So you’re monogamous, and the person you’re dating is polyamorous?

It may seem like there’s a whole new world of things to learn, or maybe you’re just looking for what to expect from your poly partner and their alternative relationship style? Maybe, you just feel fear and jealousy?

Well regardless of the reason that you are here, hopefully, you will leave with a better understanding of Polyamory and dating and this article helps you determine whether this is the right ‘fit’ for you. Many polyamorous people won’t date monogamous people because they associate mono relationships with drama, possessiveness and sexual ownership. However, mono-poly relationships can be very rewarding and successful, it seems tragic that you would miss making a great connection with someone simply because you differ in what you (think you) require from a relationship.

There are many successful mono-poly partnerships. Sometimes (and certainly a lot of poly people believe) that mono relationships and therefore mono people are possessive, jealous and have expectations of each other that restricts freedom and self-determination. Well, people like relationships cover a broad spectrum. Sometimes being monogamous is simply what we know and what we are comfortable with. Sometimes all it takes is making a conscious assessment about what we believe and why we have the beliefs we do to free us to understand new beliefs and behaviors. Sometimes being monogamous is an essential part of who we are and how we relate to our partner. Sometimes being mono just fits who you are, and poly values just don’t. Seriously, all that is ok. The important thing is to understand where you sit. Some people just know what they like and that applies equally to poly and mono people. A poly person will be the first person to defend your right to self-determine and make your own decisions.

People tend to compare mono and poly relationships in terms of loyalty, fidelity and having only one partner. A 1991 study by Shere Hite found that rates of infidelity in monogamous relationships were as high as 70% for both men and women.  The reality is with a poly partner you are likely to know who your partner is sleeping with. Infidelity and betrayal is generally not a part of dating a poly person.

Ok so let’s get down to the nuts and bolts.

It’s not a phase.

Generally, unless the person is really new to polyamory. Their decision to live a polyamorous life was not taken lightly. There is a reasonable amount of stigma and misunderstanding about polyamory that most people would be happy to avoid. So if you are starting to date a polyamorous person and they are comfortable telling you about their lifestyle choices you can be fairly certain it is not a whim, fad or phase. They have put a lot of thought into what it means, how it affects them and the changes they would make in their life. They have probably also put a lot of time and effort in undertaking the personal development needed to live a poly life. They probably won’t grow out of it and you certainly won’t ‘change their minds’. So at this point, you might decide to learn more and work out how you feel about it or make a firm decision that this is not something for you.

Communication is key!

Communicating properly in any relationship is an essential skill for the relationship to be a success. For poly people, it is a fundamental part of keeping their relationships healthy and functional. Expect to have conversations with your poly partner about how you are feeling and discussions on how to identify and fix any issues you encounter. Honest, rational communication about your fears, or feelings is essential in creating trust and consent. You can’t consent to your relationship if you don’t know what is going on. Talking things out helps ensure you are both on the same page.

You have the right to ask!

Just because your values are monogamous doesn’t mean you don’t have the right to ask questions about your partner’s poly life. You will find it is very important to your poly partner to be open and honest with you.  You may find it easier or harder to know more about your partner’s other partners. Some mono partners find it much better to have met other partners in the relationships while others prefer a DADT (Don’t ask Don’t tell) strategy. You should be wary of anything that you do that attempts to ‘preserve’ your belief that you are ‘in’ a mono relationship. You aren’t. Believing you are will cause you grief in the long run. For you, there is one relationship with one person. However, there are other people who are affected by your relationship, and who affect your relationship. Dating schedules need to be managed, birthdays planned for, and group outings to be braved. You should always feel comfortable with where you stand, and if not, you should feel comfortable asking questions.

I don’t know how to act when I meet their other partners!

The only important thing about meeting your partner’s other partners is respect. You don’t have a to have a friendship with them. You don’t have to date them or hang out with them. They will be wary of you, don’t mistake that for them not liking you. The will have just as many insecurities about how you fit into their relationship as you do about how they fit into yours. You can be sure that if you hold your partner in high regard the people they also love are probably worthy of your respect as well. Certainly, most poly partners will try and make you feel welcome when you start dating your new partner, that doesn’t mean they are hitting on you and want the scene to turn into one big orgy.  They will be genuinely interested in wanting you to be comfortable and unthreatened. If you meet: treat them as new friends and you will get the same respect right back.

