Is Everybody But Me Practicing Polyamory?

Diverse intimacy is having a moment. Polyamory, open relationships, nontraditional marriage, consensual non-monogamy, polycules - they’re all different ways of looking at possibilities for people who wish to consider that conventional marriage or lifelong monogamy with a single partner may not be their only choice for emotional, romantic, and sexual fulfillment. It’s important to note that polygamy (being married to multiple partners) is not the same as polyamory, in which individuals who may be married or single can independently choose to have multiple romantic partners. 

About 37% of American adults say open marriages are completely unacceptable; 13% say they’re somewhat unacceptable, 23% say they are completely acceptable, 11% say somewhat acceptable, and the remainder are undecided, according to data from the Pew Research Center. Married men are more likely than married women to be interested in open relationships, and LGBTQ+ adults are more likely than straight couples to pursue non-monogamy. 

Open Marriage

An open relationship is also known as consensual non-monogamy or ethical non-monogamy. An open marriage is a nontraditional, non-monogamous marriage. Unlike infidelity, where partners cheat and do not ask for or give consent, both partners in an open relationship willingly agree to accept that one or both of them will explore sexual or loving relationships with others outside the marriage, while remaining in a committed and caring relationship. Both partners may remain primary partners and set boundaries or terms, such as ensuring safe sex and either sharing details about the other parties or keeping those intimate details private.

Partners may choose to search for additional partners together or on their own. A committed three-partner triad, or throuple, involves participation from all partners. A closed triad is when all three agree to keep sexual activity only within the group. A triad can expand to a quadrad or a poly pod, with members mutually agreeing on if, how, and when to grow the needs and members of the group. 

The Pew Research Center also found that 19% of Gen Z have participated in polyamorous relationships, compared with 10% of millennials and 7% of Gen Xers. Younger adults have come of age in an era that provides them with more opportunities to define themselves and explore issues of sexuality and gender, but is also fraught with anxiety. Rates of millennials and Gen Z seeking therapy and medication for mental health have skyrocketed, with some studies showing 57% of Gen Z taking medication for mental health-related issues, and the potential adverse effects of many of those medications are well documented. Anecdotally, Gen Z contributors on Reddit and other online forums report feeling love and loyalty toward their romantic partners but are considering opening their relationships due to their total absence of desire due to side effects of their antidepressants. Could a post-pandemic loss of libido among the stressed (from anxious young adults to menopausal matriarchs) contribute to the concept of polyamory becoming more socially acceptable among all generations?

Where to Start?

If you’re in the “just curious” stage, try some recent books, such as More, A Memoir of Open Marriage, by New York Times contributor Molly Roden Winter; Many Love: A Memoir of Polyamory and Finding Love(s), by Sophie Lucido Johnson;  or The Ethical Slut by Dossie Easton and Janet W. Hardy. 

For advice on starting conversations about ethical polyamory, consider Polywise: A Deeper Dive Into Navigating Open Relationships and Polysecure: Attachment, Trauma and Consensual Nonmonogamy by therapist Jessica Fern, or Building Open Relationships by nonbinary psychologist Liz Powell, who specializes in nontraditional relationships and, as a disabled veteran herself, helps people navigate complex, post-military relationships.

If you’d just like to listen with an open mind, sex educator Laura Boyle interviews a variety of relationship experts on The Ready for Polyamory blog and podcast, now in its seventh season.  

Am I Weird?

No, you’re not weird if you’re open to exploring your sexuality, and you’re also not weird if you are comfortable with the tried and true.

We all have the right to be curious, and we also have the right to set boundaries, communicate our preferences, and to share fantasies that we might not want to act out in real life. Trust is essential in every relationship, particularly in sexual situations. Sometimes only one partner in a relationship is seeking something outside traditional norms, leaving the other to feel unwanted, abandoned, or confused. It can help for partners to talk to a relationship counselor who specializes in sexuality, polyamory, and open relationships. There are many ways to communicate desires and have your needs met. Find an experienced Lifeologie Counselor near you who specializes in nonmonogamous relationships and can help you begin your conversation in a warm, safe space.

About Lifeologie

Lifeologie Counseling was founded in 2000 with one goal in mind — to bring a fresh, innovative approach to the everyday problems of life. Creative solutions to stuck problems®. With our unique multi-specialty, collaborative approach, Lifeologie Counseling helps individuals and families heal their wounds and break out of old, unhealthy patterns.