Non-Monogamy: How to Know if You & Your Partner Are Ready For It

What is your view on monogamy? Is it something you have to have, or do you think you could vibe with non-monogamy? Understanding is key.

non monogamy

For as long as relationships have been around, there has been a view that in order to be a valid relationship, it has to be monogamous. Of course, that means that both partners are only intimate and romantic with one another, and neither one strays or considers non-monogamy. However, is that a rigid way to look at love and romance?

What works for you in a relationship is a very personal thing. Does that mean other ways of loving aren’t just as valid. For instance, what do you think about non-monogamy?

Many couples practice non-monogamy and find that it deepens the love they have for one another. Of course, for those who don’t totally understand what it means and what the rules are, non-monogamy can cause a lot of heartache and pain.

For that reason, if you’re going to try something such as this, know exactly what you’re getting into. You should ensure that everyone is on the same page, and you have to keep a solid eye on your feelings. 

If non-monogamy is something that piques your interest, let’s delve a little deeper. 

[Read: Is monogamy for you? How to know your need and what works for you]

What is non-monogamy?

Non-monogamy is an umbrella term. It’s used to categorize any relationship that isn’t monogamous.

So, a couple who have an open relationship or a couple who are polyamorous, these are both forms of non-monogamy. It’s important to point out that someone cheating on their partner isn’t non-monogamy. That’s just straight-up cheating. For this term to be applied, both partners have to be in agreement that this is something they want to try and both feel comfortable with it.

The old-fashioned view of monogamy doesn’t work for everyone. Sure, it works for a lot of people, and for some, it’s the only way to go. Some couples find that by going against the societal “norms”, they find a deeper connection and more happiness. Yet, other couples find that it causes a huge amount of stress and anxiety and it just doesn’t work for them. 

It’s a personal deal, but as long as everyone is on board with it, there’s no right or wrong answer. 

[Read: Answer these open relationship questions to see if it works for you]

Why do people choose non-monogamous relationships?

Many people believe that we’re not meant to love just one person. Others like the idea of exploring intimacy with other people, yet still having the strong love they share with their primary partner. 

There are many different ways you can use non-monogamy. Some couples simply agree to have sex with other people but reserve the love and romance for one another. Other couples are open to having feelings for other people and practice polyamory openly. As long as everything is open, honest, and consensual, there is nothing wrong with being a little experimental. 

Many couples use non-monogamy as a way to ensure that their relationship doesn’t become stale too. 

[Read: How to fantasize about someone else with your partner and satisfy yourself sexually]

If you ask a cross section of non-monogamous couples the reasons why they choose to conduct their relationship in the way they do, you’ll have a huge range of different answers. The bottom line is that everyone has a unique reason why they don’t want to be totally monogamous. It’s not always about not loving their partner. It can be purely about intimacy, just sex, or needing different things from different people. 

Benefits of non-monogamy

If you’re someone who has always valued monogamy in a relationship and would feel extremely uncomfortable in an open relationship or another type of non-monogamous arrangement, you are probably very confused as to why there would be any benefits to non-monogamy. The truth is, there are many, otherwise so many people wouldn’t do it!

There is no set way to love someone. You cannot tell a couple how to run their own relationship. Everyone has to do what makes them happy. For you, it might seem strange to think about non-monogamy. But for a person who is very comfortable within this type of relationship, the idea of being totally monogamous is just as alien. 

So, what are the benefits of non-monogamy?

1. Couples find that their different needs are fulfilled

Having more than one lover means that your sexual needs are fulfilled. Everyone has different preferences when it comes to what happens between the sheets. A partner who wants to try different things will have a greater sense of satisfaction from a non-monogamous relationship. [Read: Top 50 kinky sex ideas that are worth trying at least once]

2. A greater sense of satisfaction leads to deeper connections

When you aren’t constantly battling a sense of dissatisfaction, the connection you have with your primary partner deepens considerably. This frees you up to focus upon the life you’re trying to build together. 

3. An opportunity to develop and grow as a person

The whole non-monogamous journey could help you to grow as a person and develop in many ways. You’ll learn what you like versus what you don’t like. It will push your boundaries, allowing for new perspectives.

