Guest post from Lady Jane
Based on my other articles, you may have been given the impression that non-monogamy is a huge, sexy free-for-all with no regard for health risks or other relationships. My bad. Since this isn’t the case, I’d like to answer some of the more common questions that everyone wants to ask, but is too scared to ask regarding open relationships. First, I’ll begin with a story:
I was out at a concert the other night with my hot red-headed friend and her fiance when the subject of non-monogamy came up. Many people are curious about this subject and it’s all abuzz on the Internet, so I was really thankful that instead of just acting like they knew all about it, they decided to ask me questions instead of remaining in absolute ignorance.
Curiosity is a wonderful driver for knowledge and it was obvious that they were afraid and felt awkward, like you might feel uncomfortable, but curious, about asking your gay friend about being gay. By the way, I would encourage you to talk to your gay friends about being gay just so you can become closer to the people in your life. You’ll find that once you understand someone a little better, what you perceive to be unknown and scary about them isn’t really that scary. We all think it’s really awkward, and it is, for a moment, and then it’s not. Then it’s just people relating to other people, sharing human experiences.
I answered their questions not to represent the entire non-monogamous world, but to simply give them more context that we’re not all horny, sex-crazy, sluts (okay, maybe I am, but there are lots of non-monogamous people/relationships that adhere to a more structured dynamic).
Remember, just like monogamous relationships, each non-monogamous relationship is different and it’s okay to ask questions and talk about these differences with your friends, parents, hairdressers, therapists, workout buddies, lab partners, or anyone else you trust and share personal life details with. Major props to those who actually have the cajones to ask other people questions about things they don’t understand.
It’s way better to ask a question than to assume you know something about another person or about anything, really. Even if you feel uncomfortable and awkward, those few seconds of awkwardness and discomfort will be over as soon as you ask your question and then you’re a better informed, more supportive, friend, partner, or lover.
May I remind you that when you assume, you make (how does the saying go?) “an Ass out of U and Me.” So yeah, get over your awkward discomfort and let the questions (and the answers) flow!
The number one question I get asked is: “So, you just have sex with anyone you want to?” No, that’s not really how it works. First of all, just because I want to have sex with someone, doesn’t mean they want to have sex with me. Non-monogamous people get rejected, too. I have lots of stories about being at orgies and getting left out or, most recently, getting ejected out of a hot tub orgy in a warehouse by a woman who wanted all the men to herself. Some folks just don’t like to share!
Also, sometimes – for whatever reason – one of your partners may not be okay with a potential lover you are considering. In this situation, communicate and check in with your partners. Ask, “why isn’t this okay?” or, “what about this person or situation is making you feel uncomfortable?”
Sometimes boundaries need to be set up so everyone feels good about what could happen and where the situation might go. You may not be able to have sex with anyone you want to, but the vast majority of the time, you can at least have a conversation around it with your partner(s) and feel comfortable about the outcome.
Common question number two, “Don’t you get jealous if the person you’re with has sex with someone else?” Yes, I do get jealous, but if you’ve read my post on jealousy, you’ll come to discover that jealousy can be worked through and overcome. Besides, sometimes sex is just sex, so, if that’s the case, then there’s no harm in letting two consenting adults just have sex. A good follow up read on this topic is this Practical Jealousy Management PDF by Franklin Veaux.
Another common question is about love: “But wait, so, do you LOVE more than one person at a time?” Why yes, yes I do and I don’t see how having more love in your life is a bad thing. There’s an infinite amount of love in the universe so why would I want someone to limit the amount of love and support they can receive? God forbid if something were to happen to a family member or close friend, I have so many people who love me to help me, guide me, and support me through just about everything.
The complicated part is that I like to think of people’s time as a resource and if I feel like I’m not getting enough resources, I do start to get upset and anxious. My kind of upset might look different because upset (to me) looks more like a conversation. If I feel like my needs aren’t getting met, I communicate with my more-than-a-friend to figure out how they can be met. Do I need to schedule a date? Do I need more alone time? Do I need more partnered time? Do I need more sex and less cuddling? Maybe more cuddling and less sex? Do I just need him to listen?
I’ve found that I’m more in tune with my needs when I’m not relying on just one person to meet ALL of them. I feel more in control of my life now that I’m not depending on just one man.
Being non monogamous isn’t a free-for-all at all. I check in, set boundaries, ask permission, and listen to the worries, fears, and anxieties of my primary partner. He does the same for me.
