically but you can have non-monogamy and other emotional and so on. In general, it was physical, intimate relationships. You have more than one partner overlapping. People think of non-monogamy as a bad thing in part because the default, the norm is monogamy. Oftentimes, non-monogamy is accompanied by deceit, lying, infidelity, cheating, whatever words you want to use with it. I’m assuming the notion of ethical non-monogamy doesn’t involve cheating, deceit, lying and infidelity.
It does not. I do not think of ethical non-monogamy as polyamory either.
My understanding of what polyamory is that it’s having multiple loving relationships.
Love is present often in ethical non-monogamy, but not in love. I have a lot of affection for my non-monogamous partners. Some of them who I have been in love with perhaps in the past, but a lot of them I have genuine affection and even love for.
The notion of intimacy and love are independent in ethical non-monogamy.
You don’t have to be in love with each other. I believe to be in that frame, you do have to have a sincere concern and care for the other person.
It’s about treating people with respect and compassion. The notion of ethical non-monogamy sounds like for you, you’re talking about having respect and caring for your other partners that are there. How does one become an ethical non-monogamist?
It starts with years of therapy. I don’t think you’re doing a service to yourself or other partners or potential partners if you are not doing the work to be very self-aware in identifying your blind spots. If you’re not working to metabolize your wounds, you’re going to wind up working them out on other people. That’s when I think the ethicality of it can be challenged.
Tell me more about that. The ideal ethical non-monogamist understands who they are, understands their strengths and weaknesses and is not using those relationships to fix what’s wrong with them.
Any other agenda other than the pure enjoyment of the other person and sharing the company of the other person.
There’s no such thing as ethical monogamy. The way this fit as I see it, giving it minutes of thought is there’s a world of monogamy out there and everybody’s familiar with that. That’s the norm. That’s the standard. That’s what you learn in Sunday school. It’s a default, a status quo. That’s what most people strive to do. We know that it’s striving because we know what divorce rates are, we know what infidelity rates are. As an aside, I was having a conversation with someone who was talking about 23andMe. There are hundreds of thousands of children who have realized that their father is not their father as a result of these DNA tests, there’s a bunch of them. This is a very common thing. The reason is it’s very common for kids to have a biological dad than the one who raises them. I don’t know what the rate is, but it’s single digits percentage-wise without their knowledge. Researchers have had to deal with this when they do parent-children studies. They don’t take self-reports of parents, they do blood tests. Mom is like, “He’s the dad.” He’s not the dad. The point is monogamy is the status quo, it’s the default. It’s challenging. We know it’s challenging for people to do.
Would you say it’s unnatural?
I don’t know if I have the expertise to make that judgment. Part of it is I don’t know what natural and unnatural means in a sense that what I do know is we have biological drives. I don’t think that those biological drives make us naturally monogamous in the way that some penguins are. I also know the power of culture, context and norms that can make it harder or easier to be that way. This is nature and nurture is so hard to pull apart. It’s harder to be monogamous than it was several years ago. It’s not only that our communities are bigger and our ability to be anonymous. I don’t date online a lot but when I do, I’m surprised by the number of women who say, “Are you married?” I’m like, “No, I’m not married. I’m on a dating app.”
Don’t say it like that because many men who are married are on dating apps.Ethical non-monogamy is only available to people who truly understand and take the significance of human relationships seriously. Click To Tweet
That makes sense now that I know that. I find that quite surprising.
They’re fishing for validation. They want to make sure they still have it.
It seems so risky.
They don’t show up for the date. They block your number, they delete the match. They will go along with the game.
Some of them are doing more than just fishing.
It’s also a dopamine hit.
Norms are shifting fast. The idea of open relationships and you mentioned polyamory, suddenly, you have more options, you have more choices. The reason that Solo launched is because more and more people are staying single longer and staying single forever or some version of single. What I mean is not being married. Opportunity is greater, the temptation is greater. What’s interesting is we’re moving from a world where monogamy is good, non-monogamy is bad. To this idea that certain types of non-monogamy are bad and certain types of non-monogamy are good. The idea of putting a label of ethical non-monogamy is to say, “Here’s the good version.” My sense of it is what it’s designed to do foundationally as another digression. There are lots of theories about morality. There are lots of people who have done work on what makes something immoral versus wrong.
There are some things that people say are wrong and good things that are immoral. No matter what the theory is, it comes down to one of the foundational ideas is harm. Immoral things cause harm to other people. Some theory says it all can be winnowed down to harm. Others say it’s harm, fairness, authority and it’s all these moral underpinnings that when you violate them are threatening to the fabric of culture and society. I happen to be more of harm is the big one. It seems to me that the principles are designed to avoid harm.
