Blogs on polyamory, non-monagomy and open relationships.

I was talking with my sister, Mrs. Blue Frost, about how important it is to know what you bring to the table in a relationship, whether it’s monogamous, you’re part of a triad, you’re in a poly dynamic, or you’re grown folkin’. Frost shared that she is continually examining and refining her personal foundation, her guiding principles. We agree that a large part of being successful in a relationship is getting clarity around your own foundation first and then building a relationship foundation with other partners.

You might be saying, “That’s great, Dr. Lori Beth. But *how* do I get started?

I recommend journaling. I know there are all types and sorts of journals and just as many journaling methods. But one really stands out for me, especially when we are talking about building a relationship with yourself.

Manifestation Journaling is when you keep a journal with the intent to bring into your life the relationships, situations, people, and feelings that you are writing about.

I find manifestation journaling to be extremely effective because:

  • It allows you to clarify your intentions.
  • It aligns you with your intentions by bringing your energy to the type/vibration that matches your desires.
  • It helps you to take intentional acts to attract your desires.
  • It works with the laws of attraction so that you attract what you desire
  • It helps you to move away from negative thoughts, beliefs, feelings and into the positive intentional ones that allow for manifestation.

Are you ready?

First, start by setting the environment so that it’s easier to settle into your practice. Clear a comfortable space, turn off electronics and those dreadful notifications, and silence any noise that will distract you.

Second, grab a journal you find pleasing. I have to confess that I’m particularly fond of the WTF Journals. They are well-made, feel good in my hands, are easy to write in and funny AF*.

Next, spend a few minutes on being present (mindfulness done by bringing attention to sensory experiences in the environment). Notice specific sights, sounds, smells, touch until the environment seems brighter and you feel settled and ready to write. Need to settle down a bit and refocus? I like to take some deep, cleansing breaths to rid myself of whatever I no longer need.

Now, allow yourself to write whatever comes without censoring. I know! I snuck in a hard bit here. When journaling, the negative thoughts, concerns, worries often come out on paper first as they are at the forefront of your mind. I advise having some separate paper where you can jot and then discard them.

Begin with a gratitude practice. Write down all the things you are presently grateful for. Then, describe your intentions as if you have already succeeded/manifested them. Be as detailed as possible about how you feel, what you are thinking, any sensory information, and outcomes.

Congratulations! You’ve made your first entry into your manifestation journal.

I like to set aside 10 minutes a day for journaling. Manifesting is a process.

Getting stuck

I get it. Sometimes you just aren’t feeling it or negative self-talk is getting in the way. Never fear. I have some great journal prompts for you below.

One of my favorites is to go through all the domains of my life, starting with myself.

  • How do I look when I am the best me that I can envision?
  • How do I sound when I am the best me that I can envision?
  • How do I feel when I am the best me that I can envision?

Then I move to intimate relationships.

  • Who is my ideal partner (or partners)? I describe them in minute detail!
  • What type of relationship suits me best? (Consider alternate styles like non-monogamy, living on your own, or living with a partner in their home.)
  • What does my ideal sex life look like? Again, be detailed.

When you keep up with this practice, you can expect your life to begin to change to match what you are intending. If you are still manifesting things that are contrary to your intentions, look at your thoughts, your behaviours and make sure they are in line with your intentions. Make sure you have broken down your intentions so that they are really clear and watch for changesJ

In the 21stcentury, all varieties of consensual nonmonogamy have become trendy.  From Cosmopolitan to The New York Times to The Guardian articles and exposés about polyamory abound. Over and over, I read about the best ways and even the right way to do nonmonogamy and polyamorous relationships.

As a sex & intimacy coach and a psychologist therapist who works with individuals, couples and polyamorous groups, I have spent the past 30+ years helping people to find, construct, create and maintain all sorts of relationship combinations and structures including polyamorous relationships.   As I person who practices polyamory and has practiced ethical nonmonogamy in one form or another since I was 17 and on occasion, unethical nonmonogamy (otherwise known as cheating), I have an insiders view of nonmonogamy as well and I can tell you unequivocally: There is no one true way to practice polyamory or nonmonogamy of any kind.    Each relationship is as individual as a lip print because each individual is unique.