In fact, it takes more self control, communication, organization, and structure than any of my monogamous relationships took. I’ve become more honest, open about my feelings, and better at communicating since I’ve “come out” as non-monogamous. I have nothing to hide from my partners and friends anymore. It’s a huge relief.
Other questions I commonly get are: “What about STI’s? Aren’t you worried about catching something if you have more than one partner?” Well, yes, with more partners, the risk of sexually transmitted infections increase, but guess what… with more partners comes more COMMUNICATION and informed consent about STIs.
When I was monogamous, conversations about birth control, testing, and past partners happened (maybe) once. My boyfriend would tell me the number of people he’d slept with, I’d ask him if he ever got tested, he’d ask me if I was on birth control, and that was that.
Now I get tested more frequently, always carry condoms, talk to people about having an IUD, share my experiences with the pill, the copper IUD, and the rhythm method, ask about sexual history, and won’t sleep with people who aren’t comfortable talking about these things. It’s a way-of-life-dialogue.
If you can’t talk about it, you shouldn’t be doing it.
Sexually transmitted diseases and birth control methods are regular dinner table conversations, and I fail to see how discussing health, health risks, and communication is a bad thing.
“So how do you coordinate who gets who, when?” This is sometimes the tricky part and can only be solved with communication. I mean, communication in all its forms: Facebook messaging, text messaging, phone calls, letters, smoke signals, formal invitations, onomatopoeias, eyebrow raises, etc.
Imagine a United Nations meeting but with fewer people and less underrepresentation. I went through a period of time where I didn’t “count” the internet as a “real” form of communication and if you’re at all old fashioned (like me), I invite you to drop your judgments on what is “real” and “fake” communication. After some introspection and analyzation, I came to the conclusion that any attempt to communicate more clearly should be celebrated. I now say, the more ways you and the people in your life can communicate, the better.
And thank goodness for Google Calendar!
My current relationship status looks like this:
I mainly date one man – I consider him my primary partner. His primary partner is another woman and his secondary partners are me and one other woman. We take turns sharing his attention, which actually works out really well for me because currently we live in different places; I live across the country from him. His primary partner is a teacher and she works during the week, and the other lady works on the weekends and has a more serious primary boyfriend.
Is this perfect? No. Is it how I want to spend the rest of my life? No. Will I communicate if the relationship stops making me happy and I want more or less? Yes!
But, in this moment, right now, right here, I’m happy and feel very content and taken care of in this relationship. I have found that relationships change so much over time and if I have a connection and commitment to a person or people, I will make keeping those people or that person in my life a priority, even if the relationship changes its form.
I know that I love this man on a fundamental level so even though the relationship and other people involved may change, my love for him still remains the same. That for me is clear and we are both willing to let each other grow and change as long as we’re in each other’s lives.
Even in monogamous relationships, the schedules of partners don’t line up perfectly. For me, monogamy wasn’t a cure-all for abolishing feelings of insecurity, loneliness, or feeling left out. If anything, I felt more left out when I was monogamous because if my partner couldn’t hang out with me when I had free time and he had to work, it meant that I was left alone. I didn’t feel like I had the option to pursue other intimate relationships.
I like that I’m not socially dependent on just one person which was a pattern that I fell into by default when I was dating one person monogamously. I fell into some really bad habits that weren’t sustainable in the long run. Now I feel like I have time to do the things that are essential to me without having someone else waiting around. When I want to be social, or kinky, or go on a date, or stay in and eat pizza and watch Star Trek, all I have to do is ask and I know it’s all ok.
“But aren’t all non monogamous people always looking for the next best thing?” I answer this question with a reminder that monogamy is not a guarantee that your partner won’t cheat on you, leave you for someone else, or constantly be on the look out for someone new. Let’s face it, with the divorce rate, monogamous marriage isn’t an insurance policy. People will enter and exit your life whether you’re monogamous or not.
The question is really, “What is your capacity to love?” For some people it is just with one other person, and that’s perfectly fine. Your capacity to love can support another human being. That’s something to be proud of. If your capacity to love is between multiple partners, that’s great too. Love between any number of people is a beautiful thing because no matter how you serve it up, it’s still love.
Love is not a free-for-all, though, and you can’t force it. It takes time, making mistakes, learning from mistakes, honesty, and communication to make it even begin to function. If you’re curious about non-monogamy (or anything else), I would encourage you to ask questions of other non-monogamous people. Begin the dialogue and you’d be surprised how un-scary a scary topic can be. Feel free to even contact me via BetterSexEd if you’re unsure of where to start, I’d be happy to share!