Poly Pocket: Polyamorous In A Monogamous Relationship

When there aren’t any models for how you want to move through the world, it’s harder to move through the world. There’s no one right way to do ethical non-monogamy, just as there’s no one right way to do ethical monogamy, and no way is better or worse than any other, just better or worse for those involved. Poly Pocket looks at all the ways queer people do polyamory: what it looks like, how we think about it, how it functions (or doesn’t), how it feels, because when you don’t have models you have to create your own.

Traci Medeiros is a 32-year-old Japanese American queer polyamorous Southern Californian in a functionally monogamous relationship. She/they are a therapist in private practice “doing what [they] can in Orange County to offer queer/kinky/non-monogamous folks a little bit of safe space and reflection” and running Queer University and Shame Kills Love.

This interview has been lightly edited.


Carolyn: How did you come to identify as polyamorous?

Traci: I’ve identified as polyamorous since I was in undergrad. I was doing all this work in social kinship networks and queer family building at the time and it just made so much sense to me functionally and emotionally. I also liked the idea of openness in terms of sexuality and the richness of experiences it offered, but I’m also a really sensitive and high context person. I’m low on jealousy but (very) high on communication/process. I have very few “acquaintance type” relationships — romantic or otherwise — because of this. I don’t have anything against them, but because of my personality they’re actually quite draining on me so non-monogamy/openness without the relationships didn’t seem like a great fit. Polyamory on the other hand seemed like all the good stuff — and more of it — with more people to help support everyone getting it!

Oddly, enough this interview comes at an interesting time because at the moment I’m functionally (and intentionally) monogamous with no future plans to open up my relationship. This is the first time I’ve been in this place in my adult life and actually the first relationship I’ve formatted like this as well.

Carolyn: What led you to structure your relationship that way?

Traci: Mostly just the right time and place for that specific human. We actually met at a party when I was on a date with my partner — not the person we were on a date with. We dated for about seven months, and then when I ended up separating from my primary partner and my legal spouse (different people) we decided to give it a go. I think we were both in a place for some streamlining, nesting, and efficiency in our lives. Not that those things are necessarily mutually exclusive from poly.

Monogamy was important to her and I was at a place that I wanted the support of poly but didn’t necessarily need that to be multiple romantic partners.

“I really like polyamory for the way it incorporates the ‘it takes a village’ idea. I like how it values multiple types of relationships and reminds us that there is value in different kinds of connection.”

Carolyn: Interesting! What’s that like for you?

Traci: From my own life, friends/family, and also the work that I do with clients, I’ve noticed that there are a lot of places that monogamy and non-monogamy overlap. I think we just tend to get caught up on the number of humans and titles. I really like polyamory for the way it incorporates the “it takes a village” idea. I like how it values multiple types of relationships and reminds us that there is value in different kinds of connection. I also like how it encourages us to value each other and ourselves for sheerly existing without needing to attach it to all these other functional pieces we’re responsible for in our partnerships.

I think that these goals can be really well supported by the structure of polyamory, but that we can still honor these ideals with a dyad at romantic/sexual center and other support networks sprawling outwards from there.

Carolyn: Looking specifically at your relationship: What about this is a struggle? What about it is exciting?

Traci: I think that while poly and monogamy can certainly overlap in end goals, the number of people (and the threat that goes along with that) can be really difficult for people to get over. This is understandable given our culture around romance and partnership. I’ve also noticed that it does seem like folks tend to have a bit of an inclination for one or the other. Out of all the pieces of identity I’ve had to come out about over the years (and there have been a few!) I have to say that “being poly” in the way that I see the world has been one that I’ve experienced at the deepest and most consistent core levels. On the other hand, my partner tends to lean towards monogamy so sometimes we have to do a bit of translating to hear each other and feel safe. It sometimes looks like a math genius trying to explain to someone who can’t deal with numbers, but with emotional math and in both directions.

As for the what’s most exciting: I feel really good about redirecting the space I use to use on navigating between different partners on her and our growing family. Coming from a place where I had more than two adults participating in finances and whatnot, I’ve noticed that it really simplifies things in that way. At times there are less resources to deal with, but also less folks to check in with about things. Decisions and process seem to be more focused. I’ve gotten to use this space to put to my practice and general self-care. It has really been the perfect fit for me in this moment in time.

“Seeing the world from a place of potential connection and collaboration rather than competition (which are pieces that are core tenets of my poly philosophy) interact with all other elements of my identity.”

Carolyn: In that context, where does poly intersect with other elements of your identity? How does it function within your understanding of yourself?

Traci: Whoa, big question. Well, seeing the world from a place of potential connection and collaboration rather than competition (which are pieces that are core tenets of my poly philosophy) interact with all other elements of my identity. As far as how it functions within my understanding of myself — I’m not entirely sure. I think this piece is sort of integrating and solidifying as the vision of functional monogamy continues to evolve for me. However, connection, collaboration, honoring other beings in our life for more than function, and having openness to folks creating lives that feel like a uniquely good fit for them are really significant parts of how I understand myself. These things extend to daily interactions big and small and even my food choices.

Carolyn: What do you want your future to look like? What vision are you working towards or hoping for?

Traci: I want contentment. Feeling super old as I contemplate this, but this has certainly been rising in the ranks of life priorities. For me this means fullness and safety. I want to feel like I have enough — love, time, support, energy to offer others, and energy to offer myself. I feel really lucky that very little of my poly identity was rooted in scarcity, but I think as a queer introvert who has varying levels of connection with bio family creating my own familial support network was really important. As I’ve been telling others for years, I’m seeing that this exists in many formats and many different numbers of partners. I think it’s just in a different direction than most folks.


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Carolyn Yates is the NSFW Editor and Literary Editor for Autostraddle.com. Her writing has appeared in Bitch, Nylon, Refinery29, The Toast, Xtra!, Jezebel, and elsewhere. She recently moved to Los Angeles from Montreal. Find her on twitter.

Carolyn has written 790 articles for us.

9 Comments

  1. Oh man, this was really great; thanks for having/recording/sharing this conversation! The “it takes a village” line of thought really changed my life for the better and encouraged me to approach my deep friendships as intentional lifelong relationships rather than just fun things that somehow happened. I’m monogamous AF (unless sleeping around when you’re single counts as non-monogamy haha) and not super familiar with any poly communities or ways of talking about polyamory. Could anybody who’s more familiar with poly culture shed some light on what it means for somebody’s poly identity to be “rooted in scarcity”?

    • I never thought of friendships as intentional lifelong relationships until now. My mind is blown. Now I am starting to wonder about how I place myself in and out of all relationships in my life. And I have the same questions regarding the scarcity issue as well. I’ve been looking into the whole polyamory thing and I have no idea what this means. Maybe there is not enough monogamous poly people? Idk. If you figure it out please let me know.

    • I imagine they might have meant by “scarcity” the sense that certain resources like love, care, etc are scarce. Many poly people see these as regenerating or infinite resources (as opposed to things like time and money), which may explain why Traci frames [experience being] “rooted in scarcity” as something they are fortunate not to have experienced. That also makes the sentence that follows clearer: to me, Traci is implying that familial connection is one of those things that was scarce in their life.

  2. Wow! Your words fullness/scarcity really resonated with me. I wouldn’t have thought of framing it that way on my own but I’ve been thinking a lot about how I want to put my life together and reading that just made a light bulb turn on. I’ll have to absorb what I think that means for me but I’d love to hear more from you or others.

    Gah all the life feelings!

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