- Emma Louise Alvarez
Why Is Monogamy The Default?
© Illustration by INJECTION - Mia Hatch
Interview with Ro Moëd - a personal coach and specialist in non-monogamous relationships.
We had the exciting opportunity to speak with Ro Moëd, who identifies as solo polyamorous. They are the owner of the Instagram page @unapolygetically where Ro talks about polyamory and relationship anarchy awareness. She is also an online coach with knowledge and specific interest in non-monogamy, communication skills and building self-awareness, amongst other things. Ro offers a valuable insight to anyone who might be questioning their relationship with monogamy.
How would you choose to identify now?
Labels are tricky because they can change; I am just answering how I feel now. I feel that right now ‘queer’ describes me best. I’m not sure exactly what’s within that umbrella - because I am still working on that and discovering that. I am a woman; a cis woman. I am solo polyamorous and a relationship anarchist.
What does being polyamorous mean?
Two things: one thing is the literal definition which is the desire to have more than one loving or sexual relationship with the consent of everyone involved. For me, the meaning of it is allowing all my relationships to be expressed to their fullest extent.
I can explore relationships as they occur in whatever way is natural for those relationships to occur, whereas before, when I was monogamous for example, it wasn’t possible for me to pursue someone I was interested in. Polyamory gives me the freedom to do that.
How has polyamory allowed you to explore who you are as your own individual outside of relationships? How have you approached being true to who you are and who you want to be in your own autonomy?
I love that question, and this is where my solo polyamory comes into play. I identify more specifically as solo polyamerous rather than polyamerous because to me that means maintaining my autonomy, defending my independence, enjoying my independence, and thinking of myself as an individual in relationships with other individuals. I don’t have a desire to become a ‘couple;’ I just want to be me. The people I date understand that: on the whole I usually date people who feel the same way about it. That’s how I maintain my autonomy. Before I found solo polyamory, I got subsumed into ‘the couple,’ and I lost myself. The couple becomes part of your identity and then for that relationship to end it means that you’re losing part of your identity. That’s what it feels like when you have a break up before you develop your indepence; you feel like you’ve lost a part of yourself.
What does it mean when you ‘break-up’ or what happens when there is a separation from a relationship within polyamerous relationships? Can you describe that?
I actually haven’t had a longer term relationship break up since I became polyamerous, but I have had a relationship de-escalate from potentially romantic to more platonic plus a sexual element. In that situation it was just so painless; it was incredible. We were very respectful of each other's feelings and we didn’t have expectations of how the other should behave; we were able to be very honest with each other. De-escalating a relationship when you’re polyamorous or solo polyamerous means that you understand that relationships are not less important if they change - it is not a comment on you. It is not an achievement for a relationship to last and it is not a failure for a relationship to end or change. I suppose this is my relationship anarchist side - seeing all relationships as equally valid no matter what kind of relationship dynamic it is, and allowing things to be what they are rather than forcing them into something they’re not. In doing that you end up in relationships where they are just right for you.
How has dating been for you?
We are living in a mid-/post-pandemic world, where my polyamorous journey coincided during the pandemic. For me, the best way to date is not out and about because you are so unlikely to meet someone who actually understands what kind of relationship you’re looking for and is open to it. I tend to use apps, for example, OkCupid allows you to state whether you are monogamous or not, where in my bio I specifically state I am solo polyamorous. This means I have quite a good vetting process; I don’t have people slipping through that don’t understand polyamory.
So on that note, to what extent are dating apps inclusive to the polyamory community?
OkCupid allows you to state whether you are monogamous or non monogamous, but you will still get shown people who haven’t specified what their preference is. I think there is a gap in the market for a dating app that is specifically catered to nonmonogamy. On all these dating apps you can input so many details about who you are - how often you smoke, whether you smoke weed, if you want to have children but there’s nothing on un-hierarchical or non-hierarchical, do you have an anchor partner, do you have a primary, how long have you been doing polyamory and stuff like that. It would be cool if there was something like that, so we can find people who are on the same page as us.
* anchor partner = like a ship's anchor; it holds you steady. It is something that is permanent and lasting - a partner who is not necessarily hierarchically superior to other partners, but this partner is someone who is a main stay in your life
* primary partner = it is different for different people. For some people a primary is someone whose needs come first and they do have that hierarchy where if my primary needs something then I will cancel my date with my secondary. For other people they use it in a much looser way, where they might say that practically we are very involved in each other's lives where we have things which are gonna make our relationship a priority.
What are some common misconceptions on the way polyamory is perceived in society?
The first misconception is that polyamory is just an excuse to cheat. It’s not. Because cheating does not involve consent, where polyamory does.
The second one is that polyamory is all about sex - it’s not - you can be asexual and want several loving relationships, or you can be someone who is not mega-sexual and just wants multiple loving relationships. It’s not like you’re having orgys all day.
The third misconception is that polyamorous people can’t commit. This could not be further from the truth, because having multiple loving relationships takes a lot of commitment. Commitment does not have to mean sexual exclusivity; it can be defined in different ways.
Another misconception is that polyamorous people will just magically do not feel jealous, and that’s not true either; almost everyone feels jealous at some point. The difference is to not involve it, to work on it and to examine whether it’s fair.
What are the pillars on which you can build good polyamorous relationships ?
The key to being a good partner is the same as being a good partner full stop. Really this is the key to any good relationship.
One of them is self-awareness; you know you best. You need to have some self-awareness and be able to take responsibility for your own happiness. Self-awareness also means knowing your boundaries, knowing your trigger points, knowing your negotiable needs & non-negotiable needs.
The second thing is to be curious about everything - to maintain curiosity. When you’ve been with someone for a long time you might assume you know everything about them, but people are always changing and you have to maintain that level of curiosity and excitement to know who they are right now.
The third thing is to set expectations at a realistic level. Don’t expect your partner to provide everything for you. Expecting them to be perfect, never having a bad day, or never making a mistake is just a recipe for disaster.
Of course communication as well. We have to have a lot of conversations in polyamory to
make sure we’re on the same page. If you can’t communicate your needs, your boundaries, triggers and fears, you’re going to run into a lot of trouble.
Be flexible. A lot of people like to have rules about how often they see each other and the more people you have in your life the more difficult you can find it to have time for everybody. Things not always going to plan does not mean it’s a bad relationship. Just be understanding of your different schedules and priorities.
Sexual health is another important thing. Taking care of your sexual health, getting tested regularly. You always have to take care of your own sexual health and take responsibility for that.
Do you have advice for people who might be questioning their relationships or their relationships with monogamy?
I am writing a book to answer that question. I’m still in the process of writing it, but the whole motivation behind it is that I wish someone had given me a book a few years ago, maybe when I was 21, and I was old enough and dating and said to me ‘you need to question everything you know about relationships.’ Why should monogamy be the default?
I don’t regret the mistakes I’ve made in my life and the relationships I’ve gotten into that were not-so-great because I’ve learned a lot from them. But I still wish there was more dialogue about it in the mainstream and that it wasn’t a buried subculture that no one knows about.
Do you have anything else you would like to add?
One final piece of advice for people starting in polyamory. A lot of people get into situations where they have several relationships which are all semi-fulfilling and they think ‘that’s fine, because in polyamory not everybody has to meet all of your needs.’ But there is an important distinction between negotiable needs and non-negotiable needs. And if you’re not having all your non-negotiable met, then there’s a problem. They’re non-negotiable, so why are you negotiating?
Polyamory is about having multiple fulfilling relationships.