Your poly partner might love another person you aren’t the one and only – but that’s ok!

Western romance really sets us up to fail. When we have a strong expectation that we will meet our prince charming / soul mate / ‘one and only’ and ride off into the sunset when we think about relationships. It really blinds us to the reality that all relationships require effort. That often relationships are as imperfect as the people in them. It’s ok to not be the everything to one other person in the world, and them not to fit your needs and desires perfectly. You can still have an exciting, interesting and rewarding relationship.

In the western world, we love perpetuating the idea of star-crossed lovers, destiny and ‘the one’.  The media is filled with it. Becoming one soul intertwined and inseparable from one another. In psychology, we call that co-dependency. However, the Buddhists have a different view of relationships. When two fully formed individuals come together they form a third entity: ‘the relationship’. The relationship is unique between the two individuals but the individuals will persist and be healthy should the relationship change. No dead Romeo’s and Juliet’s suiciding over a lost love. If you are a mono person you can take some solace in the uniqueness of that connection between you and your poly partner. This is unique and special. It doesn’t require you to sacrifice your heart on an altar of unmet expectations. We are free to adjust and adapt our relationships in a way that works. When we take the fear and sexual ownership out of the equation we are left with a lot of interesting possibilities. You might just find the honesty, emotional availability, and integrity of dating a healthy poly partner means you can have a confidence in the connection between you that offsets what you might feel you are losing by not having a mono partner.

“Lighting a candle from another candle doesn’t lessen the light of either candle it just makes the room brighter.”

Your partner’s love for someone else does not negate their love for you. Poly people tend to like to use the analogy of how you might share love in a family or between friends. You don’t have a finite amount of love for children or siblings and poly people view romantic love in the same way. Rather than love being seen as a scarce resource that you must protect and covet (often aggressively), that you are going to lose something valuable if someone else has it, poly people believe love is in abundance and can be given freely without depleting it in other relationships. When you view love in this way, you reduce the amount of fear you might experience because the love you feel between you is driven by quality of the unique connection your share and is not something to be transferred or traded between relationships.

So how do you make it work?

The best way to make any relationship work is to be sure you are being true to yourself. When you have integrity, honesty, and authenticity you attract the people who are the best fit for you in your life. If we are talking specifically about poly/mono relationships then there is no one way or solution. As the saying goes ‘you do you’. If being in a relationship with a poly person causes you too much pain or makes you compromise your core values and who you are then BEFORE you get deeply involved be an adult and make grown-up decisions about what is good for you.

On the other hand, if though you recognise that one partner at a time is enough for you and that’s the fit for your values, but that the relationship style that your partner feels comfortable with is something you can compromise then there is no reason a poly/mono relationship can’t work. If you like the fact that your partner is emotionally available and is confident expressing love for people they cherish. Then you might also experience something unique by dating them.

Dating a Poly person can be very rewarding. What you lack in exclusivity might well be balanced out hopefully by their generosity of spirit, honesty, and integrity that most poly people feel it is essential to practice. These benefits are of course also available in mono-mono relationships but they tend to be very conscious values and present in the lives of poly people. You may not fall in love with anyone else your poly partner dates but you can be sure that all of them care about you and the happiness of the partner you are dating. Sometimes, that is just a great feeling and realisation. Poly people call it compersion. The ability to take pleasure in someone else pleasure.

Dating a poly person is not without complications though. Fitting into a busy dating schedule. Negotiating time alone. Working out who gets to go to family gatherings. All of these are challenges the average monogamous couple won’t have to worry about, but the intimacy and honesty of polyamorous relationships can often make up for the other concession you might have to make.

At the end of the day, great relationships are about people connecting with people. All the rest is detail.

More Than Two is an excellent resource for Polyamory related articles and information. They have a list here of things to consider when entering a relationship with a polyamorous person.

Together Magazine has an article by Ghia Vitale called ‘How to love a Polyamorist’.

Sex at Dawn by Christopher Ryan is an excellent book about the roots of human sexuality. Why we are monogamous, why we get jealous and debunks the idea that humans are ‘naturally’ monogamous.