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Serial Monogamy, Open Relationships and Polyamory

Relationships, we want them but how do we do them?

LoveIn a previous post about how relationships collapse I suggest that we move onto new relationships in a way that is serial monogamy. I suggest that it’s necessary to realise that all relationships end and it’s the disappointment of that, based on the expectations that they last for ever, that causes the suffering.

My suggestion is to come to terms with the fact that it ends, enjoy it while it lasts, grieve when it ends, heal and then move on.

Another aspect is that within the Western view of marriage we expect our partner to be all things in every way for us. It’s natural, especially as when we connect and in the serotonin haze that is created in the first flush of meeting someone, we think they are perfect, the one, our soulmate. Then they change don’t they?

Maybe we change the way we view them!Either-way we find that they aren’t everything to us in all situations. So we become dissatisfied try to change them or compromise ourselves but we’re not satisfied.

Who said that the person you marry has to be your everything, especially in the intimate personal aspects of a relationship?

Oh sorry!

The system said that!

Well guess what the system is wrong. We all get things that are important to us from other people and places, physical, emotional, spiritual and sexual. We have friends that give us things that we don’t get from our partners and within a marriage it’s accepted that we can have these relationships to fulfill us and round us out as humans. Pragmatically we allow our partner to do things that we may not quite approve of because it’s seen as good for the relationship and based on power and survival needs of the family. As the dependence on the other changes through the constant change of the relationship then the barely tolerated behavior becomes a relationship threatening behavior and the slow slide to separation commences.

The conflict is not so much in the behavior itself but in the non acceptance of your partner needing to be this way as their form of human existence. To relate to someone you must accept them as they are. If you have an issue it is fine for you to communicate it to them, even to ask for them to change but it is 100% up to them to change and to do it happily with no compromise to themselves. If they can’t or won’t change you must accept it as it is, happily with no compromise to yourself. If this can’t be done there will be conflict. Either way it’s about acceptance either a new or the old dynamic. So now everyone is happy with each others behavior and all can live in bliss.

But what if I can’t resolve a behaviour by my partner?Simple, dissatisfaction unhappiness arguments all the usual stuff until it moves to separation or stagnation either way not much joy and fun. So get with it, acceptance is the only way to get it.

This isn’t my stuff you’ll find it scattered around many of the spiritual teachings especially Buddhism and within human relationship counselling.

What if I can’t personally give what they need from me? Accept it! If not then that means either conflict and ultimately separation or let them find it elsewhere and accept that new situation. Either way we’re back to acceptance.

In all relationships we get things from outside of the relationship so lets celebrate that and let our partners go forth and have those other fulfilling relationships in the knowledge that this is what is vital to them and that if we can be content with that there is contentment with both parties.

Back in May I was listening to Cameron Reillys’ G’Day World podcast which introduced to me the concept of Polyamore through the conversation he had with a couple travelling through the US.

As I heard about this term of Polyamore I realised that it seemed to be another expression of the serial monogamy but with the twist that there isn’t a requirement for the relationship to breakdown and that it can continue and any requirements that are need to be added to the relationship can be found outside to satisfy while staying in the relationship. Or that it is possible to have multiple relationships concurrently so as to ensure that all are satisfied and whole. The most important aspect is openness of desires and honesty with all parties.

Now this is not just about sex. We do have very deep intimate non sexual relationships with others that satisfy us and within a relationship we allow that and all is fine. The challenge is when we move it up to include all aspects of human behaviour including sex. That’s when it’s challenging for a lot of people as it’s fine to do somethings just not All Things, especially sex. But why not?

As seen before if we’re not satisfied there will be conflict within the relationship or within oneself.In what I’m saying here I admit that I’m making a generalisation and yes there are exceptions to what I’m saying but the vast majority of cases are closer to what I’m suggesting than to the Western Ideal that everyone aspires to.

In all of human history we haven’t been monogamous and we will go there anyway one day or be miserable, inside or outside of the relationship, why not face up to the certainty and happily allow our partner to satisfy that aspect of their humanity that is unfulfilled? Because it threatens us, that’s called jealousy, that’s why!

Ok, I accept that a lot of people can’t or won’t be able to do a Polyamourous relationship but to my way of thinking most of us are already doing it with other important aspects of our human relationships, we just have this sex, guilt, ownership control thing with our partners that has been perpetrated by church and state as a way of keeping us in some sort of control for reasons I don’t understand.

It’s all right if you disagree with me. You may be totally besotted by your partner and they with you and you see no need to entertain what I’m suggesting here. However if…?

Do you care for your partner so much that if they needed to have a relationship…A relationship to round them out as a person….Do they adore you and share with you and are you secure enough in yourself and your relationship to allow them to go and have the experience…Could you be happy for them knowing that they will always want you?

Or does that threaten you?

I so get this stuff! Once I found it had a name and I thought about my life and the way I’d interacted with people I realised that I have always been doing a variation on this. I’ve always been comfortable with the thought of my partner having relationships if that is important to her. That is why I always say I never do jealousy it just never threatens me if she wants to go and play.

The way I’ve been doing Poly has been more within monogamy and platonic(love without letting it move to sex, but if things were different??).

More to the point I love many people in my life, if they are male it is platonic, if they are female it’s platonic if either of us are in a relationship and that relationship isn’t poly. However if we are both single or poly then it’s on and with some of the wonderful women in my world I’m inclined to be sexual with them.

But this is where I like the difference between Polyamory and swinging as this isn’t just recreational sex this is about building real relationships based around affection, respect, honesty and love.

I see that as more honest to both my partner and myself. And the little bit that I’ve experienced I’ve found that the sex is outstanding as so many of the conditional attachments and assumptions of a monogamous relationship aren’t there so the loving is more genuine as we understand that we are whole people with others in our life and that if we genuinely love each other we will stay connected and if we don’t we will move on so we cherish the moments we have.

