A close buddy of mine from college – we’ll call her Shya – I remember her saying during one of our smoke sessions that she just knew having one partner was not for her. Why she went through with monogamy was beyond her but she chalked it up to tradition: being told that she was to date until she found her forever partner. Don’t get me wrong, even though she didn’t believe in it, as a nod to tradition, she dove right in. However, she couldn’t ignore the fact that she felt attracted to people that weren’t her partner and in turn, acted on those “forbidden” feelings. I mean, according to Shya, “Even though I’m with him, I am still very much attracted to and have real feelings for about two other guys at any given time.” Then, the longest relationship she’d been in up till that point fell apart after 4 years of dating monogamously. Interestingly enough, it was during this dark time that she found her current partner who she’s been with for 7 years this year. So began her story of embracing her true self: Not Monogamous.
At the end of her relationship, she cursed and pointed her fingers threateningly at tradition, however, in the same breath, she had this unwavering new reality: freedom. With said freedom, she found herself guiltlessly bobbing and weaving through what she termed as her “roster of guys.” It was in this lineup she realized that in the three guys she was entertaining, she kept finding herself enjoying a particular one more than the others. With his personality that got along with hers quite comfortably and the sex that she couldn’t help but be drunk off of, they both had “the talk” in defining what was happening between them. Turns out that he felt what she was feeling and together they decided to give the consensual non-monogamy relationship type a shot. The thing that solidified their reality was this: both were aware that the other entertained other people frequently enough before the other came into the picture and they started messing around with each other. Though, what prodded them to choose each other is that despite what they individually had going on, they were still able to feel the way they felt for each other. So, challenging the traditional monogamous relationship type? Let’s talk about it.
Ever so often (quite frequently) in some shape or form, the topic of relationships creeps up. If we’re being honest, we ourselves have a hand at times in initiating the topic in one of its many forms. Either a story about cheating (of some kind) , a story about budding lovers, or some other gossip-y number. When the topic of open relationships gets thrown around however, the majority of people think of it as glorified cheating. This brings me to two discussion points and possible additions to your vocabulary: CNM and Compersion. Firstly, CNM or Consensual Non-Monogamy is “an umbrella term for relationships in which all partners give explicit consent to engage in romantic, intimate, and/or sexual relationships with multiple people. These are consensual relationships, not to be confused with infidelity”, as told by Google, and include open relationships. The other thing – Compersion – deals with happiness and your partner. Known as the opposite of jealousy, where, instead of being angry and/or depressed about your partner engaging in romantic and/or sexual relations, you feel happy for them. Since then, they’ve not been “the only one” to each other and this they’ve made known to their other partners or according to Shya, the others on their roster.
Consensual Non-Monogamy, in reality, takes on many faces. You’ve got poly relationships, the most common of which are polyamory and polygamy. However, for what Shya practiced it would be termed polyamory seeing as they’ve not based their relationship on sex. Together, she and her partner, well, her main partner, have both pursued people not only out of sexual interest but emotionally as well. Between them, they’ve invited quite a number of people into their circle. Shya has welcomed male partners and her partner, who is bi, has welcomed both women and men into their fold. Though one could argue that they’re both just monogamish as both Shya and her partner are romantically, physically, and emotionally committed to each other, they just include different lovers in their mix, which essentially is what the Monogamish relationship type is all about. It can also look like a married couple having a couple of lovers between them, also separately, having their own partners (for instance, she has both male and female partners, and he has female partners). Or as a female, one who lives apart from her boyfriend; so she has several regular male and female lovers, while he travels the world, finding spontaneous sexual encounters along the way. Non-monogamy can also look like this: one partner does things with lovers that his husband doesn’t really enjoy doing, while the husband opts for trysts. These are all Monogamish examples as described by the online publication house, SELF.
Now don’t get me wrong, this by no way means I stand against monogamy, oh no. What I am saying, however, is that with it being the traditional heirloom that it is, it has been and continues to be challenged. People have become vocal in stating how difficult they’ve found it to be in a longstanding relationship with just one other. That although they stick through it, despite being happy with their person, living quietly in the back of their mind is the “what if” about being with another, be it just sexually or more. In Shya’s relationship, it’s pretty known that her partner understands and has accepted from the jump that she is, and will be, attracted to people who aren’t him and yes, she’ll sleep with them too. The catch is, she knows the same about him, and both are a-okay with this arrangement of theirs. Are they less in love with each other as the primary couple? Absolutely not. Are they scared about losing each other to someone more attractive than the other? Absolutely not. You see, the thing that is holding them together, and has been since they decided to try this relationship type all those years ago are: trust, openness and a whole lot of honesty.
Lastly, I’ll leave you with this online user’s account of their relationship where they both have been openly sleeping with other people for four years: “We’ve removed the ownership that can come with a conventional relationship. My partner and I enjoy variety, and we know firsthand that the presence of other lovers doesn’t diminish the feelings we have for each other. We talk to each other as friends, and nothing is restricted from conversation, which means sometimes I ask him dumb questions I already know the answer to—like, “Do you still love me?” and “Are you going to Mexico with her?” (obviously yes, and obviously no, in that order)—just to hear it come from him. I can also complain to him when lovers are uncool to me, and vice versa. Since we’re structured upon honesty, I know I’ll get an honest answer or honest advice. We’ve benefited so much from open communication all-around. Openness is everything. Plus, knowing our significant other is desired by other people is actually pretty sexy.”