The sky is blue. The earth is round. And, in Western society, so many people think relationships are meant to be shared with one person. But maybe monogamy isn’t the only way to love.
“I think some people are non-monogamous by orientation, and if they try to force themselves to be monogamous it’s going to hurt,” says Dr. Elisabeth Sheff, a sociologist who has written several books on polyamory. “It’s never going to feel comfortable.”
Below, Dr. Sheff shares seven traits that could indicate a monogamous relationship isn’t right for you, and that you’d be happy exploring polyamorous relationships.
1. You’re an extrovert who is genuinely passionate about relationships.
“The people who seem to be the most dedicated polyamorists, relationships are their hobby,” explains Dr. Sheff. “They do it, they think about it, they read about it all the time. They just love it. If you have a lot of enthusiasm for that, then awesome.”
“If you are, however, an introvert, that’s going to be somewhat more difficult. It doesn’t mean it can’t work for you at all, but the amount of contact and talking and communication that comes with consensual non-monogamy can be overwhelming.”
2. You thoroughly enjoy communicating.
If the thought of developing your communication skills with your partner and other partners “sounds fun, cool, or interesting, then that’s a really good sign that non-monogamy would work for you,” says Dr. Sheff. “It’s not just communication — it’s a fun game. It’s a skill you can acquire and play with.”
She explains that, to the non-monogamous person, developing communication skills within a relationship is “something you’re not only willing to do, but something you would enjoy getting better at.”
3. You’re an introvert dating an extrovert.
According to Dr. Sheff, non-monogamy is also a great option for “introverts who are psyched for more alone time and would like their partner to have more time to go play and company to go do other things with. If that sounds good to you as an introvert, then you could be really psyched for consensual non-monogamy. It takes the pressure off.”
In order to decide if you fall into this category, Dr. Sheff suggests honing in on your attitude toward spending time alone. “People who are like ‘Yay! I’ll have time to go hang out by myself” or “Yay! I’ll have time to go hang out with my friends!’ or ‘I’m going to go do this other thing,’ they are fine with their partners being gone,” she explains. “If the partner’s absence is like this big gaping thing and you’re thinking constantly about what they’re doing and who are they with and do they have their phones on them and what’s happening, then no.”
4. You love to share, in general.
“Is sharing something you enjoy and you seek out? You know, the novelty and the wider range of things. Or do you prefer to have your own thing, your own plate?” If you belong to the latter group, “that’s going to make consensual non-monogamy a bit more challenging, and it’s certainly going to reflect the way you do it.”
5. You welcome challenging emotions.
“Polyamory or non-monogamy is bound to bring about feelings of insecurity and feelings of jealousy and feelings of ‘Are they gonna like [these other people] better?’” explains Dr. Sheff. So she says to think: “How do you deal with challenging emotions? Are you someone who is going to face themselves and be honest, and are you willing to have relationships with other people but still also work on your relationship with your partner?”
6. You don’t let jealous thoughts and feelings consume you.
Within the monogamous model, Dr. Sheff explains that feelings of jealousy, anxiety, or insecurity within a relationship are “almost disloyal.” So, at the very least, you should be willing to learn how to deal with your jealousy, if you are hoping to make a non-monogamous relationship work. “Because it is a skill that you have to practice — managing your own emotions.”
7. You aren’t bothered by the thought of your partner being with someone else.
“If you’re just like, ‘I could see myself being with someone else but not my partner,’ then you probably don’t really want consensual non-monogamy,” warns Dr. Sheff. “You just want someone else. Or you want sexual variety for yourself but not for your partner — that’s something a lot of people want. And that is why so many people cheat because they want that freedom, but they can’t imagine sharing. They really do not feel comfortable with sharing their partners.”
8. Your ideal relationship involves multiple partners.
If you’re currently in a monogamous relationship and the idea of non-monogamy sounds tempting, it’s important to think about whether it’s the structure of monogamy that’s upsetting you or this particular relationship. “Think about your mythical partner — whoever else you’re with, besides this person,” Dr. Sheff advises. “Does it really seem like ‘besides’ or is it ‘in addition to?’ How do you feel about your current person not being there? Do you feel relief or sadness?”
Even if you’re not currently in a relationship, take some time to think about your ideal partner. “Think about this future partner,” Dr. Sheff suggests. How would you feel about sharing them with someone else?
Despite all of this advice, Dr. Sheff cautions that “non-monogamy is not for everyone. It’s kind of in vogue right now, but I think some people are monogamous by orientation, and if they try to force themselves to be in a non-monogamous relationship, it’s going to hurt and feel uncomfortable and it’s just really never going to work for them.” See what’s right for you.