Reporter's Notebook

Stories of Non-Monogamy
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Readers share their experiences with polyamory and open relationships. To join in, email hello@theatlantic.com.

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When Polyamory Isn't Really About Sex

A few readers attest to that. The first makes a key distinction:

I’ve been in a poly relationship since around 2010, and I think it’s important to make clear that being poly and being in an open relationship are not exactly the same. Being from the Midwest, I had no clue what poly was until I moved to Seattle and became a member of the Center For Sex Positive Culture. So, while I am not a perfect expert, I do want to clear up some stuff.

An open relationship can generally be considered as something between a couple (two committed adults in a relationship) who are willing or looking to add someone else in for a short term period—a threesome, foursome, one-night stand, swinging, etc.

A polyamorous relationship might be an open relationship. But a poly relationship might also be every bit as focused as a monoamorous relationship, except between three committed people, or four, or more.

This reader didn’t have the best experience with non-monogamy:

I met a guy on OkCupid who told me he was polyamorous. I wasn’t looking for anything serious, so that was cool with me. He’d tell me about other women he was seeing, but he wouldn’t tell THEM about ME. I definitely didn’t want to be someone’s secret. (I did enough of that crap in my 20s.)

It became apparent that he basically felt obligated to be “polyamorous” because he seemed to think he was doing god’s work by having sex with multiple women. Granted, he was well endowed, but I also think he was lonely.  

This reader, on the other hand, has had much better experiences with open relationships:

I thinks it’s important to note that, for many people (myself included), polyamory isn’t necessarily about filling a void or needing additional partners; it’s about being comfortable enough with your partner(s) that you can explore your additional friendships and relationships, wherever they lead. Sometimes that’s flirting, sometimes that’s more, and sometimes it’s just being able to have interactions with members of the gender(s) that you are attracted to without having to define it.

My partner and I meet up monthly with a polyamorous social group at a local restaurant/bar.

A reader responds to Olga’s post on OkCupid’s new feature that allows users to advertise they’re “in an open relationship” and link to their partner’s profile:

I have a life partner of three years and counting. We are in the most functional, devoted, and fulfilling romantic relationship that either one of us has ever had. We have positions of employment, we have careers, and we do not want to have children (life and three cats are more than enough for us). We share a life, a home, and a bed. And, we are in an open relationship.

It’s one we mutually agreed upon when we became serious about being together in a more serious way, to keep open for as long as it worked for us. Just because we are in an open relationship, it does not mean that we are looking to have sex with whomever we find attractive in the moment. We have had ONE threesome in the three-years-plus we have been together. Only one.

We are both sexual, but our professional lives can be quite demanding. I honestly do not know why people think we are having more sex simply because we are in an open relationship. Then again, a lot of people think a lot of things that simply are not true.

Another reader also describes his open relationship: