I am currently in an open relationship and also use the word non-monogamous to describe my partner and I. The definition of non-monogamous can vary depending on who you talk to. Overall it means that you can pursue romantic and sexual experiences with more than one person while being committed to them. For me it means having a main partner and casually dating other people. Because I recently started a new job, I wondered whether I should disclose this or let people assume I am monogamous.
The topic came up over lunch a few weeks ago and I shared that my partner and I are not exclusive. The stereotypical reaction arrived straight away “omg I could never, I’ve got terrible trust issues” or “I’d love to be the one who is polyamorous but I’d want my partner to be monogamous”. Look, I get it, this setup is not the norm and it goes against such an ingrained belief that if your partner dares have desire for someone else, they’re a terrible person who doesn’t love and respect you. That being said, these reactions and the questions that follow make me feel a bit overwhelmed.
The pressure to become a spokesperson when in an ENM relationship
Lately, I have felt a lot of pressure to represent non-monogamy to monogamous people. I feel as though I should be very careful with what I share so I don’t give a negative image of the polyamorous community. This is quite strange because I don’t think monogamous people think that way when they talk about their relationship.
I understand where people are coming from with all their questions because I probably had similar thoughts years ago. I’d say I’ve learned about non-monogamy and practised it over the last 3 years of my life. I have read several books, followed different social media accounts of people who specialise in educating around what non-monogamy can look like and also dated different people within that community. If I feel better equipped to navigate non-monogamy, it does not mean I have it all figured out. It’s a constant process of learning and communicating with the people I date.
I think with most personal topics, I find it quite mind-blowing that people would just ask questions without thinking about the emotional implications. If someone asks “but don’t you get jealous?”, it feels so loaded because personally I do but I don’t think that means I'm doing something wrong. It just means I have decided to accept that feeling and deal with it in a different way to people in monogamous relationships.
The importance of finding supportive spaces
A few weeks ago I attended a talk about non-monogamy. It was such a lovely night filled with wisdom, interesting chats with other attendees and thought-provoking questions from the audience. I especially enjoyed it because it made me feel so comfortable and secure in my choice of relationship. I say that because I believe for me non-monogamy is a choice more than an orientation.
It’s crucial to balance those moments where you’re finding yourself almost having to explain your lifestyle to the people around you with being in spaces where people get it and have similar experiences.
Ruby Rare was the person leading the talk. She wanted to provide a space for people who are both brand new to open relationships and already navigating that world as she recognises that it can feel overwhelming. She shared her learnings drawn from her personal experiences as well as her professional expertise.
Who is Ruby Rare?
Great question! Ruby Rare is a pink-haired and bubbly jack-of-all-trades who has been teaching Relationship and Sex Education for the past 8 years. I highly recommend following her Instagram account. It is a real goldmine for learning about topics such as gender and sexuality, pleasure, consent, body positivity and non-monogamy.
I often turn to Ruby’s educational content when feeling in doubt or insecure about different things. I find her tone very comforting and warm which is very helpful. She also organises events such as her talks called Sexy Sermons or body positive life drawing events, Body Love Sketch Club. She is also very vocal about social issues and advocating for queer rights, being queer herself.
Non-monogamy 101: a joyful and non-judgmental talk around polyamory
The first point Ruby Rare made that resonated with me was that non-monogamy is a beautiful opportunity to refocus on yourself, your desires, your body. By not thinking that there is this one person you must find and devote yourself to, you can actually explore your relationship with yourself. Something else I thought was really interesting was how you can prioritise other relationships such as friendships or family relationships.
Another question that came up quite quickly was “Do you guys have rules??”. That is a very valid question as I know sometimes people have them for many different reasons. I think it’s easy to want to establish lots of very clear rules in order to feel safe and secure. I’m actively trying to find fulfilment and safety with my main partner by focusing on having our needs met. I care about the time we spend together, the activities we do together to further our relationship and the ways we communicate. I don’t want to overinvest my energy and time monitoring what he does when we are not together so long as he is happy and fulfilled.
One audience member shared what one of her partners told her: “remember that me having the freedom to explore relationships with other people only means that if I want you in my life, it’s a real choice made enthusiastically.” This is something I find very powerful about non-monogamy: the intentionality of the relationships you build. The people you decide to build a connection with have the constant right and liberty to go explore and yet they choose to continue to invest in their relationship with you as well.
I want to dedicate this article to all the polyamorous peeps who are tired of answering those questions as well as to all the curious people who are trying to get to grips with a reality that is different to theirs. Remember that non-monogamous people are not superhumans with no emotions. We have simply chosen or realised that we were meant for a different set up when it comes to forming fulfilling and happy relationships.