When I was 17, I had no language to talk about polyamorous relationships.  My first polycule (all the people in relationship with one or more members of the group), was made up of 3 permanent members and a fourth rotating membership depending upon who I was dating at the time.    We didn’t know we were creating a polycule.  We didn’t even know we were practicing consensual nonmonogamy. Initially, we reluctantly formed a triad because the both women did not wish to give up their relationships with the solo man.   The relationship between the women grew strong though not often sexual.  We formed a polyfidelitous triad at first and then, I was encouraged to bring in a second male to the polycule.  The other woman in the relationship was more comfortable when I had another man to relate to besides her live-in partner.  I was the person allowed to be involved sexually with others and encouraged to bring appropriate dates/partners home.  

polyamorous relationships

If D had been asked to describe the structure of our relationship, she would have said that she was J’s primary partner and I was his secondary partner.    Chances are, J and I would have agreed.  To her, it was important that it was clear that she was the person to whom J gave priority.  Her needs and wants came before mine.   We all accepted that this was necessary in order for the triad to function well.    At that time, I would have described my relationship with the two of them as my primary relationship and any other polyamorous relationships as secondary as I prioritise time with them over dating others.

Later in life, I took the role of the secondary a number of times and found this difficult at times and wholly fulfilling at others.  For me, having a hierarchy highlighted how time and responsibilities were prioritised. It had nothing to do with how much love and commitment existed in my relationships.  

polyamorous relationships

The other factor in how my polyamorous relationships were structured, was and remains my involvement in power exchange/ authority transfer relationships.  These are by nature hierarchical.  In all power exchange dynamics, someone is leading and someone is following.  Someone commands and the other obeys.  Someone holds the authority and/or power and the other surrenders authority and/or power. 

You cannot take the hierarchy out of power exchange dynamics.  When people are in power exchange dynamics and also in polyamorous relationships, there will always be hierarchy.    The amount and strength of the hierarchy may vary but it will always be there.  For some people, this is not a problem at all.  For others, hierarchy is seen as inherently either problematic or even bad.

It is currently popular in polyamorous circles to criticise anyone who sees their relationships as hierarchical or who organises their relationships in a hierarchical manner. People frequently say things like ‘Love has no hierarchy’ and ‘All polyamorous relationships should be equal.’    Many polyamorous people become vexed at the mention of prioritising one relationship over another.  Using the terms ‘primary’ and ‘secondary’ can get a person excluded from some polyamorous groups.

Yet almost all relationships are organised in hierarchies.  We may not openly admit it but we all prioritise our relationships and our time.  We cannot help but do this.  I may love equally but I cannot honestly say that I would give equal weight to the needs of the partner I see four times a year and the husband who shares my bills, my home and looks after me when I am ill even if both relationships involve a lifetime commitment.  The responsibilities in each relationship are different.  If my husband and my lover both expressed a need for me to be with them on a particular day, it is likely that I would prioritise my husband as long as the needs were equivalent.     

Let’s consider an example:

My husband is having surgery on 4thDecember.

My lover is moving house on 4thDecember and would like my help.

My priority would be my husband.

If it were my husband who was moving house (assuming I was not) and my lover who was having surgery, I would negotiate to be with my lover if possible as having surgery is a weightier need.  

But what if we are looking at simply choosing who to spend holidays with:

Both my husband and my lover want to spend my birthday with me.  If they don’t agree to do it all of us together, I would see my husband as having priority – even if we were not in a power exchange dynamic – because my responsibility to him is higher.  This gets even more complicated when we have more than one or two polyamorous relationships.

Part of the reason that it has become de rigueur to insist that all relationships should be equal is that jealousy can be such an intense issue around perceived inequality.    Quite a few of my clients have brought in problems with managing the division of holidays, time, activities and often social media posting because one or more partners are unhappy unless everything is ‘completely equal’.    In reality, it is often not only impossible to divide things completely equally but not desirable either.  Partners who do not live with each other don’t often want an equal share of the dull stuff.  They don’t want to split household chores, or other monotonous tasks like budgeting, car maintenance, errands for work.  They want an equal share of the fun stuff – holidays, nights out, attending work ‘do’s, date nights and weekends, birthdays, Thanksgiving/Christmas/New Year’s/Easters, summertime, winter breaks etc.   

