Many of us grew up knowing that monogamy and marriage was the only way. I was listening to this amazing TEDXTalk where Nirel Marasky was talking about how monogamy is chosen for us and we then live our lives with the perception that this is the only kind of relationship we can ever have or be in.
The truth is that this is not the case; there are alternative lifestyles, and we do have a choice in designing our own relationships. To do this, we will need to shift our original perspective from not having any option other than monogamy, to having an option and choosing a non-monogamous lifestyle. Now this may not be for everyone, so if this is not your cup of tea, there is absolutely nothing wrong with being in a fulfilling and loving monogamous relationship.
Why are non-monogamous lifestyles becoming more prevalent? When looking at the key stages in life, getting married appears in the list of “to do’s”, which could mean that people may be getting married to fulfil something that they are expected to do. But what if marriage is not for you and does not fit your story or narrative? It is no surprise that according to statistics, 40% of marriages end up in divorce, as there are increased incidences of loveless and sexless marriages being reported more frequently than in previous times (Nirel Marasky). So today if you knew that getting behind the wheel of a car would give you a 40% survival rate, would you get in that car? Maybe not. There is also a conceptualization that placing 100% of our emotional and physical expectations on one person is not fair, and is too overwhelming for one partner. This is exactly what non-monogamous lifestyles permits – the spread of emotional and physical needs to more than one partner.
What kinds of non-monogamous lifestyles exist? As consenting adults, we can decide on our own agreements in these types of relationships, with several partners, and still have love, sex, friendship, eroticism, fulfil our physical and emotional desires, and also enjoy companionship. There are about 43 different types of labels or acts (so far) that people have come to classify as non-monogamous, and I will share these with you, so you can have an idea of what choices are out there.
· Monogamish – this is a kind of monogamous, ish, type of relationship, and has some wiggle room when it comes to the terms of fidelity.
· Open Relationships – these types of relationships can be described in three ways; open or closed poly (where people are not able to date others outside of who you’ve agreed to bring into the relationship); open versus closed relationships (the difference between monogamous and non-monogamous); and open sexually and/or emotionally (encapsulates a wide variety of non-monogamous structures).
· Polyamory - more than one committed or love-based relationship.
· Egalitarian Polyamory/Relationship Anarchy/Non-Hierarchical – relationships with a lack of hierarchy that upholds the autonomy of all participants. Egalitarian polyamory is more closely associated with values, subcultures and ideologies that favour individual freedoms and equality in sexual matters.
· Hierarchical Polyamory - the recognition of a primary relationship which receives conscious privilege over other relationships, where hard decisions may defer to the needs of the primary relationship.
· Solo-Poly - more than one committed relationship with no hierarchy or primaries assigned. (Sometimes, this can be a single person who wants lovers. Sometimes, it can be an individual who wants deeper relationships yet wants to remain free).
· Relationship Anarchy - the practice of forming relationships of all types (sexual, romantic, platonic, familial) which are not bound by societal norms or rules but rather focus on what the people involved mutually agree on. There need not be a formal distinction or importance between sexual, romantic, or platonic relationships.
· Sensual Friendship/Passionate Friendship - Platonic Lovers, basically, which is a nonsexual relationship that does include intense emotional attraction based on love.
· Poly Sexual - attraction to more than one gender. Or having multiple sexual partners. Pansexual is also used for attraction to more than one gender.
· Cheating - lack of communication (withholding/omission), lying/lack of honesty (not ethical but still non-monogamous). You CAN cheat in non-monogamy, open relationships, polyamory, and any other non-monogamous relationship. You cheat anytime you break agreements. (Please note that cheating is listed only because it is a form of non-monogamy; it just isn't an ethical form.)
· Poly Affectionate - the desire for affection with more than one partner without sexual involvement.
· Polyandry - the specific practice of one woman taking more than husband.
· Serial Monogamy - practice of having one mate at a time but more than one in a lifetime.