They are negotiable among each partner and they should be negotiated. I am a big believer in being decisive about it, choosing this arrangement for whatever that is and defining the arrangement.
This is all very abstract. We have audiences who have most of their experience, most of the time, most of their life has been in some serial monogamous thing. Suppose they’re going to do the good non-monogamy, they’re not going to do the bad non-monogamy. What are they doing? What should they be thinking about? Let’s talk about the details.
My first experience with ethical non-monogamy and what teed up the conversation was I was nineteen years old. I was at college and I had become flirty friends with one of the big deal athletes on campus. He and I had spent some time together. We had some chemistry and I was reticent to get sexual with him, knowing his reputation and he was a big deal athlete. I assumed I would be one in the rotation. We had a conversation. It was progressing towards sex, our relationship. I said, “I don’t want to be a notch in your belt.” He said, “I like you. I see other people. I would like you to be one of those people I see.” The fact of the matter was I thought he was so respectful because he was giving me the choice.
He didn’t say, “No, honey, this is going to be you.”
Conversely, I had a relationship a few years ago with someone that got very serious, very fast. It was 8 or 9 weeks of incredible intensity. He disappeared for 8 to 10 days. The things he was doing weren’t calculating correctly. They weren’t adding up. I put him on the spot and I said, “Are you married?” He said, “If I tell you, you’re going to break up with me.” I said, “No, I’ll break up with you for the four kids that you also have.”
You’re like, “I’m not breaking up with you because you’re married. I’m breaking up because you lied to me.”
He goes on to this day about how special our connection was. I said, “No. That was fake because you took away my choice. We had an incredible chemistry. I’m not going to say that I wouldn’t necessarily have progressed with that decision, but you took away my choice. Therefore, that will never be special to me because you lied to me and you stole from me.”
The irony is that on one hand, it’s a 21-year-old man who’s acting ethically and the other one is a 40-year-old man who’s not. I had an experience first date with a woman who told me a story about her being in her early twenties and connected with an older gentleman on an app. They go on their first date. Ten minutes into the first date he says, “I’m married. I’m looking for an arrangement. I’ll pay you $5,000 a month. We’ll do five or more dates a month. I’ll tell you how to dress and how to do your hair. We’ll go out in public. My wife knows about it. She approves of it. It’s okay.” I was like, “Really?” I said, “Did you do it?” She said, “Yes, I definitely did it.” I said, “How long did you do it?” She said, “About a year.” I said, “You made $60,000 doing this?” She’s like, “Yes. I got to know the wife. She was fine with it and all.” I said, “Why did it stop?” She said, “They got pregnant. We’re still friends. It’s not sexual or anything.” I’ve told that story to people and the response that I get is so fascinating, which is some people are like, “That’s gross.” Other people are like yours, “I can see that.”
Full disclosure when I was in my twenties, I have had most experiences you could imagine between consenting adults and that was on the table. It was certainly a very appealing suggestion sometimes. The challenge that I had having lived in the South at that time was there was not a wife who is knowledgeable and encouraging.
That’s the thing. When people have that negative reaction, I say, “I can understand why you wouldn’t want to do this.” This is not for everyone. However, these are three adults. It is as honest and transparent a situation as you’re going to find. Is anyone being harmed? If your view of morality is purity and then purity is two loving people getting in front of the government, God and proclaiming their allegiance to each other forever, then this is immoral because it violates some pure sanctity of relationships. Someone could say, “You could push this. Does she have consent? Does she need the money?” In her case, it wasn’t. It sounds like she was facing homelessness.Ethical non-monogamy cannot exist without honesty. Click To Tweet
Honestly, it’s an interesting experience. If you do things as I’ve found myself in my twenties and still sometimes doing things for the story of it, that’s a good story.
She decided to tell me the first time we went out.
She’s not ashamed of it. When you have a choice and it’s consenting adults, there is no room for shame. That’s one of the most important parts of ethical non-monogamy. I do find that, in my experiences, ethical non-monogamy often comes about because there is some underlying sexual shame that they need to explore and feel not judged with someone where the stakes are not so high. Are you familiar with sexual surrogacy?
I’ve heard this term, but no. I’ve heard that you can hire someone to cuddle with. I met a woman and that was her job. She’s a professional cuddler. She gets hired by people to lay in bed and cuddle. I asked her, “Are there boners involved in this?” She goes, “Sometimes.”
