Five Ways to Help Us Challenge Our Ideas of Monogamy.
When I tell people that I’m polyamorous, the typical response is a mixture of “that sounds really complicated,” and “I could never do that!”
While polyamory may seem crazy and different from monogamy in theory, in practice both poly and mono relationship styles are quite similar.
We all have people in our lives that we care deeply about. This includes friends (people that provide emotional and loving support), as well as partners (people which we generally reserve for things like sexual relations, intimacy, cohabitation, child-rearing and financial sharing).
This partner/friend line and the way we define, direct and distinguish the people in our lives, is essentially what separates a monogamous relationship from an open one. Just move a few more people from the “friend” category into the “partner” category and—Voilà!—here you are with multiple relationships! Your polyamory ID card should be coming in the mail in a few days.
Where this line resides and what the line means depends on the person who draws it. For monogamous couples, this line is the defining factor in what makes them monogamous. Crossing this line is deemed “cheating,” and relationships often get into trouble when one person has a different idea of where the line is than the other.
Here are five things we can consider to help us blur the monogamy line, and to challenge our ideas about monogamy overall.
1. Increase levels of physical intimacy with another person.
We are used to putting things into “Either-Or” categories, like partner or friend, mono or poly and sexual or nonsexual, when in reality intimacy lies along an entire spectrum of experience.
For example, how do you feel about your partner and somebody else doing the following:
- having dinner together?
- dancing together?
- going to see a movie together?
- spending all night talking?
- holding hands while walking down the street?
- cuddling together?
- sleeping together (no sex, just sleeping)?
- spending a weekend camping and hiking?
- taking a bath or shower together?
- having oral sex or intercourse?
Also, consider what difference it would make if you knew the person, if you knew and agreed to the activity, and if you were involved in some way with the activity.
2. Talk about sexual histories.
Some people may not be comfortable with their partner being sexual with someone else, but what about talking and hearing about sexual encounters from previous relationships?
For example, consider asking your partner:
- What is your favorite sexual memory from a previous relationship?
- Did you ever have a partner do something you particularly liked or disliked?
- What kind of concerns or worries about sex did you have in your previous relationships?
3. Talk about sexual fantasies.
Another challenging exercise for some couples is to openly discuss their sexual fantasies. While sexual fantasies come in all shapes and colors, some common ones include:
- Fantasies with your current partner (role-play, BDSM, tantra, etc).
- Fantasies that include more than two people (most commonly threesomes).
- Fantasies about a specific person in real life (boss, coworker, friend, crush).
While it may be easy to hear about your partner’s desire to wear pink fuzzy handcuffs during your next romp in the bedroom, hearing your partner talk about a secret desire for a coworker might feel a bit uncomfortable. Remember that there is a difference between having a fantasy, and having a desire to play it out in real life.
4. Talk about masturbation.
While we generally think of a relationship as two people being together, we often forget about the relationship we all have with ourselves.
While almost everyone masturbates, few partners have discussed how, why, when and where they like to masturbate. Understanding and coming to terms with your partner being sexual without you, is one step on the way to admitting the possibility that you may not be able to completely meet your partner’s sexual needs.
To add an interesting twist, consider the difference it would make if your partner masturbated while watching porn, having a live chat with another person, or engaging in phone sex/cyber sex. When does it become cheating?
5. Come clean about the affair you had, or are currently having.
More and more researchers are finding that monogamy is actually more like monogamy in theory. Between 50-60% of both males and females report committing infidelity in a relationship. For marriages, the infidelity rate is around 40%. What makes it even more interesting is that these infidelities are not just one-night stands—the average length of an affair is two years.
Polyamorous ethics strongly hold that the fundamental difference between cheating and ethical nonmongamy, is whether or not the people involved know and have agreed to it. Also, by coming clean and actually talking about the affair, you might also come to an understanding of why the affair was committed.
So, there you have it! Talking about previous, future, fantastical, solitary and possibly current sexual activities is very close to actually doing them. Suddenly the mono/poly divide doesn’t seem so big, and their similarities blur the line of distinction created by their differences.
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