Over the past couple months I have been talking diligently about my beliefs on non monogamy, and why I am drifting away from the traditional idea of having one partner at a time. The thing is, I wasn’t born this way. I was brought up with monogamous views from my parents, school, friends, ect.
My experience and want for non monogamy is a very personal one, and one that I am just dipping my toes into.
Monogamous Principles, and why I don’t agree
While there are many ways to be monogamous (even in open relationship settings), I will define traditional monogamy as the belief that a relationship is shared sexually and emotionally by only two people, and exploring outside of that person is betrayal.
Monogamy teaches you a few key principles, that when looked at in depth, are actually pretty fucking toxic and ridiculous.
You can only be attracted to one person at a time.
You may only express yourself sexually with one person at a time, or else you face ultimate betrayal.
Admitting attraction to others is disrespectful and a sign of non-commitment.
If you love someone other than your partner, that means the love you have for your partner is weak/ nonexistent.
Enforces the idea that your partner is “yours” and you are “one” together. This plays into feelings of ownership.
One person is supposed to meet your every need- be it physically, emotionally, ect.
Commitment is top priority, oftentimes through situations like disrespect, abuse, and emotional neglect.
So what is non monogamy? How is it ethical?
Non monogamy comes in many forms, open relationships/polyamory/ ect.
I would best define it as the consensual and open decision to not be sexually or romantically exclusive to one person. That although you aren’t sexually exclusive with one person, you may still be committed to people or build a life with them.
This can be different for many and monogamy can actually play a part. Some people may be emotionally monogamous with a primary partner, but non monogamous sexually (open to exploring with people other than their partner). You can actually still cheat in a non-monogamous relationship, say you don’t disclose to your primary partner a romantic bond with someone.
The reason non-monogamy is very ethical is because it is built on a foundation of communication, openness, trust, and forces you to deal with tough human emotions like jealousy or self worth. You learn to look at your partners as individuals, versus someone who belongs to you and only you. You may have different partners to satisfy different needs, and you can live in harmony with healthy dynamics.
How does it work? The child analogy
Although not all non monogamous relationships involve love or romance with other people, many people have questions with polyamory and how you can have more than one relationship. The thing is, love is limitless.
Right now, you love more than one person at this time. You love your parents, your friends, your siblings, but how come this changes to exclusivity when a partner is romantic? It is a social construct that you may only love one person romantically at a time.
Say you have 2 siblings like me. Just because my mother has two more kids doesn't mean her love for me is lesser, she loves us all at the same time. My mother loves us all for our individual differences, and we each have something different to bring to the table. She can handle having 3 children which means 3 different relationships, and there isn’t conflict. The exact same applies to polyamory, and it's easy to understand when applying this concept.
You have been taught by society that if your partner also loves someone else, you should feel rage and jealousy. You have been taught that if you love someone else, you must be a horrible partner who has to suppress feelings or sadly sneak around to satisfy those deep wants.
Can commitment exist in non-monogamy?
Commitment can absolutely exist in non monogamy, because commitment exists in every type of relationship around us.
We have commitment with our friends, families, employers, ect. In many different levels and forms. Many non-monogamous folk will have a primary partner- someone they build a life with, marry, have children with. This isn’t exclusive though, for example- a woman may have a husband and boyfriend, have children with both, and all live together. The romantic dynamic you have is completely customizable, and there is no right or wrong.
One person cannot be your everything
It’s an incredible amount of pressure to put on one person to be your everything. One person cannot satisfy your every need, and its unfair to penalize them for that. Having diversity in the relationships you have offers for flexible expectations and respecting each other as individuals.
Attraction for others is normal
Looking back now, I can say I suffered a great deal of shame in my monogamous relationships for being attracted to other people.
How could this be? I love my partner, I am happy in our relationship, but I have overwhelming sexual and emotional urges for other people too?
As I mentioned in my above principles, monogamy heavily pushes that you should only be emotionally and sexually available for one person. That even if there are issues, you need to push through them for commitment. If there aren’t problems, you must not be that committed if you are showing interests in others.
Communication is Essential
Communication is the basis of any successful relationship, especially non-monogamous ones. Here are a couple examples to make things easy.
You need to talk about your needs and wants.
You need to talk about your boundaries.
You must start being open to seeing your partner as a sexual being outside of you.
You must deal with jealousy head on, instead of repressing it by setting rules on your partner or not letting them do things.
Consider that your partner has other needs that may not be satisfied by you, and that's okay.
See that your partner is attracted to many different types of people, who may be VERY different than you.
Many monogamous relationships may restrict all the above. It would usually be grounds to trigger trust issues, insane jealousy, and low key controlling attitudes like not letting your partner look, talk, or follow others that you may be jealous of.
My journey with non-monogamy
I am not going to sit here and bullshit you with the idea that I just jumped into non monogamy seamlessly and it worked out perfectly. My ex husband and I tried to be in an open relationship, and it was an absolute disaster.
We did everything wrong.
While we liked the idea of non-monogamy, our execution was horrendous. We did not communicate freely. We set too many weird boundaries that honestly made being open slightly impossible or hard to act on. Those boundaries created a grey area where it wasn’t completely safe to be honest or communicate without repercussions. We felt that we couldn’t tell each other our wants without hurting each other, leading to more secrecy. It almost felt like a competition, and one person would be hurt if there was more opportunities than the other.
I felt it was necessary to go through this super awkward and rough experience to learn about myself, and the way I wanted to handle my relationships going forward. I know I am never going to be monogamous, that is a 100% fact. I have so much attraction to many people, and so much love to give.
In my current situation, I have multiple sexual partners whom I share amazing friendships with, since I am not interested in pursuing romantic love right now.
Going forward, I know I still have so much to learn. I know that when I do decide to enter another romantic relationship with someone or multiple people, this will be another learning curve I must take on. While I am educated in non-monogamy and know my wants and needs, I still have years of monogamous ideologies and “mental tendencies” to undo. While some may consider this scary or overwhelming, I think it is crucial to my self-development. I want to be stronger as an individual, and I want to establish loving connections with many people in throughout my life.
It's your choice
While I do not agree with monogamy and I am still very much in the early stages of moving away from it, that doesn't mean monogamy is wrong FOR YOU.
Your relationship choices and styles need to be ones that make YOU happy. If monogamy is equally satisfying to you and your partner, please enjoy it! There are also many ways of expanding your sexuality together, such as swinging or group encounters- you don’t need to break the structure of monogamy if you don’t want.
I write this as a way to open up people's minds who have dealt with shame, turmoil, and general dissatisfaction from monogamy.
As always, thank you for reading!