What Does It Look Like to Be Emotionally Monogamous?
If you’re fully emotionally monogamous, you might have many acquaintances but only one truly intimate emotional connection. On one hand, it’s an amazing feeling to have someone that you can really depend on, who knows you inside and out. There’s absolutely something to be said for a close, intimate connection with a feeling of exclusivity.
For some people, it’s hard to connect. If you have trouble trusting others or forging deep connections, you are certainly not alone. Everyone has been hurt, and not everyone has bounced back in the same way.
However, emotional monogamy can hurt when you expect all things from one person. To be another person’s complete support system is heavy on emotional labor. If one of you doesn’t know how to handle a particular situation, it might just not be handled at all. This might sound pessimistic, but if things ever go south in your relationship, you might find yourself without emotional support or that connection.
What About Emotional Non-Monogamy?
You’ve probably been practicing a form of emotional non-monogamy for years without realizing it simply by having close friends outside your relationship.
Shaylee, who practices polyamory, said she agrees that having emotionally intimate connections outside of romance adds to the health of any relationship.
“People are hardwired to seek out connections, [and] I think friendships are highly underrated,” she said. “I think [pursuing intimate friendships] is a fundamental thing to do to improve your quality of life.”
If this sounds foreign to you, it’s probably because a lot of mainstream culture prizes focusing on your spouse or your significant other to the exclusion of your friends, especially if your friends are the same gender as your partner. Many blogs and articles advise keeping friends at arm’s length and never getting too close because no one should know you as well as your significant other does.
The thing is, different people bring out different traits in us. The side of you that your partner knows is going to differ a little bit from the side of you that your parents know, the side of you that your high school best friend knows, or the side of you that frequents the local coffee shop. Being able to be a truly well-rounded version of yourself means exploring all of these facets of your personality - as long as the people you’re close to are bringing out the best.
“Where people draw the line between friendship and love varies so wildly from person to person, and how you frame it makes all the difference,” fellow blogger Sugarcunt told me.
For some people, falling in love is easier than it is for others, and you may feel that getting too close is a recipe for disaster. In that case, it’s important to know and enforce your boundaries, which are going to vary from person to person.
“For me it's like the line between romance and a strong friendship blurs, and because I'm sexual [as opposed to asexual] that's ultimately what I have to rely on to differentiate between relationships, and I think that's what most other people use too, although maybe for different reasons,” she said.
How Is This Different From Polyamory?
Polyamory has recently gained some traction in mainstream culture, and it seems to be taking the sex-positive community by storm. Are more people practicing polyamory these days, or are people just more open about it? Either way, it certainly has people talking.
Polyamory (often shortened to ‘poly’) is not necessarily what we’re going for with emotional non-monogamy, although polyamory often involves multiple close, intimate and emotional relationships. Many individuals practice polyamory in many different ways, and so many flavors of polyamory exist. What it boils down to is the cultivation of nonexclusive intimate relationships, both physical and emotional.
One reason that some people choose to embrace polyamory is the belief that one other person cannot satisfy all of your needs and desires - and shouldn’t feel that they have that responsibility. Personally, I think you can embrace this idea whether you’re polyamorous or monogamous. (Learn more about poly life in Polyamory: More Than Enough Love to Go Around.)
If you have close friendships, cultivate them. Think about why your friends are your friends and what kinds of unique things they bring into your life. Appreciate those closest to you for who they are, and for what you do for each other. And finally, get to know your friends' and partners' boundaries, and what constitutes non-monogamy for them.