From the community: Non-Monogamy has value, an essay.
Anyone who distills non-monogamy down to having your cake and eating it too has likely never been in a non-monogamous relationship. It’s more akin to eating a salad, a salad that in this case is made up of heavy emotional lifting and clear communication to ensure that you’re in a healthy and responsible place with your primary partner. Salad is not as fun to eat as cake, but you do feel good after you eat it, or in the case of this metaphorical non-monogamous salad, it allows you to continue to grow and learn about the world and yourself through an intimate relationship with an external partner. The prescriptive romanticization of what love “should” be has always fucked with my brain in really subconscious ways that I never expected, so it is only natural that the framework of non-monogamy has been something of a key factor in helping me break from these deeply ingrained worldviews.
I guess I should make a confusing disclaimer here by saying that I am currently in a monogamous relationship for the first time in 5 years, maybe even more. I came out of my last relationship with a vow to never start a new serious relationship off with non-monogamy. I added this clause to my “relationship contract” because I think there is so much groundwork and foundation building that is crucial for a healthy non-monogamous relationship. You need a secure home base and a lot of trust in your partner and their intentions. Also, rules and tenderness - definitely rules and tenderness. Non-Monogamy is not always comfortable. There are growing pains that come with having the freedom to explore yourself and others. There is no invisible rule book to follow or even really many models for us to look to, because non-monogamy looks different in each relationship and can even look different in a single relationship over time.
I was introduced to the idea of non-monogamy right after I fell in love with a female for the first time. Of course I fucking was. I meet this girl and she is all I think about, she’s all I want, and she tells me from the beginning that this was something she needed. Fucking Dan Savage, amiright? So what do I do? I try to convince myself I’m okay with it because I really want this and it burned, like really burned my chest. I couldn’t get past this idea that if I didn’t want to see other people and she did, it meant she didn’t feel same way about me as I did about her. How could she possibly love me if she still wanted to see other people? I figured it meant I wasn’t enough for her, because when you’re in love the other person is your everything, duh. Somehow, though, slowly my mind started to open to the idea as the physical separation of our long-distance relationship grew more and more painful.
We made a lot of mistakes and weren’t always considerate and may not have always been non-monogamous for the right reasons, but we did a few things really right. We paved the way for a lot of really important conversations around relationships and the role two people play in each other’s lives. It helped us develop a space for difficult conversations in a non-threatening way. We took jealousy off the table. When that was no longer a threat, it became more of an exploratory novelty for us, through which we could learn about ourselves. We let our relationship grow and change shapes through non-monogamy.
What did we get wrong? Well, we didn’t understand the importance of setting ground rules and upholding them. We didn’t know that our rules didn’t have to align in perfect harmony and that we could both want very different things. We didn’t re-evaluate our rules enough nor did we discuss them often. When things were changing we weren’t making sure that the other felt safe and comfortable. We should have squeezed each other harder, we should have honored each other for allowing one another the space to explore these things. There were times that our primary relationship was not given the space it needed.
We broke molds and detrimental molds at that. We learned and grew as people and because of that, non-monogamy is something I will always value . . . even if I’m not always practicing it.
by Alex Bershon
Gender pronouns: She/Her
Location: Portland, OR
Queer identified low-femme cat momma of two residing in Portland, Oregon. A maker and an avid thrifter. Current hobby: painting her designs on clothing and pottery. Stoked on human connection and building relationships.