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Don't Be A Cowperson! [Building Open Relationships Excerpt]

Mar 29, 2021

Imagine you’ve been doing non-monogamy for a while and you meet someone for a date. They initially say they’re cool with non-monogamy, but you notice they’re not really dating anyone else. After a few weeks or months, they ask you why you still want non-monogamy and imply that you should want to be monogamous for them.

When a monogamous person goes into a non-monogamy community with the desire to “lasso” someone out for themselves, that person is called a cowboy/cowgirl/cowperson.

As far as I can tell, their thought process is that the non-monogamy community is where the hot people are who do fun sex things and obviously they are so uniquely awesome that no one would choose non-monogamy when the cowperson offered monogamy. The Netflix series She’s Gotta Have It provides ample examples of this dynamic. All of Nola’s partners expect her to break up with everyone else and be monogamous with them, despite her frequent statements that she’s happy with dating multiple people.

Why is this a problem? Well, cow-folks are generally deceiving their partners into thinking that they do want non-monogamy when they don’t. It’s a manipulative and coercive means of “tricking” someone into doing things your own way. It doesn’t honor the wants or needs of the non-monogamous partner and, in fact, intends to steam roll them into complying with the desires of the cowperson.

What should you do instead? Be up front about what you are or aren’t looking for. If you want monogamy, say it. If you want to do swinging, say it. If you want a strict hierarchy . . . you get the idea. If you feel like you need to use deception in order to get a relationship with someone, you probably need to do some more work on understanding and accepting yourself before you get into dating. Be honest! People can’t fall in love with a person who doesn’t exist.

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