How does the person who is doing the errands, caretaking and the other mundane stuff feel about equally splitting the fun time but not the responsibilities and the other things that often form the day to day pattern of a committed long term relationship? Usually not so happy, in my experience. I frequently hear ‘Why should I give up half of my holiday time with my wife/husband/significant other to their other lover when that lover isn’t paying part of the bills or sharing taking my person to medical appointments or looking after the dog?’

When a dominant/submissive or power exchange dynamic is added into the mix, this becomes even more complex.  By its nature, a power exchange dynamic is hierarchal.  Therefore the person who is in the dominant position is the one who ultimately has the control over all the relationships the person in the submissive position forms if the power exchange/ authority transfer relationship is a full time (24/7) relationship.  In this case, the only person with agency is the one in the dominant position.  

I have written about this model of non-monogamy and polyamorous relationships before and called it the loaner model or in my case, the time share model of non-monogamy.  I am in a 24/7 power exchange /authority transfer relationship with my husband who is my owner.  As my owner, he is the one who has the agency and authority to control any other sexual, BDSM, or romantic relationship that I have because I have surrendered authority for all aspects of my life to him.  I am in two other relationships at the present time.   My husband says I am a time share because each of my other partners have a number of weeks per year with me.  They are literally granted a share of my time based on their desires and my husband’s agreement to grant these desires.  Should it no longer suit my husband for me to have a relationship with someone or for me to spend that amount of time per year with someone, he has the right to change or end any agreement.

Some people who practice polyamory have been horrified by my description of the non-monogamy that we practice because the hierarchy is extremely clear.  There is very definitely inequality between my relationships. There is no inequality in how I feel about my other partners.  I love all of them.  There is inequality in how much time I spend, whose needs get priority, and where my responsibilities lie.      All parties consent to this arrangement and on that basis, why should anyone be judgemental? 

In addition, when I break down how they divide their time, decide who gets what priority in any given situation, hierarchies are illuminated even in the relationships of the people I have met who are most adamant that there should be no hierarchies in polyamory.    Though this surprises them, it doesn’t surprise me in the least.  It is nigh on impossible to divide time equally between a number of people even with the best will in the world.  Life doesn’t present us with equal challenges.    We have a wide variety of blessings and challenges and though our love is infinite our time and energy are finite.  Ultimately, we have to make choices.  If we are hell bent on creating total equality, we will end up spending an inordinate amount of time working to do this.   And we spend an inordinate amount of energy judging people for having hierarchies in their non-monogamous relationships.  

In my experience, a better way to expend the energy and spend the time is on creating rich loving relationships that meet as many needs as possible, looking at where needs intersect and how we can balance our relationships in ways that responsibilities, needs and wants are as in balance in each individual relationship.  The less time we spend comparing within our relationships, the better.   Increasing our communication skills, including our negotiation skills is a better use of our time.    Learning how to identify our own needs and differentiate them from wants is paramount as well to creating balanced relationships.  

polyamorous relationships
handsome young muscular man with two women in bedroom

Why is it fashionable to trash hierarchies where ever they are found?  Perhaps looking to larger mainstream culture and politics may give us answers.    Hierarchies are often seen as binary: Rich/poor, good/bad though they actually run primary, secondary, tertiary.  There are many levels not just two.  If we are able to keep this in mind and also recognise that there are multiple hierarchies in any given set of relationships – different priorities at different times for different events, activities, contexts, then maybe the reality of the hierarchies in our lives will no longer be seen as negative.      Instead we can look at them as simple structures that enable us to order our lives and relationships so that it is easier to find and maintain balance.

This is in update to my article done in January 2017. I have had more feedback on this blog post than on any other. Many people have written to get advice on their individual situations. This illustrates how complex it is to find an arrangement that works when dealing with a mixed poly/mono couple or poly/mono relationships. The short answer to the opening question is: Yes. It is possible to make polyamory with a monogamous partner to work. Both parties need lots of self-confidence and excellent communication and negotiation skills. Parties need to be secure about and in their relationship as well. Finally, they need the motivation to do the on going work to keep their relationship successful.

