Polyamory goes beyond the concept of multiple romantic partners. To me, polyamory allows for all types of attachment styles and orientations to find their way in love, and have more freedom than monogamy. Asexual people benefit hugely from poly, and I think that beyond our lovely Ace brethren, there are many people who don’t fit the mould of traditional relationship styles. Accepting your solo-nature can be painful and hard, and beyond that, you will spend the rest of your life re-asserting those boundaries to those around you.
Solo people are often criticised in media as being creepy, crazy-cat ladies, or someone to be pitied. We are uncomfortable with the idea of someone who rejects the norm of society.
There is beauty in alone-ness. If you don’t believe me read The Art of Sleeping Alone by Sophie Fontanel. Or giggle at this list by Huffpost of reasons it is awesome to live alone. I have found through a lot of painful self discovery that my life is more rich when I focus it around my private time and less around a partner.
I am Solo Poly and Solo-Oriented
For the time being, I work best unattached. Solo poly is someone who operates outside of the framework of having more established, primary/secondary relationships. Solo Poly people might be single temporarily, or solo might be a choice they have made more permanently. Solo poly people often times still have relationships, people they date and other connections. What makes them ‘solo’ is the lack of primary partners. These people value their identity as a ‘free agent’ and can often be fluid about what commitments they take up.
Solo Poly people are still polyamorous. They are capable of multiple emotional and sexual relationships where all parties are informed. Think of them as the opposite of the anchor/primary functioning couple. Instead of having one relationship that is the most connected (married, living together etc) and having other satellite relationships, a solo poly person has their core self that consumes the majority of their resources and have satellite relationships around that core.
Solo-oriented is a term I’m making up right now. A better name for this quality is still in development (check back in a few months). Solo-oriented is someone who just functions better alone. Usually they are introverted people (but not always) whose need for inward facing time and privacy is large enough that it often doesn’t allow for co-habiting or other intensely attached relationships.
I like sleeping alone. I don’t sleep as well when I share my bed. I like waking up alone and having my quiet breakfasts on my own. I find a quiet joy in sitting there with my hands wrapped around a cup of coffee, watching the steam spiral up in the cool morning air in complete silence. I relish the quiet of tucking into bed by myself, kicking my legs out from the covers if I want to and waking up to my alarm alone. I like my vacations on my own much more than having a travel buddy. The idea of coming home from work and having to entertain another person with the story of my day and discuss what to have for dinner isn’t appealing to me. And there is nothing wrong with that. Repeat, if you are like me, you are not broken, you are just you. I struggled with my self acceptance of this trait, and I still do. I need to remind myself constantly that I am fine just the way I am, and I don’t need to be anything different to be a good person.
I’m the most affectionate and happy with my lovers when I’m allowed to initiate the time we spend together. For me, distance makes the heart grow fonder. If I’m feeling annoyed and frustrated with a partner, often what I need is several days to myself to organize my thoughts. I am still a loving, happy and affectionate person. I just need to be able to give those affections on my own terms. The time I do give to someone I care about is my undivided attention, and that is my biggest gift and love language that I speak in.
One of the hardest things about being solo-poly is that people will test your boundaries your entire life. Your lover will beg to to stay the night, ask you nicely to spend another day with them on vacation, and maybe rage when you refuse to move in with them. Setting boundaries early in your relationships is very important to solo-poly and solo-oriented people. Boundaries are protections you put on yourself, and rules are boundaries you put on a relationship or other people (important distinction).
What Do Boundaries Sound Like?
Boundaries sound like: I prefer to sleep alone. Unless we agree ahead of time, I will not spend the night with you.
If you know that you don’t like to spend the night unless you are armed with your toothbrush, a change of clothes and a day off of work in case you don’t sleep well, then you should explain that. Continue to assert this with your partners, as patiently as you can. I have found this is one of the hardest boundaries to keep, as many people enjoy sharing their bed and find it a very valuable part of bonding with a partner. I try to let potential partners know as soon as I can in the relationship that I am not a willing bed-sharer, in the hopes that we can avoid too much conflict down the road. If this means they choose not to be my partner because our needs do not align, I allow myself to be disappointed about this but I understand the importance of acknowledging when a relationship will not work.
Boundaries sound like: I don’t want to co-habit with any of my partners for the time being.
As there are so many different ways to poly, you might encounter people who are looking to have a larger family-structure with shared living spaces. Wanting a large family unit is appealing, and I can see why many people are leaning towards this structure. It also won’t work for everyone, and if you know that you are happiest when you live alone, you can say that and stick to it.
Boundaries sound like: There might be times where I have the free-time in my schedule to see you and I will choose not to. This is not because I don’t love you, it is because I choose to spend that time with myself to re-center.
You Can Change Your Boundaries (But Be Careful)
This is where things get tricky. I think that you can always re-evaluate how you are feeling about a situation and decide to change your boundaries. However, I think this is something that should be done very carefully.
Lets get personal. In the past I have been flooded with NRE (New Relationship Energy) and all the happy chemicals of a budding relationship and decided that I was fine with spending the night most nights of the week, and then moving in with a partner. Even though I had said before “I am not comfortable living with someone” and “I know that I will always prefer sleeping alone” and many other tunes. The end result was two very heartbroken people, when our relationship grew into a tangled messy monster and fell apart. Although there were many reasons that our love didn’t work out, I think one of the fundamental reasons was that I conceded and re-adjusted my boundaries too much. I tried to create new boundaries in our living situation (like a separate bedroom, and schedule nights alone) and it never quite worked out. I was unhappy, struggling with depression and I was struggling to recover from illness. I think that part of my inability to recover was because I had put myself in a situation that I do not thrive in.
It took the first 25 years of my life for me to realize that I likely won’t change. I learned that I am prone to falling fast for partners and drowning in the love chemicals. When I’m in that state, I now know I should enjoy the feeling and keep my decision making in my brain instead of my heart. I have found that the relationships where I honored my boundaries and took my time building trust and affection are the relationships that have lasted years and years, instead of burning out after six or so months. I try my best to keep that in mind, and pace myself when I meet someone new.
I do spend the night with partners, and I do create exceptions and changes to my boundaries. When I do so, I make sure that I’m doing it because I know I am able to accommodate the change, not because I want to make my partner happy. I will continue to make mistakes, and have poor judgement at times as will we all. I think there is power in knowing what you are, and how that will influence the people around you.
2 thoughts on “Setting Your Boundaries as a Solo Poly Practicer”
Great article! Loving the fact more and more are into polyamory, whether as a couple or as an individual, even years back.