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March 5, 2014 2:25 PM   Subscribe

Is talking early on in a relationship about "not believing in monogamy" a huge red flag?

I'm in a very new relationship with someone I'm super excited about. He is really, really awesome. Respectful. Feminist. Giving. Really low key about the usual hot-button dudebro insecurities. Every indication so far is that he's good people. Our relationship so far is very egalitarian.

We recently had the "so are we boyfriend and girlfriend now?" conversation. Very early and prominently in this conversation he asked me what my feelings are about monogamy and told me that he "doesn't believe in" it.

I am not dating anyone else. He is not dating anyone else. He's not married. I've gone to parties with him and attended some of his shows (he's a performer, but in the interest of anonymity I'm keeping this vague), and he hasn't been cagey about our relationship. He's physically demonstrative in public, including at his performance venues.

I'm inclined to trust him. I think his intentions are good. I want to think that this is all very hypothetical, and his aversion to monogamy is just an abstract thing that won't really affect us (at least not in the short term). But I'm also crazy about him and excited to be in a relationship. And, you know, limerance.

Am I completely nuts to be OK with this? Is this a huge red flag I can't afford to ignore?

(Because I'm anonymous - we're a hetero couple. We live in a major US city. We both do creative projects that are prone to breaking boundaries and being free to say and do inappropriate things. We are in our thirties.)
posted by anonymous to Human Relations (58 answers total) 5 users marked this as a favorite
Well, if you don't believe in something, I guess, how can you be expected to do it?

If monogamy is important to you, you might consider not being with someone who doesn't also find it important to them. I personally would have a hard time breaking it off because of this but I also know in my heart I couldn't be with someone who doesn't want to be monogamous with me. Your feelings may vary.

I'm not sure if this is clear: I mean it would be hard to break up, but I would do it, because our wants seem incompatible.
posted by fiercecupcake at 2:28 PM on March 5, 2014 [10 favorites]

his aversion to monogamy is just an abstract thing that won't really affect us

Depends what you want out of the relationship. It sounds pretty much like he is saying, unless you've had a specific conversation to the contrary, that he is not planning on being monogamous with you. Which is fine if that is fine with you and very not fine if you have other ideas. There's not really a trust thing, to my mind, just a "believe what people tell you about themselves" thing. He does not believe in monogamy to me says he is not planning to be monogamous. People can be in long-term committed relationships with people and not be monogamous, but if it's not what you want, it's not what you want.
posted by jessamyn at 2:28 PM on March 5, 2014 [48 favorites]

What is your question? He said he does not believe in monogamy. Are you asking us for permission to not take what he said at face value?
posted by eas98 at 2:32 PM on March 5, 2014 [9 favorites]

It's not a red flag, it's a basic incompatibility. He's telling you that he will probably sleep with other people while he's dating you. I would not assume this is an abstract theoretical thing for him.
posted by theodolite at 2:33 PM on March 5, 2014 [62 favorites]

Very early and prominently in this conversation he asked me what my feelings are about monogamy and told me that he "doesn't believe in" it.

That's fine. Does that mean he *does* believe in communicating about wanting to date or have sex with other people before he goes and does that? Because that's really important. His intentions can be good but his decision-making or communication skills can simultaneously be terrible. You must have a conversation with him that is explicit about what you want, what you expect, and what is a dealbreaker. Someone who doesn't "believe" in monogamy is not entitled to act unilaterally just because they said they don't believe in monogamy. If he doesn't want to have this conversation, that would be a huge dealbreaking flag for me.
posted by rtha at 2:33 PM on March 5, 2014 [27 favorites]

It sounds like you're trying to find a way to believe that he'll be monogamous with you despite what he says about monogamy. If that's the case, I think you'd be doing both of you a favor by just flat-out asking him if his feelings about monogamy are, as you say, just abstract and something that won't affect your relationship - or if it means you can't expect a monogamous relationship with him. My guess is that it's more the latter than the former, and if what you want is a monogamous relationship (I certainly would/do), then this, unfortunately, is not the person for you.
posted by DingoMutt at 2:34 PM on March 5, 2014 [1 favorite]

If he says he does not believe in monogamy, then the current monogamy you are experiencing is liable to end at any time - and unless the two of you come to an agreement otherwise, probably without warning or discussion or, possibly, without you knowing about it.

