In this article, I define non-monogamy as a relationship with oneself or with more than two persons. I consider people without any partner as being in a relationship with themselves.
Monogamy is what society makes us believe is natural, and the ultimate romantic goal is marriage.
If you look at any Disney movie, you’ll see a prince and a princess. And the same is displayed in movie theatres and TV shows. It is always a couple – two people together.
Monogamy is not natural. It is a choice. Some people choose it consciously, while others just follow the status quo.
A person who chooses not to or is not in a monogamous relationship is often seen as weird, unhappy, reckless, immature or anti-social.
- But what if some people don’t choose to be monogamous?
- What are the alternatives to non-monogamy?
- Why would someone choose to avoid monogamy?
I’ll try to answer these questions and perhaps provide you with a different perspective on sexual and romantic relationships.
I – Singlehood
Singlehood is defined as not being married. It is also commonly used to describe people who are not in long-term relationships or have no romantic partner.
There are many assumptions in society, leading one to believe that singleness isn’t a choice. And, people who are single by default (divorced, widowed, or unfortunate) will remain unhappy and unfulfilled forever.
Both assumptions are wildly inaccurate. Many people choose to remain single for a while or even forever.
Healthy reasons to remain single:
- a desire to spend time alone to get to know oneself,
- the pursuit of a career or entrepreneurship goal,
- taking the time to recover from a past relationship,
- no interest in being in a serious relationship,
- not feeling ready for a long-term relationship,
- a desire to remain free from any romantic commitments,
- a longing to spend time with God,
- a desire for multiple romantic or sexual partners (open lifestyle).
I won’t talk about the people who are single by default and are unhappy about it. It isn’t the purpose of this article. I want to focus on those who choose to be single because we often think these people to be reckless and open to anything.
In reality, many singles are thoughtful in their dating life. They are very aware of themselves and excel at communicating what they’re looking for, and what they like.
I believe this to be a great power to have: the courage to express one’s desire without fearing retribution or rejection.
If you don’t tell your partner what you want, s/he may not be able to meet your needs (romantic and sexual). Furthermore, you will both save time if you state what you like and don’t like.
For example, some people are looking for a romantic connection, a date, a new friendship or a one-night stand. Being upfront and honest about what you want will enable you to live a healthy single life and waste anyone’s time.
If you’re single, you have the opportunity to know who you are without worrying about fitting into somebody else’s life. Use this time wisely and thoroughly.
II – Celibacy & Abstinence
I could have written on celibacy and singlehood in one part, but I noticed that most people confused both definitions.
I plead guilty! As a French person learning English, I thought celibacy, celibate, abstinence and singleness were synonyms.
Boy, I was wrong! So let’s clarify this point.
Celibacy is the state of voluntarily being unmarried or not engaging in any form of sexual activity, usually to fulfil a religious vow. A person who practices celibacy is called a « celibate. »
Abstinence – also called « continence, » is a choice not to have sexual intercourse or engage in sexual activity for a certain amount of time, usually, until marriage or finding the right partner.
A key difference is that a celibate makes a vow to remain unmarried and abstain from sexual activity for a lifetime (priests and nuns). An abstinent person may have a romantic partner, but choose not to engage in sexual intimacy for a period of time.
Nowadays, we use the terms « celibacy » and « celibate » to mean abstinence: a person’s choice not to have sex for some time. I’ll use the later version here.
Various reasons can explain such a decision :
- to focus more on emotional, intellectual, or spiritual concerns,
- to use a celibacy period as a pathway toward self-examination,
- independent of a person’s will (inmate, illness, disability, isolation or socially unskilled),
- one doesn’t feel sexual for a while or for good (asexuals, for example).
- to take time to understand a partner emotionally and spiritually.
Celibacy teaches us that there are infinite ways to connect with a partner – romantically, intimately, domestically, and more – as long as one opens their heart and is willing to be vulnerable and love unconditionally.
We tend to consume things quickly, especially sex, without getting to know ourselves and people. Hence, giving access to toxic relationships and negative experiences.