Poly/mono relationship

Often people who are monogamous don’t understand why a person would want to be non-monogamous 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 to poly/mono relationships.

 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 to the relationship working at all.

Both parties will need to understand the other person’s world view. 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.

poly/mono relationship
Macho cheating on his girlfriend with other woman

Essentials for a Poly/Mono relationships to work:

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

Not all non-monogamy is the same.  Some relationships are hierarchical – there is a central relationship that takes precedence and other relationships come after in the 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.

2  The monogamous person 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 poly/mono relationships.  

3  The couple create 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 theirupbringings, 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 poly/mono 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.  

4  Areas that form part of a good blueprint

Time management:  Will the relationship be prioritised?  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 to 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 with 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 acknowledgement 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 arises.  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.

You also need to take the time to work on any baggage you carry from past relationships so that you have a better chance of making this complex relationship work well. This can be done in coaching in some situations and in therapy in other situations. If you have a long history of problematic relationships, you are better off examining this history sooner so that you don’t repeat the same patterns in your current and future relationships.

poly/mono relationship
Sex Coach, word cloud concept on white background.

Poly/mono 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.

Polyamorous relationships come in an infinite number of configurations. For more about how different open relationships might look including an owner loaner relationship, you can find one of my articles hereand a seriesof podcastshere.

D/s relationships are ones in which dominance and submission are the primary feature.  D/s relationships are authority transfer based relationships because the submissive gives authority over part or all of their lives to the dominant.  Full time authority transfer based relationships are Master (Mistress)/slave or Owner/property or Daddy/boi/girl or Mommy/boi/girl.  

Some D/s relationships involve bondage and discipline or sadism and masochism but others do not.  The feature of the relationship which turns both parties on is the power exchange (authority transfer). One person is in charge and the other agrees to submit to their rule.  Submission can be part time, sexually only for example, or it can be full time (e.g. in all aspects of the relationship).  D/s relationships often have clear structures, with rituals, rules and expectations all spelled out.  Many people who engage in them gain pleasure from all of these aspects.  The submissives enjoy giving up control and being led by someone else.  The dominants enjoy the control over their partners, having someone do as they desire. This is a simplistic description of what both parties might get out of the relationship.  For more on these relationships, listen to this seriesof podcastsfrom Sex SpokenHereand D is for Dominant from the A to Z of Sex ®podcast.

owner loaner

D/s relationships can be very straightforward or very complex.  Some include significant role play as well as the exchange of power.  There are marriages that work on these principles as well as long term living together relationships.  However, it can be difficult to maintain these roles when living with someone full time especially if the person who is in the submissive role is dominant in the outside world (at work, within the household, the main bread winner).   As a result, in some relationships, the D/s aspects become watered down which often leads to dissatisfaction on the part of both parties.   

A solution to managing this dissatisfaction is to make sure that there is specific time set aside for D/s.  As long as this is a substantial enough amount of time and it is ringfenced so that the rest of life does not intrude, this will work for many relationships.

Owner Loaner

One solution to this situation is to consider opening up the relationship. A couple can agree to engage in D/s play with other partners and not each other or with other partners and still engage with each other.  Deciding who will do what with whom can require some intricate negotiation.  When done properly, this is a great solution that increases everybody’s enjoyment and fulfilment.  

One issue that arises is the need for a person to have agency and autonomy to create and manage multiple relationships.  When one is in a hierarchical relationship, the person who is in the dominant role is the one who is in charge.  If that person is giving authority over what relationships their partner can form, then the submissive does not have the agency to form additional relationships or continue them.   Non-monogamous relationships for people in hierarchical relationships can look different depending up on if their hierarchical relationship is full time or part time. Non-monogamy in part-time D/s relationships can run the gamut from simple dating through to relationship anarchy to polyamorous arrangements.  

Myra and Robin were involved in a D/s relationship for 10 years before they moved in together.  Both are high powered business women, running their own companies for over a decade each. They met at a Women in Business event and the connection was instant.   They quickly discovered that they lived in the same state.  Their first date highlighted their desires.  Myra quickly took control and Robin revelled in her submission.  They talk each day and meet each weekend to spend time together.  Their relationship grows and deepens and finally they decide to move in together.  

