How To Deal With Polyphobic People

Deviating from the monogamous relationship paradigm can come with real consequences. People have gotten attacked and even fired over being poly.

Fortunately, you can prepare yourself for such attacks.

Learn about the most common polyphobic resentments, which demographics factor into polyphopia, and why it never pays to advocate for “systemic” change.

The 5 Most Common Resentments

It’s always the same couple of resentments that poly people run into.

1. “You just like to screw around.”

As a straight poly man, this is the reproach that I have gotten the most. Everybody automatically assumes you are a sex maniac who can’t keep it inside his pants.

2. “You are incapable of real intimacy.”

If you are poly, it must be because you can’t get emotionally close to other people. Because everybody knows — intimacy requires monogamy. Or so the Disney narrative goes.

3. “You have commitment issues.”

Oh, how I love this one. The implication — monogamy is the only legitimate relationship option. If you can’t comply with that gold standard, you must be broken — end of story.

4. “You have low self-esteem.”

This is the one that women tend to get the most often. You must have low self-esteem. Otherwise, why would give away the goods for free, right?

5. “You are just bored.”

In this version, polyamory is some kind of diversion. Superficial people like you indulge in polyamory. Serious people commit to just one person.

Factors at Play

Certain factors increase the likelihood of you running into polyphobic resentments.

1. Rural vs. Urban Environments

Rural environments tend to be more averse to polyamory. People are more suspicious of anyone deviating from the norm. Also, they are less likely to personally know anyone who is into polyamory. That promotes resentment. It is easier to hate from afar.

In cities like New York, London, or Berlin, you are less likely to be confronted with polyphobia. Most anyone has met a poly person at some point. Indeed, it is downright chic to claim, “I am polyamorous.” It gives you this avant-garde air.

Of course, this is a generalization — there are some very open-minded village dwellers and there are some very narrow-minded city folks. But as a tendency it holds. It’s certainly in line with my own experiences (I grew up in the deep countryside).

2. Conservative vs. Liberal Environments

People who subscribe to a conservative political worldview tend to be very skeptical of polyamory. It is seen as an attack on the nuclear family — one of the cornerstones of conservative ideology.

Liberals tend to be more embracing of polyamory. Older liberals are reminded of the free-loving 60s, younger liberals are afraid of being seen as anti-woke, should they criticize polyamory. 

3. Religious vs. Non-Religious Environments

If you live in an evangelical stronghold, you are more likely to get polyphobic reactions than if you live in a secular New England town. Religious hardliners view monogamy as a god-given directive. Anyone deviating from this directive is a godless sinner.

Potential Consequences

Outing yourself as polyamorous can come with real-world consequences.

1. Friends Cutting You Off

Some of your non-poly friends might suddenly decide they don’t like you anymore. They might ghost you or they might let you know what a despicable human being you are.

2. Losing Your Job

Some people, after coming out as poly at work, got fired. To justify this move, employers might cite the morality clause in your employment contract.

3. Losing Custody

You could potentially lose custody of your child. The other side — ex-spouses, grandparents — might argue you are not morally fit to raise a child. They might also argue that raising a child in a poly environment might corrupt your child.

4. Losing Your House

Some rental contracts require you to be related by blood or marriage to live under the same roof. Landlords use this to keep unwanted tenants out, e.g., immigrants sharing housing or fraternities/sororities. But they can also use it to kick your polycule out.

Why People Opt for Polyphobia

There are two reasons why people display polyphobic behavior:

  1. “Us vs. them” thinking
  2. Sexual marketplace dynamics

1. “Us vs. Them” Thinking

When people resort to discriminating behavior it is because of “us vs. them” thinking. We can only hate others if we perceive them as different from us. “I am in box A over here, and you are in box B over there. Thus, we are enemies.”

It is not just that we are afraid of what we don’t know. That’s part of it, but it doesn’t tell the whole story. It’s also because it feels so reaffirming to hate. By despising those different from us, we reaffirm our own position within our chosen peer group. By hating, we gain a sense of identity.

To be clear — this goes both ways. Poly people are just prone to us vs. them thinking as non-poly people, maybe more so. Many enjoy thinking of themselves as this extra-special cultural avant-garde. Everybody else is just a narrow-minded prude. It’s the same dynamic, just different placeholders.

In reality, these boundaries are rarely as clear-cut as we make them out to be. I have met plenty of people in monogamous relationships who would have been better off in a poly arrangement — if they dared to try it.

Vice versa, I have met plenty of polys who shouldn’t have been in a poly relationship; it was clearly not for them. But they clung to this model because of some pre-conceived ideological notion.

There is no point in trying to educate people about this fluidity, though. They will cling to their chosen box, no matter if it serves them or not. Anything to belong. And for the same reason, they will always project their anger onto those who live in a different box (or no box).

2. Sexual Marketplace Dynamics

The second reason why many people hate on polyamory is an economic one. Polyamory is perceived as a “threat” to their own monogamous relationship. If everybody is giving it away for “free,” what power do they hold over their partner?