Celibacy could help a person who needs to get over a toxic partner. It could also help one to clear their mind and get more connected to their inner-self.
A change of perspective can be positive. Instead of following sexual impulses when it comes to dating, you can learn to disregard them to centre your attention on people’s spirit, emotional energy or intention.
III – Polyamory
We often picture a romantic relationship as two people committed exclusively to each other – also called monogamy.
However, some people are in a romantic relationship with more than one person. All partners know about each other’s existence and consent to the non-monogamy structure – also called polyamory.
Polyamory has a lot of spectrums. Some call it « open relationship », « sex friend » or « swinging ».
There isn’t one clear definition on the matter.
In my opinion, what makes it easier to define polyamory is the principles or rules you apply in your romantic and sexual life. I also believe polyamory includes a minimum of emotional bond.
I don’t see it as a one night shot.
Polyamory can last for months or even years if all partners are treated with respect and honesty.
It is entirely different from cheating because polyamorous people have shared agreements about sex and relationships with other people—an essential element of the relationship and its definition.
A polyamorous person isn’t available to everyone. In fact, like single people, they take the time to know each partner’s needs and intentions. There is a connection, which can be as deep as one is willing to go.
Some become family members with children or close friends or even members of an intimate network or group.
Infinite possibilities are available.
Relationships are flexible and don’t imprison a person to one (gender) role only (father, mother, lover, husband, wife, caretaker, etc.).
It can seem utopian, and I do agree.
I find it hard to picture an idyllic polyamory relationship. Of course, like any relationship, there are some hard times. And perhaps, the hurdles are even more intense than in a monogamy relationship.
Besides, we live in a society where being a couple – being married – is more « rewarding » than being single. For instance, it might be challenging to write a will protecting your life partners and their children.
So, why do people choose to be polyamorous?
I’ve done some research and couldn’t come up with an exact list. I believe it depends on each individual. However, I feel the primary purpose is Freedom :
- to love and share it with whoever one feel connected,
- to have different romantic and sexual experiences,
- to experience diverse parts of oneself,
- to live a life on one’s own terms,
- to follow one’s curiosity and desire,
- to push conventional boundaries,
- to be who you are.
People might think polyamory will lead to anarchy. They couldn’t be further away from the truth. Everything we do can lead to anarchy if done without care, respect, honesty, and love.
Sure, they are people who decide to be polyamorous for the « wrong » reasons (wrong is a relative term based on your perception of what serves you in a situation).
But more people choose a polyamory relationship for the well-being of themselves and their partners.
Polyamory requires a lot of emotional and spiritual work. It isn’t for everybody. The effort to have a healthy relationship is tremendous.
But the rewards are worth it. Here are a few advantages :
- Overcoming jealousy: People learn how to recognize and express it without fear and in a healthy way.
- Emotional satisfaction: A partner might not be able to satisfy all your needs. You can fulfil them with another one. It sounds very childish, but why should you impose your desire’s fulfilment upon one person?
- Sexual diversity: Polyamory enables experiencing different things in sex with several partners (BDSM, tantric sex, role play).
- Honest Communication: The success of a polyamory relationship lies in clear communication and boundaries. Each partner must learn to express what they want and don’t want.
- Being yourself: You can experience the different parts of yourself without fearing to be judged or rejected.
A relationship is more than two persons or less than two people. Not everyone wishes to have a monogamy relationship or dream of marriage.
A person can choose singlehood, celibacy, abstinence, or polyamory. The important question is to know why one chooses such a relationship. Remember, non-monogamy isn’t for everyone.
Numerous reasons exist, as everyone has specific desires. We saw earlier that spiritual growth, healing from trauma, career achievements, freedom, and more can justify a non-monogamy lifestyle.
Each type of relationship has pros and cons. I haven’t talked about it, since my purpose was to explore new territory and summarise what I’ve learned so far.
I still have a lot of work to do, but I hope you enjoy reading this article.
Let me know your thoughts about it.
Whatever relationship you have or decide to have, I hope it will be full of love, respect, and excitement.
You might be interested in a blog post I wrote on Conditional and Unconditional Love.
Please read it and let me know what you think!