At first things work well.  Weekends are the time that they set aside for the D/s side of their relationship. During the week they look like any other couple living together.    Robin sometimes finds it difficult giving up control on the weekend, especially on weeks where she is travelling for work.   But things are still working and they are both still happy together. After 6 months living together, Myra decides to take a sabbatical.  She is working on a book and needs the time to write.  They agree that Robin will be the main bread winner for those 6 months.   This is when the D/s relationship truly begins to break down.

The women came to see me when Robin found it too difficult to submit to Myra. They were both upset by this change and were motivated to look at how they could make sure their relationship would survive and thrive.  After 4 coaching sessions, Robin raised the issue of opening the relationship.  She proposed that they both seek to create a D/s relationship with someone else.  At first Myra was resistant to this idea, concerned that they would lose one of the best facets of their relationship.  After some negotiation, they decided to choose partners for each other and were clear about the limitations.  They decided to restrict the relationship to D/s in the bedroom. After a few false starts, they found situations which suited both of them.   After a month of exploring new D/s relationships, they told me the spark had come back between them and they left coaching.  In this situation, they were each involved in negotiation and setting the limits of other relationships.

In relationship anarchy, relationships are not bound by rules set by society or culture but are only bound by rules set by the people involved. In relationship anarchy, hierarchy between relationships is avoided.  This can cause issues when a relationship is hierarchical depending upon whether that relationship includes control over other relationships.     However, if this is not the case, then relationship anarchy starts with putting yourself first and then being very deliberate about your relationships – making conscious choices about them at all time.

In full time D/s relationships, the person in charge is also often in charge of whether there are other relationships as well.    Because of this, the person who is in the submissive role does not have the agency to begin, continue, or end relationships with others.  All relationships are had with the permission of the dominant.  One dominant woman I know talks of being an owner and therefore loaning out property rather than her slaves having separate autonomous relationships with others.    

In the ‘Owner Loaner’ Model, the owner sets the rules for the other relationships that their property might have.  The owner may do all of the negotiation, be an integral part of the negotiation or give the property the details about what is acceptable and allow them to do the negotiation.    No matter how the negotiation is organised, the owner is the one who is giving permission, not the property.    Morloki describes this as a ‘Time Share Model’ where the other interested parties can ‘request regular rental weeks during the year.  Chosen family rentals can be had with special terms’.  

If other relationships are not included in the hierarchal relationship, then the other relationships are negotiated directly and terms are agreed between the participants only.  Each relationship has rules about other relationships, whether it is hierarchical or not.  

For some this raises issues about consent.  In this type of relationship organisation, the owner gains the consent of the property to loan them to others and the parameters of any loan (and therefore any other relationship), are negotiated between owner and property.  The owner then restricts the terms of any loan to those the property has consented to as part of their relationship agreement (owner loaner model). Property can still withdraw consent at any time and this is made clear to any other playmate or partner during negotiations.  Property cannot agree to extend the terms of a loan relationship.  This is negotiated with the owner.

Jeff and Cindy are in a full time Owner/property relationship.  At the beginning of their relationship, they negotiated the possibility of other partners – intimate partners, emotionally intimate partners, play only partners – as part of their long term relationship.  A few years into their relationship, Cindy met Larissa.  Jeff negotiated with Larissa to loan Cindy to her for a full BDSM relationship including sexual contact.  Jeff prefers an owner loaner model and that relationship worked well for two years until Cindy felt that Larissa was no longer meeting her needs as agreed to at the beginning of the relationship. She spoke with Jeff about this in detail and Jeff ended the relationship as he felt that this was simply causing stress for Cindy (his property).  In this case, Cindy spoke with Larissa first and said that she wanted to end the relationship.  When Larissa didn’t take this well, Jeff stepped in to make sure it was ended properly and with as little rancour as possible.  Three years later, Cindy’s first love got in touch with her.  She asked Jeff if she could see Bob and also if she could see where a relationship with Bob might go.  Jeff agreed to the date and when it went well, he agreed to loan Cindy to Bob for an emotionally and sexually intimate relationship for an indefinite period of time.  Two years later, the relationship continues.  

