OkSasha is a matchmaker, love coach, and community builder based in San Francisco. Need advice? Send your question to Sasha at Advice@OkSasha.com!
Ok, Sasha... Do you have any advice for a monogamous person entering a relationship with a polyamorous partner and vice versa? Must one 'convert' to monogamy or polyamory to make it work? PolyorNot
First thing’s first: congratulations on exploring alternative relationship styles! It’s always great to hear when people are willing to venture outside the norm and experiment. Experimentation is the best way to find out what kind of relationship style fits best for you!
Anyway, let’s get to your question. It sounds like you’re not yet completely ready to go full-on poly, but you have an interest in trying it out. Since you’ve never tried this before, let’s make sure that you have your safety nets in place so that you won’t end up saying “Bye Felicia” to your new partner prematurely.
Step One: Get acquainted with what it means to be in an open or poly relationship.
Become well-informed. Read books on navigating poly and open relationships. I highly suggest The Ethical Slut by Dossie Easton. It’s an easy read and it covers most of the basic information you'll need to know to properly navigate a poly or open relationship.
Go to poly and open relationship events. Find events on Facebook or Meetup.com and go talk to poly folk about their lifestyle. What’s the difference between play parties and sexy parties? What’s hierarchical polyamory? How do you balance 3 boyfriends? Just ask! This way, you can get multiple perspectives on the poly scene and decide if it’s right for you.
Step Two: Figure out what you’d like to do with your own relationship moving forward.
Define boundaries and anticipate challenges. Will you both date other people? Will one of you be poly while the other one sees no one else? Will it only be physical, or will you give room for these relationships to grow into something more? Will you have to approve of their date before they can start getting intimate? As you can see, you have the freedom to customize this relationship to fit your needs, meaning that there are endless possibilities! In other words, there’s no need for you to ‘convert’ to polyamory or monogamy - just make sure that you two are communicating often and openly.
Communicate desires and growth opportunities with a focus on intention. Do you want to work on jealousy or communication? What is the intention behind opening your relationship? Talk with your partner about what you want and what you’d like to learn from your new alternative relationship(s).
Step Three: Actively engage in relationship maintenance.
Check-in with your partner. Regardless of whether or not you decide to remain monogamous, polyamorous, or somewhere in between, it’s always important to have regular check-ins with your partner. After you figure out what’s working and what could use improvement, give each other constructive feedback in a loving and supportive manner. This exercise can sometimes be difficult, but it’s important. Relationships are not fixed - they’re dynamic and ever-changing and it’s important to have check-ins to maintain a healthy and happy relationship! A great resource for learning about healthy communication is Nonviolent Communication: A Language of Life by Dr. Marshall Rosenberg.
Remember: adopting a new relationship style is a process and does not just happen overnight. If you follow the steps above and decide it’s not for you, that’s totally okay! Just as monogamy isn’t for everyone, neither is polyamory. As long as you navigate this budding alternative relationship in a conscious and intentional manner, you should be golden! Good luck and have fun!