It's a huge red flag if you want monogamy. He told you this for a reason, and it sounds like you want to think this is an "abstraction" as in this is just a lofty thing he says but he's going to be monogamous with you. You cannot bank on that just because, in your current state of New Relationship Energy, he hasn't felt like sleeping with anyone else. Or hasn't felt like telling you.
posted by Lyn Never at 2:35 PM on March 5, 2014 [21 favorites]

It sounds to me as if he is saying, in effect, "I'm not going to be monogamous with you. This way, if you get your feelings hurt, you can't say I didn't warn you." Believe what he says.

How important is monogamy to you? Do you want an open relationship? There are people who have poly/open relationships and it works out well for them.

As I see it, there are two pitfalls to beware of. The biggie: Any idea that you might somehow change him and get him to believe in monogamy after all is wishful thinking. Do NOT think you can change him! If he wants to change under his own power, that's great. But don't hang around him thinking that you are going to change him or push him into monogamy.

Second pitfall: you don't want to be in a relationship where he gets to sleep around and you have to stay faithful. I've known too many men who subscribe to this and it is not cool. If he espouses a double standard - he "doesn't believe in monogamy" for HIM, but he believes in monogamy for YOU - run away.
posted by Rosie M. Banks at 2:35 PM on March 5, 2014 [26 favorites]

It all depends if lack of monogamy is a deal breaker for you. If not, then why are you asking this question, and if so then DUH he has already told you what you want to know.

I'm inclined to trust him. I think his intentions are good. I want to think that this is all very hypothetical, and his aversion to monogamy is just an abstract thing that won't really affect us

You're totally fooling yourself here. He is pretty clearly telling you that he fundamentally doesn't want or prescribe to monogamous relationships and you are trying to cram that into a "But it won't affect me because I think we will work around it" box.

He says he doesn't believe in monogamy. He's therefore telling you it ain't going to happen if that's what you want. Stop trying to factor and interpret what he is saying and listen to him.
posted by Brockles at 2:35 PM on March 5, 2014 [16 favorites]

He wants to have sex with you and he wants your permission to have sex with others. He wants you to be ok with this because he wants to continue to have sex with you. If you're not ok with this, move along, because this is what he wants. If he's in a band, the nature of the beast is to lay pipe.
posted by brownrd at 2:44 PM on March 5, 2014 [13 favorites]

If you didn't believe in monogamy either, you wouldn't be asking this question.

Assuming you can take the answer at face value, therefore, you are incompatible.

If you are asking whether you can't take this at face value and he's saying this but doesn't really mean it and maybe actions speak louder than words and he will turn out to believe in monogamy? It will seem that way right up until the very moment that it doesn't, whereupon you will be devastated.
posted by tel3path at 2:44 PM on March 5, 2014 [1 favorite]

If you would like to have an exclusive relationship with him, tell him that. Tell him you want to be his only partner while you're together. Tell him that if he meets someone else he wants to be with, you want him to tell you before he actually sleeps with her.

"I don't believe in monogamy" might mean that he doesn't believe two people can be monogamous forever. It doesn't necessarily mean that he needs to be seeing more than one woman at a time. Ask him for what you want, and see what he says. Don't try to read his mind, and don't just "hope for the best" without telling him what would work for you.
posted by wryly at 2:45 PM on March 5, 2014 [8 favorites]

Well, gosh. Seems to me that if he was actually a feminist, then he would be happy, willing, and able to respect the needs of the woman with whom he was involved. And if she's not down with non-monogamy, then the feminist thing to do is to say goodbye to that woman, and allow her to find happiness elsewhere.

The dude is selling you a bill of goods. Eject eject eject.
posted by gsh at 2:45 PM on March 5, 2014 [3 favorites]

I believe a good friend needs to take you out, sit you down, and make you believe what everyone on this thread is trying to tell you.

