Leaving the Bedroom Door Open, Cont'd

Editor’s Note: This article previously appeared in a different format as part of The Atlantic’s Notes section, retired in 2021.

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.

We have never taken anyone home from this event, but it routinely provides some of my most engaging and connected conversations. Everyone in the room is comfortable with their lifestyle, is actively meeting their own needs, and is very respectful of boundaries and consent, so you have to worry less about hidden agendas; everything is already out on the table. The biggest misconception is that polyamory is about sex. It’s about taking care of your own needs and, most of all, trusting your partner to do the same.

Thanks for taking the time to talk about it! We need more visibility, as a group, to wipe away the stigma.

That reader’s point that “polyamory isn’t necessarily about filling a void or needing additional partners” rings true to me. In my experience, and what seems most appealing about non-monogamy, in whatever form, is the possibility of an honest, transparent experience outside a two-person mold—not necessarily the seizing of that possibility. To get to a place where you trust the strength of your relationship enough to allow a discretion, from time to time, can be powerful—even if you rarely, if ever, act on it. This female reader would probably agree:

I’ve been with my partner for seven years. He and I opened the relationship five years ago, but encounters were few and far between until we decided to join Tinder six months ago. We were both restless and just looking for some sex to finish off the summer. It was fun as hell sharing hot bedroom stories and commiserating about awful dates.

The whole thing took a turn when my partner and I individually matched with another couple in an open relationship. None of our profiles were linked together, so it was purely coincidental. When we all realized it, we decided to go on a group date for shits. The night resulted in the swinging model of switching couples, but 12 hours later, we were still hanging out together and very smitten.

We all remained open, and six weeks later, we’re still dating. It’s both sexually and emotionally satisfying. I never imagined polyamory fitting into my life, but this experience has shown me the limitless love I can feel, give, and receive.

IT’S NOT FOR EVERYONE, but you can say that about anything. Of course there are bumps in the road, but like any relationship (romantic, platonic, monogamous, non-monogamous), talking through situations and being honest makes it work.

I hope you continue sharing non-monogamy stories, because this is another battlefield in breaking down America’s sex negativity problem.

The door is always open to your emails at hello@theatlantic.com.