It’s a little bit like the world of dominate trick, which technically does not involve sex.
It’s a professional cuddler plus. How’s that different than being a sex worker?
You are still to some degree a sex worker. It is a particular type of sex work that is often referred to as the individual by a therapist. There was a famous film that came out in the sex work world. Helen Hunt starred in the film as this woman. Her name was Cheryl Cohen Greene and she wrote a book. I’ve read the memoir as well after I saw the movie. The movie is called The Sessions. It’s with a gentleman, Mark O’Brien, and he is in an iron lung. His therapist referred her to him so that he could have a sexual experience and feel comfortable. Very often, sexual surrogacy is primarily for men, but it’s not very well known. This has been some of the work that I’ve done over the years is people who find me from different ways, who are struggling with things like erectile dysfunction or premature ejaculation or a lot of self-confidence issues. They want to work that out with someone. This is where ethical non-monogamy also plays a big role. If you look at it like the spokes of a wheel. It’s a confined number of visits with the surrogate.
The film was very educational to that degree. The potential of becoming a sex therapist is very interesting to me. It’s the same reason I like to start relationships in the deep end. Also, why I like to write a memoir because you come into a room in a workshop with ten other writers and you start in the deep end. The way someone handles themselves sexually tells you so much about them but they’re damaged. Where their wounds are, where their challenges are, what landmines you’re going to step on potentially, interacting with them on a very intimate level. That’s also why the idea of not just a dating app, but some of the sexual solicitation websites are interesting to me because you start in the deep end. For a lot of people, when you start with what you are ashamed of or what you’re challenged by in relationships like, “My kink is X or my fear is this,” you start from an honest place.
Would you call them sexual websites?
Sexual solicitation websites. Think of swing lifestyle or AdultFriendFinder. Ashley Madison is a website for married people seeking covert partnerships. My point about that is if you’re shopping for ethical non-monogamy, I recommend starting in the deep end because ethical non-monogamy cannot exist without honesty.
I want to push back on this idea. It sounds like you’re giving advice for people like you. First of all, I have a question here that I wrote down which is, what are the three things you need to know? Suppose you’re someone contemplating ethical non-monogamy. This is a new thing. I already answered the first question or the first one which was honesty.
We need to even break that down further.
What does that mean then?
Let’s list all three.
What are the three things?
Honesty is one. Consideration and respect go together.
Do you mean consideration like compassion, respect, etc.?
Not only that but consideration for the “lifestyle” you’re trying to maintain together. We spoke about schedules. Not just consideration of their feelings, which is important, but that also goes along with respect very often.
In terms of considering whether they’d be a good partner or not. Let’s talk about honesty in the broadest sense. I think a lot of people struggle with honesty in any relationship, especially with one like this.
This is so unconventional.
What happens is a lot of times people are dishonest in relationships, not because they’re a bad person, but because they want something. They’re fearful that they’re not going to get it because they tell the person exactly what they want. What happens is you’re excited about someone. You want to see them again but you’re afraid that if you tell them, they’re part of the rotation. You like to use sex toys, you only want to go out twice a week, you don’t want to have children, you’re moving away in a few months. The list is endless if you don’t lie to them and tell them the opposite. You don’t tell them that thing because you want them to stick around. Let’s be honest, they may stick around but in the long run, it’s a bad strategy.
It’s not respect or consideration. Even more, you should not go forward if you cannot identify what this would look like for you. I often tell people on dating apps specifically, “What are you looking for?” When they can’t tell me what they want, I say, “If you can’t articulate it, you won’t know when it shows up and you won’t be able to identify it when it’s in front of you.” It’s very important that you go in with an intention in mind because that allows you to have consideration right off the bat.
I’m still struggling with the term consideration.
This goes back to your point about, “I’m moving away or I only want to see you a couple of times a week.” These negotiations need to happen in a low-pressure environment prior to the stakes being high, prior to sleeping together the first time and prior to falling in love. They need to understand that’s not available to them. That’s not what we’re shopping for.
I see this as an extension of honesty, but maybe not. What are some of the other ones?
Having a bottom line is important.
What does that mean?
For me, one of them is the means and flexibility to travel.
Some people would call them deal-breakers.
It depends on what you’re shopping for. If I’m shopping for a fun experience for the weekend, you cannot have a passport and be young and potentially not contribute to my existence in any other way besides the story and an evening of pleasure. However, when I’m considering a real ethical non-monogamous partnership, most of mine last years and years and they may have year-gaps in them. I found that consistently, we always have a sincere affection for each other. That should go on the list of not just lust but genuine affection.