At the very least, if you want to keep seeing this guy, you need to start dating others, too.
posted by Lesser Shrew at 2:47 PM on March 5, 2014

When you say you're inclined to trust him, that is cool, but right now I'd say you can probably trust him to be nonmonogamous -- and straightforward about that. If you want to trust him to be monogamous, I don't think that's where he is right now.
posted by sockanalia at 2:48 PM on March 5, 2014 [4 favorites]

It may be worth a discussion of what exactly that means in practice. Does that mean he wants absolutely no accountability about what he does on his own time and with who? Or does that mean that he's ready, willing, and able to respectfully consider his significant others' concerns when checking out the possibility of further, different relationships? How does he feel about his lovers having the same privilege? Has he ever had successful nonmonogamous relationships in the past? How have those gone? What did he learn?

If you can't under any circumstances imagine being cool with your boyfriend being interested in someone else, well, this is not the man for you. But you may want to sound it out a bit to see what it really means before you decide.
posted by Sublimity at 2:49 PM on March 5, 2014 [8 favorites]

It sure sounds like he's planning on having sex with other people while you are dating. Any other interpretation seems to me to be wishful thinking. However, if you're really unsure about whether this was just theoretical musing or a clear cut statement of intention, ask him to clarify. What do you have to lose?
posted by Wordwoman at 2:49 PM on March 5, 2014 [4 favorites]

Is talking early on in a relationship about "not believing in monogamy" a huge red flag?

Considering that you're clearly interested in having a monogamous relationship with the person who's saying it, yes.

"I don't believe in monogamy" is the new "but I told you I was an asshole" for dudes who have Sex At Dawn on their Amazon wish lists. When he starts hooking up with someone else -- not if, when -- he's either going to tell you about it like an adult or he's going to skirt around it for ages until you finally ask him straight up, and either way, it seems like you're going to be crushed. You're putting all of your eggs in the "he's not dating anyone else right now" basket and ignoring the inconvenient truth that he's already told you that he wants to.

If you're within 100 miles of Chicago, please drop me a MeMail and I will tell you all about supposedly egalitarian dudes who act just like this as we enjoy very strong mixed drinks. My treat. Also, DTMFA!
posted by divined by radio at 2:51 PM on March 5, 2014 [44 favorites]

I don't believe in monogamy is a pretty vague thing to say.

Why not ask him what he wants out of a relationship, to describe his ideal living arrangement, what he sees his family being. The platonic ideal of monogamy is less important to you than the practical makeup of the relationship.
posted by munchingzombie at 2:51 PM on March 5, 2014 [1 favorite]

Um. The guy is being quite open and direct. Now it's your turn!

I don't know what you've conveyed to him, but it's obvious you're being more direct with us than you have been with him.

If I were him, it would absolutely be my desire (and my right) to hear that you're in denial of what I expressed to you -- that you're expecting I'll give up on a clearly stated non-belief in monogamy.

I hear how excited you are about him and I'm sorry the two of you aren't compatible, but you aren't. You clearly don't believe in or have an interest in non-monogamy, particularly if you (snarkily) equate pair bonding with monogamy... it's time to be honest with him about that.
posted by kalapierson at 2:54 PM on March 5, 2014 [5 favorites]

I think I'd be having a talk with him about polyamory and/or open relationships and how he wants this to operate. Set some ground rules.

But of course the bottom line here is: is it a requirement of yours to have a closed/monogamous relationship? If it is, then you need to break up.
posted by jenfullmoon at 2:56 PM on March 5, 2014 [3 favorites]

To draw an analogy without directly touching on the monogamy issue, in my last relationship I convinced myself I was fine with the fact that my partner had made it clear he wasn't able and/or willing to be emotionally or sexually available - because he was a great guy and we shared the same values and I was excited to be in the relationship and because limerence.

As time went on, it became clearer and clearer that I was nowhere near fine with this and that it was really damaging me. And even then I stuck with the relationship for nearly a year more.

This almost certainly isn't what you want to hear, because I didn't want to hear it either, but it will probably be much less painful for you to figure out what you are and aren't actually okay to square with yourself sooner rather than later - and if it turns out the monogamy thing is more of a dealbreaker than the limerence and excitement make you want it to be, it will also be less painful to break up sooner rather than later.

