The polyamorous community seems to have a general pessimism when it comes to mono/poly relationships – that is when a monogamous person is in a relationship with a polyamorous person. At first glance, it may seem like an obvious, fundamental and irreconcilable difference of core relationship values. Coming from the perspective of relationship anarchy though, I don’t necessarily see it being fundamental nor incompatible. The first assumption to address is monogamy… which kind of monogamy is meant? (yes, there are more than one)
I’ve had successful mono/poly relationships and these are the types of monogamy that I have identified and what it means for the general structure of the relationship with the polyamorous person:
This is the kind that is most often referred to and the kind that first springs in to most minds. The person is completely monogamous. Monoamorous to be precise. This is about them not feeling love or attraction to more than one. Here, the only love interest is the polyamorous person. Outwardly they could easily appear as a standard couple.
Key here is that the monoamorous person is happy to have a partner who sees other people. The polyamorous person must be respectful that they don’t want to see anyone else and not push them to do so.
There also has to be a match with time, resources and possible expectations of an escalator.
In this configuration, the polyamorous person may have to forgo being with their monoamorous partner at the same time as another, though this is not a given.
This is tricky for the polyamorous person because there is a danger that the monoamorous person is just putting up with polyamory until they can convince their partner that they have found “The One” – and may not even be consciously aware of it. It can also be difficult for the monoamorous person because they will have to deal with situations that would normally be considered cheating and opinions of peers that are derogatory or dismissive.
Here the polyamorous person is entering in to a relationship with one of both members of an existing monoamorous couple. They present themselves as being strictly monoamorous, but behind closed doors more goes… sometimes much more.
The secrecy is the most difficult part of this on both sides. Having a closeted partner means being forbidden to interact romantically when anyone might find out. Couple and monogamous privilege are almost certain to be part of this relationship.
The couple must respect the feelings of their polyamorous partner and be wary of negating their relationship. The polyamorous person must be careful to respect boundaries of who knows.
In this model, the boundary of monogamy is sex. Romantic, emotional and intimate relationships are okay.
This is a fairly simple model for the existing monogamous couple with the exception that sometimes the partner wants sex – when you get really turned on during cuddling that is a real possibility. The polyamorous person must live with the restriction. As a relationship anarchist, sex is anyway not a given with any romantic relationship, so it’s just another way of having a relationship.
Another thing that just be dealt with is setting the clear boundary of what sex means. Penis vagina penetration? Any penetration? Oral? Manual? Toys? Cuddling while naked? It’s not as clear as it first sounds. Define it explicitly.
This one is fairly simple. You may have an awesome, happy and fulfilling relationship together, but it will end, probably sooner rather than later. It’s similar to monoamory, but it’s probably not worth investing a lot of time and effort on resolving long-term issues. Enjoy the moment.
As a relationship anarchist, I don’t value relationships on their length. I personally value them for how happy I am in them, so this category is irrelevant for me.
It’s also sometimes difficult to identify this one without looking at the monogamist’s relationship history.
One-sided cheating. The monogamous person is exclusively partnered and has an affair with a polyamorous person without the knowledge and consent of their partner.
This scenario is pretty much identical to cheating in the monogamous world. In addition to that, the polyamorous person may have to deal with disapproval from their polyamorous peers.
This is as likely to work well as purely monogamous cheating and has the same risk of serious drama.