In some M/s or O/p relationships, the dominant partner will introduce other people into the relationship on specific occasions.  When this is the case, it will have been agreed between the parties when they set out the terms of their relationship.  Josh likes to bring people home to have sex with Jeremy, his long term slave.  The people he brings home are really clear as to who is in charge and what the rule are.

Some people become polyamorous because they discover an interest in dominance and submission and want to enter authority transfer or D/s relationships but their partners have little interest in exploring with them.  They choose to open their relationships.  In my experience many of 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 extremely well in order for them to do so.  Coaching helps couples learn the communication and negotiation skills needed to create exciting and well-functioning poly monogamous relationships.

It is currently trendy to avoid hierarchy when it comes to relationships, particularly in the non-monogamous community.  Hierarchical relationships can be extremely exciting and satisfying whether they are part time (D/s) or full time (M/s, O/p).  For people who have multiple relationships that include one or more hierarchical relationships, the relationships can look like ordinary polyamorous relationships where all relationships are separately agreed and negotiated and maybe even equal when it comes to time and attention or they can be owner loaner relationships where the Master/Owner/Dominant is loaning out the slave/property/submissive to the people with whom they have other relationships. Consent and negotiating boundaries is more complex when D/s and non-monogamy are mixed and more time may be needed to get relationships off the ground, but these relationships can be very exciting and fulfilling in the short and long term.

Want to learn more about the DS in BDSM, non-monogamy and combining the two? Sign up for a discovery session with me hereor email loribeth@drloribethbisbey.com

One of the things I have noticed over the past number of years is how often a simple relationship mistake can bring drama with a capital D that lasts for ages.

Often these mistakes fall into a few obvious categories.

1 It’s easier to ask for forgiveness than it is to get permission.

This quote originally came from Rear Admiral Grace Murray Hopper who was a US naval officer and an early computer programmer.  She said this in an interview with Chips Ahoy when she asked the magazine why they didn’t just go ahead and print and they said they were trying to get permission.

The problem with asking for forgiveness instead of getting permission in a relationship (especially in non-monogamous relationships) is that when you make the conscious choice to do this, you are admitting that you are doing something behind your partner’s back.  In essence you are lying because omitting is also lying.  Dishonesty is the number one cause of relationship breakdown.

By avoiding talking with your partner about something you know they are likely to find difficult, you also assume your partner’s feelings, thoughts and reactions.  You make it impossible for them to grow because you are not having the difficult conversation with them.

You also avoid having to hear someone say ‘no’ and then abide by that ‘no’ because you have agreed to do so.  In non-monogamous relationships this is particularly damaging.  Most people in non-monogamous relationships have agreements about how other relationships are started and conducted, what types of sex are permissible and what types of relationships are permissible.  If you ignore these agreements, you are essentially saying that they are not important and therefore you diminish the importance of your commitment and your relationship.

Jeffrey and Cindy are married and identify as polyamorous. The one rule they have about choosing other partners is that they need to talk with each other before sleeping with someone else and that in some circumstances, the other partner can say ‘No, I don’t want you to sleep with that person.’.  Margaret kept pursuing Jeffrey over a period of two years.  Margaret’s son and Jeffrey and Cindy’s son were great friends and in the same class at school.   Jeffrey finally decided he wanted to sleep with Margaret but he knew that Cindy would say no.  Cindy would not like that Margaret was someone at the school and was the mother of one of their son’s friends.  She would be concerned that if there were relationship problems between Jeffrey and Margaret, everyone at school would hear about it and also that their son’s friendship would be disrupted.    Jeffrey decides not to ask Cindy and starts a relationship with Margaret that goes on for 6 months.  Cindy found out because everyone at school knew and there was a large scene between Jeffrey and Margaret.  Cindy ended her marriage as a result of this messy affair in part because of the drama it brought to her son’s life and to her life.

2 Pressure to try ‘new’ things.

People who are non-monogamous often feel a need to try anything.  There can be considerable social pressure to try the newest activity, relationship style or type of relationship rules out there.  Pressure can be applied before an idea is thought through and discussed.  For example, in some circles, women are expected to try sexual activity with other women.    People are sometimes pressured to be friends with each other’s metamours (the partners of your partner).

