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What is your take on the term "polybombing?"

Aug 17, 2022


I keep hearing the word “polybombing” going around and have heard a lot of mixed feelings. As a sex educator, what are your thoughts on this word?

So my assistant asked me about this and I had not heard of it.

Polybombing is apparently a new term that a lot of monogamous folks are using for when someone in the couple raises the prospect of somebody dating outside of it.

Some people have argued that polybombing is a term for a very specific way of asking for nonmonogamy, which is like “Hey, I’ve already been fucking folks. Now we’re non-monogamous.”

I have so many issues with the term “love bombing”.

It seems as though it is mirroring in some ways the term “love bombing,” which is one of the early stages of an abusive relationship and for me personally, when I see polybombing, it makes me think about all of these cis folks who talk about their deep grief that they have to cope with when someone that they know comes out as trans.

When someone realizes that they are non-monogamous, it is highly probable that they will already be in a monogamous relationship, if they’re in a relationship at all.

So for the majority of folks, their non-monogamy starts with a conversation with a partner with whom they had previously agreed to be monogamous where they are now going to try to figure out how to transition from monogamy to non-monogamy and look, if you are the person who was in a monogamous relationship and wants to be in a monogamous relationship and your partner comes to you and says like, “Actually, I don’t think monogamy is right for me,” you are going to have a lot of very big feelings about it that are totally valid and understandable.

There is nothing wrong with having a lot of big feelings about it.

It is a hard moment for everybody involved and the only way to prevent that moment from happening is either for the person to break up with their current monogamous partner or for them to never come out as polyamorous.

Neither of those sound like better options than a potentially emotionally-challenging conversation about non-monogamy.

Our culture, because of the relationship escalator, because of how we are taught about relationships, tends to treat relationship longevity as one of the primary markers of relationship success.

We also live in rape culture and in a culture of coercion and control, that tends to tell us that our partners are at least to some extent our property who have to do the things that we want.

This is the same way that a lot of parents feel about their kids.

Their kids are their property who are supposed to do the things that they want them to do.

In reality, everybody is an independent human who can and should follow the path that is right for them and in alignment with who and how they are.

Does that mean that there may be friction in some of their existing relationships?


Does it mean that some of their existing relationships may need to significantly transform or end?


However, if your partner is coming to you and saying that they think they are non-monogamous and they want to figure out how to explore that within your relationship, they are not harming you.

They are sharing with you something that is true for them.

They are not taking away your relationship in the same way that if someone realizes later in life that they are gay and shares that with their partner, they haven’t like attacked their partner.

They haven’t harmed their partner.

They have realized something about themselves that they did not already know.

We live in a culture of compulsory monogamy.

People who are not monogamous are strongly targeted.

They are made fun of.

They can be fired.

They can be put in jail.

They can lose their kids.

There’s a lot of shit that happens to non-monogamous people in our culture. 

So a lot of people do not realize that they are non-monogamous or that that is even an option until they are already in a significant and long-term relationship.

Perhaps married, perhaps with kids.

That they did not until that point recognize that they were non-monogamous is not entirely on them and doesn’t mean that they were lying to you the whole time. 

It means that because of the situation that we live in, because of the larger context and culture, they didn’t know and/or could not admit it to themselves.

So them acknowledging it and asking how to move forward is the best thing that they can do in this situation, other than again like a preemptive breakup or just never acknowledging it about themselves.

So again, if someone comes to you and says they want to be non-monogamous, that is hard.

You may have a lot of hard feelings.

They have not poly-bombed you.

There is no gentle way to ease someone into the idea of that couple being non-monogamous.

Like are you supposed to spend a few months like leaving non-monogamy pamphlets around, putting on a show and be like, “Ha! Those people are non-monogamous. How curious”?

Like how are you supposed to gradually introduce this idea to someone?

I agree that it is not cool for someone to sit down with their partner and say, “I know we’ve been monogamous for 30 years honey. But I have a date tomorrow. So we’re now non-monogamous.”

But that’s not polybombing.

That is someone being an asshole.

There are assholes everywhere.

Look, in monogamy, half of people cheat.

Fifty percent of people or more report having cheated in their monogamous relationships.

So assholes are everywhere.

There are so many assholes.

Someone doing something that is assholey is not necessarily because of the non-monogamy.

It’s because they’re being an asshole.

The same way that someone could come home to their partner and be like, “Honey, I’ve got great news. I got a promotion. We’re moving across the country,” right?

Like that’s the same kind of asshole move that is a huge life-changing move for everybody involved but handed out as though everyone is going to be just fine with it.

Is that work-bombing?

Is that move-bombing?

Like we don’t have words for that shit that we expect in monogamous relationships or that we just acknowledge as assholey in monogamy.

So it is not freaking poly-bombing.

It is just people being shitty and it may not be because they are bad people and maybe because the vast majority of us do not ever learn how to communicate well in our relationships or at all really.

Communication skills are not taught by the majority of folks.

Unless you happen to have a great family, group of friends, therapists, who taught you how to communicate well, you probably aren’t very good at it.

Even those of us who are therapists and are in therapy and have good friends still struggle with it a lot.

So that someone is communicating badly with you about something that is for them, likely highly emotionally fraught, very fearful, that they know you may not respond well to.

That just sounds like life.

I mean again it’s not that I don’t have empathy for the person who wants to be monogamous and may now have to walk away from their relationship.

It’s that like a breakup is not a death.

Your life will go on.

There are more people.

Like if you need to be monogamous and your partner needs to be non-monogamous, you should break up and that is OK.

You will be OK.

Life will go on for everybody involved.

Everybody involved will be able to move through the world and find new people.

Like this is not a death sentence.

Is it hard to break up?

Totally and when you are committed to having breakups that are about acknowledging each other’s humanity, being kind to each other, giving each other the benefit of the doubt, breakups aren’t awful.

They’re challenging.

They can bring up a lot of feelings but they’re not awful.

My partner and I, we structured our relationship a few months ago.

No longer a partner and like the conversation that we had about it was challenging.

But we took a little bit of space.

Now we’re still very close.

We still talk all the time.

We still play sometimes and it’s OK.

Like it was hard for both of us.

There were a lot of feelings but it wasn’t the end of the world.

I think that so much of this term “polybombing” is about wanting to find validation for how hard those feelings are when somebody gives you new information.

Those feelings are valid.

However you are not attacked.

Like just because something hurts doesn’t mean that you are attacked.

It doesn’t mean that you were targeted.

It doesn’t mean that there was a violence enacted upon you.

Sometimes people are hurt and nobody did anything wrong.

Again if someone is cheating and is like, “Hey, I’ve been cheating for a while and now we’re non-monogamous,” that’s an asshole.

Are they an asshole who does non-monogamy?


There are assholes everywhere.

So polybombing, not a thing.

Especially the relationship to love bombing, which is like an explicit first stage of abuse, really fucking frustrating.

So let’s just like let that go.

Let’s let that term go and instead talk about how complicated and messy human relationships are, that all of us are constantly growing and changing, that there is no structure or agreement that is going to stay the same forever and sometimes the relationship that’s working really well for one person isn’t working for the other and that is OK.

Nobody did anything wrong.

We could just move forward with our lives.

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