Occasionally, when I talk to monogamous people, I can feel the chasm between how their relationships work and how my ethically non-monogamous ones operate. What they don’t seem to realize is that all relationships have the same foundations, whether platonic, familial, or romantic.
Even aspects of polyamory that seem specific to non-monogamy, like compersion (more on that in a moment), can have vastly applicable benefits to monogamous people. But more often than not, basic relationship tenets simply come to the fore more often when you actively engage in multiple, simultaneous relationships. From personal experience, friends of all relationship dynamics, and some helpful Redditters who commented on background, here are some tools that, regardless of your relationship status or goals, you may want to add to your emotional kit.
Open, Honest Communication
Let’s start with an easy one. It should come as no shock to you that being truthful and open with another person will positively benefit your relationship. Even when honesty is difficult, being clear about your emotions, actions, energy levels, comfort with certain social situations, sexual desires, and more will help others better understand you and your needs. The more you keep things bottled up or secret, the more likely they’ll, at best, create distance or, at worst, fester and eat away at the relationship.
Communicating can be especially difficult if you don’t fully know yourself. Lack of thoughtful, accountable introspection can infect any relationship, but it doesn’t have to if you work on yourself.
The most obvious solution here is to find access to therapy, whether it’s through insurance, a local university (often, supervised students give free or highly discounted sessions), group therapy, or an app. But the easiest first step is really thinking about what you want or what exactly upsets you, so you can translate this to the people who care about you.
Ah, compersion, the warm fuzzy feeling you get when a partner finds solace in another partner. Yeah, this is normally where I lose monogamous people, but compersion can be a great way to reframe potential jealousy and also strengthen friendships.
If your significant other or friend starts spending a lot of new time with a person, one of the socially acceptable responses is jealousy. You, however, are an honest communicator, so you learn more about this new connection. Perhaps you find out that this new person shares a unique hobby with your friend or partner that you have no interest in, but they truly love it. You’re also self-aware enough to realize that you cannot fill this void in the same way or with the same enthusiasm as this new person. Having someone to share this interest with has made your loved one happy, so shouldn’t that make you happy, too?
Many poly people, myself included, can be guilty of squirreling themselves away in partnerdom from time to time, but this is often seen in monogamous relationships. Everyone has that friend who disappears into their relationships and only returns to the social scene post-breakup or with news of an engagement. Even if you’re not that person, tent poles like marriage and having kids tend to reduce the amount of time spent with friends and those interactions become less of a priority.
From the earliest inklings of civilization, the family unit has gradually overtaken community as the primary focal point for relationships (though this varies from culture to culture). The importance placed on creating and protecting your own family unit requires you to slowly cleave off friendships and even non-immediate family members.
From the earliest inklings of civilization, the family unit has gradually overtaken community as the primary focal point for relationships.
Non-monogamous life forces you to schedule your time better, not just with your partners, but with your friends and family as well. By stepping off the traditional path, this new (old) perception of community creates a desire to preserve it. Perhaps every week isn’t feasible, but working out a frequency that you can commit to can help nourish waning friendships. Your friendships are part of you, so don’t let them fall apart just because you fell in love.
Don’t Let People Outside of the Relationship Define It
Maybe marriage or kids aren’t on the radar for you. Maybe you have a flirty, platonic relationship that has never and will never go anywhere. Maybe you’re between a casual and serious relationship, but it’s working for you. In these situations, and so many more, other people like to put in their two cents about how these relationships should be or if you should be in them at all.
But they’re your relationships.
Outside advice can help if you’re struggling, but if you’re happy, contrary opinions only seek to disrupt that. You’re an introspective communicator! You know who you are and what you want. So have it, live it, and love the way that feels right to you.