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STRUGGLE SESSION: Toly, Tolyamory, Tolyamorous — All Things Toly! (And Maybe a Couple of Other Things Too!)

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Okay, while everyone else was talking about polyamory last week, I dedicated my column to strengthening monogamous relationships in the...

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...ight now here! Okay, while everyone else was talking about polyamory last week, I dedicated my column to strengthening monogamous relationships in the face of the poly onslaught. But on the Lovecast and Instagram I rolled out a new word to describe a very common — perhaps the very commonest — form of non-monogamy: tolyamory. This neologism/portmanteau popped into my head after I accepted a challenge to defend “straight-up cheating over polyamory” from Mr. Rando on Twitter who was sick of reading about polyamory. After I explained why someone might actually prefer being cheated on to negotiating an ethically non-monogamous relationship … Cheating successfully — cheating and getting away with it — requires absolute discretion on the part of the cheater. Absolute discretion imposes limitations that can keep cheating to a minimum…. Some people who know they’re being cheated on don’t let on, lest the cheating partner take that as license to be indiscreet, scandalizing friends, coworker, and children. …it occurred to me that the particular kind of non-monogamy I was describing — someone turning a blind eye to their spouse’s affair(s) — may actually be the most widely practiced form of non-monogamy there is. And it didn’t have a name. As everyone knows — or as everyone now knows after the week polyamory had — the term gets its name from the Ancient Greek word for “many” (polloí) and the Latin word for love (“amor”); to be polyamorous means you have (or want) “many loves.” Tolyamory gets its name from the Latin word meaning “to bear with” (tolerare) and the Latin word for “love” (amor); to be tolyamorous means you bear with — you tolerate — your spouse’s sexual indiscretions. Says Rachel… I really like the neologism “tolyamorous.” I love the advice Dan Savage has given many times: that if someone cheats once or a little over the course of many decades, it doesn’t mean the person was horrible at monogamy, it means they were good (if not perfect) at monogamy. While I’ve never cheated on my husband, I did something similar to cheating. My husband was kind and understanding and tolerant as we got our marriage back on track. He was upset at first, but we worked through it and and we are very happily married right now. If my husband did something similar, I hope I would respond the same way he did and be “tolyamarous” myself. Says CT via email… I prefer TOLYGAMY to TOLYAMORY since “amory” implies love. In Latin “amor” can means love, yes, but it also means “relating to sexual desires or acts.” Just as a word in English language can have more than one meaning (see: date, sex, cock), words in Latin can also have more than one meaning. So, while we’ve all agreed to define polyamory as “many loves,” we can all agree to define tolyamory to mean “putting up with a sexual desires or acts a partner engages in with others.” Says Andrew… If we can workshop it, I’d tweak it to “toleramorous.” The sound is a little more distinct. The first time you said tolyamorous, Dan, I heard it as “poly.” A few years ago when lots of callers got excited about “monogamish,” it didn’t sound so different from “monogamous” when they said it quickly. Monogamish, despite sounding a lot like monogamous, caught on anyway, Andrew, and I’m confident that tolyamorous will catch on too. That said, I did briefly consider going with “toleramorous.” But it didn’t roll off the tongue like tolyamorous does. And “toly” (TOL-ee) is more easily said and more easily heard/understand than “toler” (TAH-ler). If a friend says, “My wife thinks she’s cheating on me and getting away with it but what she doesn’t know is that I’m toly,” you’ll know exactly what your friend meant. But if a friend said, “My wife doesn’t know I’m toler,” you’re going to think, “Taller than what?” Says Prof Shakes… That’s just cheating. No, it’s not. If your spouse is fucking around behind your back… yeah. That’s just cheating. But if your spouse is fucking around and you know about it but you’ve decided to tolerate it — you’ve decided to put up with it — for whatever reason… okay, that’s still cheating. But it’s not just cheating. One person is out there cheating, the other person is at home practicing tolyamory. Says Raven… Wouldn’t that just be an open relationship? Do we really need a whole new term for what is essentially that? There are lots of terms to describe different kinds of open relationships: monogamish, swinging, soft swap, DADT, poly, solo poly, hierarchical poly, polyfidelity, kitchen table poly, relationship anarchy, one-sided open relationships (hotwife/hothusband, stag and vixen, cuckold, cuckquean), etc. I don’t see why we can’t squeeze another term onto that long list, particularly one that describes what may be the most common kind of open relationship. Maybe not the healthiest kind, but definitely the most common. The one feature that distinguishes tolyamory from most