The last time I wrote about monogamy it prompted a lot of great comments, which led to even more questions. The first question is: is long term (twenty or more years) monogamy a natural state for humans? The second question becomes this: if it’s not our natural state, what are our options in a society that generally favors monogamy?
I am in a long term monogamous relationship (twenty-two years) so I’m probably not the best person to be pontificating on the benefits of polyamory. As my relationship has become challenging again over the past few months, it has offered me the opportunity to explore other options. Our first option was to go back into couples therapy, which we began two weeks ago. Other options include shaking things up sexually. Over the past few years, we’ve discussed inviting a third person into our bed. We have friends who are in an open relationship, and I have some polyamorous friends, which coupled with some research I’ve done, has led me to some conclusions about polyamory.
First let me say that although long term monogamy is not our natural state, there is absolutely nothing wrong with making it your personal choice. In fact, I believe that tremendous growth and healing can come from a long term monogamous relationship if both partners are committed to that growth. You don’t have to be in exactly the same place in your journeys, but it is important to be heading in the same direction. When one person wants to get off the ride, the problems begin.
Second, I do not believe that becoming non-monogamous will by itself solve serious relationship problems. For example, if the problem is a lack of emotional connection, it’s probably a very bad idea to bring another person into the sexual relationship. Doing so would give the person seeking deeper emotional connection a different person to relate to, which would likely cause an even deeper divide with their partner.
A third point when considering alternatives to monogamy is the issue of trust. If you don’t trust your partner, don’t even consider non-monogamy. Jealousy and insecurity are two big warning signs that there’s not enough trust for non-monogamy in your relationship. I suspect that 85–90 percent of couples fall into this category. It takes a lot of emotional maturity to allow your partner to be with another person sexually and still maintain a loving emotional commitment.
Creating a healthy, loving non-monogamous relationship is tricky business. Essential components include trust, mutual love and respect, and open communication. Maintaining open communication means discussing the entire range of feelings you experience, even if you’d rather not confess to them. Both you and your partner must be willing to live and speak from an open heart. I would recommend creating a clear contract in advance, including a clause that invites re-negotiation on a regular basis.
In my contemplation about all of this, I’ve concluded that non-monogamy would work best in two cases. In the first, a couple deeply loves each other and cherishes the companionship of the relationship but have different sexual needs. In the second, both partners consciously choose to change the paradigm of monogamy for themselves and within their relationship. If you fit into one of these categories, you may find a rich and varied world at your feet. Just remember to practice safe sex!