Ask PolyAnna: Do you think that someone who is monogamous can learn to be polyamorous for a partner, or do you think they are courting disaster?

Question: Do you think that someone who is monogamous can learn to be polyamorous for a partner, or do you think they are courting disaster?


In general, I am not sure that someone who identifies as staunchly monogamous can, or should, try to “learn to be polyamorous for a partner.” For me being polyamorous is as central to who I am as my hair color, my eye color, and so forth. It is an integral part of who I am, just as I have grown to accept the fact that I am bisexual, or as others identify as gender-queer, or gay, or even as male or female. These identifications come from deep inside us. I am poly, I just am. It is how my heart and my mind works.

That said, I think there is value for someone new to the concept, examining that side of themselves for the first time, to give the idea a reasonable amount of due diligence. Most of us, myself included, felt like I couldn’t be a grown up until I settled down and found the perfect partner for me. I had no other cultural model as a young person other than monogamy. Culturally, that is what we were given. It would take me deciding to explore my open relationship, meeting a man and waking up inexplicably “in love” with two very different men, for me to actually seek out a word to describe that phenomenon. Mind you, as shocking as that realization was for me, in my heart it seemed perfectly natural. It took my head a bit of time to catch up. Had I merely rejected the idea out of hand, I would have cheated myself out of coming to understand myself at a much deeper level.

Using my experience as an example: I married a good old fashioned European Catholic. It doesn’t get much more mainline monogamous than that. I knew he was struggling very close to the wedding day, with the idea of forever. In fact it was keeping him awake at night. We talked about it. I told him, let’s go through with the wedding and “we’d see what happened.” We had been living together at that point for at least two years. We had even bought a house the year before the wedding. I had witnessed, over an agonizing 11 year period, my parent’s relationship crumble and then implode in spectacular fashion. I was not buying the “always and forever” guideline. I subscribed to the “as long as we can stand each other” idea. I felt it couldn’t hurt for my husband and I to see where this relationship would lead us.

When my husband came to me and wanted to date his co-worker, and I decided to give that my blessing, I had very obviously stepped outside the box. After doing a serious amount of self-examination, I decided, having stepped out of the box, I wouldn’t rule anything out, without a healthy examination first. Over time I have ruled some things out but, more surprisingly, I have ruled some things in that I might have once said would always be out. You really cannot know until you try it, explore it, test drive it.

Unless one is willing to take what comes, take a deep breath and be committed to self exploration, then I think trying to learn to be poly or non-monogamous is foolhardy at best. I have met people who are monogamous, and are partnered to someone who is non-monogamous. In two such cases, their partner is bisexual and perhaps that is what makes it work. Perhaps the same gender pairings, make them more comfortable. They are what I would call non-monogamy friendly.

So can it work? I suppose so. Do I think it will be easy? No.

Do I think someone facing this situation owes it to themselves and their partner to try? Sure! I think rejecting the notion of non-monogamy simply because you have not ever thought about it or for some reason think it simply isn’t possible, cheats one out of the chance to explore, not only deeply within, but also closes the door or doors to possibly some beautiful relationship experiences.

I also think the chances of success greatly increase when couples facing this situation seek some professional assistance or community support. A wisely chosen counselor or support group can make all the difference. Might the outcome be the same without assistance? Perhaps, but I still feel, with guidance and a neutral listener, the chances for a less painful process increase dramatically.

While I do not believe that non-monogamous people are more evolved or more enlightened, I think they have been courageous enough to look deep inside and then follow their hearts. I think those monogamously inclined, who perhaps have taken the time to look inside and have after honest appraisal accepted that they are, at the heart of it, a monogamous being, then they owe it to themselves and their potential partners to live their life authentically, to love and honor their true natures.

Anytime anyone tries to live a life that is not authentically theirs, that feels wrong, or twists them around to please a partner, that is always the fast lane – in my humble opinion – to DISASTER.

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