Last week, I wrote an article exploring the spectrum of monogamy and non-monogamy, where I explained my perspective that your sexuality is comprised of core desires. The desire to be monogamous or non-monogamous can be just as essential and unchanging as your gender identity or sexual orientation. It’s a part of us, and it’s something we are powerless to change.

Beyond that, I think that hiding your true desires in a relationship can lead not only to unhappiness and lack of fulfillment, but ultimately, cheating on someone you love. For instance, if someone is in a relationship with someone of the opposite sex, when they are really attracted to the same sex, but feels unable to express that to their partners, they may cheat on them to fulfill that desire. It’s the same in regards to someone not wanting to be monogamous, but doing it anyway. They may fear telling their partner what they really want, yet feel it’s essential to satisfy their desires. So, they can either do that by communicating and being in a relationship that allows them that freedom, or they may lie and sneak around behind their partner’s back.

So, knowing all of this, what can we do? How do we talk more openly about non-monogamy, and explore it with our partners? Here are five essential steps to learn more about non-monogamy, and talk about it with your partner.

1. Stop making assumptions

Don’t make up a story about how someone who practices non-monogamy must have been hurt, had a hard childhood, are greedy, are going through a stage, or anything else. It doesn’t matter if any of those things are true or not. That is what they want, and that’s all that matters.

2. Educate

Kids should be taught not only about sex in school, but also about how to have a healthy relationship. This should include teaching about all different types of relationships they can have, and how to communicate effectively in them. Education isn’t just in the schools though. We are educated by everything we witness. A huge part of normalizing homosexuality has been by adding more same-sex relationships on TV, in movies, and other places in the media. This needs to be done in regards to non-monogamous relationships as well.

3. Communicate

I know it can be terrifying talking about this stuff with your partner, and it’s important to be compassionate to their reactions and their desires. You can start by asking something such as, “how much to do enjoy the idea of monogamy right now in your life?” Or, “what would be your ideal relationship in regards to how monogamous it is?” Remember, their answers have nothing to do with you not being good enough, it’s who they are. In regards to you being afraid your answers will hurt them, know that this will either bring you closer or bring you apart.

If it does bring you apart, then that gives you the opportunity to live your truth alone or with someone else who’s better for you. Ideally, these conversations should be had before you enter a relationship, and continuously throughout the relationship. What you want may change, so having only one conversation won’t do much. Constantly communicating what you want and are comfortable with should be an ongoing conversation. It’s about finding common ground with your partner and being compassionate to their needs as well as your own.

4. Spread the word 

Talk about non-monogamy with people in all aspects of your life. The more there’s talk about am issue, the more it becomes accepted, normalized, and likely to reach the media.

5. Think about what you really want 

Imagine, for a second, that no one in your life would ever have a negative reaction to whatever you do. What would you decide to do differently in regards to relationships? That is your truth. With the fear of a negative reaction, we can’t fully actualize our lives. Ask yourself:

  • How many sexual partners would I be comfortable having at a time?
  • How many romantic partners would I be comfortable having at a time?
  • How would I feel about my partner having other romantic and sexual partners besides me?
  • What limits would I set for myself and my partner if we had other relationships?
  • Would they have to only be sexual relationships?
  • Would they have to end after a certain amount of time?
  • How much would I want to share with one another about these other relationships?

If you currently have a partner, you can answer these questions separately, then discuss your answers together. The goal is to either find common ground, or discover the things you want are not compatible. Either way you are allowing yourself to be more free.