It’s interesting you say this because I use the term conversation. I’m not interested in dating someone who I’m just purely physically attracted to. As a younger man, sure but now it’s like, “No. We need to talk.” There’s talking. Affection can take different forms. I get this idea of perfectionism. You like the person. To me, affection doesn’t necessarily fit. It fits with your form of ethical non-monogamy.
A man is going to get disinterested if he does not have affection for you.
That may be true. Suppose a couple goes to a swingers club. They decide to swap partners for the night. It’s a purely sexual experience. It doesn’t seem like affection matters that much in that particular form of ethical non-monogamy.
You’re breaking down forms of ethical non-monogamy.
That’s fine, but if there are forms where affection is less prominent.
They’d still have to want the other person. They still have to lust after the other person to be attracted to them. It’s like they say when you go to a nudist colony, nobody you want to see naked. Is that the nudist colony? You have to genuinely be attracted to someone, not just the novelty of that. Are we exploring this as a partnership or as a subject?
For the average person reading, these are wildly new ideas. They might have come across something or heard something. Even just exposing people to the idea that there’s a world of people out there who don’t live a traditional monogamous existence where they have multiple partners, sometimes over years, sometimes with year gaps where the critical element is that if you are intimate with someone, they don’t mistakenly believe that they’re the only one. That to me is what it fundamentally comes down to. As a result, they have a choice to say, “I don’t want to do that or I would like to do that.”
There are some fundamental considerations. Always being safe. We can package respect and consideration together. Honesty has its own tiers. We can put safe sex under standards.
It’s arbitrary. It doesn’t have to get to 5, 3, 6 or 10. One of the advantages of monogamy is the safety. People put it forth as a big feature, a benefit. Nonetheless the idea that monogamy creates safety in a sense.
I’ve gone through periods of decided sexual monogamy with someone where we’re not emotionally monogamous. When I think of monogamy, I would want my partner to be able to open my phone at any time, not that they would or should, that there would be nothing that would give them pause. No conversations, no flirting, nothing like that. I’ve gone through periods of straight sexual monogamy, but not emotional monogamy. At that point, that’s whenever you share tests and you define, “I’m not up for this anymore.” We wrap it back up again.
When you say wrap it up, you mean work on them. What else? Monogamy is simple but difficult. Non-monogamy is complex and difficult. That’s the difference.
All of these things, no matter how many there are, everybody is different. Some people only want it for one night, in which case maybe consideration and respect are not as important because you’re not seeing those people time and again. Safety is important and that falls under consideration as well. Honesty may or may not be that important if the goal is only one night and not to see that person again.
This is an interesting thing. I’ve heard people talk about sleeping with a married person. I’ve noticed two schools of thought. The first one is along the lines of the story I told, which is your partner’s partner, wife or husband knows that they’re not monogamous. The other one is, that’s not my problem. It’s up to them. I’m not going to decide yes or no based upon what their partner knows or doesn’t know. It’s not my business. That’s a convenient sense of it all but I’d be curious to know what the counterpoint is to that.
I’ve had every variety in that spectrum because there are multiple tiers in that spectrum as well. I have a partner and he’s been married for several years. He’s in his late 50s. They have as he would say, one of the most loving and kind relationships, but there’s been no sex for several years. He’s had a couple of relationships in that time. He and I have been friends and sometimes more than that over twelve years. We talk about everything. I always ask him like, “How is she?” He’s like, “She’s good. Her parents are this.” The only challenge I have with that is she’s not aware, but he had a very serious relationship for four years in the twelve years that I’ve known him.
In that relationship and we spoke about it when he came to visit, what happened with that relationship is he got to a resentful place. He would like to be having sex with his wife. Because that’s not even an option for them, he dated this woman and he was very flagrant about it. He took her to their restaurants, in their neighborhood and they live a couple of blocks away from each other. They shared their friend group and his wife came to him and said, “You do what you want to do but don’t embarrass me.” This goes back to the respect and consideration. Even if he’s not choosing to be with his wife sexually, he has a guest house. He lives in the guest house and she lives in the main house and I’ve been there. It’s more of that was her thing. She was like, “Don’t be disrespectful.” Even in politics and public, that’s the Bill Clinton thing.These relationships can last in an affectionate and loving kind place when started in the deep end. Click To Tweet
This notion of what we’re talking about, there’s a long history of this. As I was talking about, there’s a lot of wiggle room within culture, depending on the culture where these arrangements are very typical. As long as they’re executed in a way that is, that follows the rules.