other forms of openness is that it doesn’t fall under the ENM (ethically non-monogamous) umbrella. The cheating may be tacitly acknowledged — there may even be an unspoken understanding — but unlike other kinds of open relationship, the tolyamorous relationships isn’t about communicating or negotiating. One partner chose to cheat, the other chose to accept it. Again, not ideal. Not openness as I practice it, not the kind of openness I recommend. This is an observation — the fact that toly is the most common kind of open relationship — not an endorsement. Says Marie Thouin… I like it 🙂 it has a more playful, less serious/shameful tone than “Don’t Ask/Don’t Tell.” Says Diana… I think “tolyamorous” is a great word for folks who can tolerate some non-monogamy but aren’t aiming to have multiple partners like me! It’s a sizable enough chunk of population that they deserve a word! AboutMyX asks… How is being toly different from being a PUD? Someone who’s a PUD is “polyamorous under duress.” Typically, one person wanted to open the relationship, the other didn’t, and then an ultimatum was issued: “Pick one: we’re open or we’re over.” If the person to whom that ultimatum was issued reluctantly agrees to open the relationship to save it, that person is poly under duress — at least at the beginning. There are lots of happily poly people out there who used to be PUDs. Someone who’s toly, on the other hand, wasn’t asked to open the relationship. Or they were asked and they said no and their partner started fucking other people anyway and they eventually found out. They didn’t have a choice about being cheated on but they did have a choice about staying in the relationship once they found out. And while some toly folks might be TUDs at the start, i.e. toly under duress, we can safely assume that many TUDs, like many PUDs, eventually outgrow their feelings of distress. And let’s not pretend that everyone who finds out their spouse is discreetly getting their sexual needs met elsewhere is upset by the news. Some people — particularly people with no interest in fucking their partners — are deeply and literally relieved. Says Stuff By Stine via Instagram DM… Speaking as a Dane: King Frederik is NOT an example of tolyamory, as you said up top in this weeks episode. I think Queen Margrethe II abdicated among other reasons because the timing would serve as a distraction from Frederik’s alleged infidelity. And Mary probably tolerates it because you don’t have much choice when you’re married to a crown prince. Her body language is very, “I will grit my teeth and bear it in public.” Princess Diana proved a woman doesn’t have to tolerate her husband’s infidelities just because he’s going to sit on a throne someday. And while there are lots of different reasons why a person might opt for tolyamory over divorce, i.e., getting to sit on a throne seems like a pretty solid one. Says Madison… Would Donald and Melania be considered toly? Noooo. As I see it — and, again, I made this word up, so I get to set the rules (at least at first*) — tolyamory is a loving or loving-ish truce and a willingness to focus on what does work while accepting what doesn’t. Counting the days until your spouse drops dead so you never have to see (or smell) him again — which is clearly what Melania is doing — doesn’t meet the requirements of a (mostly) healthy and (mostly) functional tolyamorous partnership IMO which, for right now, is the only opinion that matters. (*Pegging, another of my neologisms, at first meant “a woman fucking a man in the ass with a strap-on dildo.” And now it means “anyone of any gender fucking anyone of any gender in the ass with a strap-on dildo.” So who knows where this one will go?) Says Mr. Christian in reaction to my first “Great Moments in Tolyamory” post on Instagram… Let’s just call it what it really is: male privilege. MissBian agrees with Mr. Christian… It really does seem like yet another privilege among many that benefit males or there would be examples of women in the power position of their sexual freedoms. This is a perfect example of the toxic “boys will be boys” passivity that women continue to have to tolerate. In regular real life marriages where the man isn’t rich and powerful, women tend to tolerate this behavior because statistically they are worse off financially after divorce and staying in an unhealthy marriage allows her to keep caring for her children. While my first “Great Moments in Tolyamory” featured powerful men and their toly wives, my second “Great Moments in Tolyamory” post featured powerful women and their toly husbands: Nikki Haley, Marjorie Taylor Green, Kristi Noem, and Jada Pinket Smith. So, while male privilege and power is definitely in evidence here — and while the financial consequences of divorce do fall disproportionately on the shoulders of women (and this fact may persuade some women to stay in shitty marriages) — as women continue to become more financially independent and more politically powerful, the toly gap will close right along with the infidelity gap, which has been closing for many years. Says Donna via Instagram DM… I think part of the definition should be that you’re okay with the side piece, not just that you’re ignoring it. Okay with it. Hillary was soooooo not okay with what