This correlates with a couple of factors like gender, attractiveness, age, and relationship status. For example, if you are an extremely hot 20-year-old single woman, you are much less likely to feel offended by polyamory. You have plenty of options and you know it. Why should you get upset about some weird 30-plus-year-old hippies playing at Free Love? “Live and let live.”

At age 35, after a couple of years of marriage, you might not be quite so relaxed about this. Now, these weirdos rub you the wrong way. Their free-loving ways are a threat to your boring, sexless marriage (which you want to maintain because of your children). Understandably, you don’t appreciate the competition.

With middle-aged, less-than-attractive, married men, there is a slightly different dynamic. They will feel offended by polyamory because it reminds them of their scarcity mindset. They never had many sexual options to start with. So, they went with the first slightly hotter woman who was willing to marry them. Now they are stuck in an unfulfilling relationship while over there, some people are granting each other all the sexual freedom you could ask for. That stings. So, instead of having to admit your own bad decisions, you project your anger onto these people.

There are more dynamics like this; I won’t go into all of them here. But it comes down to this — sex and love have well-established price tags. If you disrupt these pricing structures, the market will push back — hard.

How To Not Let Them Get to You

Here is how you can prepare yourself for polyphobic attacks.

1. Deal With Slut Shaming

The number thing you will have to deal with is slut shaming. Polyphobic people will utter insults like, “I am disgusted by you. Just sleeping around like a dog in heat” (I have gotten that one).

There are three ways to deal with this.

  1. Ignore it.
  2. Exaggerate it.
  3. Lash back.

I almost always opt for number one. There is no point in getting into fights with blockheads. You are just going to waste precious emotional energy getting upset. This energy will then be missing in other, more important areas of your life.

The next-best option is to exaggerate what they are accusing you of. This can be fun, especially with ultra-conservative and/or religious people. Just start telling them about the orgy you had last night and all the filthy things you did. They will either get really uncomfortable or really upset. Either way, you are playing them.

The final option is to hit back. I don’t like that one. But then again, it is relatively easy for me to shrug these insults off as a hetero man. With gender dynamics as they are, calling me a slut is almost a compliment. For women, it might not be so easy to let it roll off your should. Many have had to deal with the slut innuendos their whole lives.

Ask yourself — “Will this insult keep stinging all day long?” If the answer is yes, then it’s better to push back. Don’t let them plant that barb.

The key is to hit them where it hurts. For example, if they are narrow-minded country pumpkins, use that. If they are repressed Puritans, call them out on that. In essence, use what they are insecure about. That will shut them up.

2. Seek Out Direct Alternatives

Many polys like to advocate for systemic change. “Poly people need to be recognized as a sexual minority. There need to be laws to protect polys. Let’s start a movement!”

I think that is a waste of time. Movements take a long time to achieve change (if they succeed at all). Also, they never turn out the way you had imagined. In the end, the ideals you fought for get turned onto their heads. Not to mention the inevitable politicking that comes with any kind of group effort.

If you enjoy being upset, sure, start a movement. Otherwise seek out “direct alternatives,” i.e., courses of action that are under your direct control.

If you work for an employer that doesn’t respect your lifestyle, find a different employer.

If your landlord gives you crap about your poly family, rent a different house.

If you are surrounded by a bunch of small-town, religious nut cases, move to a secular, urban environment.

It is really not that difficult to outsmart most polyphobic people out there. No need to get all agitated.

3. Don’t Be a Victim

In today’s culture, it is very chic to stylize yourself as a victim. There is always someone suppressing us, using their privilege over us, etc.

I’m not saying these things don’t happen. They do. It’s regrettable. But you can also get hung up on being a victim. It’s a convenient excuse to not work on the things you should really be focused on like growing your business, improving your relationships, and maintaining your health. Doing these things is hard work. Reveling in being a victim is not. That should tell you something. 

Also, injustices, while unfair, can help you to build character. People who never had to face any grow up pampered and naive. Those who faced them and overcame them, are now more capable human beings because of it. Maybe discrimination is also a chance?

Finally, keep a sense of proportion. Yes, polyphobia is real — I have been on the receiving end of it many times. But there is still a difference between being poly and, let’s say, being gay. People have rarely gotten beaten up or killed over being poly (if ever). So, don’t exaggerate your victimhood.

4. Don’t Be a Polypusher

Many polys treat their relationship style as a kind of substitute religion. They think everybody should be poly. If they don’t see the light, they must be a polyphobic prude.

Obviously, this is narrow-minded. Rejecting polyamory is not the same as being polyphobic. Some people simply don’t enjoy having multiple partners even though they might miss out on certain things. For example, they might be okay with their relationship turning sexually stale over time; they value the emotional stability they get from being with just one person over the “new relationship energy” that poly people value.

If someone makes that kind of decision with open eyes and stands by it, there is nothing wrong with that. They are not being polyphobic. They just know themselves and how they operate.

While I would maintain that is not most people (most people do whatever the herd tells them to do), I have met such people. And when you do, there is no point in getting mad at each other and calling each other names. On the contrary, you should look at each other as brothers in spirit. You both like to make conscious, educated decisions about how you want to live your life. That is rare.

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