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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 their 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 they 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 30 minute consultation to see what kind of support would be the most helpful for you.  Schedule by going to https://the-intimacy-coach.com/ and heading to the contact page.  You can click on the schedule button thee.  I have had such a large response from this article that I can no longer respond to individual emails.  You can purchase an email package here (US).Or here (UK). and use the package to gain some individual advice via email from me.

 

40 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.

      Reply
  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.

    Reply
    • 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.

      Reply
  2. JC Cincinati
    JC Cincinati says:

    I’m a very monogamous person who has very recently fallen deeply in love (and them recipricolly) with someone who identifies as Poly. The twist is that she identifies as bi-primarily-lesbian. She is willing to forgo male poly encounters, consider me her “primary” and would even consider monogamy if I was female, but can’t give up women. She has even suggested a tri-nogamous (right word?) with another woman, but that doesn’t interest me. However, we both burst into tears when we think of forgoing the other. Additionally, this is an LDR. Have I made it all complicated enough yet?

    I’ve been in enough relationships that I can spot real love, and we have it. I just don’t know how to make it salable for both of us.

    Reply
    • Dr Lori Beth
      Dr Lori Beth says:

      Hi Jeff yes it sounds complicated. There is no cookie cutter solution I can recommend. If you would like to explore how I can help you, head over to my contact page and book a free 30 minute discovery session with me.

      Reply
  3. Leslie
    Leslie says:

    The only way it works is if the mono person is willing to completely change and give up everything that was important to them. I tried to change, I didn’t want to lose my husband of 25 years, but it got to the point that I didn’t recognize the man I married and I wasn’t comfortable being someone else. He chose his girlfriend over his family, and the girls and I are forging a new life without him. Can it work? Maybe. But only at the expense of the mono partner.

    Reply
    • Dr Lori Beth
      Dr Lori Beth says:

      I am afraid I don’t agree. It doesn’t have to be at the expense of anyone. But both partners need to be willing to work together to create a relationship that works. And that takes compromise on both sides. I am sorry that your husband felt he needed to choose one and that you have been left having to start again.

      Reply
      • CJ
        CJ says:

        This is simply an argument aimed at minimizing the sacrifice made for such relationships to work. The simple reality is that someone (almost always the mono) is giving up something that the other simply cannot possibly match in compromise. There’s a reason polys shift the conversation from “asymmetry is the cost of mono/poly relationships” to “is symmetry a necessary thing?” One person is giving up more than the other. One person carries a greater expense than the other. You can argue that there are ways to make this work. But to say that expense is not incurred is a straight lie.

        Reply
        • Dr Lori Beth
          Dr Lori Beth says:

          I am unsure why you would think I was saying that there is no expense or that I am minimising any expense. I am not. There is expense to everyone and the expense varies depending upon the relationship and the agreements made. The fact that there is a cost – an in many cases a large one – does not negate the fact that these relationships can work. When I work with people, my goal is to help them decide what is best for them. Sometimes that is to pursue a mono/poly relationships and other times it is not. There is no judgement attached to either choice.

          Reply
  4. Allison Grace
    Allison Grace says:

    My boyfriend of 2 years just told me a few days ago that he isn’t monogamous. I’m not entirely sure how to feel about this. I love him with all my heart, but it’s very confusing. I want marriage, and kids, and all that other stuff. But how can I have that when I now know he’s no monogamous. I’m strictly monogamous and he’s know it. I want to make this work but I’m just not entirely sure anymore. I have a lot of questions that I want to ask him, but I’m scared of the answers …

    Reply
    • Dr Lori Beth
      Dr Lori Beth says:

      Now is the time to get some help to increase your courage and prepare you for any answers. The two of you should work together to see how you can create a strong relationship.

      Reply
  5. Jay
    Jay says:

    my girlfriend has just told me that she thinks she is Poly, I am having a really hard time with it at the moment but the thought of leaving her hurts so much… I thought we had future plans, to be a family.. this isn’t really what I had in mind. but I want to be accepting and I think I want to try and make it work, but I know my feelings are valid too.

