Humans maintain arguably the most complex set of standards when choosing a sexual partner. It can be irresponsibly reduced down to a biological attraction based on traits we find favourable for procreation in heterosexual relationships. As humans, our sexual preferences reach deeper into our cranial and emotional capacity than most seem to be willing to navigate, responsibly. Polyamory, as characterized by Deborah Anapol; author of Polyamory in the 21st Century: Love and Intimacy with Multiple Partners, is “pro-choice rather than anti-monogamy…polyamory is less about how many people you’re having sex with, feeling love for, or both than it is about allowing love to lead us into whatever form is appropriate.”
Monogamy, in short
Monogamy has been the culturally and socially accepted status quo for a healthy, progressive, romantic partnership for centuries. A monogamous relationship is defined as two individuals engaging sexually, exclusively with one another; and was more or less solidified as the obvious advancement for two persons’ social status with the development and integration of the institution of marriage.
Furthermore, by blending the boundaries of love, with economic wealth and social ascension through marriage; monogamy has become the mortar for binding marriage as a pillar of accomplishment proving one’s ability to acquire romantic, professional, financial, and social prosperity. One blindingly essential, yet overtly ignored aspect of a healthy monogamous partnership, that has slipped through the cracks over the centuries, is the personal happiness and sexual fulfilment of BOTH individuals involved in that partnership.
Polyamory vs. Monogamous Relationships
Historically, polyamory has existed as long, if not longer than monogamy. It also comes in many forms, and dynamics all navigated by the involved individuals. Polyamory in its purest form can be reduced down to the acknowledgement of one or multiple individuals in a partnership seeking fulfilment through other partners either recreationally, emotionally, and also romantically, or sexually.
In a monogamous relationship, far more common than not, and undoubtedly at least once in every monogamous coupling, one or both partners are faced with the question of whether not their partner satisfies them, emotionally, sexually, mentally, etc. The options to answer and approach this question can leave one feeling limited or even trapped. Common approaches would be; to seek compromise or understanding as to how to mutually meet those needs, to separate completely, or to commit infidelity. A polyamorous addition to these options would be to acknowledge that the potentially most rewarding path for all parties involved, would be to meet those needs in the company of someone outside of the partnership. This is no simple undertaking, that being said, it should never be seen as impossible. Communication. Is. Key.
The conversation holds the potential to be very difficult and often runs the risk of forcing thoughts of distrust onto your partner, creating an even further toxic situation. In the same vein, this conversation will open your partner’s eyes to your true desires, and honest inclinations for exploring your sexuality. Their response will be the tipping point, so make sure this is a decision you have carefully confronted within yourself before presenting it to your partner.
There are also many different versions of polyamory and monogamy, even blending the practices of a monogamous person with a polyamorous partner; open marriages, open relationships, primaries, secondaries, and mixes and matches of all shapes and assortments. All of these workable situations rest steadily, on trust, and communication between the parties involved.
The May Be Green On Both Sides: 6 Reasons Why You May Want to Navigate Your Options
First and foremost, always communicate with your partner before deciding to explore options outside of your relationship with sexual or romantic intentions. If you are seeking extra-monogamous relationships without consulting or discussing this decision with your partner, you are defeating the very purpose of being open to new partners in the first place. Communication. Is. Key.
1. You’re Curious
Don’t be coy, we all are. What would it be like to be with another person? We’ve all asked ourselves with one degree of sincerity or another. This is the beginning, 101, and can be easily displaced or set aside to grow into something potentially harmful to your current relationship, even if you are completely comfortable with the way things are.
Embrace that curiosity, wrestle with it by yourself over a glass of wine or whiskey. Ask yourself what it is you are curious about: Are you unsatisfied in your current relationship? Are you unfulfilled sexually with your partner? Are you unfulfilled creatively, emotionally, recreationally? Do you desire someone of the opposite sex or someone of the same sex? Do you desire someone specific, or just someone new? Do you need a new lover…or a new hobby? Some of these questions can be answered without Polyamory, but others maybe cannot. Do yourself and your partner the courtesy of trying to understand these feelings yourself before formally presenting them.
