The Two Big Things Polyamory Taught Me About Monogamy (And All Types of Relationships)
I’ve been in monogamous relationships, polyamorous relationships, and everywhere in-between. I even lived with my boyfriend, his wife, and her girlfriend for eight months when I lived in Boston. Still, I wasn’t someone who always knew he was polyamorous; I actually used to think it was just for people with severe commitment issues. Boy, was I wrong.
Over my years of exploring various forms of ethically non-monogamous relationships, I learned a thing or two about monogamy. While I’m currently very single, (feel free to slide into my DMs at Zacharyzane_ on Insta of Twitter), being poly has trained me for any type of relationship my future will hold.
I doubt I’ll ever go back to a place of being strictly monogamous, but I’ll also never say never. For me, it’s not about the relationship type, as much as it is the relationship type with that specific person. For some partners, I think it works best for us both to be completely poly without any “rules.” Whereas for other partners, I think it would work best for us both to be open and only “play” with other folks together.
Nevertheless, being polyamory taught me a thing or two about monogamous, and for that matter all types of relationship, whether I’m sleeping with (and/or loving) one partner or 10.
The first thing it did was help me overcome my jealousy issues. It’s sort of ironic. When I was monogamous, I would get jealous of the people my partner wasn’t sleeping with. When I became poly, I wasn’t jealous of the people my partner was both sleeping with, dating, and freakin’ married to!
The thing is, jealousy is natural. It happens for many reasons — insecurity, a fear the person will leave you, lie to you, or something else entirely. When I was poly, my jealousy vanished (for the most part) because I knew my partner wanted to spend time with me because he wanted to, not because he felt obligated.
I also dealt with my jealousy honestly. When I did feel jealous, because yes, at times I still did — I am human after all — I simply spoke to my partner about it. I would say, “You know, you’re spending a lot of time with Jenny, and I’m starting to feel unwanted.” We then had a healthy and open conversation about it.
I used to bottle up my jealousy because I thought it was a toxic emotion — and I felt dumb for feeling it when I trusted my partner. But jealous isn’t dumb or toxic. It’s natural, arguably healthy. It’s how you respond to it that can be stupid or toxic.
The second thing I learned is that all relationships change. In poly relationships, it’s expected that at times you grow closer with one partner, but the scale will eventually tip back. In monogamy, I feel like we often don’t allow the relationship to evolve, and I don’t just mean sexually with others. I mean with everything. In monogamous relationships, you assume that what was working a year ago — meaning how much time you spend together, the other people you hung out with as a couple, etc. — still works now. That might not be the case.
Even when monogamous, you should have conversations with your partner about how the relationship is evolving, and you two should be open to growing together.
At the end of the day, I found it easier to be honest and communicative in my polyamorous relationships because you really have to be when dating and loving multiple people. But that communication and honesty shouldn’t be reserved for poly couples. Everyone, no matter what type of relationship you’re in, should strive for that level of openness.
Zachary Zane is a Brooklyn-based writer, speaker, and activist whose work focuses on lifestyle, sexuality, culture, and entertainment. He was formerly the digital associate editor at OUT Magazine.His work has been featured in Rolling Stone, Washington Post, Playboy, and more.