    Reply
    • Dr Lori Beth
      Dr Lori Beth says:

      Now is the time to get some help to work through your feelings so that the two of you can do some work together and see if there is a way to make your relationship a strong one.

      Reply
  6. Mechaela
    Mechaela says:

    I found out a day ago that the person I’ve been with for a while now is poly and that he’s also in other current relationships. This came at a big shock for me because I never expected this.
    I’m still trying to process everything and I’m keeping an open mind about all this
    How do I move forward with all of this

    Reply
    • Dr Lori Beth
      Dr Lori Beth says:

      Go to my home page and get my free eBook to help you begin to look at the process. If you would like more one to one help, please book a discovery session with me so we can see how I can help.

      Reply
  7. A
    A says:

    I just recently found out my husband is poly. He has known this whole time and now 6 years into our marriage “bomb” dropped on me. It came as a shock to me, one that why he wouldnt have told me this from the beginning, two im terrified, confused and feel so lost. 6 months go by and we experimented with friends in the bedroom. It was a good time supposed to just be fun, they were close friends we trusted them. Now 3 months later our friend confessed her love for the both of us, said she was poly and didnt know my husband was poly. My husband told her he was poly and then things just started happening from there. We went into a triad relationship in which only lasted a week due to my jealousy and pain i felt seeing them physically together being intimate. Him and i agreed to back out if i couldnt do it, i told him after i saw him kiss her goodbye the last time i couldnt do it. He ended it with her and then went to go see her one last time to get closure…..then he crossed all boundaries and agreements we’ve ever made going into the triad in the first place, they had sex, unprotected. My heart shattered, they have broken my trust. I almost left my husband when he came home and told me, but i cant lose him. He is my life, we havea beautiful family and have been through some rough shit. Im now seeking counseling specifically from a counselor that is experienced with polyamory. Im just having trouble coping and trying to figure out where to go from here, i never signed up for this, he should have told me, he shouldn’t have slept with her behind my back. The closure he went to get i tried going as well because i needed some closure too as i had developed feelings for her as well and i wanted to ensure our friendship. But i let him go alone and now i lost my trust. I just dont know what to do or where to go from here.

    Reply
  8. Brittany
    Brittany says:

    i have always been interested in polygamy. My husband is strictly monogamous. How would i go about trying to get him to allow be to have other partners. I love my husband with all my heart and couldn’t see a world without him. But i have always had multiple partners until i got in a relationship with him and then married. Can you please help me

    Reply
    • Dr Lori Beth
      Dr Lori Beth says:

      Hi Brittany This is something that will take deeper exploration than can be done here. If you would like a 30 minute discovery session, head to my contact page to book.

      Reply
  9. Eli
    Eli says:

    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.

    ===> This is so true, but also so hard to understand and register when past experiences shaped you into an insecure person. I know it’s just a matter of time and efforts on my end. It’s just a long process I guess.

    Reply
  10. Lisa
    Lisa says:

    I think going into a relationship with a monogamous person when you’re not is incredibly selfish. You have no right to all them to go against their personal beliefs so you can have your cake and eat it too. If you entered a relationship knowing the other person would never be ok with an open relationship you’re breaking every rule involved with love. There’s an intimacy that’s shared between people who have sex. To give that freely around when you know you have someone on the line devoted to you and only you is devastating. That devastation will ruin the self esteem and trust if the monogamous partner. No one has the right to do that you another

    Reply
    • Dr Lori Beth
      Dr Lori Beth says:

      You make an assumption that people always do this knowingly and with negative intentions. This is not true. Many people (including monogamous ones) start casual relationships that then develop into something more. Both parties may feel that monogamy versus polyamory is not an issue when entering a casual relationship and it only becomes one if the relationship moves to a serious relationship.

