• Warning: This article contains sexually explicit content intended for an adult audience
Attitudes are liberalising about the construct of monogamy. As it becomes clear that the traditional methods for relationships don't work for everybody, many people – particularly heterosexuals, who've never been told there was another option – are discovering that a non-monogamous relationship can be the best way to have all your needs met.
Two years ago, I wrote a column about an idea called "monogamish". It's the concept of being somewhere adjacent to exclusive in your sex life. Whether that means you can flirt at bars, have threesomes, sleep with other people when out of town, or have polygamous second relationships is up to the individual couple to negotiate.
"Non-monogamy" is jarring for many people, however. It's a tough topic to broach in your relationship when you don't know how things will go down with your partner. There are some key matters to cover whenever you instigate a discussion about it.
Here are the most important:
1. Keep it in theory first
Over the course of many weeks or months, I recommend keeping all discussions about non-monogamy theoretical. It takes time to understand how you feel about this untraditional route of sexual relations. I don't think it's a good idea to talk about any kind of open relationship when there's already a third party within view.
In my relationships, I've taken up to six months before putting non-monogamy into practice from first discourse about it. It's wisest to sit on your feelings as they develop, as you do research, talk to others, and get on the same page with your partner.
2. Solidify your foundation
Non-monogamy in any relationship will not work if it's a band-aid for other problems. In order for any kind of open agreement to function, your relationship needs to be solid as a rock. The foundation of what binds the two of your together must be unbreakable.
Without using any more metaphors about concrete, in practice this means starting with a frank discussion about how much you love each other, and having a mutual understanding that sex and emotional interaction with another person will not be the end of your relationship.
Further, one person should not engage in non-monogamy to keep their partner happy. Both of you must want to do it equally.
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3. Understand your jealousy
Being in any kind of monogamy-adjacent relationship will involve jealousy and envy. It doesn't matter how "okay" you feel in theory about the concept of your partner being with somebody else; the human emotion of jealousy doesn't simply disappear because you've told yourself so when it comes to real life.
As a couple, work towards an understanding that jealousy is realistic, expected, and acceptable. You don't need to pretend this feeling isn't there. Instead, acknowledge it. Discuss what makes you jealous – is it attention, physical contact, or emotional connection?
Try to come to a place where you can comfortably sit with that discomfort.
4. Set your boundaries
The "get on the same page" mantra becomes pertinent when boundary-setting comes into play. Both partners need to understand what kind of non-exclusive activity is permissible, and what – if anything – is off the table.
This includes how a hook-up can be conducted (are you okay with your partner being on apps?), where it can take place (many couples like to keep their communal bed off-limits), and what kind of physical activity can take place (is penetration okay? How do you feel about sleeping over?). All of these aspects need clear and verbal consideration and accord.
5. Keep talking
Non-monogamy works best when both partners keep talking about their emotional development. As you have new experiences, your views will change. Although setting boundaries is important, don't consider them inflexible. But you must discuss them before changing them.
Like any relationship, a non-monogamous relationship will be served well with constant re-negotiation. Consider non-monogamy a living organism; something that will evolve over time. When the line of communication is always kept open, you'll be able to nip any issues in the bud and ensure both of you are happy with any non-monogamous activities you will undergo.