Non-Monogamous Guilt


Non-Monogamous GuiltRecently, I made a new friend. Well, friend, lover, whatever you want to call him, we make each other laugh and we share very similar kinks, so that’s all good. There are limitations on how intimate we can be, but overall, we’re enjoying one another’s company. A couple of days ago, we were talking, and at some point in the conversation I felt I needed to tell him that I am in love with someone else. It wasn’t something I was hiding – in fact, I’d barely thought about it since we’ve become friends as the other man has been somewhat absent recently. It’s not a big deal, and there are much larger limitations on my relationship with the man I love, not to mention the fact that my new friend knows I’m non-monogamous, and yet still… telling him, I felt somewhat guilty.

It’s not the first time I’ve felt like this; in fact, telling any of my lovers about my other partners always makes me feel quite uncomfortable. I hate to cause jealousy in other people, and I would never want to over share, and so usually I shy away from this kind of conversation and just say the bare minimum; but this time it made me think. Why do I feel like this? There are a couple of reasons, although they are closely interwoven.

1. Because for quite a long time I was one of those girls who didn’t mind if her boyfriend flirted with other people, but who really didn’t want to know about it. I found that kind of information unnecessary, and it usually made me a little upset – which I knew to be irrational, and I didn’t want to act out about it. It was a kind of avoidance, but it made life simpler. However, because of this, and despite changes in how I feel about discretion, telling someone about my feelings for someone else, still makes me feel like I’m being a hypocrite.

2. It makes me feel like I might be showing preference, or, even, that I’m cheating. Which is, of course, ridiculous, but nevertheless, it’s how I feel.

It’s beginning to dawn on me that the adjustment to being non-monogamous has many more facets than I had anticipated, and that it takes time. I’m sure that sometimes, when I tell lovers about my other partners, there will be a little bit of discomfort and maybe even some hurt, simply because we live in such a mono-normative society, and it is hard to shake off those learned behaviours. But this is all part of the learning curve.

What these little encounters with obstacles and discomfort are teaching me is extremely valuable. I’m seeing now how important communication is, not just when things go wrong, but pre-emptively as well. I think, for me, the conversation about how much we are willing to share, and how much we want to know, is always going to be important when I make new connections. Although I am getting better at hearing about lovers’ encounters with other people, there will probably always be some details I just do not feel the need to know. On the other side of that, I don’t want to feel nervous or uncomfortable when I’m talking about my other partners, so I think finding out what someone wants to know from me will be equally – if not more! – important.

This kind of disclosure had never really occurred to me, although now it seems blatanly obvious, and really quite simple. But I’m glad it’s occurred to me now: you learn something new every day.


Harper Eliot is a writer and podcaster whose work mainly centers around eroticism and social observation. You can find an archive of work, and links to all her other projects, on her website Harper Eliot. Harper lives in London, but rarely sees her own house, spending most of her time on public transport, listening to podcasts and tweeting too much. Her vices include cigarettes, lubricant, Earl Grey tea, opera, nail polish, and pinwheels.

1 Comment

  1. Very interesting read. I have had similar feelings in the past though I haven’t loved another lover I can identify with the “do I talk about this?” “do I want to hear about this?”. It does take time for that aspect to fall in place in my opinion.

Leave A Reply