3 Believing that opening up your relationship and becoming non-monogamous will resolve all relationship issues

It is trendy to be non-monogamous.   It doesn’t suit everyone.    Non-monogamy requires LOTS of good communication.   I have seen many couples whose relationships have become sexually stagnant or who have been having difficulty with desire latch on to the idea that opening their relationship up will solve all their relationship issues.   If you already cannot communicate well with each other and don’t have the communication skills to resolve your existing relationship problems, opening up your relationship will only make things more complex.  Before deciding to open up, why not work with a coach or take a class to improve your communication skills including negotiation and conflict management?

The idea that opening up will solve things is like the idea that moving will solve issues that you are having.  It never words because where ever you go, there you are.  You take the issues with you.  And with opening up your relationship, you take your relationship issues with you and also bring them into new relationships thus creating lots of drama in many cases.

4  Misunderstanding what making all relationships equal means.

Non-hierarchical polyamory is also trendy now.  People get extremely upset when someone talks about having primary relationships and will shame people who don’t agree that all their relationships should be non-hierarchical.  Leaving aside people who are in authority transfer based relationships which by their nature are hierarchical, there are a number of issues with trying to make all relationships ‘equal’.  Equal is identical in mathematical value, of the same quantity or number.    Seeing all relationships as of equal importance or all people as of equal value is acceptable (though often problematic. After all, my one night stand is not of equal importance as my marriage, nor is it of equal value).  Better yet is looking at all people as being of equal value.  In reality, a relationship in which I am financially supporting someone is not equal to one in which I see someone once a year.  I have responsibilities in the first relationship that I do not have in the second relationship.    Which usually means that I need to give more time to the first relationship.  Many people just the ‘equality’ of a relationship with how much time is spent together.  Once making relationships equal becomes the focus, counting becomes a focus as well. Counting leads to disaster.

What do I mean by counting? Counting is when you compare relationships and look at how much time, how many holidays, how many photos posted on Facebook and then make assumptions about the value of the relationships based on the numbers you come up with.  Arly gets angry with Marco regularly because they post more pictures of themselves with Annie than they do of themselves with Arly.  To Arly, this means that Marco values their relationship with Annie more than they value their relationship with Arly.  In fact, Annie takes the photos and Marco simply shares them. To Marco, this means nothing.  They love Annie and they love Arly.    Arly also insists that Marco spend the same number of days with him that they spend with Annie.  Arly says that if Marco doesn’t agree to this, Marco is being hierarchical.  It isn’t practical for them to spend the same number of days with each one as Arly lives 1000 km away and Annie lives in the same house.   Quality over quantity is a maxim that needs to be adopted often in non-monogamous relationships styles.  Scheduling time is one of the most difficult things to manage as time is finite and we all have many demands on our time beyond our relationships.

5  This is the ‘right’ way to be polyamorous.

The ‘right’ way changes depending on the trends.  As I said earlier, non-hierarchical polyamory is trendy now so hierarchical relationships are seen as ‘wrong’.    Except that some polyamorous people are in authority transfer based relationships and these are hierarchical and as a result, the way they do polyamory is usually hierarchical because the dominant in that hierarchical relationship holds the agency and decides what other relationships the submissive will be allowed to be in, what the submissive can do in those relationships and how much time the submissive can give to those relationships.  Of course YMMV.  In some cases, the submissive may have agency to carve out time for a specific other relationship and this may be kept sacrosanct.  There are no right ways only the right way for you.  Figuring out what is right for you takes looking at all the possibilities, examining what feels right for you in any given situation and final discussing possibilities with partners and negotiating until parameters are agreed upon and clear.

6  We shouldn’t have to work on our relationships ongoing.

Once we have negotiated and agreed a contract of sorts or a set of rules, that should be OK going forward. Polyamory should be fun and spending time working on relationships is not fun.

All relationships require work.  Work doesn’t have to be arduous.  Work could just be a good conversation.  Work could be time spent each week checking in with a partner as to how they are feeling and making sure there are no issues that are brewing.  Relationships require attention no matter what type of relationship they are.  Relationships are more fun when there aren’t any unexamined issues around casting negative shadows over the enjoyable bits.

Are you in a non-monogamous relationship?  Are you creating one?  If you would like help creating a workable structure, sign up for a free 30 minute discovery session here and why not work through my online course here?