      Reply
  11. Lisse
    Lisse says:

    I am poly, and my husband and boyfriend are both mono. I’ve been with my husband for over 15 years and married to him for over 8; I’ve been with my boyfriend for over a year and a half now, platonic friends for almost 10. It works for all three of us, and everyone is happy. However, it involves consistent and in-depth communications, as well as sensitivity, security, and emotional awareness. So, short answer is “Yes, it’s possible.”

    Reply
    • TL
      TL says:

      I find myself in somewhat of a similar situation, though admittedly I am new to the poly thing… I would love to pick your brain on your situation if you would be open to talking about it?

      Reply
  12. Donovan
    Donovan says:

    I’ve been married to my wife for a little over 2 years and we’ve loved each other for a little over 9 years. She had a sexual experience with one of her female friends a few months ago, and told me about it afterwards. I got mad but she then explained to me that she considered herself poly. Eventually my anger subsided and I forgave her for effectively cheating on me, since I had no idea about the experience or her polyamory until after the fact, and I didn’t give it a second thought. That is until I noticed she was spending a lot of time with a male coworker of hers. I asked her if she wanted to pursue a relationship with him, and she said yes… I did not take it well. We fought and are currently on a break, and since then I have done research on the matter. Everyday I am becoming more aware of what to expect if we decide to continue our relationship, and I certainly want to continue our relationship, but there is one thing that worries me. The male coworker that she is currently dating is monogamous just like myself. I was wondering if a relationship where one person is poly and their two partners are monogamous is possible, and if so, what sort of challenges I can expect to deal with.

    Reply
  13. jeff
    jeff says:

    I found this article helpful , especially the advice around finding the skills and language to communicate without putting others on the defensive.

    I feel that labels can be limiting . My new love has been upfront about her relationship style as “more open”and she is aware that my style differs from that. What i value most in relationship is connection and i have been fortunate in having experienced a deep and intimate connection prior to us meeting. Now, anything less feels… less ? I want to feel more . Like meditating , deep connections require commitment and a real desire to move deeper. It has taken a while, but i see that my struggle has more to do with the how much time we are able to commit to this deepening and less to do with feelings of jealousy.
    Is it reasonable to ask her from more… time and devotion to us? Will she feel her freedom is being threatened ?

    Reply
  14. Stacey
    Stacey says:

    Hey there just curious. Ive meet this man who is poly (im mono) he is married to his current partner and lives with her. I guess im just curious as to how this whole thing works.

    Reply
  15. J.L.
    J.L. says:

    Dr. Lori I too am in this dilemma.

    I have been with my wife for 20 years and we have 3 children. Up until 2 years ago we were monogamous and our only partners. We then decided to try an open relationship out because we were interested in the experiences. I enjoyed the experience and she enjoyed her experiences, but hated that I enjoyed mine. She started to get very jealous of my relationships that were friends with benefits. She got very emotional many times and finally wanted to stop being open. This went on for 6 months and I never wanted to stop but did. I was wracked with stress about it because I found that this is my happy place. Finally last night I told her that I want to be open again. I enjoy socializing with other women and the intimacy that goes with that if we click, but I don’t cross any lines of “loving” them or anything of that nature, just good friends and I care about people. Being open makes me feel alive. She has bad self esteem and now thinks it’s because she isn’t enough when that isn’t the case. She says “you’re enough for me, why am I not enough for you.” I’ve never thought of it as her not being enough, just that I want something extra. It’s easy in my mind to understand that concept but not her. I don’t want our relationship to end, she is my life, but I am in the catch 22 of not being open and feeling the constant longing for being open and cultivating the relationships that are involved, or doing it and making her sad. I don’t know where to go.

    Reply
    • Dr Lori Beth
      Dr Lori Beth says:

      You need some help to work through this. If you were able to sort it out without professional help – you would have done it by now. The best advice I can give is to seek out some help from a therapist or coach who is polyamory friendly and talk through the issues together.

      Reply
  16. 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?

    Reply
  17. 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.

    Reply
  18. 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’.

    Reply

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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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