Compartments And Non-Monogamy Are Not The Happiest Of Bedfellows.


Compartments And Non-Monogamy Are Not The Happiest Of Bedfellows.I think I have written here before about the lack of communication in my family; about the ways in which we live alongside one another but tell each other very little. In our household there is a sense that we will share what we are asked to share, and not much more. We are not the kind of people who talk about our days in great detail or even offer updates, unless we are explicitly asked. Thinking about it as I write, this might explain a few things about last week’s column…

But I digress. Along with this independence and extreme individuality, comes a kind of compartmentalising. I think it stems from the way I grew up. My parents split up when I was six, which I think was my first division. There was Mum’s and there was Dad’s. And they were different. Then, at twelve, I moved to a school out in the country, and began traveling down every day. Due to the distance I would often go and stay with my friends from school, but they rarely had cause to come and see me. And so another division was born; and it became comfortable for me to keep these lives quite separate and to enjoy the various freedoms they afforded me without worrying about the consequences of them clashing. Then when I left school it became even more complicated as I found my own (kinky, sex-writing) friends scattered around the city, most of whom I had no cause to invite to my house. Add to that work, and my remaining school friends and it becomes a little confusing. Perhaps I ought to have worked on bringing my various compartments together earlier. But I think, at this point, the best thing I can do is keep working towards living alone, and when I have my own home, it will provide a new space in which to bring my compartments together.

In any case, I hope you are beginning to form an idea of how my life is constructed and perhaps you have even skipped ahead and concluded that my tendency towards compartmentalising, might not be all that conducive to healthy non-monogamy. And you’d be right. I find it incredibly difficult to talk to any of my partners/lovers about their metamours (if you will). I know this, again, harks back to last week when I talked about communication – or rather, avoided talking about communication – but I think my inability to talk to M&M about Daddy, and my inability to talk to S&E about M&M, etc etc, also has a lot to do with A) being unused to bringing things up unprompted, and B) this compartmentalising! My aim is to not only be able to speak about my relationships openly and honestly, but to achieve a kind of harmony in which I could comfortably introduce my partners to each other, if I wanted to. I don’t have any desire to force us all into one big happy family; truth be told I think some of my partners would get on very well, and others less so, and that’s okay. But it would be nice if I felt comfortable bringing them together in any way at all. Or, at the very least! if I was able to just talk more openly about these wonderful people, whom I adore for very understandable reasons!

I think, in the end, it really comes down to me. Don’t get me wrong, just because I find it hard to talk to my partners about my other partners, doesn’t mean I avoid it. I do it, but with great difficulty, and I think it would help things a lot if I learned to speak clearly and unapologetically, instead of blushing and squirming awkwardly as I told one partner about the fun I’ve had with others. But having never been a pro at talking about relationships with anyone, it does raise the bar for me when it comes to talking about relationships with other people I am in relationships with.

Gosh – I sure do make things hard for myself. (Not like that, filthy readers.)


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. It has been my experience in polyamory that the ability to compartmentalize is one of the most useful traits you can have. I can do it, my wife cannot. I find that it limits jealousy and drama. I would not dare anyone again who did not have the ability to compartmentalize.

    • Ooh, I so hadn’t thought of it from that point of view. I guess I don’t want to get rid of my compartments; I just want them to have a line of contact. But yes – very good thought.

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