What is “Solo poly”? How is it different from “Single Poly”?

Apr 2, 2017

Cathy: What is solo poly and how would you live it? This is Dr. Liz from Sex-Positive Psych.

Liz: This is Cathy Vartuli from The Intimacy Dojo.

Cathy: And you define yourself as solo poly.

Liz: Yes.

Cathy: And I consider myself single poly, which is different and I’d love to help people understand that.

Liz: Yeah. So, polyamory means many loves. So it’s people who have multiple loving relationships at the same time with the full knowledge and consent of all those involved.

Cathy: Yes.

Liz: So someone who is solo poly which is sometimes called single-ish poly, it goes by some different names, are people who practice polyamory in a way that they do not intend to become part of a couple and they don’t follow the relationship escalator.

So relationship escalator, everyone has heard the children’s rhyme, first comes love then comes marriage then comes the baby with a baby carriage. The relationship escalator is a script that our culture has for what a relationship does from you like you meet, you date casually, you date more seriously, then your boyfriends and girlfriends, you’re making monogamous commitment. Then you move in with each other. Then you get engaged. Then you get married. Probably one of you cheats or both of you cheat. You continue with the escalator to having kids.

Cathy: Find a house.

Liz: Find a house, all those things. The thing about an escalator is it only goes one way and you can’t stop. You can’t get to like we’re living together and like good and just stay at that step on the escalator.

Cathy: Because then you failed.

Liz: Because then you failed. And on an escalator, if you get up with someone, you can’t get a step back and still be OK.

Cathy: It’s broken.

Liz: It’s broken. You have to go all the way back down and start over.

Cathy: And never speak to them again usually.

Liz: Never speak to them again. And none of your friends can speak to them.

Cathy: You should trash them off.

Liz: None of your friends could date you. You definitely publicly shame them because that’s a really healthy approach to a breakup.

Cathy: To someone you cared about enough to want to live with or whatever.

Liz: Right. So with solo poly folks, we treat each relationship as its own independent entity. For me, I don’t intend to ever be a part of like a couple. I don’t like subsuming my identity into my relationship. So when I’m in a relationship, it could be a very deep, very intimate, very connected, very long term but we’re both individuals in a relationship together. We are not necessarily looking to live together. We’re not necessarily looking to get married or join finances.

Cathy: Buy a house together.

Liz: Buy a house together. Some solo poly folks do. It’s kind of person by person. The biggest misconception I see is that solo poly people are either always secondaries which plays into the idea of you can only do poly with hierarchy which is inaccurate. Or that they don’t want deep, loving connected relationships, that they only want casual relationships or that they don’t want sex or they only want casual sex.

The reality is that solo poly can look a lot of different ways for a lot of different people but the big key is that you’re not on the relationship escalator.

Cathy: Right. So single poly means I date many people and I’m not currently in a romantic relationship where we’re forming a partnership of some kind. And I’m not against having a partnership of some kind. But I like a lot of the things that you talked about, the independence and the ability for both people to function as independent and nobody owning anyone else.

Liz: Yeah. It’s a very autonomy-centered approach. And all forms of relationships can be autonomy-centered if you’re operating from a place based mostly on boundaries and less on agreements and definitely not on rules. But as someone who is fiercely independent, I have to have a hugely autonomous relationship.

Cathy: Yeah. No, that’s great. Thank you for defining it.

Liz: Yeah.

Cathy: And one of the things I love about exploring the different ways people do different relationships is I can pick and choose the parts that work for me. And I was brought up where the escalator, monogamous, hetero-normative, that’s the only way. And something was off. I always felt very like my body was like, “This is not right.”

But I didn’t know any other options. And I actually – I had some really amazing relationships that ended because I didn’t know other options were available because I had no picture of it. And I really want to normalize it for people. We don’t have to do the leave it to beaver kind of if that’s great, that’s what you want …

Liz: Awesome. Do it.

Cathy: Yeah. Consciously choose something rather than just kind of going along.

Liz: That’s the key point. Make choices about what fits for you.

Cathy: Yeah.

Liz: Don’t do what you’re doing because everybody else is doing it. Here in the Bay area, a lot of people are poly. And I have some of my monogamous friends tell me, “I feel like I’m not doing it right because I’m not polyamorist.” There’s no doing it right. Doing it right is respecting the people that you’re in a relationship with, honoring their personhood, and doing what is authentic for you.

Cathy: At the end of your life, it’s not the brass rings that you got or the number of people you dated. It’s how fulfilled and happy your relationships make you. So I love conscious consent and informed consent about what you’re creating. And the more you explore it and I really appreciate that you’re here listening to this and maybe adding another bit of information that you can use to create like even if it’s like, “Oh, that’s not for me.” That’s fine.

Liz: You just got great information.

Cathy: Yeah.

Liz: Yeah.

Cathy: So, leave comments below. We’d love to know what you think. What’s your form of relationship and what works for you?

Liz: Yeah.

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