What the heck is monogamish?

A break­down of nine re­la­tion­ship types from polyamory to re­la­tion­ship an­ar­chy

Richmond Hill Post - - Currents - DR. JESS Jess O’Reilly is a sought-af­ter speaker, au­thor and sex­ol­o­gist (www.SexWithDrJ­ess.com).

Across the city, your neigh­bours, friends and col­leagues are en­gag­ing in a wide range of re­la­tion­ship ar­range­ments. Al­though se­rial monogamy is ide­al­ized as both a de­fault set­ting and pri­or­i­tized goal, re­search sug­gests that other re­la­tion­ship ar­range­ments are both com­mon and ful­fill­ing.

Twenty per cent of daters, for ex­am­ple, have been in a con­sen­su­ally non-monog­a­mous re­la­tion­ship, but CNM cov­ers a wide range of re­la­tion­ship types.

“Polyamory” is of­ten used as an um­brella term to re­fer to the con­sen­sual and si­mul­ta­ne­ous en­gage­ment in mul­ti­ple in­ti­mate, lov­ing and/or sex­ual re­la­tion­ships.

It’s more com­mon than you think, as Toronto-based writer Jenny Yuen un­cov­ers in her book, Polyamorou­s: Liv­ing and Lov­ing More, to be re­leased in Novem­ber. Yuen digs into why open re­la­tion­ships are be­ing nor­mal­ized and how they can be a prac­ti­cal al­ter­na­tive to monogamy.

There are many forms of polyamory, in­clud­ing poly­fi­delity, hi­er­ar­chi­cal polyamory and non­hier­ar­chi­cal polyamory. Poly­fi­delity of­ten refers to a group of three or more who prac­tice polyamory ex­clu­sively within their group.

“It’s like we’re monog­a­mous, but there are three of us,” ex­plains Park­dale res­i­dent Dani* who has been part of a triad for six years. “Some say we’re not re­ally polyamorou­s, but to me it works be­cause we have more free­dom than tra­di­tional monogamy, but with just three of us we can still have a deep, in­ti­mate con­nec­tion.”

Hi­er­ar­chi­cal polyamory gen­er­ally in­volves a rank­ing sys­tem in which one of your re­la­tion­ships takes pri­or­ity over an­other; for ex­am­ple, you might have a pri­mary part­ner with whom you spend more time and that part­ner might have a say (in­clud­ing veto power) in your other re­la­tion­ships. Of­ten­times, a hi­er­ar­chi­cal re­la­tion­ship be­gins with a cou­ple agree­ing to en­gage with other part­ners, sep­a­rately or to­gether, but con­tin­u­ing to in­vest more time and re­sources into their pri­mary re­la­tion­ship.

Non-hi­er­ar­chi­cal polyamory refers to mul­ti­ple part­ner ar­range­ments in which no one part­ner is pri­or­i­tized over an­other.

Mid­town res­i­dent Jeff* be­lieves this is es­sen­tial. “I was some­one’s sec­ondary once, and I felt like I was too eas­ily dis­carded. When my wife and I dis­cussed it, we both agreed that we’d never want to be on the other side, so we don’t have pri­mary, sec­ondary or ter­tiary part­ners. We have mul­ti­ple part­ners and we’re all equal.”

Af­fec­tional re­la­tion­ships pre­clude sex and fo­cus on other el­e­ments of a re­la­tion­ship in­clud­ing phys­i­cal af­fec­tion — snug­gling, kiss­ing and other non-gen­i­tal touch. Rosedale res­i­dent Su­san* has both a hus­band and an af­fec­tional part­ner who is 20 years her ju­nior.

“I’m polyaf­fec­tional. I love my boyfriend and I find him at­trac­tive, but sex is off the ta­ble. I have a great sex life with my hus­band but re­ally like that my boyfriend and I have this spe­cial re­la­tion­ship that in­cludes all sorts of other com­po­nents.”

An­other form of CNM is swing­ing, which of­ten refers to cou­ples en­gag­ing in sex­ual ac­tiv­i­ties with other cou­ples but can also in­clude groups and sin­gles. Great va­ri­ety ex­ists in all types of re­la­tion­ships, and some swingers in­sist that it’s just about the sex, whereas oth­ers em­pha­size the im­por­tance of friend­ships.

Those who are pri­mar­ily monog­a­mous but are cu­ri­ous about non-monogamy some­times ex­plore a ter­ri­tory that I re­fer to as monogamish. These cou­ples might look at, fan­ta­size and talk about other peo­ple, at­tend sex par­ties and/or par­tic­i­pate in voyeurism or ex­hi­bi­tion­ism with­out ac­tu­ally touch­ing an­other per­son. They con­sen­su­ally push their com­fort zones in or­der to in­ject ex­cite­ment and a de­gree of cal­cu­lated risk into their sta­ble, se­cure re­la­tion­ship.

Oth­ers, like down­town res­i­dents Sheila* and Micky*, who iden­tify as pla­tonic par­ent­ing part­ners, are chal­leng­ing the way we raise chil­dren. They care for one an­other deeply and raise their seven-yearold as non-sex­ual part­ners.

“Micky started as a friend and babysit­ter and means so much to our son. Tran­si­tion­ing to co­par­ents has en­riched all of our lives,” says Sheila.

Al­though each of these re­la­tion­ship ar­range­ments of­fers dif­fer­ing ben­e­fits and chal­lenges, they’re all gov­erned by a set of rules ne­go­ti­ated and de­fined by the cou­ple or group. One ap­proach to re­la­tion­ships, how­ever, is an out­lier in that it sub­verts cul­tur­ally im­posed rules, en­ti­tle­ments, la­bels and hi­er­ar­chies. Re­la­tion­ship an­ar­chy high­lights in­di­vid­ual au­ton­omy draw­ing from an­ar­chis­tic po­lit­i­cal phi­los­o­phy.

This doesn’t mean that any­thing goes, but re­la­tion­ship an­ar­chists carve out in­di­vid­ual paths to free­dom and ful­fill­ment and don’t nec­es­sar­ily pri­or­i­tize sex­ual re­la­tion­ships over pla­tonic ones.

Ful­fill­ing re­la­tion­ships come in many forms and don’t nec­es­sar­ily in­clude ro­mance or sex.

*Names have been changed and re­la­tion­ship de­tails have been shared with per­mis­sion from all par­ties.

20 per cent of daters have tried a con­sen­su­ally non-monog­a­mous re­la­tion­ship

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