In college and in life, especially for young adults, plenty of people are looking for “the one.” But not everybody is looking for that right now—and some people may never settle down with a single person in a monogamous relationship. From dating multiple partners to open relationships and polyamory, there are many forms of non- monogamy out there. And while they may not be everyone’s preference, practicing them successfully comes down to one thing: communication.
There’s still a stigma, said Christian Weiman, a senior at the University of Miami, when it comes to non- monogamy. People who sleep with multiple partners, or enter into open or polyamorous relationships, are often branded as “sluts” or worse.
But what, inherently, is wrong with being with multiple people?
Don’t worry— this isn’t a defense thesis on the Tinder match who pretended to be “looking for something real” until they either got what they really wanted, or found out they couldn’t, and ghosted you and three other people in the same week. In non- monogamous arrangements, and dating in general, the line between whether or not someone is an “F-boy” or girl or not is communication and respect.
To get definitions out of the way, “monogamy is having only one person with whom you have a love and or sexual relationship,” explained Franklin Foote, a senior lecturer in UM’s psychology department who specializes in romantic and sexual relationships. “And non monogamy is when you have love and or sexual relationships with more than one person… it varies a lot, and it’s just limited by people’s imaginations and desires.”
Some individuals may simply be more inclined to be monogamous or non monogamous, said Foote. This isn’t necessarily cut and dry; these preferences can change over time and be “influenced by a person’s culture, family and peers.”
For example, some college students may prefer dating or talking to multiple people to having a single partner right now, but later in life may enter into a monogamous marriage. Twenty years later, that couple may decide to become swingers.
“As far as I’m concerned, anybody can have any type of relationship or sexual commitment level that is comfortable for them,” said Foote, “as long as they are honest with whoever they are interacting with.”
Some UM students are skeptical. “I wouldn’t date multiple people at once,” said freshman Claire Connelly, “but I would talk to multiple people before a label is put on the relationship.” An open relationship, she said, “doesn’t sound like something I could live with.”
Other students, like Weiman, prefer it. “I’m very open too dating people consistently, but not just one person,”
said Weiman, who was previously in an open relationship. “I have always had the mindset that one person is going to limit me emotionally and sexually…and that doesn’t mean that that’s not the person for me to spend time with.”
To keep it simple, we’ll define “open relationships” as those with two partners who recognize themselves as in a relationship, and who have an agreed-upon relationship by which they can date/engage in sexual activity with other partners. In contrast, polyamory is where someone has romantic relationships with multiple partners, or where three or more people are all engaged in a relationship.
In dating, Weiman said he is very conscious of respecting the people he is talking to and not leading them on.
“If I can sense that this person that I just started seeing is looking for someone, one person, and I know that that’s not me, I either communicate with them or I just stop,” he said. “If that person is on the same page with me, I can continue moving forward and communicate with them.”
“I’m looking for different things,” he continued. “I could be open to hookups. I could be open to dating, I could be open to a long term relationship. But as far as the details and intricacies, it’s not something that usually comes up right off the bat. I am looking for a boyfriend, but does that mean that being a boyfriend cuts me off from talking to other people and hooking up with other people? That’s a personal thing.”
While open relationships can sometimes be seen as a free-for-all, they are anything but. According to Foote, it’s common for partners to lay down rules about what can go on outside of the couple. This could be anything from only engaging with another partner together, to being able to have sexual relationships outside of the pair but not romantic ones, to intercourse being allowed but no oral sex. Anything outside of what the couple consents to is cheating.
To be frank, Foote said, most people can’t handle this type of open relationship. Jealousy, in such a situation, is natural and can be the downfall of many relationships. Couples who succeed, he said “communicate honestly and directly and celebrate each other’s sexual adventures.”
The key for those looking to date or sleep with multiple partners or enter into open relationships, Foote said, is “to be honest at the beginning, and not lead people in a direction that you’re not wanting to go with.”
Of course, he said, people who sleep with multiple partners should practice safe sex, use condoms and consider another form of birth control. And for people who are only looking for sex, and who hope to have it with someone they feel is wanting something deeper, Weinman has a simple answer: “Find someone else.”
words_kylea henseler. design_abby pak.