My journey to non-monogamy, specifically polyamory, as a relationship orientation and lifestyle has been one of the most rewarding of the many I have undertaken. I believe I have learned more about myself, who I truly am, than ever. I have developed lifelong skills that help me navigate complex relationship structures. I am not perfect- far from it, and making mistakes every day- that is part of life. But the journey to where I am today in my polyamory has helped me become more fully me. This post is just a short list of some of the things I have learned about becoming non-monogamous that I thought would be helpful to others, maybe just starting their journey!
5 things you should know about being non-monogamous:
- Learn to identify your wants and needs and know the difference.
- Just because you can doesn’t mean you should.
- Not every relationship will be the same.
- Take time to feel the feels.
- Learn good relationship skills.
1- Learn to identify your wants and needs and know the difference.
When you are managing parallel relationships, you may find that things you always thought you NEEDED in a traditional relationship, when examined, are simply “wants.” Wants are, of course, necessary too. However, knowing what you actually need will help you feel on more solid ground in a relationship.
A need is something necessary to live and function well in a relationship.
A want can improve your quality of life and/or the relationship.
Maybe in a monogamous context, you needed to sleep next to your partner every night. Now that you are non-monogamous, either you or your partner has the opportunity to spend the night with one of their other loves. You get to examine if this is really a need or if it is something you prefer or want. Maybe it’s simply “the way things are,” and now that things are different, you have to determine how you truly feel. Is sleeping with them every night necessary to live and function well in the relationship? Or is it something that improves your quality of life?
The next part is almost as tricky. You also need to decide when or if to make your wants as much a priority as your needs. Just because you want something doesn’t mean it has to happen. But your needs? If they are actual needs, it’s essential to learn to communicate them with the other people in your relationship. One of the hardest things I learned in non-monogamy was this whole concept. Once I understood that I had a choice, everything wasn’t a need, and then learned to communicate those things as well as I could, trusting my partners to meet me where I was… well, it was a most liberating experience.
2- Just because you can, doesn’t mean you should.
It’s easy to get caught up in the excitement of meeting new people. So many options! So many people to swipe on! It’s fresh and exciting. Suddenly, you are over-extended with first dates or spending so much time on dating apps that you have forgotten to care for your existing relationships. Remember to take time not only for your current relationship(s) but for yourself. Give yourself time to think and feel. Don’t run any faster into things than you would have before you discovered non-monogamy, and I might say sometimes you may have to go even slower to make sure everyone is keeping up and ok with the changes.
There is a word for another common polyamorous relationship situation- Polysaturated. This is the phrase most commonly used to note when one has enough partners and does not feel it necessary to add more. Another familiar statement in polyamory is “love is infinite, time is not.”
It is helpful to recognize when you have the perfect number of partners. Too many, and you may not be able to develop well-rounded relationships. For me, that number tends to be three. More accurately- three with varying degrees of time and energy commitment. I could not have three relationships as I do with the man I spend most of my time with.
Try to be aware of your personal situations, know your limits, and be mindful of the other relationships around you. When you are non-monogamous, what you do impacts more than one relationship.
3- Not every relationship will be the same.
Another common thread in polyamorous experiences is the joy of being able to define and customize relationships to suit the people in them. In monogamous relationships, we all pretty much know what to expect. We go up the “Relationship Escalator.” You meet, date, fall in love, get married, have children, ’til death do us part. But in polyamorous relationships (or intentional monogamous ones), you have the opportunity to create your own relationship dynamics with your partner.
I mentioned above that I am most comfortable with about three partners. They would all have to have very different levels of energy exchange and time commitments. Currently, I have one partner with whom I spend a lot of energy during the day, texting and talking. We plan things for our future together and are in love. We see each other usually 2, maybe 3 times a week, and he takes up most of my energy and thoughts. Another is a much more casual friend with benefits relationship. We text for scheduling and usually spend about one evening a month together. An ideal third would be in between, seeing them at least weekly and integrating them a little more into my life, a long-term committed romance.
Don’t get caught up in defining your relationships. I always recommend that people allow their relationships to “find their level.” Take your time to explore, learn about each other’s wants and needs, and determine the energy levels and exchanges. Let that guide you to figure out what the relationship will look like instead of fitting it into what our culture expects or even what you have always expected or experienced.
4- Take time to feel the feels.
I know for sure that there will be lots of feelings, many of them good, exciting, and certainly new. But many of them will be confusing, frustrating, or nervous. Don’t rush past them. Enjoy the good ones. Sit with the uncomfortable ones for a while. Learn what makes you feel good, what makes you scared, feel safe, and feel sexy. The early stages of being polyamorous are some of the most exciting but also some of the most enlightening. You can learn a lot about yourself during this time. Knowing yourself is a particularly crucial skill in a non-monogamous relationship.
This hails back to the first piece of advice about learning to differentiate between wants and needs. This is an excellent place to begin that journey. Feel. Learn. Express your feelings when appropriate and share your joys and fears too. It all works best when we are open and honest with each other.
Remember, too, you are responsible for those feelings- “With great feelings, come great responsibilities.” There are many ways to consider your emotions, and learning how and when you express them is another good relationship skill to develop.
5- Learn good relationship skills.
Speaking of developing practical relationship skills… I don’t know about you, but I was never taught how to be a good partner or have clear open communication with someone I was in a relationship with. It is knowledge I had to pursue on my own. As I learned about being non-monogamous, I realized many concepts about having an excellent open relationship and practicing good non-monogamy, actually apply to ANY relationship.
As much as learning and growing in relationship skills is valued in the non-monogamous community, I wish we learned these skills growing up in a monogamous culture. I started by reading books and listening to podcasts on polyamory and non-monogamy, creating designer relationships, and building strong interpersonal relationships. I still listen to relationship podcasts and read books about non-monogamy.
It is hard enough to have a life-long committed relationship with one person. It only gets more complicated with more than one. Designing your own relationships is not without its own challenges. Good relationship skills, communication skills, and self-awareness skills will help you navigate the waters. Especially in the early days of your non-monogamy journey.
If you like this post about non-monogamy, you might also like these other posts:
5 Surprising Side-Effects of Non-monogamy
5 Dating Mistakes You Don’t Even Know You Are Making
“Good thing you have an spare” and other things people say, Part IV
I wrote this post as part of the A-Z blogging challenge!
9 Replies to “Advice for the Newly Non-Monogamous”
It’s lovely to see you on the A-to-Z!
These are all good points to consider; I think that recognizing what your needs are (compared to wants) and learning to sit with uncomfortable feelings are two things that EVERYONE can benefit, no matter what their relationship structure (or status) is!
Thanks! It’s m first A-Z! Nice to see you too!
OH, I agree wholeheartedly with you on that! So many things I have learned about relationships I wish I had known when I was in monogamous relationships, I would have been able to be a better partner!
After reading through your post I can’t agree with you more about ‘I realized many concepts about having an excellent open relationship and practicing good non-monogamy, actually apply to ANY relationship.’ I’m learning a lot from your blog. Happy A to Z.
It’s so true! I wish our culture was better at teaching people how to have good relationship skills and not just assume since we see so many relationships around us that we know how to do them! Thanks for checking out my blog! Happy A-Z to you too!
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