I really, really wish I'd got out as soon as I knew I had no chance of being close to happy in that relationship, and saved myself months of resentment down the line (I'm still carrying a lot of that resentment now, even though I'm in a much more fulfilling relationship now and the ex and I are still friends - and a lot of it is anger towards myself that I let myself be treated so badly for so long).

It's entirely possible that your situation is less extreme than mine was, and that this isn't going to be an issue for you guys. But my advice if that turns out not to be the case would be this: get the hell out as soon as you know and save yourself a world of pain.
posted by terretu at 2:58 PM on March 5, 2014 [5 favorites]

You could certainly ask for clarification and see if that helps at all. I don't know if it would make a difference, but why not give it a shot?

He is really, really awesome. Respectful. Feminist.

Yeah, I have a friend like this and he has absolutely no idea how to treat women in the context of romantic relationships. In fact, he can teeter on the edge of mysogyny sometimes. YMMV.

I personally would be quite wary of someone said they "didn't believe in monogamy". But then again, I'm a monogamous kind of gal.
posted by strelitzia at 3:02 PM on March 5, 2014 [1 favorite]

Is talking early on in a relationship about "not believing in monogamy" a huge red flag?

Depends. Do you believe in monogamy, and expect to practice it in this relationship? If yes, then it's a huge red flag, certainly. If not, then no. He doesn't believe in monogamous relationships, therefore if you ask him to be in one -- or complain if he does not continue to behave as if he is in one -- he's going to tell you that he made it clear he doesn't believe in monogamy, so what are you complaining about?
posted by davejay at 3:04 PM on March 5, 2014

If you believe in monogamy and wish to be with a partner who also believes in monogamy, then yes, this is a red flag. If you are open to polyamory, then this is a good sign of his willingness to be open. But this:

I want to think that this is all very hypothetical, and his aversion to monogamy is just an abstract thing that won't really affect us wishful thinking that's is going to set yourself up for a world of hurt down the road.

The fact that he's not monogamous doesn't automatically make him a bad person, or a misogynist, or devoid of the capacity to care for someone else deeply. He may very well be a lovely man, genuinely feminist, and totally crazy about you -- and, simultaneously, he doesn't intend to commit to being in a mutually exclusive relationship with you. If you're inclined to monogamy, then that state of mind may not really compute to you... but it doesn't make its existence any less real.

If you're nursing any secret hope that you'll be so awesome to make him abandon his theoretically held beliefs in polyamory for the practical awesomeness of monogamy with you, abandon it now. Not because you're not awesome, but because it sounds like you both have fundamentally different expectations and needs from relationships -- and those differences aren't going to be bridged by your awesomeness. If, on the other hand, you're absolutely fine with the fact that at some point he's going to be involved with other women (and you know in your gut if you are or not), then proceed.

Either way, he's being very forthcoming about who he is. Believe what he's telling you.
posted by scody at 3:08 PM on March 5, 2014 [23 favorites]

Oh, yeah, forgot: what is NOT a red flag is that he told you this up front. It's not what you wanted to hear, but at least he told you early on -- that actually reflects well on him, as it would if he shared that he did/did not want children, did/did not want marriage, and so on.
posted by davejay at 3:10 PM on March 5, 2014 [12 favorites]

If you want monogamy, don't be with someone who doesn't believe in it.

He's been clear with where he stand vis-a-vis monogamy and if he starts seeing someone else, it won't really be something you can really be surprised about. He never committed to you to not seeing someone else.

And not being monogamous doesn't mean that he can't love you. It just means that he isn't committed to loving *only* you.

It's okay if it's a dealbreaker for you, but this is not an abstract thing and it's something that could cause heartache down the line if you don't tackle it head-on. He's been up front with you, be the same with him if it bothers you.
posted by inturnaround at 3:11 PM on March 5, 2014 [1 favorite]

Mod note: Folks, don't get into a metadiscussion about this topic please.
posted by jessamyn (staff) at 3:17 PM on March 5, 2014

Am I completely nuts to be OK with this?

Nope, he seems very like he's into you. But you should have a talk with him about what exactly he means.

Is this a huge red flag I can't afford to ignore?

