In a world where open relationships and polyamory are getting more attention, the “right” answer regarding monogamy can feel confusing. Should you open up your relationship or stay completely monogamous? And what does it mean if you still enjoy looking at people you find attractive or have a “Free Pass List” in your relationship? The quick and easy answer to the question of monogamy is that you only have to do what both you and your partner consent to do. Anything that doesn’t have the consent of everyone involved is, at best, cheating.
Being monogamish with your partner became a topic of conversation for many people thanks to Jessica O’Reilly’s Ted Talk on the topic. Instead of having an open relationship with multiple partners – definitely not something that works for everyone – partners are freer with their admiration of other people. They may openly flirt with others and can talk to their partner about desires they have outside of their relationship.
For many people being monogamish is a mindset more than a series of actions. Do you and your partner have a “Freebie” list? You know, the list of famous people you’d get a free pass to fuck if the opportunity ever happened? Maybe one of you is a flirt but the other doesn’t mind. These are just a few signs of being monogamish. It’s an openness you have about your desires or flirtations without necessarily acting on them. You may never have sex with another person and still consider yourself monogamish.
Open relationships aren’t cheating as long as both partners agree to an arrangement and follow the rules you create together. You may decide to allow each other to have casual sex, enter into more committed relationships, date others, or any combination. For some couples, they want to know all the details while others don’t want to know anything.
An open relationship requires consent and communication in order to work. Feelings of jealousy and emotional distress are not always signs that an open relationship isn’t working. They shouldn’t be ignored, either. If you decide to go down this path together, talk about your feelings and be honest with each other so you can adjust as needed. Open relationships aren’t a quick fix to more serious problems. In reality, they will likely put a spotlight on any problems you and your partner may have together.
While often described in the same terms as an open relationship, polyamory is a bit different. Both require full consent of both you and your partner and only work if you’re honest with each other just like an open relationship. Polyamory, however, tends to focus more on committed relationships. Casual dating or sex may be part of it, but many polyamorous people feel deep, loving connections to their partners even if not all the partners have that same connection to everyone else.
Like open relationships, what your polyamorous life looks like will vary from person to person. You may be happy for your partner to have multiple people in their life while you stay monogamous. You may be heterosexual while your partner is bisexual. Your relationship may thrive when you’re both in a relationship with a third person or it may be better for you to have your own additional partners. No two polyamorous relationships look alike. All that matters is that you find what works for you.
Open relationships and polyamory may be receiving more attention and for some people, these relationships are better suited to their personality. That does not mean that you shouldn’t be monogamous if that’s a better fit for you. Don’t open up your relationship with the goal of spicing things up or “fixing” a problem. You’d be better off buying sex toys and getting each other off if all you need is some extra heat.
Monogamy, polyamory, and open relationships are how you commit to your partner. There is no one right answer, regardless of what society tells you. It’s best to make a decision based on the facts, though. Understand what each style entails, what’s required, and what they offer. From there, you can decide if you’d rather stay monogamous or not.
To answer the question we started with, “Do you have to be monogamous?” No, you don’t. You can be whatever works for you and your partner as long as it’s done with trust, communication, and consent. Don’t cheat on your partner and call that an open relationship. Instead, talk to each other, experiment, and be honest. Your relationship can be whatever you both make of it.