There are too many different definitions, labels and variations for non-monogamous relationships. Off the top of my head I can think of open (relationship), swinger(s), monogam-ish, polyamorous, non-monogamous, relationship radical, married but not narrow, serial dater, and dating around. So, we can all acknowledge that we do this differently, right? And it's really OK for everyone to do everything differently. My way of doing this works for me, but it may not work for everyone right? Yadda yadda. I agree with all that in principle.
But you know what? I can't help but feel like my type of non-monogamy really is better than yours. If I'm being honest. I'm pretty happy in all my relationships. I experience very little jealousy. People ask me for advice. It's hard not to feel like I have something figured out here.
Since I'm feeling so superior tonight, I figured I would share the rules to complete relationship anarchy with y'all. Please remember that as I write this I am completely full of shit. My relationships are not perfect. All I can say is that I find them to be very fulfilling, and that I find non-monogamy to be the only relationship path available to me and this is why I choose it.
Rule 1: Lower Expectations
Let go of all your romantic fantasies about finding your one true love. Romantic comedies have truly been an act of terror against our relationships because they have given us a ridiculous way to model our expectations for relationships. Up until this point you may have been believing that your soulmate lives out there somewhere and a series of chance meetings and awkward flirtations will lead you into a dysfunctional relationship that you will need to break from until one of you admits you were wrong to the other, at which point you will make up, get married and live happily ever after with each others lovable personality quirks. If you just stop to think about it, it's completely ridiculous to think that your love life will turn out that way. Not only is it unlikely, but that sort of outcome is seems sort of undesirable, doesn't it? You want to live with, be best friends with, have sex with the same person for 30-60 years? They better be a fucking awesome person. And remain the same awesome person for 30-60 years. And those quirks better indeed be lovable.
Chances are that you are not going to have one soulmate relationship throughout your entire life. People change, people also (regrettably) die. Once you embrace this concept, a much more attractive concept presents itself: what if you could have lots of soulmates? All at the same time? Or overlapping? What if you could have friends and soulmates and lovers and companions and fuck buddies and family? What if you could decide which friends you had sex with, and which soulmates were not sexual soulmates?
So you see, by lowering romantic expectations you actually discover a whole new world of possibility. I do not expect to be with anyone forever (though I will admit to wanting to be with some people forever), nor would I ever expect anyone to want to be with me forever. Do you realize what a relief it is to give up on that?
Rule 2: Jealousy Is Your Problem
I will admit that I very rarely get jealous. But it does happen from time to time, and when it happens it can be pretty brutal. Jealousy is a hard emotion for me to explain, but I agree that it just fucking sucks. It is easy to want to blame someone else for "betraying" your trust. Or for otherwise making you feel this wretched way.
You know what, though? You just having to fucking deal with it because it's your fucking problem. You don't own this other person. Nor do you, and you alone, deserve to be the only recipient of their love. This ties back into expectations. Do away with as many of them as you can regarding all relationships. If you are in a serious, familial or otherwise long-term and domestic relationship with someone, you might not be able to avoid building some expectations, and you might have the right to. State those expectations plainly and frequently. At the same time, work on challenging those expectations you have a right to. Remember that it is a choice for both of you to continue to be in the relationship, and if you want to continue to be in a relationship you sometimes have to soften hard lines. If a hard line cannot be softened, that is the time for you to choose to let the relationship go.
Jealousy is something you should talk openly about with your partners every single time you feel it, but is never something you should put on your partners. Period.
Rule 3: Jealousy Is Actually Not That Big A Deal
As long as you're not putting it on the partner. So you're jealous, right? Big deal. Laugh at the demon, and it will slowly retreat. You're allowed to be jealous, and you're allowed to move on from it.
Also, you know what helps with jealousy? Having sex with the person who has set this jealousy off. You might think I'm kidding. I'm not. After you've had sex with the interloper, jealousy really starts to seem like less of a big deal.
Rule 4: Write A Contract, But Promptly Disregard All The Agreements
If you are moving from a monogamous relationship into an open one, it is often suggested that you write a contract. This creates a sense of safety, which is all well and good. But as far as I'm concerned there are really only two agreements that are important to non-monogamy. One is to always talk openly, honestly, and often. The other is to always bring issues to one another as soon as they come up. Beyond that, other agreements will only drag you down. Especially agreements that aren't even spoken, which goes back to the two agreements that are important.
Allow yourself to make mistakes, and allow your significant other to make mistakes. Remember that you love them and they love you. Tear down your expectations, and then tear up that contract. Trust the person you love enough to know they will do their best to keep your interests in mind. And when (not if) they don't keep your interests in mind, remember all the times you failed them. If you want to keep loving them, you'll work it out. If you can't keep loving them, time to move on. It probably means that one or both of you have changed, anyway, and not that your open relationship failed. Speaking of which:
Rule 5: A "Failed" Relationship Is Not A Failure
Relationships are chapters in your life. Chapters begin and end. Stories having a beginning, middle and end. You are born, you live, and then you die. Life is cyclical, and so are human relationships. It is often not anyone's fault when a relationship ends, nor is it the fault of any one decision or thing that happen. Those are merely the events that lead you toward the end, which was inevitable the whole time. There's this one over-quoted quote (probably paraphrasing here): "'tis better to have loved and lost than to have never loved at all." I think it's over-quoted because it's true. Just be thankful for the happy times you shared.
Rule 6: Love Yourself First
This is perhaps the most important and perhaps delusional and narcissistic sounding rule. You don't have to think you're the greatest person ever, but you do have to take care of yourself first and foremost. Not for Ayn Rand reasons; but being OK with being alone is integral. Enjoying spending time with yourself is necessary. You can say you're lonely when you're single or your lover is out with another- or you could say you're independent and whole on you're own. It's possible for both emotions to exist in the same place: I have been to the lowest depths of single life and I have found a better me in those dark places.
Now with these 6 simple rules (yes I'm being facetious here) you too can unlock multiple-relationship bliss. I should give motivational speeches and what not.