· Mono-Poly Relationships - where one partner is monogamous, and one partner is polyamorous.
· Polygamy - the practice of taking more than one spouse.
· Polygyny - the specific practice of one man taking more than one wife.
· Watching Porn - (controversial) some people believe that watching porn is an act of non-monogamy. Some people also feel that way about sexting, video sex, or deeply emotional calls or texts.
· Intentional Living Communities - a planned residential community designed to have a high degree of social cohesion and teamwork which may include non-monogamous relationship structures. They typically share responsibilities and resources and can also be called Communes or Multi-partner Co-habitation.
· Curated Sensual Community - long term erotic, sensual communities, that are by invitation only. Often have an application process.
· Kinky Play Parties - parties organized for BDSM play, not necessarily sexual. Partner pairing is usually based on matching skill sets or interest. For example, a person looking to be spanked paired with person willing to spank.
· Attending and/or participating in activity in sex clubs/bathhouses.
· Sexual Play Parties - having sex in a private or public party with someone who may not be your committed partner.
· Rope Family - a group of people which enjoy participating in rope bondage together. May or may not be sexual.
· Commerce - Paying for emotional or sexual services.
· Closed Group Swinging - a group of people who swing together but not with others outside of the group. Friendships are valued in these kinds of relationships.
· Hard Swap Swinging - having sex with someone other than one’s partner. This kind of relationship includes penetration.
· Soft Swap Swinging - having sex with one’s partner in the same room as others, or swapping without penetration.
· Conscious Relationships - a relationship where people make their own rules and agreements instead of adopting societal norms. Can be both monogamous and/or non-monogamous.
· Poly Fidelity - a closed relationship between three or more people where no dating outside of the group occurs.
· Triad - a relationship between three people. This can be as a V (one partner is the main reason or pivot point or pillar of connection in the relationship or a threesome (an erotic encounter with 3 people).
· Quad - a relationship between four people.
· Pack/Poly Network/Poly Tribe/Polycule - all ways to describe a close network of people connected in one form or another, i.e. romantic relationships, friendships, metamours or all of the above.
· Unicorns - a single bisexual person (usually a female) who interacts with a couple, usually male/female couple.
· Dating Around - dating more than one person but not committed to anyone in particular.
· Friends with Benefits - friends who introduce sex into their friendship but do not wish to escalate the relationship.
· No Strings Attached - sex without ongoing commitment to continue the arrangement or escalate the relationship.
· Casual Sex - sex sometimes with an ongoing commitment to continue the arrangement with an agreement not to escalate the relationship.
· Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell - an agreement to have a non-monogamous relationship without discussing the particulars. It can be difficult to ensure consent is involved.
· Cuddle Slut - someone who enjoys affection from others that does not include a sexual component or any commitment of ongoing relationship.
· 100 Mile Rule - an agreement where parties can engage in non-monogamous activities when either they are 100 miles apart from each other or 100 miles outside of their primary home base.
· Voyeurism - watching someone (not necessarily one’s partner) engage in sexually charged acts.
· Exhibitionist - wanting others (not necessarily one’s partner) to watch you engage in sexual charged acts.
· Paying for Sex - Can include sensual massage, full service, GFE (girlfriend experience), Sugar Babies, Mistresses, or Gigolos (Seeking Arrangements).
Now this is an extensive list and you may have heard about some of these kinds of non-monogamous lifestyles or arrangements; and hopefully you learnt a few new ones too. Some of these kinds of arrangements will require all parties to have a contract or some sort of an agreement; so if you do decide to look into one of these non-monogamous lifestyles, please do your due diligence, seek advice from a specialist, communicate with your partner and/or partners, ensure that you are safe and practice consent at all times.
As mentioned earlier, there are many choices other than monogamy and it is always good to have all the information, so that you can make an informed choice of what works for you.
Are you monogamous or non-monogamous? Why?