Explore alternatives to monogamy.
For the most part, monogamy has been the default setting of relationships for the last few hundred years. However, attitudes about what relationships can look like are changing. People are becoming more and more open to relationships that aren't traditional heterosexual couplings.
Polyamory, also called Consensual Non-Monogamy (CNM for short), is becoming increasingly popular. If you've ever wondered if non-monogamous relationships are for you or if they're something you're interested in exploring for yourself or with a partner, keep reading.
What is Polyamory
Polyamory is not the same as polygamy. For starters, polyamory isn't illegal like polygamy is, and it's becoming a more common lifestyle. Polyamory doesn't involve any legally binding contracts. It's all based on consensual agreements between legal adults. Both partners are welcome to participate and have outside relationships, some that they share and some that they keep just to themself.
Polyamory is only one form of CNM. Swinging and open relationships also fall under the umbrella of consensual non-monogamy but have subtle differences. Swinging focuses on sexual encounters outside of your core relationship; polyamory focuses on romantic and sexual relationships independent of your primary partner. Open relationships and polyamory are relatively interchangeable, except that open relationships have a core partnership. Polyamory doesn't require you to have a primary partner. Instead, you can have a web of people you choose to surround yourself with or a select few.
How Does it Work
As we've established, polyamory is the practice of having multiple intimate relationships. Everyone has full knowledge and has freely consented to the arrangement. It's also not gender-specific. Anyone in the polyamorous setup can identify as any gender.
Dynamics vary from couple to couple, and there's no wrong way to have a poly relationship. In some setups, both partners see other people. In others, only one couple seeks extracurriculars. And some don't have a core couple pairing. So it all depends on what you and your partner(s) agree to how your relationship(s) will work.
Polyamory comes from the Greek prefix poly, meaning many, and the Latin "amor," meaning love. Polyamory, at its core, is about having multiple romantic/sexual relationships with the knowledge and consent of all involved.
How to Talk to Your Partner About Polyamory
Polyamory, like all relationships outside of monogamy, breaks from the norm. Breaking from the norm is enticing to some and intimidating to others. But if it's something you're serious about, the best way to approach this conversation is by being honest about what you want and leaving room for discussion.
Dr. Zhana is a professor of Human Sexuality at New York University. She is also the author of the online course Open Smarter, a resource for individuals and couples who want to learn more about non-monogamy and open relationships. On her website and blog, she offers this advice to people seeking to open their relationship up:
"Open relationships are more complex than monogamous ones; there are no role models, and there is very little information. It's easy to fuck up open relationships and cause a lot of pain and suffering for everyone involved."
You have to be forthcoming about what you're looking for, your expectations, and any limits or reservations you might have. Before you ever get started, discuss your boundaries and rules with your partner. If there are activities or topics you want to preserve for certain people, both partners must be aware of this.
Be prepared that CNM might not pan out exactly how you envision it. Pew Research Center found in a recent study that men are statistically less satisfied with their attention on dating apps than women. When evaluated by gender, 57 percent of men reported disappointment, while only 24 percent of women reported feeling dissatisfied. So keep this in mind when you're considering opening up your relationship and what kinds of activities you're looking to engage in with current or future partners.
While polyamory can be for anyone, not everyone is interested in exploring it. Some poly couples only have one partner who sees other people, which is a valid form of poly. But if your partner has no interest in seeing other people and would prefer that you didn't either, you either need to respect their wishes or reconsider if they're the right person for you. Bullying or coercion is not a good foundation for building this new part of your relationship.
The important thing is that everyone is consenting and conscious of participating.
If you need more resources on starting or enhancing your CNM relationship, conciouspolyamory.org has a helpful list.