“Your relationships can look however you want them to look. But you have to be honest about what you want,” says Portland-based journalist Sarah Mirk in her new book Sex From Scratch: Making Your Own Relationship Rules. Mirk devotes a chapter to “Navigating Non-Monogamy,” in which she includes several examples of committed, open relationships, including her own.
In some instances, married couples also go on dates with other people. Others restrict their outside encounters to sex — no long-term boyfriends or girlfriends on the side (what Savage Love columnist Dan Savage calls “monogamish.”) Some people choose not to have a primary partner, but instead, engage in polyamorous relationships with multiple people. There are myriad ways to approach non-monogamy, though, as Mirk points out, many people choose to keep the open nature of their relationship secret due to the stigma it carries. She writes,
“There are a lot of negative narratives built around people who have multiple romantic relationships … A lot of people’s only experience with open relationships is as a last-ditch effort of couples easing into a breakup, or as manipulative justification to cheat.”
Mirk says that investigating this topic for her book changed her own thinking about monogamy. “I found that non-monogamy can create a good kind of complication,” she says. “Keeping multiple people on the same page expectation-wise means having to engage in lots of conversation together about the tough, awkward stuff we usually prefer to clam up about.”
Do you have experience navigating non-monogamy? How do your choices about monogamy reflect your personal values?
- Sarah Mirk: Online editor of Bitch media and author of Sex From Scratch: Making Your Own Relationship Rules
- Erika Moen: Cartoonist behind the Oh Joy Sex Toy comic and one of the people featured in Sex From Scratch
- Kirk Shepard: Relationship therapist