The most important thing, especially for your audience is that those rules are flexible and they are based on the couple in front of you. I don’t believe in anything. We’re all adult, we’re not consensual. He was maybe grandfathered several years ago where we developed a friendship. Once a year, we would see each other. We went seven years of not seeing each other, but speaking once every six months. I go to him for financial advice. He runs a company and we talk about that a lot. We have a very respectful, loving, considerate, affectionate relationship. He’s an incredible gentleman. His manners are impeccable and that’s a big turn on.
According to the apps, that seems a lost art. As a man, it’s difficult to know the rules because some women want it and some women don’t. It’s hard to know.
Do you want the ones who don’t appreciate that if that’s something that you bring to a partnership?
To me, it’s not that important. It’s not a foundational element. I believe in politeness. Politeness might be opening a door and might be not opening a door. It’s figuring out whether the door should be open or not open.
Let’s take that further because I don’t think politeness is a turn on. Thoughtfulness is a turn on. What that means is when you have these partnerships, the most important thing is to make people feel important. There needs to be a specialness. I can’t be one of the rotation, “You know I like this wine. You know I have this allergy. When I show up at your house, this wine is there. We have this plan.” That is so attractive. The other thing is it’s sustainable in a bubble of ethical non-monogamy. That’s one of the challenges with monogamy is there’s no novelty anymore.
We could go on at length about the challenges with monogamy. The easiest argument is it makes people lazy.
That’s where ethical non-monogamy supersedes that. That’s the attractiveness because there’s effort. If there’s an effort, you feel important. If you feel important, you feel engaged. If you’re engaged, you’re willing to continue.
Do you have any others you want to add to this burgeoning list? We have honesty, consideration, standards or bottom line, affection, safe sex and safety.
Consideration, safety, these things can go in there.
If you want, I could run a cluster analysis or a factor analysis on these things and see where they load.
You’re asking me what’s important to me in an opportunity or are you asking me what’s important potentially to your list or to a generic individual who’s not familiar with ethical non-monogamy?
I’m thinking of this as a little bit of a primer around this idea. Here’s the challenge of this. A lot of people don’t know anyone who’s behaving like this. They don’t have that they know of.
I keep finding friends who are super square and then I find out they have an open marriage.
That’s fine, but whether you don’t know or they don’t exist is the same thing. They don’t have a role model. They don’t have someone that they can ask about. You get to be that person as a veteran.
You are also a veteran. I feel like you can contribute to this from a male perspective as well.
I’d be clear here, I haven’t thought about this as much as you have. To me, I’m locked on honesty as a founding foundational principle.
Which does not mean over disclosure.
I understand that there’s a level of discretion that is important. I believe that there’s a level of discretion when it comes to intimate relationships that should be foundational. The more discreet you are and the more discrete your partner knows you are, the better your relationship is going to be because they’re not afraid.
I also act under the assumption that unless we have had a defined conversation about the potential or decision of monogamy, assume everyone is not monogamous.
That seems a fair assumption.
It’s not as common as you would think.
They call it the DTR for a reason, Define The Relationship. That’s one of those things where people get scared because they’re not being monogamous. They want to keep seeing this person. The other person is hoping they’re monogamous and then at some point, they always start with, “What’s going on here? What are we doing?”
The monogamy conversation should happen so far in advance because I’ve had many people get their feelings hurt when we’re dating. For example, I come out with the ‘I love you’ stuff two months in and we’re still using condoms, roll it back.
You can’t fall in love with someone while wearing a condom?
You can but you should also expect that they are also sharing space and fluids with other people. Protect yourself emotionally a little bit more.
For the male audiences, no ‘I love you.’
If you are still using a condom, do not tell her that you love her. She may dump you.
Several years from now, this is part of the regular vernacular.
It’s further than that. It depends on where you live. Metropolitan areas, sure. Knoxville, Tennessee, no. It doesn’t mean that the desire is not there, just saying maybe the availability is not there.
One thing that is very clear is that the more you tell people they can’t do something, the more they want to do it. There’s all this stuff about the pornography consumption tendencies of red versus blue states.
One of my biggest clients is the largest adult toy store in the country. Some of their highest grossing sales stores are in the Bible belt, no question. To wrap this up, breaking down our entire list of primary considerations, true ethical non-monogamy does require courage. Most importantly, you have to trust the person where you’re with to not reject you for being honest.
