Dos, don'ts, and opening things up.
Monogamy isn’t for everyone. And while polyamory has always existed, for many people, consensual non-monogamy in relationships is becoming more common (about 1 in 5 people in the US partake in it).
What exactly is polyamory?
Polyamory can be defined as having open intimate or romantic relationships with more than one person. Polyamorous relationships are inclusive of those of any sexual orientation, and, unlike an open relationship, polyamory is characterized by emotional as well as sexual and romantic intimacy.
But here’s what’s interesting—even if it isn’t your thing, there are actually quite a few lessons that monogamous couples can learn from the polyamorous.
Here are some principals, some dos and don'ts, that we can learn from:
In order for non-monogamy to be consensual, you’ve got to talk about it. Whether it’s setting boundaries, negotiating agreements or talking through concerns, polyamorous relationships require a lot of communication. Studies have found that people in polyamorous bonds are often better at communicating with their primary partner.
Defining your relationship
Just as polyamory can take many forms, monogamy can be defined in different ways—for some people, merely having sexual thoughts about another person is considered cheating. The thing is, monogamous couples don’t usually discuss such definitions of their relationship, which can cause problems down the line.
While it may seem counterintuitive, people who engage in consensual non-monogamy generally exhibit less jealousy than monogamous couples, because they actively communicate and work through any negative feelings that may arise. Trust is key in any relationship, but especially in non-monogamous ones.
By definition, polyamorous people express their wants and needs when it comes to sex, which not only gives them a stronger sense of self, but also helps them maintain independence. Monogamous couples, on the other hand, often compromise their own needs for the perceived benefit of their relationship.
Flexibility and change.
A large part of sustaining a polyamorous relationship, and something that works in tandem with more rigorous communication habits, is understanding the relationship as dynamic and flexible. A willingness to try new things, shifting expectations, and evaluating (and, as needed, changing) patterns are all elements of communication that benefit any relationship, monogamous or polyamorous.
Recognizing changing compatibility.
In a group dynamic, it can be simpler to recognize and accept when people are no longer working well together. In any relationship it is possible to grow apart, but in a monogamous relationship there can be more pressure to “save” the partnership, or term the relationship as failed, rather than transition to a new kind of relationship. Approaching a long-term relationship from a mindset of transition and growth, rather than maintenance or failure, is something we can glean from alternative approaches to partnership.
All in all, we have plenty to learn from one another.