Is Polyamory with a Monogamous Partner Possible?

polyamorous couples

I am asked this question more than almost any other question about polyamory.   My short answer – yes, it is possible.  However, to make a polyamorous /monogamous relationship work takes partners who are secure in themselves and their choices, secure in the relationship, good communicators and willing to work.

Often people who are monogamous don’t understand why a person would want to be polyamorous and this can lead to feeling that a polyamorous partner is looking to replace them or that if they just work hard enough, the person will become monogamous.   If the relationship started as a monogamous one and one partner has changed, it is often very hard for the one who has remained monogamous to manage that shift.

Curious if polyamory is right for you? Be sure to read this piece.

It is the polyamorous person who will find themselves with the responsibility to help the monogamous person feel as safe and secure in the relationship as possible.   Good communication, the ability to set boundaries and stellar negotiation skills are essential.

Both parties will need to understand the other person’s worldview.  If they are truly committed to each other, they must spend time and work at understanding as fully as possible.  Relationships where each person’s goals and expectations are different are difficult relationships.  In order to make them work, both people will have to put in lots of effort.

Essentials for a Polyamorous /Monogamous Relationships to Work:

  • The poly partner is clear about what her version of poly entails. 

    Not all polyamory is the same.  Some relationships are hierarchical – there is a central relationship that takes precedence and other relationships come in after the main list of priorities.  Other polyamorous relationships are egalitarian so priorities are juggled regularly.   Some polyamorous relationships involve only casual relationships outside of the original relationship.  If you want the type of polyamory where all of your partners and their other partners are friends, you need to be clear with your monogamous partner that this is your expectation.  To be friends with other partners requires a very high level of security as a person and also security in the relationship.  It is often easier to feel less threatened if you don’t see and talk to another person who is sexually involved with your partner if you are by nature monogamous.

  • The monogamous partner understands that his partner is not seeking other relationships because something is missing in their relationship.  

    Often the monogamous person feels that his partner would not be looking elsewhere if he was better at x, y or z or if he changed his body shape, hair or something else.  This has nothing to do with why the partner is polyamorous.   Understanding this leads to feeling personally more secure.  If you believe that your partner finds you lacking and that is why she is looking for another partner, your self-esteem will dip and you will find it hard to feel secure in the relationship.

  • The couple creates rules and boundaries for their relationship and for the other relationships that the polyamorous person enters into.  

    Lots of monogamous heterosexual couples do not create rules and boundaries for their relationships.  They leave most things completely unspoken and have lots of expectations based on their upbringings, previous relationships, and societal influences.  This often leads to problems in relationships and difficulty working through issues that arise.   Relationships can work for many years before expectations and a lack of clear boundaries become a problem.

    In polyamorous /monogamous relationships issues arise quickly if these areas are not clearly discussed, negotiated and spelled out.  I see this as the blueprint for the relationship because blueprints are detailed plans with lots of boundaries, measurements, and rules. Plans can be changed as a building is being constructed.  Modifications are agreed upon because something won’t work in practice or because someone changes his mind.  The changes are discussed and agreed and added to the blueprint.

Areas that form part of a good blueprint:

  • Time management 

    Will the relationship be prioritized?  Are there special days or events that need to be spent together?  Will you spend the night with other partners?

  • Living arrangements 

    Are you living together or are you planning on living together? Can you bring other partners to spend the night in the home you share together if you share a home together?  If you don’t live together, will the poly partner possibly live with one of her other partners?   Is the plan to get married or form a civil partnership?

  • Children 

    If you already have children together, how will you manage other partners?  Will the children meet them or spend time with them?  If you don’t have children, do either of you want them?  If one of you does and the other doesn’t how will that be managed in the relationship?  If the poly person is the one who wants children will she have them with another partner?

  • Sexual limits and boundaries  

    Are there activities you reserve only for the two of you?  What will you do in relation to safe sex?  Will there be fluid bonding between the two of you and with no one else?  How often will you get tested for STD’s?

  • Information Sharing  

    Will you talk to each other about the other partners in detail?  Does the mono person want to hear details?  Does the poly person feel comfortable sharing details?  How much information will be shared with other partners?

  • Public acknowledgment of the relationship

    Will other partners be public?  What about social media?  What explanation will you give people like family and friends?

  • Partner choosing

    Will the mono partner have the right to say no to a potential partner who feels threatening to him?  Are there limits on who can be chosen based on marital status, age or perceived complications?

  • Desires, wishes, dreams

    Draw a picture of how you wish the relationships will look in 3 months, 6 months, 1 year and 5 years.  Look at this plan for non-workable parts, issues that might arise, areas of potential problems and try to find solutions or alter the plans.

There is a lot to consider when creating this blueprint.  If you aren’t great at communicating about difficult complex issues, I suggest having a number of sessions with a sex and intimacy coach.  A coach can help you both find the language and build the negotiating and communication skills and this will give you a better chance of creating a relationship that works for both of you and any partners who come along in the future.

Coaching can also help you gain strategies to manage any intense emotions that arise.  Many people have only a small set of emotional management strategies and this can be limiting.  You can expand your repertoire and with practice become an expert at managing emotions and stress.

Polyamory /monogamous relationships can be rich and fulfilling as long as you are able to put in the work and you treat each other and the relationship with the respect and care it deserves.

If I can help you on your journey, please don’t hesitate to reach out. Polyamory is often complex and something couples are interested in but need a little help to negotiate the terms so that everyone feels safe. I’m happy to offer you a free consultation to see what kind of support would be the most helpful for you. Email me drbisbey@the-intimacy-coach.com and we’ll set up a private time to chat.

13 replies
    • Dr Lori Beth
      Dr Lori Beth says:

      I am sorry to hear that this has been your experience. I have worked with couples to help them make it work – but as I said in the article, it is very difficult and takes people who are really good at owning their own feelings and managing them.

  1. Chris Barron
    Chris Barron says:

    Currently trying this out. I am open poly. My girlfriend is strictly monogamous. It’s…difficult at times. She knows I am but has made it clear If I were to ever stray…(Can’t think of a better word rn) then she is done and tokens the relationship. She knows I’m flirty. Is ok with that. But me possibly wanting to add someone else she isn’t ok with. I communicate as much I can but sometimes it feels like I’m stuck. Like I can’t be who I am.

    • Dr Lori Beth
      Dr Lori Beth says:

      It sounds like there is a lot to negotiate if you are both to be happy with your relationship style. In most of the poly mono relationships that I have seen work, the monogamous person has accepted that the polyamorous partner will have other partners and they work on exact rules and how to deal with the emotions that arise.

  2. Kate
    Kate says:

    I am in a real with a partner who is non-monogamous with sexual partners. I want to be Strickland monogamous but it is clear this will not work for my partner. I don’t know how to come to a middle ground when we are so different. I’m trying to change how I see sex and what I want but I’m failing miserably. Do you have suggestions?

  3. Dr Lori Beth
    Dr Lori Beth says:

    If you want to come to a middle ground, you will likely need some help getting there. I’m afraid I don’t have any DIY suggestions. If you would like to explore how I can help, schedule a 30 minute free discovery session with me by heading to the contact page and clicking where it says click here.

  4. Dr Lori Beth
    Dr Lori Beth says:

    I am afraid I have no DIY suggestions. You will need help to approach the middle with each other. Book a free 30 minute discovery session with me to see how I can help by going to the contact page and clicking on ‘click here’.


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  1. […] these relationships are poly monogamous relationships.  For more on poly monogamy see my article here.  These relationships can work well however couples need to communicate well and negotiate […]

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