It’s been a while, babes. But I’ve been thinking of you and brimming with advice to give on navigating this wild world of polyamory. I recently got a message asking for advice on dating while poly. My dear reader asked, “I was wondering if you had any advice on how to go about introducing an interest in non-monogamy to a partner that has expressed feelings opposing that relationship style.”
While this is definitely a complicated dynamic to navigate through, what relationship doesn’t come with its share of challenges? And like most relationship issues, this will take intentional communication and compassion for one another to figure it out. But monog and poly people can be in relationships together.
Before we delve into the specifics of all the possibilities for that specific relationship dynamic — let’s talk about fear. Our society has built up monogamy as the norm when it comes to dating styles. Most people don’t even know that non-monogamy is even an option! So while your partner has expressed feeling opposed to non-monogamy in the past, don’t let that be a barrier preventing you from telling them your truth. We’re taught that anything outside of monogamy is cheating or a deviant lifestyle. When in reality, we just need to reframe our thinking. There can be healthy monogamous and non-monogamous relationships — the possibilities are endless. It’s all about creating the relationship style that nourishes both you and your partners.
Moving past the fear of what polyamory means for your relationship is challenging. Most people who are in a monogamous relationship and evolve into a poly relationship feel intimidated by other potential partners or even the idea of their partner having romantic feelings for someone else. Now, it is true that some people simply don’t identify with non-monogamy at all and don’t want to participate in that relationship style. They’ve found monogamy suits them and they’re happy with that. You definitely don’t want to push your partner into a structure they’re uncomfortable with, one that will make them unhappy in the long run.
But asking them to keep an open mind as you bring up the idea of non-monogamy is absolutely fair. My best advice to you is to not just blurt it out while you’re commuting to work one morning — be compassionate and intentional about this conversation.
1. Set a nice date, cook them dinner or snuggle up on a couch and let them know you want to talk 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 their feelings and offer them the same resources you’ve been using in this navigation.
4. Let them know that you want to work with them to design your relationship in a way where you both can thrive. There are mono/poly partnerships and they can work. They also may discover that they’re interested in non-monogamy but never thought about it before because of previously mentioned societal norms.
5. Validate their feelings throughout the conversation. They may feel scared or jealous or blindsided — all of which is valid.
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.
I like to remind people that conversations are the sex act of the soul — and these kinds of check-ins about your relationship are sharing the deepest, most intimate truths with your lover. And while that can feel extremely vulnerable and intimidating, you’ll likely both feel more connected and intimate afterward. The outcome is unknown and might take some work to navigate through, but knowing that you can be your full and honest self with someone is what a loving relationship is all about.
More often than not, realizing that non-monogamy is an option allows people to openly use their imagination to fully reify the kind of relationship structure that best suits them. And there are literally endless possibilities in between polyamory and monogamy. The most vital aspect of any healthy and loving relationship is always communication. Come back for your check-ins over a nice meal, talk about how you’re feeling as you begin to open up your relationship and make sure that you prioritize your emotional wellbeing and needs before anyone else’s.
Genuine love takes hard work — no matter your relationship structure. Continue to affirm in yourself that your feelings are valid and so are your partners. And know that it is possible to create new loving connections and budding relationships while still tending to and growing your current relationship. You might just be surprised at the outcome when you’re both radically honest about the hopes you have for your loving future together.