Is monogamy the only “right” way to have a relationship? It can seem that way based on what we might see in the media, our culture or our own families. We live in a society that shows monogamy everywhere and highly values that structure. However, monogamy isn’t the “only” or “right” way; relationships can take many different shapes and forms.
Monogamy is important to some people but not to others. If you’re feeling like monogamy isn’t quite right for you, it can be confusing and stressful trying to figure out the best way to approach a different kind of relationship.
Some tips for identifying what you want and bringing up different relationship styles with your current or future partner(s) in a healthy way:
- First, identify what you want.
A relationship can be defined however you want it to be, as long as you and your partner(s) all agree to the boundaries set. First, it’s important to identify what you personally want out of a relationship.
- Do you want to have one partner you’re emotionally committed to and still engage in sexual activities with others?
- Do you want to have a relationship where you have multiple partners who are all in the same relationship together?
- Do you want to have several different relationships going on at the same time?
You have the right to decide what’s best for yourself.
- Think about how you want to communicate.
Open and honest communication is important in all relationships, but it can be a little more complex in a non-monogamous relationship. How and what you communicate depend on what each person is comfortable with and the boundaries everyone sets.
Do you want to know if your partner(s) are going to date another person or sleep with someone else? Would you prefer not to know who they’re seeing? Do you need a keyword or key phrase to inform your partner(s) if you’re going to be with someone else for the day/evening? It’s a good idea to think through the boundaries around communication that work for you and address them with your partner(s) ahead of time.
Remember, each person might have different boundaries, and boundaries can shift or change over time, so working together to consider how you can make sure everyone is comfortable is important. Also, keep in mind that a key component of healthy communication is trusting your partner(s) fully. If you find you’re unable to trust your partner(s), then maybe the relationship isn’t right for you at this time.
Another essential part of healthy communication is sexual boundaries , including having safe sex . Does everyone want to engage in sexual activities together? Apart? Or a combination of both? However you want the sexual boundaries to work, it’s important to communicate your wants and needs. If at any point in time you feel like your partner(s) are putting you at risk for HIV and/or STIs, then that might be a sign the relationship structure is unhealthy.
- How can I bring this up with my partner?
For a lot of people, it can be really tough to start a conversation about non-monogamy with their partner(s). When talking to your partner(s), it can be helpful to use “I” statements to create room for healthy communication over a difficult subject (for example, “I feel that having a different kind of relationship is best for me right now. I’d like to talk about that with you.” ).
Some people may need time to think about and process what they just heard. Giving partner(s) space to think about reforming the structure of the relationship is healthy and respectful. If your partner(s) feels like what you want isn’t right for them, then they have every right to voice that feeling and/or choose to leave the relationship.
In the end, it’s important that everyone involved can agree on and honor the boundaries of the relationship, whether it’s monogamous or not. If at any point someone doesn’t agree with the relationship’s boundaries, it might be time to reconsider whether the relationship is a good fit. Keep in mind that it’s not okay to coerce or force someone into any kind of relationship. Every person has the right to decide what kind of relationship works best for them.
Unhealthy signs to look out for
Like all relationships, non-monogamous relationships can become unhealthy or abusive. In a healthy relationship of any kind, all partners should be able to trust one another fully, treat everyone like equals and respect each other. If you feel like one or more partners has more power and control in the relationship, that might be a sign the relationship isn’t healthy.
Also, if you find that the boundaries aren’t equal (for example: you can’t have sex with others outside of the relationship but your partner(s) can), then that can also be a sign the relationship is not healthy. For more information on how to identify unhealthy or abusive behaviors, be sure to check out our Power and Control Wheel .
Still unsure about how to approach this subject with your partner(s)? Feel free to to chat live with one of our advocates 24/7.