I need to jump in here because there won’t be overlapping, but I did a show for I’m Not Joking and this topic came up. I would call it vulnerability and my guest, Kym Terribile said, “Vulnerability is the bravest thing you can do.” I will tell you, this is something men struggle with. They say, “Who’s the braver sex?” You’re like, “Guys, they’re firefighters and warriors.” It’s like, “The ladies are pretty brave because they’re better at being vulnerable than guys.” Guys miss out on a whole half of masculinity and living better because they’re not willing to be vulnerable by asking for what they need, by telling the world that they’re scared.
That’s the biggest one, saying that I’m scared or that I’m not enough. Isn’t this why Brené Brown is a multimillionaire? She will say that stuff to people and remind you that we’re not alone, but we’re not telling our stories. It was very important to me several years ago to come out as bisexual because Dan Savage, one of my favorite writers and podcasters. Too movement and abortion is you love someone who is of this category. By us not coming out and talking about that, we’re not allowing them to know that they love someone in this category. It’s not about me being in the closet or not being in the closet. It’s that my hyper Irish religious family needs to know that they have a queer person in their family, that they already love and care about and trust with their children so that they expand their world. This goes in the same direction. Be yourself with no security net. Nobody’s going to stay there and go, “We’re going to love you unconditionally.” My family is a very conditionally loving family despite what they believe themselves to be.
I love that like how many parents are, “I want my kids to be happy but they should be accountants.” I like the idea that you have to embrace the brave, courageous side of yourself and be willing to be rejected.
That’s what that looks like. What that looks like is what we talked about. I’m not going to sign up for that. I appreciate that like the gentleman who said to me, “I would still like to hang out with you. Just know you’re not the only one I’m hanging out with.” He gave me the choice and he exposed himself to potentially I would not hook up with him because I go, “I’m not going to sign up for that.” I’m not that kind of person. We never did have sex, but we did share company several times. It changed my life truly that at such a young age, I was given the freedom of choice and also complete honesty that I have repeated that because it felt so good and validating to me.
Honesty goes a long way. On a first date, say I don’t want to get married and have kids. For some people, they’re like, “Check, please.” Other people are like, “That’s a little presumptuous.” Other people are like, “Okay.” Some people are like, “I want that, but I’m having a nice time.” There’s a tendency, even when you think through the possibilities, this is to think about the possibilities being way more limited than they are in life. Anytime I plan for something, I’m often surprised. It’s like, “I didn’t plan for that.” There’s so much uncertainty in the world. Nonetheless, it’s not even just it’s right and it’s fair, but it’s also a foundational thing, which is it’s so refreshing when you’re with someone you go, “They may not always say something I like, but I know that they’re going to be honest.”
For me, I can say that these relationships last in such an affectionate and loving, kind place because we started in the deep end. I get to have conversations with those individuals because I respect them so much in very deep personal things. Even I was speaking about this gentleman, him talking to me when he broke up with that woman, she wanted him to leave his wife. He’s like, “I’m never doing that because that’s not part of the deal.” She had moved to London to get over him. He was wrecked. I sent him Adele CDs because I’m still his friend. More importantly, it doesn’t threaten or discount the connection that we have. That’s one of the hardest things. I wrote about having affairs about not being the chosen one, good enough to sleep with but not good enough to be with. Ethical non-monogamy takes away that tension. You’re both choosing.
The person doesn’t have to be everything.
It doesn’t have to be everything. They can exist for a specific purpose for a specific period of time if you both sign up for that.
I knew this would be fascinating. I feel like I’ve learned so much from this conversation. I thank you for your honesty. That certainly made this a worthwhile conversation.
Thank you very much.
We’re going to turn to what would normally be the bonus material for people who sign up for the community, but I’m adding it here. Get ready to learn about online dating for the ethical non-monogamist. The topic of this one is how to create an online dating profile as an ethical non-monogamist. Phrased in a different way, how to meet other ethical non-monogamists? How to avoid the monogamists?
To be fair, not all the people that you meet have to be ethical non-monogamists because not everyone that you’re meeting is going to want to date other people necessarily. I have had a relationship with someone who I know never dated anybody else. We were all above board the whole time. I can definitely say what you should not do and don’t say things like, “I don’t know what I’m looking for. I want a good time. I want to have some fun.”
I remember getting online and this is years ago when this stuff was getting up. A woman wrote, “I want to spice things up.” My friend was like, “That is code.” I’m like, “Really?”
