Reflections on Compartmentalised Non-Monogamy


Reflections on Compartmentalised Non-MonogamyA few weeks ago, I wrote about compartmentalising; about how I (almost innately) keep certain aspects of my life very separate, and how frustrating I find this when it comes to balance and fulfillment. I often find myself wishing that the different strands of my life were more interwoven, but after seventeen years of separation I seem to lack the space in which to close these distances.

Well, since I wrote that column, two things have happened: a comment and an introduction, both of which are cause for a little reflection.

First, the comment. In response to my thoughts, Jeff had this to say: “It has been my experience in polyamory that the ability to compartmentalize is one of the most useful traits you can have. […] I find it limits jealousy and drama. I would not date anyone again who did not have the ability to compartmentalize.”

I have to say, previously, the benefits of compartmentalising had barely even occurred to me. But of course, Jeff is right: in many respects being able to keep things separate is utterly essential to successful non-monogamy. It’s when we blur the lines between relationships, or triangulate our issues that problems arise. Being able to appreciate the uniqueness of each person/group of people in and of themselves is extremely important and, I think yes, key to limiting jealousy and drama. In non-monogamous relationships particularly, you have to recognise and respect boundaries.

As I said in that column, “I don’t have any desire to force [all my partners and friends and relatives]into one big happy family;” and that holds true. In certain respects I do still value some degree of separation. What I really want is a space, or a strand, of possible connection between it all. For example, I would like to feel comfortable inviting all of these people to the same party, without feeling that I needed to police introductions. But that has a lot to do with personal hang-ups.

Either way, thank you Jeff, for your comment – I think you make a really good point, and you’ve given me a new viewpoint on my own activities.

So, moving onto this introduction. Last week I persuaded my Mum to come with me to a public meeting on Sex and Censorship, being held at XBIZ EU. When I initially invited her, I wasn’t sure who would be there, but I thought it might give her an interesting perspective on the things I value, care about, and fight for. My Mum and I are pleasantly close, and she happily agreed to peer through the window into this important aspect of my life.

Amongst the various sex bloggers, and erotic performers, and sex industry professionals in attendance was my lovely friend, podcast co-host, (and… er, well we don’t use labels, so… bed sharer?) Molly. My Mum is aware of my “friendship” with Molly and her husband, but for obvious reasons I haven’t quite gone into the detail of how it all works between the three of us. To my Mum, Molly is half of a couple with whom I am in some way involved – and that is really all she needs to know.

But I digress! The point is that I introduced these two women, both of whom are very important to me, and the sky did not cave in. In fact they both said lovely things about each other to me afterwards, and both seemed to find some common ground on the extremely difficult topic of censorship.

So perhaps there is hope for that line of connection sooner than I thought.


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.

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