First, it's key to note that while some folks view having a non-monogamous relationship as a choice, others view it as a relationship orientation; as a relationship and sex therapist, I fall into the latter camp. Desiring and having more than one person in my life to meet my many needs, wants, and desires is how I’m wired. I am polyamorous just as clearly as I am queer and have red hair, meaning I have the capacity and desire to love and be intimate with more than one person at a time.
Now, just as traditional monogamy isn’t for everyone, the same is true for non-monogamy. To help suss out whether non-monogamy describes your ideal relationship structure, there are a number of questions you can ask yourself.
10 questions to ask yourself to see if a non-monogamous relationship is or isn’t for you
The following questions to ask yourself are written as though you’re in a monogamous relationship right now. If you’re not, you can think back about your last relationship while answering these questions. Based on your answers, you'll be able to gauge how much or little non-monogamy is likely to align with your ideal relationship setup.
- Do I want sexual exclusivity with my partner?
- Do I feel sexual, romantic, and emotional desires toward people other than my partner?
- Does it “just feel natural” to pursue friendships and romantic relationships concurrently with more than one person?
- Do I feel capable of managing my time and energy to meet the needs of more than one relationship? (You’re most likely already doing this with your platonic relationships (aka your friendships), so think of it through a non-monogamy lens.)
- Is it difficult to remain sexually exclusive with a partner for two years or more?
- Do I enjoy the security and stability of a monogamous relationship but also long for more excitement, romance, and passion?
- Have I practiced “serial monogamy,” where I'm exclusive with one person for a while, but I end each relationship to pursue someone new?
- Do I want more emotional intimacy than what my partner can provide?
- Do I feel or think there is a critical component missing from my relationship but overall am happy?
- Do I feel intrigued by the idea of multiple partners?
How to introduce a non-monogamous relationship into your life if you're interested in exploring
Depending on how you answered the above questions, you may be wondering, Where do I go from here? If a non-monogamous relationship is something you'd like to explore, but your current partner would not, or if you're currently unattached but don't know where to start, know that there are plenty of ways to go about it. Some people in relationships that practice non-monogamy include one partner who is more “actively” dating others than the other; in other relationships, the split is more even; and sometimes, one person is simply consenting but not seeing anyone else themselves.
Also, some folks practice relationship hierarchy, wherein your primary partner is at the top and has a bit higher prioritization in your life than other partners. Others choose to not have hierarchy and treat all relationships as equally important. I, for example, have three primary partners with whom I live, and we do not have hierarchy among us; anyone else I date is not a primary partner. While I don’t love the term "secondary partner," until we have more language around this, it’s the most accurate descriptor.
There is no right or wrong way to be in a relationship with someone so as long as it’s consensual and not abusive. And ultimately, your romantic relationships get to look the way you and the other folks involved want them to look—whether that includes non-monogamy or not.
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