[All anecdotes related in this post are composites, and minor details have been changed to protect others’ privacy.]

Hi, I’m Ozy, and I’m a lazy poly person.

Mostly, this is because I’ve had a kid. It turns out babies are kind of time-consuming.

Not only do I have a baby, but all of my secondary partners who live in the same city as me have young children. Scheduling sex around nap times is hard. Scheduling sex around two nap times is impossible.

And, to be honest, when I get some time to myself, the last thing I want to do is go on a date. Mostly, I want to take a nap or write a blog post or spend time with my husband, whom I love, when our interactions will not be interrupted by a baby who totally understands how this whole conversation thing works and wants to make everyone know that his feeling about Donald Trump’s legal woes is “gooo! oooga!”

So what this means is that in the past seven months my extramarital romantic life has consisted of the following:

  • Having crushes on people who are unavailable due to being asexual, straight, gay, Catholic, in another country, not interested in me, or most often some combination of the above
  • Messaging my partners on Discord
  • Cuddling my partners in a tired fashion while our children play with each other, and then interrupting the cuddles because Viktor tried to poke the other child in the eye
  • Like one instance of actual sex

Now, if you look at those observations, you might ask “Ozy, why are you bothering to be poly at all? If you’re not going to actually have sex with anyone outside your primary relationship, you might as well just be monogamous.”

And, you know, I’m not the only lazy poly person in the world. Some people work sixty-hour-a-week jobs. Some people have depression or anxiety or another mental illness. Some people spend all their time doing activism or writing books or maintaining a network of intense platonic relationships. Some people just really, really don’t want to put on real pants. (Of course, none of those situations are incompatible with active polyamory, but many people in those situations might end up being Lazy Poly.) Why are any of us bothering to be poly when it seems like we could get identical results just from being monogamous?

The most obvious reason, of course, is that we might be non-lazy poly people sometime in the future. Call me an optimist, but I hope that five years from now I may be able to go on an entire child-free date, perhaps even wearing a shirt without spitup on it at the time. However, there are many people who fully intend to have sixty-hour-a-week jobs or writing careers or an aversion to real pants for the foreseeable future. Why would they stay poly?

The answer is that polyamory can be loadbearing even if you don’t often date outside your relationship.

The amount of extramarital sex and romance a lazy poly person gets up to, although it is objectively not very much, is still enough to cause problems in a monogamous relationship. From a poly perspective, it’s “you only had sex with other people three times this year”; from a monogamous perspective, it’s “YOU HAD SEX WITH OTHER PEOPLE THREE TIMES THIS YEAR?!”

I think some people might think “if you’ve only had sex outside your relationship three times this year, why would it be hard to turn that into zero times?” But that’s not how people’s sexual and romantic interests actually work. For example, I know a polyamorous person who kinks on threesomes. Threesomes being an enormous pain in the butt to arrange, they only have threesomes two or three times a year. But “your kink is an enormous pain in the butt and I only want to do it once every four to six months” is a reasonable request in a way that “you should never indulge your kink ever again” really, really isn’t. If you kink on public sex, group sex, your partner having sex with other people, or casual sex, you might find yourself in a similar situation. 

I’ve met another poly person who barely ever interacts with anyone they’re in theory dating. But they get a lot of emotional comfort from knowing that there exist people who in theory would like to date them if they ever bothered to leave the house long enough to do so. They would feel very unloved and unattractive if no one wanted to date them, but once they know that someone does, they don’t feel that much of a drive to actually go out on dates with them. (Of course, you shouldn’t mislead people into thinking that dating you involves actually interacting with you if it doesn’t.)

Equally commonly, I think there are situations where the fact of being poly itself is loadbearing. For example, I’ve known several poly people who found it very comforting that their partner could, in theory, go have sex with other people. If they were in a monogamous relationship, they would feel guilty about saying ‘no’ to sex when they didn’t want sex, because they would be condemning their partner to sexual frustration. On the other hand, if you’re poly, you don’t have to worry about that as much; if your partner doesn’t have sex with other people, all that means is that they weren’t that sexually dissatisfied after all.

Many poly people I know, including myself, are also frustrated by the rules of monogamy. When I was monogamous, I regularly found myself accidentally upsetting my partners by doing something I didn’t know was against the rules. Asking about what was against the rules also appeared to be against the rules; I was supposed to just know. (To be fair to my younger self, the rules were unnecessarily confusing: for example, I was too autistic to realize that the reason that my boyfriends were fine with hearing about my female crushes was that they viewed my female crushes as nonthreatening sexy things which primarily existed for their sexual fantasies.)

Now that I’m polyamorous, I don’t have to worry about whether cowriting problematic porn with someone is cheating, or whether going to a museum with someone I have a crush on who isn’t into me is cheating, or whether flirting with someone cute without any intentions of hooking up is cheating, or the entire concept of emotional affairs. It’s a tremendous load off my mind.

Also common, I think, is a certain displeasure in having arbitrary rules set about one’s behavior and that of one’s partners. I’m sort of low-key a relationship anarchist. I don’t like the person I am when I try to control people I’m dating so that they don’t do anything that scares me or makes me jealous or upset. I like the person I am when I take responsibility for my own feelings and trust my partners to take my needs and boundaries into account without creating a bunch of rules to regulate their behavior. (I don’t mean, of course, that that is the only way a person can have a healthy relationship; it is what works for me.)

Of course, some monogamous people have similar beliefs, and many poly people don’t. But for me personally, cultivating that sort of trust and responsibility means not creating a rule against my partners having sex with other people, even if I expect (for example) that my coparent will share the parenting equally with me and thus will not have a lot of time to go on dates. While the extramarital sex might not be particularly important, trusting my partner enough to let him have extramarital sex is.