4. Not feeling tied down

Some people just don’t want to feel tied down to one particular person. As long as their primary partner is happy with the arrangement and doesn’t feel sad or upset, there is nothing wrong with exploring in this way. 

5. A larger social network to rely upon

Of course, the more people you meet and potentially hook up with in a relationship or sexual situation, the greater social network you develop and, in some ways, the happier you may become. 

6. Better sex, more frequently

It goes without saying, right? 

7. Many people find that their communication skills develop

Interacting with different people in close and intimate ways means that you’ll need to learn how to read body language and change your communication strategy. This helps your overall communication skills to develop. 

[Read: Seriously, can someone please define monogamy?]

How to talk about non-monogamy with your partner

If you think you might like to try non-monogamy, how do you even go about broaching the subject with your partner? If you don’t have a partner, how can you bring the subject up when you meet someone and you want to be clear from the start that you want to try non-monogamy?

It’s difficult, but it’s essential that you’re open and honest. Use these 7 steps to ask your partner if they’re interested in an open relationship.

A good way to bring up the subject with an existing partner is to watch a program that involves non-monogamy. Then, ask them casually what they think about it. That should give you some idea of whether they’re 100% dead against it, or whether they seem a little curious. [Read: How to read the signs your friend with to sleep with you and your partner]

The thing you need to be mindful of is that your partner doesn’t feel like you’re trying to tell them that you don’t want them anymore. Consider it from their side – if they suddenly told you that they wanted to see other people but still be with you, and you’d never talked about it as a couple before, what would you think?

It’s important to be slow, sensitive, and to feel the ground as you move through it. 

If you think they may be perceptive to it, or you really want to push ahead and try and explain why it’s something you want to give a go, be as clear in your explanation as you can. Do some research and explain what you’ve found. Talk about the benefits and focus on the positives. Explain why you think it would be a good thing for the both of you. [Read: Soft swap and how to ease your partner into giving swinging a try]

It may go the way you want it to, or it might not. What you have to realize is that you can’t force someone to be okay with non-monogamy. But if you really do feel that it’s something you have to try for yourself, that means perhaps leaving the relationship and finding a partner who is open to experimentation. Just as you can’t force someone to want to try it, you can’t be forced to suppress your curiosity towards it either. 

[Read: A triad relationship – enjoying the benefits and complications of a three way love]

Types of non-monogamy

Non-monogamy isn’t just one particular deal; remember, it’s an umbrella term. That means there are several different types of non-monogamy. One type might call out to you, but another you might be totally against. It’s important that you’re not only comfortable, but that your partner is totally on board with it too. 

1. Polygamy

Not to be confused with polyamory *more on that later*, polygamy is about being married to more than one person. Yes, in many countries that amounts to bigamy and is illegal, but not all countries. It is a form of non-monogamy so it’s important to place it on the list. But it’s equally important to make sure that if you practice this, you’re working within the law.  

Polygamy is usually one man who is married to several women, who are all sexually active with him and him alone. [Read: The cuckquean guide – Do you enjoy watching your man having sex with another woman?]

2. Open relationships

This is a hugely broad term, but it basically means that a couple agrees with one another that they’re both able to sleep with other people. Open relationships are often about sex only. But it’s important to be very honest with one another about what is going on and not to hide any particular encounter. The key to making an open relationship work is solid communication. [Read: Open relationships and why so many couples find this perfect for them]

3. Swinging

Swinging is still considered taboo. But you will be surprised to learn the sheer number of people who not only try it, but who enjoy the swinging lifestyle on a regular basis.

Swinging is basically when a couple engage in sexual activity with another couple. Another type of swinging is having another person enter into the relationship for sexual purposes, often known as a ‘unicorn’. [Read: Unicorn hunting and how to find the mythical third partner in no time]

4. Polyamory

This type of non-monogamy occurs when a couple agree to have other relationships alongside their primary one. There is no secrecy involves in polyamory; primary partners know about other partners, and vice vera. Polyamory can be about sex only, or it can be about developing an emotional connection and going on to have a romantic relationship. [Read: Polyamorous dating and how it really works]

5. Monogamy with a little non-monogamy

There is no solid term for this particular type of non-monogamy, but it’s a half in-half out kind of deal. Basically, partners agree to be monogamous most of the time, but they have rules which allow them to indulge in specified activities with other people, at certain times.

