‘I Want Us to Sleep with Other People’
First comes love, then comes … seeing other people? A growing group of 20- and 30somethings is turning their back on happily ever after with one person, and rewriting the rules of relationships as we know them
Social media and dating apps make the poly lifestyle easy. Online, you can meet just about any type of person, ready for just about any kind of relationship. The dating platform OkCupid, for example, lets users choose from 12 possible sexual identities and 22 different gender options, and lets them specify whether they’re looking for sex, romance, friendship, or a little bit of each from one or multiple partners. ‘I don’t think there’s anything wrong with monogamy,’ says Clare, 31, who’s in a consensual non-monogamous (CNM) relationship with her husband and others. ‘But people tend to see it as a default setting or a requirement. It’s often presented as the only rational and acceptable way to have a committed relationship – but I think that there are definitely other possibilities.’
Clare and her young poly peers are the first to admit that the new non-monogamy is not for everyone. Even as they turn their back on traditional rules, they are improvising a set of CNM guidelines. Those wanting to test the waters should…
1 Stay open to experimentation
For the new non-monogamists, relationships are a journey, not a place to park yourself until death do you part. ‘Young people today have a desire to work on themselves through health trends such as yoga or meditation,’ says relationship therapist Rhonda Milrad. So it makes sense they’re looking for romantic setups that also encourage personal growth.
‘CNM helps me get to know myself better sexually and find new things that turn me on,’ says Lucy, 30, of her lifestyle with boyfriend Collen. So far, she’s discovered she likes having threesomes with her BF and another woman with sexual desires similar to her own. (‘It just doubles the energy,’ she says.) Melanie, 28, can relate: ‘In the past couple of years, I’ve got more into kink and BDSM,’ she says. ‘Since my partner is not that into it, one major benefit of non-monogamy is that I feel free to explore that part of myself.’ She now has sex with two other men once or twice a month.
2 Know that it’s not just about sex
Or about sexual thrillseeking. CNM may also come with serious emotional connections, especially because young people are now marrying later in life. It’s estimated that one-third of Millennials will remain unhitched at age 40 – and the thought of de-prioritising the other relationships they have developed along the way can be unappealing. ‘ The entire reason I decided to live polyamorously was because of a friendship, not because of sex,’ says Genevieve, 38, who has a husband – and a longterm girlfriend. ‘I had a best friend who was more than a best friend. She felt like a soul mate. We loved being together and didn’t want to stop once we got “serious partners”.’
Likewise, Kelli, 34, says CNM offers more stability, not less. ‘I have a community of people I go to when I’m crying,’ she says. ‘I don’t go to a new lover when I need support. We’ve just been f*cking – they have no idea how to support me emotionally.’
The date was amazing. He did that thing I really like.