Yep, don't ignore it. He's begin pretty straightforward. A good question you is whether you're ok with having a talk with him and making your boundaries clear. Another is whether he would be willing to say when he's been non-mongamous so you consider your own medical and emotional safety.
posted by Brandon Blatcher at 3:42 PM on March 5, 2014 [2 favorites]

I am baffled by folks conflating not being a monogamist with being a misogynist or an asshole. Monogamy is by no means some inherently good or right thing. People get to decide whether they want to participate in that particular social institution. The majority of people do, but majority doesn't mean universally right.

The cool thing about adult relationships is you get to decide what the relationship is. You get to choose what works for you (or at least what you want to work). For most that is the very standard cohabitating monogamous relationship. But there are infinite variations on this model, and one is not a priori better than the other.

Not believing in monogamy can mean a million different things. As others have said, you need to figure out what this means in practice. This can range from simply not wanting to make any sort of 'till death do us part' commitment to being poly to being open to being swingers and a million other things.

Monogamy has a lot of political, philosophical and sociological baggage attached to it, and I think being wary of its assumption in relationships is actually a very reasonable thing, and the fact that he reasonably brought it up in the exact conversation where one would expect the other to bring it up is a fairly good sign.

You are absolutely not nuts to think this might be OK. You get to decide what you are OK with. More people than you probably realize are not only OK with non-monogamous relationships but even very happy with them.

That said, if you do believe in monogamy, and he wants to practice some variation on relationships you aren't comfortable with, you by no means have to stick around. All I'm sayin' is don't let the man dictate your romantic life.
posted by Lutoslawski at 4:04 PM on March 5, 2014 [14 favorites]

I wouldn't exactly call this a "red flag" in that I think of that more of a sign that the person is not what they appear to be, in a way that will produce unexpected trouble later. This guy has pretty much straight up told you what he is -- if he later proves to be that (as seems likely in this case), it can't exactly be called "unexpected".

That the dude is giving, feminist, respectful, etc. does not necessarily make him monogamous -- indeed, most of the poly folks I know (yes, inclusive of Biblically) are these things. He has told you that he does not believe in monogamy. One would really have to split hairs -- and it sounds like you are trying to do this -- not to conclude that he therefore does not intend to practice monogamy.

Based on the observation that you are trying to split hairs in this regard, as well as the implication of the title that monogamy is exactly equivalent to all of human pair bonding, I'm guessing that you intend to practice monogamy with a likewise monogamous partner. If this is the case, continuing to date him is essentially to bring tennis rackets to a golf course -- the game will not work and you will be unhappy.

It's unfair to you, if all he's done is said "Yeah, don't believe in that" and has kind of gone on from there assuming that continuing to use the service assumes acceptance of the terms. Communication. It is a thing. However, it is equally well headed for trouble to blithely trot forward assuming this is some sort of completely immaterial philosophical stance of his, that will never have any bearing on the course of your relationship with him. It is his philosophy regarding how relationships are to be conducted. It will prove relevant to your relationship.
posted by sparktinker at 4:09 PM on March 5, 2014 [3 favorites]

Mod note: Do not have the poly/monog argument here. Answer the question and move on.
posted by jessamyn (staff) at 4:10 PM on March 5, 2014 [1 favorite]

For the fiftyleventh time on AskMe: When people tell you who they are, believe them.
posted by nubianinthedesert at 4:11 PM on March 5, 2014 [11 favorites]

There are a few tried and true chunks of wisdom that MeFites invoke on a regular basis and one of them applies here. It goes like this:

When someone tells you very specifically who and what they are, BELIEVE THEM.
posted by raisingsand at 4:11 PM on March 5, 2014 [4 favorites]

Not really. This is being honest and communicating possible dealbreakers up front so that they don't come as a surprise later on when you're emotionally invested in each other.

If it's a dealbreaker for you, then don't enter into a relationship with this guy.
posted by tckma at 4:30 PM on March 5, 2014 [2 favorites]

"I don't believe in X" is not an abstract thing where X is something he has a choice about doing.

If he said "I don't believe in celebrating birthdays," you would not expect him to send you a birthday card. If he said "I don't believe in eating veal," you would not expect him to pick the veal dish off a menu. So when he says "I don't believe in monogamy," you shouldn't expect him to be monogamous.
posted by Catseye at 4:30 PM on March 5, 2014 [7 favorites]

I'm getting hung up on the language on "not believing" in monogamy.

