Talking about non-monogamous relationships is a huge topic to take on because there are so many different ways you can structure your relationship—and—because, we as a society, have a lot of unlearning to do. As your resident, in-house queer sex educator, I’m going to take on polyamory topics bit by bit.
In this introduction to non-monogamy, you’ll find tips for how to navigate figuring out that you might be non-monogamous….while you’re in a committed monogamous relationship.
When we go on first dates, second dates, and even 10th dates, there is often a slew of pretty important questions left out. Like, for example, what kind of relationship-dynamic you ~prefer~.
We’re not taught how to communicate these things because monogamy is the societal norm. It’s often blindly assumed that we’re all monogamous and if we’re going to enter a relationship—it would be structured as such, right?
However, many of us humans have complex and nuanced lives and don’t actually see eye-to-eye with these “norms.” Because these norms are so integrated into the media we consume; from romantic comedies focused on fidelity, to shaming poly couples in the news, it can be difficult to understand your relationship to relationships. Leaving many of us to figure out that we might thrive better in a non-monogamous relationship, later in life.
So many of you queer babes have been sending in messages saying you’re getting this twinkling feeling that you might not be monogamous, but you don’t also don’t know how to navigate this brand new world, especially because you have a boo you’re committed to. That is the worst feeling! It’s like figuring out your gay while you’re still dating some helpless dude who has no one idea what’s going to hit him.
However, don’t get down on yourself and your relationship quite yet! Just because you’re non-monogamous doesn’t mean that your relationship has to end. My first suggestion is to read, read, and read some more about different types of non-monogamy, and try to figure out what sounds most appealing to you.
Here are some questions pulled directly from “The Jealousy Workbook: Exercises and Insights for Managing Open Relationships” written by Kathy Labriola that might be helpful to ask yourself.
1. What are benefits and costs to a monogamous relationship?
2. What are benefits and costs to a non-monogamous relationship?
3. Have you struggled with sexual and romantic desires towards other people while in this relationship?
4. What qualities in a relationship are most important to you (list 4)?
5. List the healthiest relationships you’ve seen and why they seemed that way to you.
These questions will prompt a dialogue for yourself that will help you understand what you value in a relationship and what’s most important to you. In answering these questions, you’ll be able to navigate what it is that you truly want out of your sexual and romantic relationships. Because there are so many different ways you can structure your relationship, it’s important to keep coming back to those core values.
Now comes the hard part. You have to talk to your girl about what’s going on for you. If you’ve never talked about relationship structures before, this could seem pretty scary.
Here are some tips to get the conversation going in a positive direction:
1. Set a nice date, cook her dinner or snuggle up on a couch and let her know you want to talk with her about something exciting and new.
2. Use “I” statements when owning your new feelings. Examples: “I’ve been reading a lot about relationship structures lately and I think I might identify as somewhere on the non-monogamous side of things.” Or “I want to talk to you about what I love about our relationship and I’m wondering how you feel about non-monogamy?”
3. Be kind with her feelings and offer her the same resources you’ve been using in this navigation.
4. Let her know that you want to work with her to design your relationship in a way where you both can thrive. There are mono/poly partnerships and they can work. She also may be interested in non-monogamy but never thought about it before because of previously mentioned societal norms.
5. Validate her feelings throughout the conversation. She may feel scared or jealous or blindsided.
6. End the conversation by noting that you know this is going to be a continued dialogue and you want to keep the conversation going as you read things together, or maybe find a poly therapist whom you can talk to together.
These conversations might get messy and they might bring up some difficult conversations. Try to figure out what your common values in your relationship are, and hold those at the core. Remember that you can design your relationship in a way that makes sense to both of you, and that most likely, will include a bit of ~compromise~ on both sides.
Figuring out your dynamic and agreement is the easy part so get through that first, babes! Introducing new people into your dynamic will be the hard part. Even for seasoned non-monogamous partners.
This is part one of a series I’ll be doing on non-monogamous relationships, so stay tuned. Till next time, babes!
Corinne Werder is a writer, sex educator, and girl on the move currently residing in Brooklyn, NY. She looks at the world through the lens of a pleasure activist, femme-of-center queer woman. Her background in sex education comes from her volunteer work with RAINN, her work as a sexual assault/domestic violence advocate and she is currently a student at the Institute for Sexuality and Enlightenment.
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The advice offered in this column is intended for informational purposes only and should not replace or substitute for any medical, or other professional advice or help. For concerns requiring psychological or medical advice, please consult with an appropriately trained and qualified specialist This column, its author, the magazine, and publisher are not responsible for the outcome or results of following any advice contained within this column.