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.
Sorieano is a 23-year-old polyam queer femme living in Long Beach, CA. She/they are in a long-term relationship with a cis man.
This interview has been edited and condensed.
Carolyn: When did you start to explore polyamory?
Sorieano: I think the moment I lost interest in getting out of being single was the first time I definitely saw polyamory as a possibility. I can’t pinpoint the exact time I first knew or considered it, but sometime when I was a junior in college (that was like four years ago) I lost my interest in finding “the one” or maybe gave up. Not sure what that was about but I found myself appreciating multiple relationships I was in and while I may have not seen it as polyamory because I wasn’t actively dating anybody, I definitely had it in mind and I had it set that a “romantic” or “sexual” relationship doesn’t set my ability to love and foster other loving relationships and consider them apart or even less than.
I didn’t get into a “serious romantic” relationship until the one I’m in now. I was dating at some point, and dating doesn’t have a seal for me because I’ve had dating partners go MIA on me multiple times. Being polyamory never came up until I was a year in with the man I’m with. He initially thought it was a good idea to encourage me to date women because he knew I had a stronger attraction towards femmes (some people understand it as just women when I say that I’m into femmes, as a femme person myself). That’s how he also came out to me as polyamorous, and he actually has had more experience than I have.
“I think the moment I lost interest in getting out of being single was the first time I definitely saw polyamory as a possibility.”
My relationship with him boils down to him being my best friend. We met online and started off as friends, and while he and I together are seen as one another’s partners, I essentially don’t see a difference. Neither does he. At the moment, I’m very casually dating another man and I believe he’s not dating anyone (least not that I know of, for him). We were dating the same girl once, but we went our separate ways even though we keep in contact.
Carolyn: What do you find most exciting about your approach to relationships? What do you find to be a struggle?
Sorieano: I’m very light hearted with the dating part but very much invested in the relationship. I’m casually dating someone who I also happen to be forming a more intimate relationship with because thanks to technology, I can with my busy schedule. I do like my partner’s approach as well, which is pretty much encouraging me to just put myself out there to find more love like he does. It sounds like something I’d do as well since it’s how I got to meet him, once upon a time.
The struggle is the labeling. When I’m dating someone, I don’t assume we’re a thing unless they say we are or I ask “hey are we a thing?” When my partner and I dated the girl, him just using the word “dating” meant she was our girlfriend to him. I had to be the one to really question that because if I’m dating someone, I try to be as transparent as possible but I don’t know if they are as well. Someone could see dating as just an activity, maybe a process towards a “real, committed” relationship, whereas I already feel like I’m forming one. The rest of the details just come as we go.
So this conversation comes up often because while I can see it, I don’t assume right away to be safe — the other person may not see us being more than just good company.
Carolyn: You mentioned that you and your partner have dated the same person before — how did that situation come about, and what was it like?
Sorieano: I believe she was initially interested in me, my partner was interested in her as well, and after our first date, I was a bit unsure of what to do because I was going through some things. They started dating each other and it wasn’t until maybe a month later, after he was telling me how great she was and how he thought she would still like to date me, too, that I went ahead and asked her out. It was tricky though because while we set dates as separate pairs, her schedule was even more hectic than mine and sometimes she couldn’t make them and made them up in triad dates — all three of us together out and dating.
It was mainly okay unless it was something else in place of something that I specifically set time for. Last-minute cancellations were a drag but the triad dates were cute, very much great to have two people I care about at the same time with me. I’m not quite used to having more than one person out with me, even in my platonic relationships, because I didn’t grow up with many friends.
Carolyn: What happened to those dynamics?
Sorieano: Personally, I found it hard to communicate with this person. There was a lack of transparency that even with my efforts wouldn’t go away. What I did manage to get clear as day was that to her, we were pretty much good company to have. I didn’t feel strongly disappointed in that as my partner did. On my end, I just told her that right now it seems we’re better off as a platonic thing.
Carolyn: In that situation or in other relationship situations, how do you negotiate conflict? How do you negotiate change?
Sorieano: In previous situations, I’ve always seemed to be the one to negotiate conflict/change and it would always consist of me being more accommodating to others. I’ve stopped that, and now what I do is provide clear details of what I can and cannot do. Negotiating with conflict takes a lot out of me, I feel like I can only do it once if it’s so worth the while, but if shit hits the fan, I’m out, as much as it may hurt. Negotiating change is a multiple way street; I am willing to work out things if the others are willing to as well and cooperate with me. Usually I’ll have an idea of what we need or I’ll at least ask and try to find a resolution that every one can be comfortable enough with or work towards.
“While I love being queer and polyamorous, they both have brought on a set of challenges […] Monogamous folks have their own set, by the way, there’s not one relationship style better than the other. Regardless, relationships are a lot of work.”
Carolyn: Where does poly intersect with other elements of your identity? How does it function within your understanding of yourself?
Sorieano: Being queer and poly makes things so weird for me. I feel like a lot of people who don’t like it either would or do conflate the two. Because I’m queer, people would assume I’m into everybody and WANT to date everybody. Not the case… at least right now.
I can’t tell if being polyamorous complicates the way I view relationships in general but I feel like it makes sense the other way around. My views on relationships sound off to those I’m around who aren’t queer, aren’t polyamorous, and so saying “I’m polyamorous” probably doesn’t help them much. But for those curious enough, it invites conversation and they’ll ask “what does that mean?” and they’ll go through assumptions so I can explain if it applies or not.
While I love being queer and polyamorous, they both have brought on a set of challenges that a lot of people might not consider when looking at polyamorous dynamics versus monogamous ones. Monogamous folks have their own set, by the way, there’s not one relationship style better than the other. Regardless, relationships are a lot of work. Polyamory just keeps expanding my thinking on relationships. I think that’s one of the great things about it.
Carolyn: What do you want your future to look like? What vision are you working towards or hoping for?
Sorieano: I hope it would be one where I’m very career focused, successful in turning my hobbies into a career and still able to give my time and attention to those I’m with. I worry about that now because I’m in and out of tasks/work, trying to make a better future more plausible to where I can focus more on my relationships. I could be doing that now, but I also feel like I have so much to do right now, it wouldn’t be fair for the persons I’m dating, unless they want to be there to support each other’s goals.
This is the last installment in Poly Pocket. View the complete series.