If you wish to understand more about true relationships the challenges and the joys as well as the concept of Polyamore listen to a great podcast at Polyamory Weekly.

To reiterate. This is not about sex but about loving human relationships that we all have all the time. It’s about open honest human communication with the people we care about. It’s about allowing and being allowed to live the true life that fullfills us and to share that life with the people that mean the most to us.

The difference is that it doesn’t exclude sex, that’s all!

Comments on this entry are closed.

  • Harrison Thursday, 7 February, 2008, 4:42 pm

    I could not agree more. I am all for people exploring life, for is that not what we are here to do? For me, its not about abiding to any strict code of behaviour. I have found that my intuition serves me best, and on the outside this has sometimes involved having a number of partners at a time, and other times being totally devoted to one. Perhaps what is an important point for me is to be honest about my actions by keeping everybody involved informed. I think that deception has the nastiest sting. Honesty might be challenging, but in the end it is a show of respect, which is aspect of true Love, and can only serve everyone for the Good.

  • Devyl Monday, 17 March, 2008, 4:42 pm

    I have mixed feelings about the idea and practice of polyamore.

    I am a person who believes that each individual has several “soul mates” for the different stages and circumstances in their lives. I have a strong, almost psychic connection with my mom. If I think “I could really use Mom’s advice right now.” while I’m contemplating a decision, 90% of the time she’ll call me that day.

    I have a stronger, though not psychically connected, bond with my sister. We know what each other are thinking with just one glance. We share thoughts without trying. We are two people who couldn’t be any more different (physically, emotionally, academically) but we share so many similarities that the average person would not recognize, because we never have to express them.

    My best friend and I share a special bond .. one formed by instant knowledge that we would be best friend, and forged by years of trials and tribulations that moved us physically farther and farther away, but emotionally closer every year. Any dismal feeling I am having can be cured almost instantly by a hug from her. She’s the one person that knows every facet of my being and still loves me, still understands me, and still stands by me. I hide nothing from her.

    My first love and I shared the purest love two lovers could experience. We had passion and purity all rolled into one. We never experienced a physical connection beyond kissing, despite our age-appropriateness. Our relationship did not survive because I was not strong enough to resist the bearing-down of my parents. I was still a naive an “obedient” daughter, though I was trying to move out (I was 17) and move on with my life. He met & married another woman, who understood the bond he and I have together and welcomed me into her home for several extended-weekend stays. To this day, he knows what I’m thinking just by the sound of my voice, and vice versa.

    These people are just a few examples of the soul mates in my life. They all provide emotional connections I need in my life, in addition to my “relationship.” To remove any one would be to break down the intricate emotional structure I have developed over time. It is easy to add to the mix, but not to take away.

    Why did I say all of this? Because I feel that while there is nothing wrong with Polyamore , the connections and love that people in the Polyamore communities are looking for can be found in friendships and relationships that do NOT resemble a second marriage or extramarital affair.

    Having said this, I believe that if anyone is going to seek a relationship of any sort outside of their marriage, they should do so openly and with the blessing of their partner in life. To do so in any other arrangement is disgusting, vile, and unnecessary.

    I will apologize now if my words are jumbled or my thoughts disconnected. I’ve only had two hours of sleep in the last 48, and I am trying to go to sleep now because I work in 6 hours. I just couldn’t leave this blog without adding to it though. 🙂


  • Luke Wednesday, 16 April, 2008, 9:21 pm

    OK but what about relationships that do involve sex? ‘Lifestyles’ that specifically prohibit any sort of intimate relationship with people outside the primary one but still permit sex? I’m talking about swinging in the strictest definition.

    I think if you look a little deeper many swingers aren’t totally honest about their ‘relationships’ with their ‘friends with benefits’.

    On a few occasions I’ve seen so called ‘experienced’ swingers totally besotted with one couple or another. I won’t say who because they are respected friends of ours and don’t deserve public criticism. But their infatuation is obvious from a long way off.

    I suppose the point I am getting to is to draw a clear distinction between polyamory and swinging is misleading for many people. I’m not so sure I would draw the long bow and group polyamory along with soul mates.

    We have friends who are in polyamorous relationships and for them at least there is a big difference between the sort of relationships we have as swingers and the sort of relationships we have that don’t involve sex.

    The distinguishing feature we’ve found is that in a polyamorous relationship is a level of commitment that isn’t present otherwise.

    In our opinion a swinger is like a kiwi (the bird) – eats roots and leaves. THe ‘relationship’ can satisfactorily end when everyone is sexually sated.

    A friend is a friend as long as circumstances permit it. Friends come and go depending on life circumstances.

    A partner in a polyamorous relationship is a committed partner. They have manye lement sin common that a married couple have e.g. shared parenting (often but not necessarily) and a degree of exclusivity, e.g. you don’t have to be a swinger to be polyamorous, in some cases quite the opposite.

    For example, for us to have sex with our poly friends, we have to have the assent of all four people in the other relationship, not just the two as is normally the case.

    Anyway that’s my two bob’s worth.

    BTW Ian I love your site and podcast, I just wish I had more time to spend here.

  • Elle Wednesday, 26 November, 2008, 4:39 pm

    Will somebody please help us find a Non Monogamy councellor please please please thanks Elle

  • Carolyn Sunday, 17 January, 2010, 4:11 am

    Do these people who argue for acceptace of multiple partners in marriage and/or serial monogamy have any complaints with the rigid rules and general coercive structuring of the average corporate work envioronment? Or has marriage and home been redefined as the playground, where every increment of freedom is celebrated? Home used to be the place where one did the majority of life’s most significant work. What a historical twist.