happened. A lot of people aren’t. But sometimes they can’t make different relationship choices. I replied directly to Donna… But people tolerate things they aren’t 100% okay with in their marriages and LTRs all the time, don’t they? Donna replied to me… Yes, they do. But that’s sad and not sex positive. Your past definitions (pegging, santorum) and phrases (#FuckFirst, GGG) have always been about positive things and moving the needle forward, not back. That new definition of santorum definitely made Rick Santorum sad. And DTMFA isn’t exactly an upbeat sentiment. I honestly think tolyamory falls into a gray area — for some, it’s fine, they’re content to stay married because they wanna sit on the throne of Denmark or because they actually still love their spouses and everything else a marriage is or can be about, e.g., raising kids, building a home, loving companionship, defined social roles, etc. For others, they don’t want to leave or don’t feel they can — perhaps for financial reasons — and they faced a choice between embracing tolyamory or losing their minds. Again, I’m neither endorsing nor advocating tolyamory. I’ve simply observed it for a long time and now I’ve named it. And I’m not the only one who’s observed it. Says Josh… I have a lot of patients (married couples) who fit this. Often wife doesn’t care and doesn’t ask him questions. Like they’re better together as a family but there’s no intimacy or sex life between them. People can make this work for decades. Okay! A couple of reader/listener comments about something else… Says Jo… Dan, “micro-cheating” seems to mean “red flags” (signs someone might cheat). Based on a quick google, these are socially-sanctioned reasons to explore feelings and boundaries around cheating, while cheating is a socially-sanctioned reason to break up. It makes sense to me. I really don’t understand your vehemence on this subject. If I told my partner that I was ogling someone because I was married not dead, I wouldn’t blame him for thinking that I was being a jerk. Openly ogling someone else in front of a partner, whether you’re monogamous or not, is just rude and potentially hurtful. So while you may be married, not dead, you still gotta be considerate. As I said in that column, my worry isn’t so much that otherwise thoughtful people will misunderstand things on Dr. Riaz’s list and start ogling people in front of their partners. My worry is that controlling and abusive people will point to Dr. Riaz’s list to justify terrorizing their partners for the crime of checking someone else out. If you clock your partner discreetly checking someone out, give them credit for being discreet and ignore it; if your partner blatantly checks other people out in front of you with no concern for your feelings, you have every right to be angry and hurt. BiDanFan understands my vehemence… I completely agree with Dan that saying cheating is wrong and saying these things are low-level cheating makes these things wrong, i.e., unacceptable in monogamous relationships, and I agree that this sets relationships up to “fail at monogamy.” And NINgirl Jane gets it too… People who make these idiotic lists (and those who believe them) aren’t trying to protect monogamy, they’re trying to gate-keep it based on abusive, controlling, conservative ideals. And this came in via email… Your advice to the caller whose wife quit drinking due to having Ulcerative Colitis completely missed the point. The woman is likely quite ill and UC is a disease of the colon. The caller laments that he no longer can play with her butt, but that’s the point. Her butt is where much of the worst of her UC symptoms occur. She is facing fecal urgency, nausea, diarrhea, bloody stool and pain. To have a partner who is oblivious to her medical needs and only focused on his own pleasure is insulting. On top of that, she is feeling sick and fatigued. Asking her to take up drinking again so she can give a sloppy blowjob to her selfish partner is adding insult to injury.  Your caller should seek some counseling to learn how to support a partner with an incurable and unpredictable disease. Nothing to add — you are right, my advice was wrong, and I’m happy to take my lumps here. And finally, Jessica left a comment about the ABDL whose wife was unnerved by suddenly finding diaper play arousing… Dan, I think you missed another possibility with the partner of the ABDL. Partners who are GGG — and in particular cis female partners — sometimes get turned on by their partners’ arousal. Maybe the ABDL’s partner isn’t getting turned on by the diaper itself, but by the fact that her lover is getting excited. She may be allowing her own internal kink shaming to get in the way of her enjoying her partner’s pleasure Okay, just one more item of business before this long Struggle Session comes to an end… Meet our Muppet-Faced Man of the Week: Trevor Lawrence! According to his Wiki, Trevor is “an American football quarterback for the Jacksonville Jaguars.” Football, schmootball! What we love about Trevor — and what prompted a reader to bring him to my attention — is that he could play Beaker‘s impossibly/improbably hot older brother in the next Muppets movie! Thank you for the MFMOTW submission, Footballer!

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