Monogamy and polyamory aren't belief systems or ideologies, they are just life choices, like choosing to be a vegetarian or a meat-eater, or whether to have kids. So it's not abstract like whether you believe in God or socialism, it's just a practical choice with respect to the life you want, like deciding if you want to get a dog.

His life choice is polyamory... if that is something that you think you could be up for, then you should date this man. But if not, you shouldn't.
posted by Asparagus at 4:32 PM on March 5, 2014 [2 favorites]

We recently had the "so are we boyfriend and girlfriend now?" conversation. Very early and prominently in this conversation he asked me what my feelings are about monogamy

If I'm understanding the timeline correctly here, he only brought up the non-monogamy thing *after* you two had been intimate, and had gotten to the point where you were doing boyfriend-girlfriend type activities, hence the "what are we" convo? In other words: he held off on telling you this very important piece of info until you'd already bonded?

I wouldn't characterize that as respectful at all. Nor would I trust this guy. I think you need to seriously check your head here.
posted by nacho fries at 4:41 PM on March 5, 2014 [15 favorites]

If this guy was, like, in his early twenties, I'd think he was maybe just being dumb and vague and trying to sound cool, but if he's in his thirties I think you have to take him at his word. If you want a monogamous relationship, you shouldn't stay with him.
posted by mskyle at 4:44 PM on March 5, 2014 [3 favorites]

Some guys say stuff like this because they think it makes them sound less conventional. Maybe some are just trying to play it cool. It might even be a line in one of those Pick Up Artist manuals. He could just be really honest: many people don't really "believe" in monogamy even if they say otherwise, or even if they are monogamous. For better or worse, in this day and age most modern folks would consider a person in a new relationship saying "I wish to be together with you and only you forever" a much bigger red flag. It's really hard to say what the guy really means without knowing him in person. What you think is probably as right as any other speculation ("his intentions are good. ...this is all very hypothetical").

I think it's just a flag. Not a red one or a big one.
posted by BabeTheBlueOX at 4:45 PM on March 5, 2014

When a person says during the "are we in a relationship?" conversation that they don't believe in monogamy, they are saying, "My romantic relationships are not monogamous. Therefore, if we are in a relationship, I will not be monogamous." It's that simple. He wins points from me for being direct about it, but if monogamy is important to you, he's a bad match.

Like you, I heard "I don't believe in monogamy" from a sensitive, generous, egalitarian, etc. etc. guy. And then another one. And another one. Unfortunately for those of us who like it, monogamy isn't automatically included in the package.
posted by ceiba at 5:00 PM on March 5, 2014

1. He's announcing that he will be screwing other people while you're in a relationship. It sounds like you're not okay with that, and you have a right to your preferences just as he does. I don't think talking about it, drawing boundaries, etc. is going to help. He's told you who he is; from his perspective, why should he change for you?

2. From the phrasing, "he doesn't believe in monogamy," it sounds like he might be one of the insufferable folks who go on and on condemning the preference for monogamy, calling it unnatural and bourgeois, the province of prudes, etc. A more neutral phrasing might be "I'm not monogamous" or "I don't practice monogamy." His personal preferences are not a "red flag," though they mean you're not compatable. I do find the phrasing a red flag, as it seems he has disdain or disgust for your sexual preference.
posted by ROTFL at 5:02 PM on March 5, 2014 [7 favorites]

Yeah, I find the phrasing a bit weird too. Not only do I believe in monogamy, I've seen it! However, I have also been in an open relationship for 20 years. Shrug.
posted by Sublimity at 5:14 PM on March 5, 2014 [2 favorites]

This wasn't some sort of philosophical discussion. In the context of asking the guy you are dating whether you are exclusive he responded with I don't believe/value/want monogamy. Which while fairly clear is not as clear as saying no we are not boyfriend & girlfriend or yes we are boyfriend & girlfriend, but that doesn't mean I won't be sleeping with other people. Or something like that.

But still, he was pretty clear. He probably phrased it the way he did so you wouldn't taken his aversion to monogamy as a personal rejection as opposed to rejecting monogamy in general.

