Explaining Non-Monogamy to Family and Friends
Choosing to live outside of society’s patriarchal norms can be so freeing. However, explaining the choices you make to friends and family who subscribe to traditional ways of living can be challenging.
When it comes to non-monogamous relationships, closed-minded people may only associate them with stereotypes and judgements rather than the truth. While explaining non-monogamy to your friends and family, keep in mind how it enhances your life. You may be met with gaslighting, misguided fears, and inaccurate advice. After all, it could be the first time they ever challenged the values and beliefs they were raised with.
It’s great that they’re curious about your lifestyle, but remember it’s not their job to convince you otherwise. It’s their job to love and better understand you. Let’s talk about how to explain non-monogamy to friends and family.
Acknowledge What They Do Know: Non-Consensual Non-Monogamy
People in monogamous relationships typically go through a period during dating where they ask each other, “Are we exclusive?”
Exclusivity (not really titles) is what helps people in monogamous relationships have peace of mind and trust with each other. To them, being “exclusive” with multiple people at once directly contradicts what the word means.
Most people in monogamous relationships know that sharing a partner with someone else doesn’t make them any less committed to them. In fact, it requires more attention to feelings, honesty, and vulnerability than people in monogamous relationships typically give to each other. What your loved ones are fearful of is cheating (or non-consensual non-monogamy). Let them know that this is a very real fear in non-monogamous relationships, just as much as it is in monogamous relationships.
A broken contract is a broken contract. You have the same expectations of love, trust, and honesty as your friends and family do in their relationships. The only difference is the specificity of those expectations. In this way, you can find common ground with them. You can even thank them for worrying about you, as no one wants to be taken by surprise or betrayed in love.
Educate Them on Ethical Non-Monogamy
Your level of seriousness and confidence during this conversation will communicate how safe you feel in your relationship. When talking about ethical non-monogamy, go over the basics.
–Ethical non-monogamy is a style of relationship that involves multiple romantic and sexual partners.
–Everyone in the relationship enthusiastically consents to the dynamic, the people, and the variety of roles.
–There are multiple different kinds of ethical non-monogamy, like open relationships, hierarchical relationships, and swinging. (You can even share more about your relationship here if you feel comfortable.)
–Monogamous people feel that having one partner is natural, while non-monogamous people feel that having multiple partners is natural.
–History has shown that humans have experimented with non-monogamy for centuries; sometimes it was even the norm.
–There is no inherent “right” or “wrong” answer—there is only what is right for each individual.
Find the Similarities and Show That the Differences Are Not a Threat
The misunderstanding that monogamous people often have with non-monogamy is the fear that they would feel intense jealousy and neglect if they were in the same situation.
People in non-monogamous relationships do feel jealousy. The only difference is that when they do, it’s an expectation that their partner will meet them with compassion, reassurance, and honest communication. Everyone expects each other to put in the work to heal their inner child that was programmed by society to desire monogamy.
Hopefully your friends and family will realize that a non-monogamous relationship is not a way that people “cheat the system” to get sex and attention without putting in any work. Non-monogamy requires commitment, a genuine interest in each person, and clear communication. You leave nothing up to interpretation, and the risks and rewards of monogamous relationships are all the same.
If you’re looking for someone inclusive to practice with, there’s no better person than a therapist. Schedule an appointment with our office today so you can live more authentically with every loved one in your life.