Polyamory Cowboys: How to Avoid Their Lasso

Are you dating a polyamory cowboy?

Finding yourself face to face with a polyamory cowboy can happen when you least expect it. Indeed, that’s the whole idea. That’s how the polyamory cowboy operates.

He disguises his intentions to impose traditional monogamous expectations on polyamorous people and sneaks into polyamorous relationships with the intention of pulling you away and your polycule apart.

What Is a Cowboy in Polyamory?

A cowboy in polyamory is a monogamous male who intentionally seeks out relationships with polyamorous women, with the intention of taking her away from the herd—from her polycule, throuple, or other relationships.

Read: Poly Throuples: Answers to Common Questions

A polyamory cowboy’s intentions are to impose his ideas that monogamous relationships are superior and polyamorous relationships are inferior, unstable, or immoral.

The poly cowboy may genuinely believe that polyamory is harmful, and that he is helping to restore natural and righteous order to a woman’s life. He may have a rescue complex or a Messiah complex and see himself as an arbiter of morality or salvation. He may be a manipulative psychopath who gets off on sowing destruction and this is where he takes his aim. He may be all these things.

A cowboy in polyamory often disguises himself as polyamorous, claiming a special and unique bond after meeting a polyamorous woman, someone who is overtaken with the sudden desire that it be “just the two of us.”

Read: 5 Signs that Polyamory May Not Be Right for You

Three Friends Walking

He may pose as someone exploring polyamory who discovers it’s not for him after all. His intentions are to steal a polyamorous female away and save her with monogamy.

Not all poly-curious people are cowboys, and someone who is incidentally or accidentally a cowboy is not really a polyamory cowboy.

We all experiment, and many people have tried polyamory in a certain relationship or time of their life and found it didn’t work for them. Others have met a monogamous person and chose to enter into their relationship style. Others found polyamory didn’t work for them, or only worked in a specific circumstance.

Read: What It Means to Be Poly Monogamous

Most polyamorous people have also experimented with monogamy, especially when they first entered the world of dating or sex. Many poly people have invited monogamous-minded people to try polyamory.

A polyamory cowboy is not simply a guy who is monogamous and falls for a poly woman. Rather, this is how he disguises himself. A polyamory cowboy will also disguise himself as polyamorous, but he isn’t and has no intention of truly being polyamorous.

Is Polyamory Cowgirl a Thing?

Yes, of course. The polyamory cowgirl is the same as the polyamory cowboy, only her target is men. There are also gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender “cowboys” but they are not as common as they are less likely to hold traditional or heteronormative views about relationships.

Threesome of couple and another woman.

Signs You (or Your Partner) Might Be Dating a Cowboy

1. They Don’t Respect Their Metamour

A common red flag is a new date or partner who does not respect your other relationships. A new date should not try to cast doubt in your mind about another relationship or your primary partner.

Read: Metamour Issues? How to Speak Up

The polyamory cowboy won’t necessarily talk smack about your metamour. It will be under the guise of caution and concern.

2. Jealousy is an Ongoing Issue

We all experience jealousy and envy on occasion. Or we may be fixated on a particular person and feel jealousy towards them that stems from unfinished business or a specific insecurity. People committed to polyamory, however, are committed to trying to overcome their jealousy and grow from it, rather than being controlled by it.

If a partner is constantly jealous and doesn’t spend any time reflecting sincerely on it, or expects the object of their jealousy to be blamed rather than themselves, this is a red flag that you may be dating a polyamory cowboy.

Read: 4 Jealousy Triggers & How to Deal

3. They Are Unsure About Non-Monogamy

A person who is exploring polyamory may carry baggage from their past self, or genuinely experience doubts about non-monogamy. Many of us have been there.

There are a lot of social and cultural and religious mores to overcome on our journey. But if someone sometimes feels like a monogamous person trying to evangelize the truth to sinners, while posing as one of you, this is a major signal to look closer.

4. They Suggest (Hope) Your Existing Relationship is Unstable

A polyamory cowboy will try to cast doubts on your other relationships. He will try to prove that his love is more important and meaningful. He might belittle sex-based relationships as tawdry rather than affirmative, and other commitments as mattering less.

Read: 4 Signs Your Poly Relationship Is Toxic

Three Friends in Serious Discussion

How to Avoid a Cowboy’s Lasso

1. Date People with Polyamory Experience

Forget about introducing newbies to polyamory. This can feel sexy and thrilling but a polyamory cowboy knows how to manipulate the desire to show a new poly the ropes!

Of course, there are times when we date someone with less experience in polyamory. But proceed with caution. Ideally, new partners should have some experience with non-monogamy. At the very least, try to ferret out genuine enthusiasm and forced stage face.

Read: Tips for Embarking on New Poly Relationships

2. Ask Them to Clarify Their Intentions

Don’t assume someone’s intentions. We can’t really be sure if someone is looking for lots of hot sex, a communal child-raising experience, a unicorn, or a stable commitment to complement their primary relationship.

How things look aren’t necessarily how they are. Ask new dates and partners what they’re looking for and what they have already.

Read: Adding a New Partner: 4 Things to Consider

3. Listen When They Tell You Who They Are

When someone drops hints and signals suggesting they see polyamory as less stable, less ideal, more problematic—believe them. When they appear to come from a background of serial monogamy, go with those actions rather than new labels they wear.

Two Happy Couples

4. Don’t Keep Secrets

An exciting and intense new affair is nothing to hide, even if, or especially if, the potential polyamory cowboy asks you to keep it on the down low.

They won’t usually say “don’t tell anyone.” They’ll suggest instead that no one else will understand your special bond. They’ll say they’ve never felt this way and sharing will make others jealous.

5. Put Your Primary Relationship First

If you are in a primary relationship, honor that and prioritize it no matter what. Yes, primary relationships change sometimes. But if you have committed to something, don’t be swept away from it.

Read: Primary Partner Politics in Non-Monogamy

6. Tell Them Your Existing Relationship is Here to Stay

A good defense against polyamory cowboys and other destructive or toxic situations is to simply stand your ground whenever you meet a new partner.

Make sure the date is aware that you are happy with your current relationships. New partners will need to accommodate existing polyamory structures, not the other way around.

Have you dated a polyamory cowboy? How did you deal?

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