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Open to being Open - A Discussion of Polygamy

Whether just thinking it over or redefining a current relationship, there are topics to communicate for a healthy polygamous relationship. Originally published January 2021.


As human beings, we develop all types of connections. Sometimes those connections are with the places that we visited or with smells we can never forget. The most apparent type of relationship is with people. Yet, the span at which people can connect sometimes is not as obvious.

Monogamy is seen as the societal default when talking about romantic or even intimate connections. Romantic or platonic connections will look and feel different from one relationship to another. When boundaries are set and respected, the ability to share and express love is infinite.

There are people, single or already in a partnership, interested in being in a non-monogamous, open, or polyamorous relationship. Polyamorous is said as engaging in multiple romantic or sexual relationships, with every person's consent included.

Whether you are starting a relationship as open or changing from being monogamous, it involves discussing what makes up your specific romantic relationship.

I have been in my first open relationship for a little over two years, and it has felt like one of the healthiest connections in my life. It started with dialogue and a level of open communication that can feel uncomfortable and vulnerable. It also leaves plenty of room for each of us to grow as individuals. We've maintained a bond, platonic or romantic, rooted in open communication and individual comfort.

It can be unclear where to start the conversation, so consider these questions a good starting place. Remember, when having this discussion that no one has to give their answers right away. The talk will shape a relationship, so you want the answers to be honest and thoughtful.

Be aware that the conversation for your particular relationship may include other points of discussion. As time goes on, your answers or your partner's answers might change. Revisit the conversation. It can, and most likely will, be different and consist of other answers from person to person.

What do you consider to be an "open" relationship?

For some people, being open involves sexual encounters. While with others, that could include dating, romantic gestures, or even time apart. While your answers may be different, remember honesty is essential. This answer is an excellent place to set a common ground as you advance.

How often can either person engage in acts outside the primary relationship?

First, when I say "primary relationship," I mean the person with whom you are holding this conversation. That is you and the person you want to have a significant romantic relationship with.

Maybe you'll decide dating outside the relationship is okay once a month, or not the same person more than three times. Perhaps you'll decide, for dating or sex, each person has to ask the other before engaging. This aspect is something you each really want to make clear.

What is considered "cheating"?

Both partners need to throw out what they have considered cheating in previous monogamous partnerships for this question. Also, acknowledge jealousy is a part of any relationship and does not need to be denied or ignored when felt.

In my relationship, sex with other people needs a stated yes or no. Dismissing a no is considered cheating. For us, going on dates does not have to be disclosed. Admittedly uncomfortable at first, and now it is natural.

What would you want to know about the other's relationship (outside of the primary relationship)?

This is a question that needs to be carefully thought out. If you two started with a close-knit friendship, you might want to tell your primary partner everything. But for the other person's sake or your sake, sharing specific details could harm the relationship.

In areas of romance, sex, sexual desires, and emotional connections, be sure to state what you would want to know and what you feel is meant just between your partner and their other relationships. You may be surprised how much, or how little, you would want to know.

If there should ever come a time where you, your partner, or other relationships have to discuss STIs, be sure to share the necessary information with those involved. STIs are nothing to be ashamed of. They don't reflect the type of person you are or put any value on your life and well-being. Should you or someone else think they have an STI or already have one, do not keep this information from your sexual partners.


Forms of communication

Both partners should think beyond texting, direct messaging, and calling. Consider sexy photos, nude photos, video chat, or physical mail as communication. Social media is at the core of some people's communication. Talk about if following and interacting on these platforms is okay.

While my primary partner and I can send sexy photos, any photos exposing genitals are not allowed. Video chatting is okay, but not when the other is around. Communication is a key aspect of making connections with other people, so be sure to explore all avenues and get specific. The next question may help.

Who, what, where, is off-limits?

Keeping certain things just between you and your primary partner enforces the set boundaries within the relationship. This answer goes back to smells or places that you or your partner may have a bond towards.

Relaying back to forms of communication, consider not just who but where and when. There may be a few or a lot, so keep a clear mind and allow room for compromise.

Non-monogamy is not selfish or immoral or one fits all relationships. Something beautiful about connecting with people is that it is always different.

Some of these are questions I have talked over before dating my primary partner. Other questions I got from other open relationships and curious people in monogamous romantic relationships. Be sure to be thoughtful and nonjudgmental in the exchange.

Opening up a current monogamous relationship will not fix any underlying communication or intimacy problems. Most of all, it is critical that boundaries are clear and respected. There is very little that can be seen as negative when making or maintaining any connection.


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