I think you need to sit him down and ask for further clarity so you know exactly what you are getting into and whether you can live with what he's offering.
posted by whoaali at 5:41 PM on March 5, 2014

For the fiftyleventh time on AskMe: When people tell you who they are, believe them.

Make that for the fiftyleventhfirst time.

I want to think that this is all very hypothetical, and his aversion to monogamy is just an abstract thing that won't really affect us (at least not in the short term).

This is classic "I'll be the one who changes him!/It will be different with me!" thinking. I also think it's interesting that you mention that he asked you what your feelings about monogamy are but you don't actually tell us, as if that is also some hypothetical abstract thing.

Is this a huge red flag I can't afford to ignore?

Never ignore huge red flags. That's why they are huge and red: so you don't miss them. Here's a thought exercise for you: Imagine this was someone else's question. What would you be telling them right now?

I don't really think it matters what motives random internet strangers ascribe to him. Is being monogamous with this person important to you? It sounds like it is, or you wouldn't be asking this question. And that's totally fine, it just means you guys are not a good match whether you "dodged a bullet" or will just have to sadly part ways.
posted by Room 641-A at 5:42 PM on March 5, 2014

his aversion to monogamy is just an abstract thing that won't really affect us

I was with someone like that for four years.

Then it affected us.

Red flag of the highest order.
posted by mudpuppie at 5:50 PM on March 5, 2014 [3 favorites]

Hi, non-monogamist here. I've been in a committed relationship with the same partner for 7 years now; we sometimes fuck other people together and separately. What's made this work is the same thing that makes so many other potentially problematic relationships work: communication. Figure out what exactly it is you'd like from him. Ask yourself if there's any way that could include sex with other people. If there's no possible configuration you can imagine, then, yeah, it's doomed. But consider the options, and talk it over with him. Does his version of non-monogamy mean he wouldn't be willing to consider a boyfriend/girlfriend arrangement, or a husband/wife arrangement? Does it mean he would be willing to consider those relationships, as long as you can both fuck other people? Does it mean he'd only want to fuck other people with you involved? How about only fucking people the other person has met and approves of? Does it mean he wants loving relationships with other people too, or just physical ones? You didn't tell us how the rest of your conversation went, and there's so much more for you two to talk about on this issue--unless you're certain that it will never work.
posted by zeusianfog at 6:57 PM on March 5, 2014 [3 favorites]

My eye caught on the title of your post. Remember that there's a difference between not wanting to practice monogamy and being averse to human pair bonding. There are so many ways to feel and demonstrate intimacy and commitment to another person besides sexual exclusivity. I agree with zeusianfog; it sounds like this guy has opened the door for a much longer and more detailed conversation about what exactly his comment means. There's a lot to discuss and consider about what you (individually and together) are open to trying.
posted by southern_sky at 8:10 PM on March 5, 2014

He's telling you he is keeping his options open.
posted by discopolo at 8:40 PM on March 5, 2014 [2 favorites]

Wait, "are you nuts" for thinking maybe you'll be ok with his having sex with other people? Or "are you nuts" for thinking he won't have sex with other people, when he's told you clearly that's what he's about? I'm not clear on what you're reacting to.

The first one, I don't know. Some people don't mind this sort of thing - it helps if you are also having sex with other people. The second one… yes, it would be nuts to think that he is not going to have sex with other people while dating you. He just TOLD you that he will. Listen.
posted by fingersandtoes at 8:44 PM on March 5, 2014 [1 favorite]

I get the sense his aversion to monogamy is abstract until he finds another woman really attractive. Then it will become very clear and very real.

This would definitely be a dealbreaker for me, but I'd at least talk to the other person first to explain that I need and expect monogamy from anyone I am dating and I'd never be OK with anything open or poly. Then you can know if he was just speaking in philosophical terms or something, or giving you an insight into how he plans to live his life.
posted by AppleTurnover at 9:21 PM on March 5, 2014 [4 favorites]

I had that exact conversation with an ex, early in our relationship - one that never became "official" because he didn't believe in monogamy, you know, although it lasted nearly a year. I thought I could deal with it, but the truth was that I wanted an official relationship, I wanted monogamy, and I got hurt repeatedly and kept trying to adjust my expectations until finally I realized how unhealthy our relationship was for me, and I broke up with him. I didn't want to give up the good feeling of being with him, and thought I could limit what I wanted, but it wasn't true. I should have just let it go when he told me near the beginning - but, like you, I didn't want to, for all the reasons you list.

