Wednesday, August 25, 2010


A reader asked that I write an article about monogamous/polyamorous relationships, meaning a relationship in which one partner sees other people and the other does not. This is a fairly broad topic, but I will give an overview. The main question that the reader was asking is "Can poly/mono relationships work and what are the issues that should be considered?"

The most important question in looking at a poly/mono situation is why the situation exists. The poly/mono situation can occur for a number of reasons, and this means that two poly/mono situations can be extremely different in the issues that can arise.

I Cannot Satisfy That Need
One common situation is that in which Partner A feels that they are unable to satisfy their partner's (Partner B) needs for one reason or another. Sometimes it is as simple as Partner A has a reduced sex drive for whatever reason and encourages Partner B to find someone else to satisfy that need. In other situations, Partner B has some sort of fetish which Partner A is unwilling or unable to fulfill but wants Partner B to be able to satisfy their need.

Partner A's motivation here is generally a combination of the desire to please their partner and the desire to remove pressure from themselves to satisfy a need that they cannot satisfy. The most common pitfall in this situation is that Partner B will not believe that Partner A is really okay with the arrangement such as the following situation:

Suzie says: I had a friend who was married. After a few years, she lost her sex drive for various reasons including some medication she was on. Her husband, obviously, was not happy about it, so she told him that she would not mind if he found someone else with whom to get her needs met. He thought it was some kind of trick, so he never took her up on it. They ended up splitting up, and a good part of that was his sexual dissatisfaction.

The other pitfall is that Partner A is not really as okay with the idea as they think they are. They will think that they can handle it, but jealousy will rear it's ugly head once theory becomes reality.

As in all "non-traditional" relationships communication is vital as unexpected emotional issues will come up. These issues can be dealt with if both people are willing to be open, honest, and loving in dealing with the situation.

You Cannot Satisfy That Need
Another situation is that Partner B finds that Partner A is not satisfying their needs in some way. A poly/mono situation can be the solution to this, but tends to be a very difficult solution to implement successfully. First, it is important that Partner B be quite happy with Partner A in all ways except that one particular thing that is missing. If there are serious underlying problems in the relationship, adding more partners will only make things more complicated and messy.

It is also very difficult to have the conversation of "I love you, but I have needs that you cannot fulfill." Many people will take offense at such a sentiment. However, if Partner A understands the situation and recognizes that it is not a personal failing on their part.

Poly Sounds Good, but I Don't Need It
Another common situation in which poly/mono can work is a couple in which one partner has the desire to see other people and the other simply does not.

Emily says: I am polyamorous and always will be. One man that I dated had no interest in seeing other people. His attitude was that one woman is more than enough work, why would he want more? He had no problem with me seeing other people, but he just didn't want the effort.

This situation can work very well as long as it is true. Some people will claim to be okay with their partner seeing other people, especially when the relationship is starting, because they want to be with the person and will say whatever they need to in order to do so. Then, once the relationship gets going, it will come out that they are not comfortable with things. This never ends well.

I Think We Should See Other Occupations
Some people are so serious about their work or other commitments that it could be considered a secondary or even primary relationship. These people are often perfectly happy for their partner to see other people while they are exclusive to their partner. Because they are extremely dedicated to their work or other activities, they do not want to have to be everything to someone, and they are happy that their partner can have their needs satisfied without them having to take the energy.

These are just a few examples of poly/mono situations. As always, your mileage may vary. There are as many ways to set up a relationship as there are relationships. Some couples are partially open. For example, they can do sadomasochism with other people, but they don't have sex with anyone else. Other couples will make out with other people at parties but be otherwise exclusive. There are challenges to any form of relationship, but as long as the couple is willing to be open and honest in their approach, anything can work if it is what works for them.


  1. This was interesting to read because it reflects some of what is going on in my relationship currently. I am poly, he is not. I have the "ok" to date other females only, but generally I don't because I'm not 100% sure he is actually comfortable with it. I think he feels threatened by it, that I'm going to leave, even though I know that I'm not. I wish I had a better way to make him understand that he fulfills my needs just fine, I just have seperate needs that don't involve him. You can like pizza and still want buffalo wings, and it doesn't make you love pizza any less.

    1. I am in a very similar situation! I also use food metaphors to explain my desires to my partner, lol... I wish you the best of luck :)