Polyamory is not one-size-fits-all. In fact, it's the polar opposite - a relationship that allows you and your partner or partners to define the parameters, make the rules and love as you choose. Each poly relationship looks different from the next. This often isn't the case with monogamy. Monogamous relationships are more likely to follow a familiar pattern: You fall in love, get engaged, get married and have 2.5 kids in a house out in the suburbs.
I'm kidding ... sort of. Maybe you have one kid. Or four kids. Perhaps you live in the city. Maybe you choose not to have kids and instead spend your time traveling. Regardless, the construct of each monogamous relationship looks more or less the same.
I can speak for both sides because I've been in both kinds of relationships. When my partner and I decided to become monogamous, it was an easy choice. We were both feeling spread too thin. We were trying to spend time and pour affection on multiple partners with whom we weren't as close as we were with each other. As easy as it was, we also wanted to ensure that we didn't blindly follow society's protocol for being monogamous. We recognized that what we had learned from being polyamorous could serve us well in our transition to being exclusive. We could take the challenges and the successes and apply them to being in a consensual monogamous partnership. Ultimately, our desire was to design our own relationship in a way that felt good to both of us. Here are eight things we learned through our poly relationships that we apply to monogamy.
Prioritize Open, Honest Communication
Poly or not, a lack of open and honest communication can kill any kind of relationship. When my partner and I were polyamorous, we talked often about how we were feeling, what we wanted, and how we envisioned our future together. As we transitioned into monogamy, we were intent on seeing this continue.
Although monogamy can lend itself to less communication (the absence of other partners can mean that feelings are navigated a bit more easily) we both agreed that it was important to keep the dialog going. This was especially true of how we felt about our monogamous relationship at any given time. Before taking the plunge into exclusivity, we set the expectation that if one or both of us became unhappy with only being with each other, we would talk about it and potentially explore other options.
Give Each Other Space
Humans need time alone. Even if you consider yourself an extrovert and thrive off of human interaction, everyone needs space to listen to their own thoughts, pursue their own hobbies, and just exist as a person outside of their relationship.
This was something that the scheduled days of polyamory lent itself to naturally. However, we knew that with monogamy would come a lot more time spent together. While we don't have planned out alone days like we used to, we're both vocal about when we need space and make a conscious effort not to take it personally. The added benefit is that, after some quality solo time, we feel even closer to one another.
Keep Consent at the Core
Consensual monogamy is the name of the game. Instead of defaulting to the idea that since we are only emotionally and sexually involved with each other that there's blanket consent, we still remember to ask each other, "Is this something that you really, really want?" Whether it's talking about moving in together or trying new things in bed, monogamy doesn't equate to an enthusiastic, ongoing yes.
Part of maintaining a conscious partnership is talking about your needs and desires and being open to the idea that, for your partner, monogamy isn't an automatic agreement to an escalator relationship.
Maintain Other Relationships
Although neither of us is involved in romantic or sexual relationships with other people, early on we committed to paying close attention to our friendships. We don't want to be the couple that can't go anywhere without each other or that spends every waking moment attached at the hip.
Keeping other relationships healthy is one of the ways that we make sure our relationship doesn't get stale. It also gives us a healthy personal and love life balance. We have some couple friends who we enjoy spending time with together but we also have our own friends that can give us support in areas of our life that our partner may not be the best at. It's always a good idea to have more than one person in your life for emotional support. The weight of being the main emotional support for another person is far too heavy and is often the cause of failed monogamy.
Make Love a Choice, Not an Obligation
Love is, of course, a choice. After reflecting on past relationships, my partner and I both came to the understanding that we wanted our love to be an active, everyday choice and not a default feeling. Not every day is full of sunshine and butterflies in our stomachs. That's completely unrealistic. Yet, we do wake up and decide "Yes, I'm going to show up for our relationship today and I'm choosing to love you."
We both acknowledge that, one day, one or both of us might wake up and decide that we're no longer invested. If that day comes, we can trust that it's a choice not taken lightly.
We will probably never get engaged or married. We don't want any more children (my daughter from a previous relationship is enough for both of us). When we decided to ditch polyamory in favor of a more singularly committed relationship, we had a long talk about which milestones we would (and would not) celebrate.
The traditional milestones won't work for us since they don't hold much weight in our minds. We do celebrate anniversaries, going on trips with each other, meeting members of each others families, and milestones like sharing a toothbrush (we did this and, even though I still think it's kinda gross, we both acknowledged it as an act of intimacy that we didn't have previously).
Never Stop Dating (Each Other)
This is true no matter how you label your relationship. Dating each other is what keeps you close and your relationship vibrant. It's too easy, especially in monogamy, to fall into a routine and wake up one day and realize that you're just glorified roommates or best friends.
We have our routines, sure. We also surprise each other with flowers, take romantic weekend road trips, and date each other like we did in the beginning. It keeps the spark going and ensures that we never run out of things to talk about.
Be a Whole Person Without Your Partner
This should probably be number one. It's so important to be a whole, complete person that isn't defined by your relationship. In poly relationships, this can be a lot easier. You're spreading your time and attention over a multitude of people, which it makes staying connected to who you are feel a lot easier. Butu how many monogamous couples do you know who are practically clones of each other? They have the same hobbies, same favorite foods, and listen to all the same music. They take on each other's personality traits and facial expressions and, if separated, are at a complete loss in terms of what to do. They need each other to be complete.
My partner and I knew that we didn't want to go down that road. We make sure that we're nourishing our own emotional and spiritual growth and taking care of our identities outside of our relationship with each other. This helps us show up as whole people who help each other grow, instead of halves of people that must be together in order to feel complete.