“Non-monogamy is on the rise because the pandemic led a lot of people to rethink their whole life structures”
BY NIC CROSARA, IMAGE BY BRIDGET ERRANTE
For our February issue, I wrote about how amidst the pandemic there has been a rise in people exploring polyamory and ethical non-monogamy. Since lockdown eased, Feeld (an inclusive dating app for couples and singles interested in casual sex, polyamory and other alternative sexual preferences) saw its UK user base grow by 15%. As someone who is starting to examine my relationship with monogamy, I was eager to chat with intersectional polyamory educator and writer Gabrielle Smith.
On her Instagram feed, Gabrielle shares her experiences as a soly-polyamorous* Afro-Latina bisexual woman. She posts helpful information about how to establish healthy boundaries, nurture both platonic, sexual and romantic relationships and self-pleasure. I was excited to get the chance to hear her thoughts.
*Solo-polyamory is when someone is open to having multiple intimate relationships, but has an independent lifestyle and considers relationship with self as important as relationships with others.
What inspired you to use social media to raise awareness of polyamory?
I knew social media was going to be a thing I did career wise. Then when you do that, you’re like, “okay what is my niche?” For me, I was like what are the things I love? You know, sex, love and dating. The first paid commission piece was for Greatest about being polyamorous during the pandemic. In the really early days, like March 2020. I just started writing more about polyamory and I ended up bringing that to social media because it was a way to bring awareness to it. I was looking around at the people who were creating content and they didn’t look like me. They were in couples or in more traditionally dyadic structures. Whereas I identified as solo. Wanting to see more representation led me to create that representation.
Why do you think there has been a rise in people exploring non-monogamy during and since lockdown?
I have a theory that non-monogamy is on the rise because the pandemic led a lot of people to rethink their whole life structures. People decided, “I don’t actually need to live in the city”, “I don’t actually love my career”, “I want to have kids”. A lot of people got divorced during the pandemic because they realised 24/7 with their partner was not what they envisioned for their life. A lot of people have come out during the pandemic. A lot of people realised they were gender non-conforming or trans. So I think no longer having to perform monogamy and all these compulsory identities that society puts on us really led people to be like, “hey maybe this is a different thing I need, maybe I do need to have sex with other people, maybe I do want to love more than one person.”
That’s a really great way of looking at it. How did lockdown impact your relationships?
Lockdown made a lot of people really codependent in their relationships. Because we went from having these wider social circles of 15 to 30 or 50 people to a bubble of six. Those relationships strengthened but they did become more dependent.
My relationship that was previously non-hierarchical, my partner is married so they live together, I live separately from them. So that relationship became more hierarchical because my partner’s wife was way more afraid of getting covid than the rest of us. So her say in terms of covid was the most important. We had to respect that because it was a thing about safety and health.
Do you have any advice for DIVA readers who may be wanting to explore non-monogamy but don’t really know where to start?
I really want people to be patient with themselves because unlearning things like compulsory monogamy which is – as your readers probably know, like compulsory heterosexuality – it’s just this thing that tells us monogamy is the only option. And it’s the way the world enforces it. Unlearning that is really really difficult because it’s ingrained in everything we do. In how many people fit in a car, how many people you can marry.
Unlearning takes a lot of time. I have a lot of people come to me in my sessions and they’re like, “You know I’ve been struggling, we’ve been open for two months.” Of course you’re going to be struggling, you’re probably going to be struggling for a year, because you have to dismantle this entire system that is essentially going against what you’ve been told. I want people to be patient with themselves and to create community.
I want people to go on dates and be open to friendship. We undervalue these potential platonic relationships. Going on dates with polyamorous people, even if you don’t click romantically or sexually, you might still really value that person and then you can add them to your community of people so you have someone to talk to when you’re having issues in your relationship. You have someone to talk to when your mum’s being really rude to you about your relationship structure. I think it’s really alienating and finding community is the best thing you can do.
You can find out more about Gabrielle’s work here.
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