2. You Have Had Many Unfulfilling Monogamous Relationships to Date.
A common reason individuals begin thinking about their options outside of monogamy is bearing witness, or directly experiencing failed relationships in their own lives. Be them your parents’ or close friends’ divorce, or decision not to divorce within a toxic marriage or partnership, traumatizing personal break-ups, divorces, or separations. According to statistics gathered by the American Psychological Association, 40-50% of marriages end in divorce. In any other study, statistics marks this poor would demand drastic changes in practice.
Considering the abundance of failed monogamous relationships surrounding all of us, it seems only logical, at the very least, to entertain the possibility that maybe one of us is not only meant to be with just another ONE of us.
3. You’re Partner Has Opened The Discussion Before
This pertains to being on the other side of the coin, being approached by your partner regarding the idea of being open, or engaging in a polyamorous lifestyle.
First, breathe. If your partner has approached you in a calm and collected fashion, chances are they love you to death and are looking for help in understanding what to do next. Engage in this discussion, understand their perspective, and be receptive to their undoubtedly challenging position. You never know, maybe you will have similar feelings and would like to begin this journey together.
4. You Feel Comfortable Asking Your Partner
Back to you. If you feel as if approaching your partner about extending your relationship to those outside of you two would be automatically tolerated, or easily navigated, have the talk!
Commencing this conversation in a space of trust and understanding may open doors that neither of you knew were present in one another. Have this conversation in a controlled environment, where boundaries are created within an agreed-upon emotional contract of sorts, only deeper respect for one another will be accomplished, whether or not you decide to commit to exploring with other partners.
There is always a chance that your partner will not receive this news calmly, but no difficult choice is met without risk. Approach them with respect, and total honesty, if they still refuse to tolerate these curiosities then maybe you have dodged an otherwise lifelong bullet.
5. You Find Yourself Fantasizing About Others….Not in a Casual Way
We are all guilty of thinking about others outside of our relationships in sexual or romantic situations. Denying this commonly crystalizes into infidelity and jealousy in an attempt to overcompensate, or hide the shame for feeling this way for someone other than your partner. Admiration is bestowed upon those who do not act on these urges, a simple yet profound act of respect for your monogamous partner’s trust in your monogamy.
Though admirable, when ignored, like a tumour, can prove fatal. Surpassing curiosity, you have begun seeing others in a way that makes you happier than your current partner does. Even your day-dream taking your yoga buddy to the beach for the weekend makes you happier than you have felt in months, or years with your partner. More often than not you still love your partner but need to dig up some old sparks that you’ve both allowed to flicker out over time.
Your partner may not mind that you have been fantasizing about others, and as odds would have it, maybe they have been doing the same. That spark may be most effectively stoked by the addition of a new piece to both of your equations.
6. You Love Multiple People
Frankly, there is no way around it, humans have the ability to deeply emotionally connect with each other. Many times that empathy can percolate into raw unhindered feelings of appreciation, respect and physical attraction; love.
If you find yourself in the position where you are in love with multiple people, one with whom you are monogamous, and the other you are not; the correct approach can potentially be to acknowledge this love to both of your lovers. Though the idea that you all could be happy will at first seem crazy, it may be the best decision you ever made. Dissect it, understand these feelings, together.
The bottom line is that both monogamy and polyamory can work, and both can fail. To refer again to Deborah Anapol, allow love to lead you into whatever form is appropriate for you. Understand the limitations of marriage and make the choice based on your lover, not the status quo. Listen to your partner, and hear their needs, even if those needs may not be met by you. With equal gravity listen to yourself, and be honest about how you feel. The only people who are truly hurt when you don’t trust your own feelings are you, and your partner. Communication. Is. Key.
Allow yourself and your partners to navigate the full potential of their human ability to love, and connect with one another. The only people writing the rules are us, and we are changing them every day.