I thought I was polyamorous, but it turns I am monogamish. Both are types of open relationships, both have some degree of involvement with others… TomAYto — tomAHto, you might say, isn’t it the same thing?
Not for me.
I define polyamory as the freedom to ethically explore feelings and meaningful connections with more than one person.
The most fitting definition for a monogamish relationship that I found is from Jor-El Caraballo, a relationship therapist. He explains monogamish as “people who are largely monogamous with a primary partner but occasionally, or rarely, engage in romantic or sexual contact with another partner.” It’s basically monogamy with a bit of wiggle room… ahem… literally.
For a few years, I thought that polyamory was what I wanted. Then I changed my mind and I am very happy with my partner in our monogamish relationship.
I have finally figured out why polyamory didn’t work for me.
I believe that in order to be in multiple relationships, all involved either have to be very open enlightened masters of communication or be very private people and be okay not discussing much at all. I am neither of these.
You see, for me, a meaningful connection in a romantic relationship implies an ability to discuss anything with my partner. Anything at all, including my relationships with other people — romantic or not.
Enter a second partner.
Sometimes, in my poly days, I had strong disagreements with one of my partners then met up with another. I had a choice: should I be completely honest with the other partner and share the details of our fight with the first one or I say something generic. Like “I just had a disagreement with my other boyfriend”. Ninety-nine percent of the time I wanted to respect my partners’ privacy and only discussed the details of my relationships with the other person in that relationship. Sometimes, however, I really wanted to talk to someone about what was going on. Preferably someone who could support me and whose opinion mattered — my other partners. I didn’t, because not all of my partners were okay with me openly sharing things about them with my other partners, especially since they all knew each other.
To come to alignment in multiple relationships, everyone involved needs to be okay with the same level of sharing. If one person wants to keep things private and the others — not so much, one or more of those relationships could eventually break.
Another part of polyamory that was too much for me to handle was NRE. If you’ve ever had experienced new relationship energy (NRE), you know how difficult it may be for “old-time” partners. Imagine you agreed to complete honesty and authenticity. Some years go by, all is peachy, and all of a sudden a new love interest appears in their life. They come home and say “Honey, I met this person and I want to spend as much time with them as possible right now”. Imagine they keep wanting to spend time with them and keep telling you about how great that new partner is. They are excited about them and want to have sex with them all the time… With you — not so much. Because you are so open and honest you talk about it, of course. But it just keeps going — they are head over heels in love and interested in that new person. It takes a very enlightened, confident person full of self-love and compersion to be able to handle a situation like that for months, if not years at a time. I am not that enlightened yet.
Now, if I were a more private person and processed emotions internally, I wouldn’t need to discuss that much personal detail of my relationships with all of my partners, if at all. I completely understand why some couples opt for a don’t-ask-don’t-tell approach to their relationships. I think this model of polyamory is sustainable and could be maintained for a while but it takes a very strong-headed private person to be able to work through all the polyamory-induced emotions on their own. I am not that strong.
I haven’t figured out a way to balance the need for privacy in each relationship, and the depth of a truly meaningful connection that for me is only possible with complete honesty and authenticity.
I would love to hear from folks that have been in long-term poly relationships. Have you found a way to keep private things private yet be able to discuss things that matter most to you with all of your partners?