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Are you feeling a little… poly-curious? Maybe you've been flirting with the idea of polyamory for a while, knowing it's the right path for you, but you just haven't made the jump. Or perhaps you're a seasoned polyamorous pro looking for a quick refresher. Or, just maybe, you're dipping your toes into the vast, exciting ocean of non-monogamy for the very first time, unsure if it's the right beach for you to sunbathe on.
No matter where you are on the polyamory spectrum, this post is here to guide you. (And hey, even if you've been around the block a few times, a little refresher never hurt anyone!)
In this post, we'll navigate the winding road to opening up your relationships, starting with a little bit of soul-searching, then diving into the deep, sometimes murky waters of communication with your current partner (if you have one), before finally drafting your very own polyamory constitution and prepping for your future as a proud, card-carrying member of the non-monogamous community. Huzzah!
But before we embark on this journey, let's make one thing crystal clear: non-monogamy isn't superior to monogamy. It's just different. If you get to the end of this post and decide, "You know what, this isn't for me," that's completely fine. In fact, I admire you for questioning the relationship norms that many folks accept without a second thought.
Exploring non-monogamy is an exciting adventure, but it's not all hot sex and cuddle puddles. It requires a significant investment of emotional energy, time, and effort. You're potentially shaking up your existing relationship or your entire lifestyle, and that's not something to do on a whim. There's plenty of fun to be had, no doubt, but to minimize harm to yourself and others, you've gotta put in some serious effort at the start.
And that all begins with a little self-reflection and learning from those who've blazed the trail before us.
Step 1: Reflection and Research
Before plunging into the world of non-monogamy, it's crucial to do some introspection and research to make sure it aligns with what you truly want and what you're ready for.
Idk about you, but I love me some journaling questions. So here are few just for y’all:
Consider your past experiences with monogamy. Has it worked for you? What were the benefits? How has monogamy held you back?
Do you believe it’s possible to love more than one person at a time? Explain.
What are your core values? Does non-monogamy align with any of them?
What are your life goals and aspirations? How does non-monogamy fit into them?
What’s your biggest fear when it comes to non-monogamy?
What’s interesting or exciting to you about non-monogamy?
Are you approaching non-monogamy from a scarcity mindset or an abundance mindset?
Do you feel comfortable sharing your feelings freely and openly with other people?
Research the different styles of non-monogamy (monogamish, swinging, kitchen table polyamory, polyfidelity, solo-poly, etc.). Which one do you think fits you best and why? Which one is definitely not for you?
Do you have room in your life for additional relationships? How will you balance time between yourself, your job and hobbies, existing partners, and new partners?
Here are some resources to kickstart your research journey:
The Ethical Slut: A Practical Guide to Polyamory, Open Relationships & Other Adventures by Dossie Easton and Janet W. Hardy is the classic guidebook that offers insights into various forms of non-monogamy. It’s widely considered the “polyamory bible.” It’s very focused on explaining and exploring the different styles of non-monogamy and why you may want to choose this kind of lifestyle. It lacks, however, actionable tips for building open relationships.
Love's Not Color Blind: Race and Representation in Polyamorous and Other Alternative Communities by Kevin A. Patterson is an excellent source for understanding intersectionality within non-monogamous communities and the obstacles that prevent many BIPOC folks from engaging with polyamory communities. Patterson’s social media @polyrolemodels is also a useful resource.
Opening Up: A Guide to Creating and Sustaining Open Relationships by Tristan Taormino provides tools and tips for opening existing relationships, including advice on how to handle jealousy and build strong, ethical relationships.
Podcasts like "Multiamory" often cover various topics around non-monogamy.
Even if you do all the research and reflection in the world, nothing changes the fact that non-monogamy, like any relationship structure, comes with its own set of potential risks. For one, it requires a high level of communication, understanding, and emotional maturity.
Here are some other common risks to consider:
Emotional turmoil: Jealousy, insecurity, and fear of loss can be amplified in non-monogamous relationships. If you struggle as it is with expressing your feelings, communicating with your partners, or feeling insecure, non-monogamy may not be a good fit for you right now.
Social stigma: Despite growing acceptance, non-monogamy still faces significant societal stigma, which can impact your relationships with family, friends, and colleagues. Many non-monogamous folks report that their monogamous friends have felt so threatened by an open relationship that they’ve ended those friendships. Or, some friends may not “get it” and choose to put some distance between you, which can be hurtful.
Time and energy: Balancing multiple relationships can be time-consuming and emotionally taxing. I know a lot of people who identify as non-monogamous but do not actively practice it because… who even has time for more than one relationship?! If time management is not your strong suit, or you have an already filled-to-the-brim schedule, you may find non-monogamy particularly challenging.
But along with the risks, non-monogamy also offers a few unique and special benefits:
Greater freedom: Non-monogamy can allow for greater sexual and emotional freedom. Maybe you’re really into butt stuff, but your partner A is not. You could potentially find a partner B who loves butt stuff and will enthusiastically do it with you. On the emotional side, it can be really freeing when your partners have other people to lean on in times of stress or need, or for you to have multiple people to share wins and losses with.
Expansive love: The ability to love and be loved by multiple people can be a profound experience. So can the joy of seeing your partner experience happiness with other people (known as compersion). Nothing prepared me for how positively giddy (and, tbh, horny) it makes me feel to imagine the person I love planning a cute date with another person, experiencing NRE, having great sex, etc.
Shared responsibility: Depending on the style of non-monogamy you want to practice, it could result in a decreased burden for you and/or your partners. That is, if you all decide to live together, you’re potentially splitting bills three ways; you have additional people to plan events with; there are more people to help care for children or pets. This can be especially empowering for historically marginalized communities, creating greater access to resources or lifestyles that may otherwise be out of reach due to structural forces. (Notably, many of the most marginalized folks already come from cultures where community care is the norm, not the exception.) The disturbing and destructive level of hyper-independence or “rugged individualism” that runs rampant in our society can, potentially, be answered by the type of community, love, and support that polyamory offers.
As you reflect on these possible risks and benefits, remember that it's crucial to listen to your instincts and feelings. There's no one-size-fits-all approach to relationships, and what works for one person may not work for another.
The more you understand about non-monogamy and its potential risks and rewards, the better equipped you'll be to make a decision that feels right for you. At the end of the day, only you can decide what kind of relationship structure fits your needs, desires, and lifestyle.
Step 2: Approach Your Partner
If you've done your due diligence in Step 1 and feel that non-monogamy might be a good fit for you, it's time to have a conversation with your partner...
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