So what you need to ask yourself is whether what you truly want from him is a serious, committed, monogamous relationship, and whether you are considering the alternative only because you don't want to give him up, and not out of a previously existing interest in open relationships. If going poly has always had some appeal for you, then maybe you can have an open and serious discussion about what this really means and how you might make it work; but if you think you're going to change his mind, you're not, and it will only become more painful to let him go the longer you stay involved.
posted by sumiami at 10:00 PM on March 5, 2014 [2 favorites]

FWIW, I used to bluster about how "I don't believe in marriage", but in reality this was just part of my early-twenties pseudo-radicalism and if the right girl came up I would have acted very differently to what my theoretical beliefs suggested.

As an aside, what would you say are "the usual hot-button dudebro insecurities"?
posted by Junebug79 at 12:49 AM on March 6, 2014 [1 favorite]

My experience of this is: the guy said it; I said it wasn't what I was looking for; he told me he was totally smitten with me and it was just a hypothetical for him at this point; it turned out he was sleeping with his ex and lying about it. So, anecdotally, a red flag.
posted by theseldomseenkid at 2:30 AM on March 6, 2014 [1 favorite]

Oh no, it's not a "red flag". A red flag is when someone says something that doesn't equate with what he's been telling you. He's full on admitting that he doesn't want an exclusive relationship with you.

Sounds okay to me. If you don't care about exclusivity. If you do, then you need to say something.

"I like exclusivity when I'm dating someone. So if we're going to move forward, I'd like us to be exclusive." What does he say to that?

Either he'll be okay with it, or his aversion to monogamy will force him to say, "That's not going to work for me."

Sucks, but I'd rather know now, than later on, when I'm all wrapped up in him, and I've named our future babies.
posted by Ruthless Bunny at 6:44 AM on March 6, 2014 [4 favorites]

Mod note: Constructive helpful answers folk, just slagging on the guy is neither constructive nor helpful
posted by jessamyn (staff) at 7:11 AM on March 6, 2014

Very early and prominently in this conversation he asked me what my feelings are about monogamy and told me that he "doesn't believe in" it.

It sounds like he wanted to discuss each of your views on monogamy and nonmonogamy.

It sounds like the two of you did not get into this discussion far enough for you to have any idea what he meant.

You will never know what he meant unless you talk about it again. Sometime when you have plenty of time to talk, ask him what he meant and keep talking until you aren't wondering what he meant any more.
posted by yohko at 4:29 PM on March 7, 2014 [2 favorites]

Being with a non-monogamous person will affect you. It may not affect you in a bad way.

I am most definitely in A Relationship (3 years). My boyfriend is very egalitarian and respectful. He also exercises the option to see other women. I also exercise the option to see other people.

We are loving, we are bonded, we are currently cohabitating. We are in it for the long haul. We are also non-monogamous.

(This is not my first experience with open relationships, in fact I was burned very badly several years ago by a man who was lying to me and to his wife about the situation. But it was at my boyfriend's suggestion that our relationship became non-monogamous.)

Since becoming non-mono, our communication has gotten way better (though it started out good). Our introspectiveness to ourselves and our perception of our relationship has gotten very good. We know how to take care of ourselves and how to ask for what we want from each other. And being together is constantly an active choice, not a passive one.

I've done a lot of thinking about logical conclusions of my choices and actions in the past couple years. Lots of examining what relationships, love, and monogamy mean to me. And now... I can't imagine going back. I mean, in practice I could handle giving up seeing other people, but I truly appreciate the freedom and independence of the arrangement my boyfriend and I have.

Talk to this guy more about the practicalities of how he practices non-monogamy. If he needs a don't-ask-don't-tell arrangement, if he can't handle being accountable to you in any way, feel free to cut him loose (I would). But that may not be what he requires, and you may have more capacity for a flexible lifestyle than you expect.
posted by itesser at 5:26 PM on March 10, 2014

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