There is a lot of code in online dating.
Let’s digress. What are some things that are code in online dating?
A code in online dating is I travel a lot. I’m not in town very frequently.
That’s code for?
Potentially that I am married. It means I’m not available and don’t be offended if I don’t speak to you for months at a time or a month at a time. If you’re looking for any commitment, it’s not just about scheduling, it’s about emotional availability and bandwidth with that person.
I would think, “I travel a lot,” is like a braggy thing. Evidently, everyone online loves to travel. They’re so adventurous.
Which is why I asked those questions that I asked, “When was your last trip? When is your next one? Where did you go? Don’t say Cleveland.” As far as travel goes, it’s about the phrasing. If we’re going back to the code of, it’s, “I travel for work a lot.” It means they’re not available during the weekend. They’re not going to be available for a conventional relationship. They don’t want you to ask it of them. They’re going to be annoyed at you.
They’re getting ahead of this issue.
I want to have a good time means they are trying to hook up, no question. Oftentimes, the people who say they’re looking for a relationship, that’s a bait and switch. They think they can attract a higher quality individual, but they still wind up doing the exact same behavior as if they had said back to the whole we don’t do things ethically. Men sometimes think, “I might want to be in a partnership.” They cycle through seventeen people because they never wanted that or they wanted the variety of this one how to ask for it.When you have partnerships, the most important thing is to make people feel important. Click To Tweet
These things are difficult. If you’re doing anything nontraditional or you’re open to other possibilities besides marriage or a long-term relationship, it’s not the apps have this all figured out yet.
OkCupid is the best.
What are their categories?
You have 30 categories. Sapiosexual, pansexual, non-monogamous, open relationship and polyamory.
I assume you can check more than one box.
That seems more than just like marriage, relationships, something casual. I don’t know is that catchall for a lot of these other things. What else should you not do?
You should not define what you’re looking for, personally. You should talk about what you bring to the table. I’m a good cook. I am very close to my family. I laugh a lot. Back to that don’t be negative.
We were talking about people get beat down by being on the apps. I understand that but the tendency is to try to head off things by saying, “I don’t want this, don’t do this, don’t be that.” It ends up unfortunately backfiring because if anything it scares away the most appealing people. The most appealing with the people are like, “I don’t want to have someone that negative.”
I don’t know the name of the study of this, but there was a political study that was done. All the candidates did was say, “I’m not this, I don’t do this. I don’t do that.” They tested so negatively. To refute their opponent, it tested so poorly that when they focus on what they do well, they attract more people. That’s the mentality that you want to go away. It’s more flies with honey. The most important is making sure that you say what you’re good at and what you bring to the table in a partnership. I’m also a big believer in the phone call prior to the first date. I have twenty phone calls and meet 1 to 2 people in person.
Is there a way to create an online dating profile as an ethical non-monogamous that feels different?
It depends on the website.
It’s interesting you say this as an aside. OkCupid has pivoted its positioning to be more pro single. If you think about it, from a customer lifetime value standpoint, if these apps are successful, you leave the app.
Hinge says, “This is the app created with the intent to be deleted.”
You’re building obsolescence into your business model where you get terminated. OkCupid has changed this. They have all this whole new ad campaign that’s focused and it’s is designed to be more focused on the person who’s not looking to couple up forever. This makes sense.
The reason OkCupid is it’s not just a swiping app. I love the compatibility questions.
I’m not familiar with this. Most people know Tinder, which is left-no, right-yes.
The difference is Bumble is a little more pro-women because the women has to initiate. It keeps them from having to get a lot of flack.
We get thousands of, “Hi. You’re cute. I like your photo.” It’s stressful. OkCupid is more in-depth, interestingly enough. OkCupid I got onto originally because it was one of the first websites that allowed me to be bisexual. In the early days of online dating, I was on there in 2003. Match was for straight people and Yahoo! Personals was for gay people. I had a profile on both of these websites and it attracted a different kind of person. OKCupid is much more inclusive. It allows you to even say when you’re in an ethical non-monogamous relationship with another person. You can tag that person’s profile. It’s very interesting to me.
It sounds like what you’re saying is it’s not about creating an online dating profile as ethical non-monogamist, but you might consider particular sites. It is the primary decision. They give you more degrees of freedom to identify.
