Polyamory, Open Relationships And 'Hall Passes': A Guide To Non-Monogamy

​There's far more to it than 'carte-blanche shagging​'

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Monogamy is a bit like having a television: my grandma sees it as necessary, but I have the internet so I know that other options are available. And just as you can choose Netflix over real life TV, so you don't have to choose monogamy as the model for your romantic life.

That's not to say monogamy sucks: for some couples it works a charm. But others prefer their relationships a bit more open. With Polyday – a day aimed at celebrating non-monogamy - approaching on 8 October, I spoke to some polyamorous men about life beyond monogamy.

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Non-monogamous relationships come in a variety of different flavours, or as one of my anonymous interviewees explained: "there are exponentially more types of polyamory than there are poly people." Some people have romantic and sexual relationships with a number of people, others have a 'primary' romantic partner but more casual sexual relationships with others. Some have occasional 'hall passes' – meaning they negotiate one-night stands as the opportunity arises. Others live with more than one of their partners, which alongside sounding very cosy must be a huge help in paying the rent.

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@mistergryphon explains that he's "married and open. By which I mean that we are both fully devoted to each other, but recognise that there are things outside our relationship which we desire, commonly things we can't have inside our relationship. For instance, I'm bisexual and my wife doesn't have a penis nor a beard." 

Another guy, who wanted to remain anonymous, explained that the rules are different in each of his relationships: "In one, we have a "no surprises" rule — we tell each other when we are going on dates, for example. The other is more relaxed — we keep each other up to date, but pretty informally." 

Justin Decerous – a fellow sex blogger – explained that his current relationship model has a strong basis in BDSM: "I am the Master/Dominant and I have two girlfriends - one a slave and the other a submissive. We live together with our respective children and all share financial responsibility and childcare duties."

So if you're tempted to examine and discard your monogamous leanings, the first thing to realise is that you have to ditch your assumptions along with them. We're raised to think that there's one correct way to do things, and that the rules are pretty set in stone: you find love, you pledge to be together forever, and any wavering from that means you're in big trouble. And while that might seem restrictive, it also acts as a handy guide on what you should and shouldn't do. But in a polyamorous relationship, you can never assume – you need to establish with your partners what you all want, and constantly communicate to make sure everyone's happy.

One guy told me that one of his partners is new to poly relationships, so they're taking things very slowly: "she still needs a lot of reassurance, so we discuss one-night-stands, and where they might be heading. When we go out together we discuss beforehand if we're going out with the intent of picking up other people and if we're both cool with that."

Do any of them struggle with jealousy? Personally I'm not brilliant at open relationships – I've experimented a few times with opening up my own, and while it occasionally works, often all it takes is a tough day or a badly-planned threesome to have me green-eyed and panicking. But realistically, monogamous relationships aren't immune from these issues either, and at least with poly you get more practice at discussing your feelings, meaning it can be easier to solve problems when they arise. 

@mistergryphon explained: "There are two really important words here: trust and honesty. You have to be honest about yourself, your feelings, your situation, and you have to trust your partner to be the same." Someone else explained that "It's easy to be OK with your partner seeing someone else when it's vague and off in the future, but find it upsetting when it actually starts happening in front of you. Checking in when big things start happening can save a lot of pain."

Alongside being good at communication, a couple of them also highlighted the more practical challenges – namely time-management. You might have lots of lovers but Google Calendar is your best friend: it lets you share your schedule, colour-code your time, and make sure you don't accidentally miss a date or double-book your love life.

But while it might be tempting to focus on scheduling dates and sex, ultimately what most of my non-monogamous guys stressed was honesty. Someone who's used to monogamy might see non-monogamy as a free pass to do whatever you want, but in fact polyamory and open relationships are much more about communication than carte-blanche shagging. There may be more flexibility around who you can hook up with, but the most important relationship rules remain: be honest, communicate, and above all don't be a d**k.

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