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Tolyamory: The common type of relationship you’ve never heard of

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It’s likely the most common form of non-monogamy you’ve ever experienced, but most people never talk about it – tolyamory. 

What is tolyamory?

This neologism was coined by popular sex advice and relationship columnist, Dan Savage. You might know him for his other neologisms such as “santorum” or “pegging,” but now he’s talking about his latest term, “tolyamory.” He defined it as “someone willing to turn a blind eye to a lap dance or a brief affair after years of marriage.”

Something to be discussed is that it appears that the partner is only willing to put up with a certain amount of an affair. Tolyamory mainly applies to physical affairs, such as having sex or a sexual encounter. It is not an emotional connection with their lover, it is purely physical. Remember a tolyamorous relationship can only put up with so much.

Why does tolyamory happen?

A popular example of tolyamory is shown in the HBO series “White Lotus.” Daphne was aware Cameron was having an affair, yet despite knowing this information, she chooses to turn a blind eye and stay with him. 

Everyone knows that one couple, you know the ones who cheat on each other if they haven’t already. They move in together, buy a house, adopt a dog, have kids, and share every detail about their lives with each other. As a relationship progresses, both partners may realize that lifelong monogamy is unrealistic, yet they want to maintain this image of monogamy, so they end up in a tolyamorous relationship. Imagine your shock if you found out your partner had sex with someone. After building so much of your life together are you willing to throw it all away because your partner slept with someone?

Tolyamory within the gay community

As gay people, the concept of tolyamory might be a bit more nuanced. It’s common within gay culture to kiss friends and not be a romantic gesture. Many gay people are regularly kissing their friends and touching in general. The high-touch culture within the community is obvious when meeting friends as they kiss on the cheek and hug.

Lack of intimacy during sex

The way sex is viewed in gay culture could play a part in tolyamory within the gay community. Phrases such as “it’s just sex” could remain true until it isn’t. Until the person you’ve spent the better part of a decade starting a family with, buying a house together, advancing in your respective careers with has sex another man. It’s no wonder that after investing so much into a relationship, it might prove to be more effective to stay together rather than confront your partner about their one-night stand. 

Lack of financial freedom

The financial struggle of separating might also deter people from wanting to break up in the first place. Think of the stereotypical “U-Haul lesbians” for example. This idea that gays are so willing to move in together that they rent a U-Haul at the speed of light to commit to each other, but with rising costs of rent within gayborhoods, it’s no wonder why couples might be more willing to forgive and forget their partner for giving a blowjob or tribbing another woman. 

Loneliness within society

The pervasive loneliness of today’s society can also be a contributing factor. Going online you’ll find many people on TikTok ranting about how the dating landscape is terrible, sharing their worst date horror stories and drama online. Given the uncertainty of what dating might look like for someone who just found out about their partner’s lap dance, they might choose to stay, forgiving their partner’s infidelity rather than confronting them to lose out on what they’ve already spent so much time building. 

Takeaway

Gay culture is the perfect culture to allow tolyamory to flourish. Gay couples who want to keep up an image of being together in a world of Grindr hookups and high divorce rates can easily find themselves in a tolyamorous relationship when they find that relationships are hard.

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