They give much flexibility and also the amount of engagement that you want. You can create a profile and you can swipe or you can answer hundreds and hundreds of questions should you want to, to increase your compatibility and your match percentage. To where I now have in my profile, if we are not more than a 90% match, don’t be offended, I won’t respond to you. I’ve answered approximately 300 questions. A lot of them are yes or no questions. Do you think evolution should be taught in schools? Do you think that abortion should be legal for all purposes? They are value-based questions. That’s what’s most significant to me. They ask a lot of non-monogamous questions. They ask about open relationships. They ask about should you talk to your partner about being kinky. Do you think anal sex should be on the table? It asks very specific questions. You can by-pass them if you don’t want those to be public necessarily. You can also have them hidden if you want them to include in your algorithm but not visible.
This sounds cutting-edge.
It’s very sophisticated.
Yes, compared to the normal stuff. It feels like a jackpot or slot machine.
The point of this is to say yes, you should shop for who you are and choose websites. You get out of it what you put into it. I’m in sales so I’m all about activity-based behavior. A hundred touches equal twenty phone calls equal three dates.
It’s funny you say this because I’ve always joked. I stole this line from someone which is I say, “It’s a war of attrition.” Because the pool is so big, there’s more and more attrition versus back in the day where the pool was very small, there were four potential partners. It was fraught with concern because one turns you down, which makes the likelihood when another one turns you down. Now, these are all independent.
I always tell my friends and I get so annoyed whenever they say, “I want to meet someone organically.” I talk about the ratios. I say, “Where would you like to meet them? Do you want to meet them at a bar on a Saturday? Do you want to meet them at a dog park on Sunday? Do you want to meet them at the grocery store?” I’m not a fan of dipping the pen personally. The world is too small and professionally. It’s for me.
I also think that there’s a lot more concern about when it goes sideways, it’s riskier for both people.
Especially to this topic of ethical non-monogamy, I do not think that it is appropriate in a work environment. It’s one thing for you to be ethically non-monogamous in a blind existence. You don’t see or know the people that your partner is also seeing. When you’re at work and you see them flirt with someone else, you know they go on a date with someone else.
The stakes of when things go wrong, it is harder. I see where you’re going with this which is yes, you want to be pure about meeting people, but when you get practical about it, you’re quite limited.
I’m going to always endorse online dating. It is the most efficient way to date. You get the largest pool of candidates. Let’s use and going out on Saturday night between the three bars that you frequent. Let’s say there are 25 possible candidates of whom you know nothing. The 25 candidates are available to you on a Friday night, how many do you talk to? Three or four? Maybe. You give your number to one of them and you hear from none of them. That was seven hours on a Friday night or you can go online. You can “touch” or generate leads. You can generate 50 leads even in a sitting. A couple of one-liners, “How are you?” Be more interesting. Make a comment about a photo, a location or something. Of those people, maybe you get ten responses.
Of those people, I’d give my number to eight of them. I talked to 4 or 5 of them on the phone in a week. I meet one of them for coffee or I meet none of them for coffee. I’d never wasted a face and make-up for any of those people. I didn’t waste Friday night, I got to hang out with my friends. I got to do all my workouts and I still qualified individuals. When you come down to it, you’re spending your time with quality individuals because you’ve done the vetting process. You qualified your leads. I don’t advertise that behavior necessarily in my dating profile, but I do talk in my dating profile about my schedule. That’s important about availability. I say, “I leave the state at least once a month. I leave the country at least once a quarter. Both of these are typically for pleasure. I would like a partner who is available for that spontaneity or at least once a quarter to accompany me somewhere.” I do like to put the expectations out there.
You phrase that positively.
“I would like a partner for this or I get along best with people,” I do say that. In terms of ethical non-monogamy, having a large social circle is very evident. Saying, “I have a large family, I’m very close to them. I have many friends around the country that I like to visit or spend time with. I’m interested in interesting people who are doing things with their lives, who have a lot of hobbies. Tell me about yours.” People get nervous if they are not of that expectation fulfillment. That cuts these people down. Most often it’s people who want to have the same kind of life as you, even if they don’t have it now, who are mostly available to you for potentially non-monogamous.
Either people who you’re already a good match or in some way aspirational. Is there anything that you can put in your profile though?
Make sure you talk about that you are open to new experiences. I like trying new things. I like meeting new people. I like having new experiences. I like learning things.
It’s an openness to new experiences.
It’s like, “I pursue new experiences. I love meeting new people. I have a lot of interests. What are some of yours?” It’s positioning statements.
That’s great. That was a lot of fun. Thank you so much.
- Kym Terribile on I’m Not Joking Podcast