It is best to think of your sexuality like a constellation, at any given moment you are shining brightly on one point of each of the many sexual spectrums: gender expression, sexual identity, kinkiness, drive or desire level, monogamous/polyamorous and more.
Some folks experience these points as fixed and for other folks, these points change throughout their lifetime.
In other words, you may not be a poly person, and there is nothing wrong with that.
But if you are curious about it exploring it for yourself or with someone you care about, here are some things to keep in mind.
1.Consider and gather info: there are lots of ways to open up a relationship
***I use poly broadly here, covering anything under the non-monogamous umbrella, including, but not limited to, consensual non-monogamy or “monogamish”. This can look like long-term committed partners who can: have sex when one is traveling out of state, are allowed to flirt and make out with others, but nothing more; enjoy swinging with their other coupled friends.***
Esther Perel in her book, Mating In Captivity, writes beautifully about the nature of desire, the ever-present “third” in any intimate partnership, and handling this with honest, intentional, curiosity over fear, avoidance, and moral outrage. Everything in italics below is from this incredible book that I recommend any person who enjoys intimacy to read.
She mentions case examples of couples who have invited in “the third” in different ways – and essentially neutralized the threat of infidelity:
“When we validate one another’s freedom within the relationship, we’re less inclined to search for it elsewhere…. It is no longer a shadow, but a presence to talk about openly, joke about, play with. When we can tell the truth safely, we are less inclined to keep secrets”
Far from being uncommitted, she finds these couples “desire to make the relationship stronger that leads them (couples who are “monogamish”) to explore other models of long term love.”
“For us, the real commitment is the emotional one. Sex outside the relationship isn’t a deal-breaker. “…. “ Monogamy, which we never negotiated, by the way – was painful, too”…” But of course we fear crossing this line is a slippery slope into “unbridled animality” …Being a couple protects us from chaos.
Some couples who have explored consensual non-monogamy define fidelity, “not by sexual exclusivity, but by the strength of their commitment… the primacy of the couple remains paramount…the couples stress emotional monogamy… far from being a hedonistic free for all, these relationships have explicit contracts which are renegotiated periodically, as the need arises”
Before opening up, if you can, it is great to consider a lot of information and questions.
Questions to consider
Is jealousy an expression of love or a sign of insecurity?
Why are we eager to share our friends, but demand exclusivity from our lover?
Is emotional commitment always bound to sexual exclusivity?
What are your beliefs, stories, and values around monogamy? opening up? Where do they come from?
As we open up, what’s changing? What isn’t changing about who we are as individuals and as a couple?
What would it mean to you, your partner, to open up your relationship? What are each of your expectations? How do we want to actually, and creatively, reach these visions and goals?
What are your biggest fears? Now imagine them happening – then what?
What are your ground rules? Check out this article to get some thorough ideas https://www.purewow.com/wellness/open-relationship-rules
2. Connect to the poly community.
Not only for emotional support, and to experience more representation, but all relationships have challenges. There’s a million and one resources for monogamous folks on how to navigate challenges in monogamy, but fewer for poly folks.
It is wonderful to have some experienced poly partners that know you to help guide you. You may already have friends that have opened up their relationship.
Or you can read some highly regarded poly books written by poly folks:
The Ethical Slut by Dossie Easton and Janet Hardy
Opening Up by Tristan Taormino
Rebel Love by Chris Donahue
3. Understand jealousy can be tough
This is a dealbreaker for lots of folks, and that’s just fine. Some people come to value away time, jealousy, and the personal and relationship growth from navigating through it together …and still find it very hard.
Some folks come to see the time when their partner is away as a time to invest in their pleasure as well: a time to go out with their best buds, a spa and movie night, to catch up on hobbies, to meet up with their special person, or just peaceful solitude and quiet.
Some folks love how jealousy of their partner, and freedom to explore, are spicing up their sex life:
From Esther Perel’s Mating in Captivity
“ it reminds us that we do not own our partners…take them for granted. In uncertainty lies the seed of wanting. In addition, when we establish psychological distance, we, too, can peek at our partner with the admiring eyes of a stranger, noticing once again what habit has prevented us from seeing”
Questions to Consider
If you are going to have primary relationship(s):
How did you show up for yourself and your partner and your relationship in the past week?
How did your partner show up for themself, you, your relationship this past week?
What are opportunities this week to show up differently for yourself, your partner, your relationship in the coming week?
When you feel any kind of uncomfortable way in your relationship(s) – what can you do for yourself in that moment? What have you done in the past that has helped?
4. Understand that New Relationship Energy is powerful
New relationships are all fantasy and very little reality. They are all potential and excitement with no challenges, no baggage. Without commitment, there are fewer consequences of mistakes and flaws, there’s less pressure to perform, deliver, do, be. This is incredibly seductive when life with your long term partner(s) has encountered the natural stagnancy, setbacks, challenges of all relationships.
The New Relationship Energy experience is so common and powerful, it is commonly just shortened to “NRE”
Questions to Consider
What do you value about old relationships (intimate or otherwise)? How do you celebrate the depth, acceptance, overcoming, security, knowing, trust, freedom within those relationships?
Who do you want to be in your relationship(s) How would that person handle jealousy, new relationship energy, old relationship energy, betrayals?
How does confident-in-her-polyamorous-relationship Jane navigate time away from John?
How does committed-to-his-primary-live-in-partner John honor and exalt his old relationship while exploring new relationships
What do we do when our meaningful, secure, relationships (of any kind) encounter existential givens such as change, uncertainty, hurts, grief?
How do you honor relationship grief, mourning, wounds, healing? What are your expectations around these things?
That’s the end of the beginning of a big subject for now. I would love to hear your thoughts, questions, concerns, insights and experiences around this article – send me an email firstname.lastname@example.org or DM on insta @grow_with_flo