For instance, if one partner is away on a business trip, the other partner is able to have sex with someone else. But there are rules as to what they can and can’t do. Boundaries might be put in place and agreed, perhaps no penetration or no kissing. [Read: How to get past the jealousy of sharing love in a poly relationship]

Ethical non-monogamy vs polyamory vs open relationship

When you start reading about non-monogamy, you’ll hear countless terms. It can be confusing if you don’t know what they mean. Three of the most common are:

– Ethical non-monogamy

– Polyamory

– Open relationship

We’ve already talked about the bottom two, but what about ethical non-monogamy?

The ‘ethical’ part is important here. It means that both partners agree to the arrangement, that they are happy for their partner to have relationships with other people and that they also enthusiastically agree and encourage it.

In polyamory, partners may not know too much about the other people in their partner’s live; they just know that they exist and perhaps their name. With ethical non-monogamy, everyone knows one another and perhaps even socializes. 

[Read: Throuple relationship rules and tips to keep your threesome romance happy]

An open relationship doesn’t necessarily require communication in terms of names, what happened, how often, etc. Although, if asked, both partners should be honest about it. Simply knowing that your partner is sleeping with others and you’re okay with it constitutes an open relationship. It’s also vital that if this is the case, your partner is also okay with you doing the same. This has to work both ways. 

How to practice non-monogamy: The rules of non-monogamy

If you decide you want to practice non-monogamy, how should you do it? What are the rules? For such a complicated subject, there are surprisingly few rules. However, there are a few which will make or break your experience, and perhaps your relationship. 

1. Always be honest

Perhaps the most important rule of non-monogamy. Always be honest with your partner, with anyone you have a sexual encounter or relationship with, and always be honest with yourself. 

2. Communication is key

It’s important to talk to your partner. But it’s just as important to make sure that you’re really listening to them too. They might tell you that they’re okay with everything, but what is their body language telling you? What verbal and non-verbal cues are they giving you that says they’re far from okay with this new arrangement? [Read: A reason to panic – What does seeing other people really mean?]

3. Safe sex at all times

Any sexual encounter has to be 100% safe. Always use protection and remember that STDs and STIs can be transmitted through oral sex as well as penetration, so make sure that you’re always careful to avoid serious problems. 

4. Never hide details to avoid hurt

You might think that withholding details will save your partner feeling upset, but that’s just a sign that it’s not working for you as a couple. Honesty is key, as we’ve already mentioned, and if you feel that you have to withhold something from your partner, you have to ask yourself why. 

5. Boundaries need to be set and stuck to

Before you try non-monogamy, sit down with your partner and have a deep discussion about boundaries. What are they comfortable with versus what they’re not comfortable with? What are you comfortable with and what aren’t you? Set boundaries that help you both to feel settled and happy with the arrangement. [Read: 15 boundaries you need to set before having an open marriage]

6. If you have a primary partner, they have to come first

In most non-monogamous relationships, there is a primary partner. This is the person you are committed to and that you are emotionally attached to. They have to come first. Of course, you should expect the same level of care and respect from your partner and their non-monogamous activities too. [Read: 15 open relationship rules for a better love life]

Can non-monogamy work for me?

That’s an impossible question to answer. Only you know yourself. Non-monogamy is fantastic for some people and terrible for others. It has to be something you want to try and something which you feel will help you to develop and become closer to your primary partner in the end. 

Many people try non-monogamy and realize that it isn’t for them. That’s fine, but make sure that you stick to the ‘honesty is always best’ policy. If you’re not sure about non-monogamy, you’ll end up causing yourself a world of pain, hurting your partner, and entangling others into your mess. 

So, yes, in short, it can work for you, but only if it’s something you’re sure you want to try and willing to take a risk on.

Finally, ask yourself these 11 questions to honestly know if you and your partner are ready for an open relationship.

Non-monogamy is a subject which many people are extremely curious about. The truth is that it’s not for everyone. However, for those who enjoy it, it can be a lifestyle that not only helps them feel closer to their partner, but one that can help them to develop as a person too.

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Nicky Curtis
Nicky Curtis
Having stumbled from one relationship drama to another throughout her 20s, Nicky is now somewhat of a guru in the crazy world of life and love. Telling it how i...
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