Is There A Step Between Monogamy and Non-Monogamy?

By Kendra Holliday | April 23, 2014

Dear Kendra,

I’m at a place where I’m trying to figure out my true desire. Is there something like a step in between monogamy and non-monogamy? I tried both in the past (mono and poly), and both have advantages and disadvantages.

I like the freedom in poly, because it allows me to be more myself. Although I wonder if I need that freedom… I discovered some shallow drives behind that, so maybe I’m past that phase? I like that poly challenges me to grow as human being. I enjoy the intimacy and the different connections you can have with different people.

Although I don’t like that it is so much work! In mono I have to say I like the easiness that goes with it… you just “belong” to each other; the rules and expectations are firm. I also like the intimacy in mono, which is of a different quality than what I’ve found in poly.

I agree strongly with being honest with yourself and going for what you truly want, in relationships, and more so, in ALL aspects of your life. Not an easy thing to put into practice, by any means, but to walk down a path with strength and conviction, one should first know which path IS the right one for you. And there lies my question: how do you know?

My reply:

At first glance, I thought your question was akin to the concept of being “a little bit pregnant” – either you are or you aren’t monogamous.

But of course like everything else, there is a spectrum. (Have you ever heard of that Hollywood Free Pass Rule married monogamous couples often have, where they’re allowed one celebrity they can fuck if given the opportunity? Because they know deep down they harbor desires like that, and they figure it’s a safe game to play because it would never come true in a million years? Wouldn’t it be awesome if someone really got the chance to exercise their free pass? That would make a great TV show, talk about drama!)

On one end of the spectrum is monogamy – only being with one other partner. The other end is constantly being with multiple partners. (Where does serial monogamy fit on the spectrum?) But what about being monogamous for the most part, but realizing that every once in a while, over the course of several years, you will encounter someone you want to be with and want to go for it without sacrificing your wonderful relationship?

I love my fluid relationship as it is right now, where we’re dipping in and out of casual and more intimate encounters with friends and lovers on a pretty regular basis, but I could easily be in a relationship that was 90% monogamous, meaning I would be okay with only rarely getting with another person. I could NOT be in a relationship that was 100% monogamous. I need to exercise my right to be a human who craves novelty and unique experiences.

There are rules you could add on to your traditional relationship that would give you some wiggle room – you can only be with someone of the same gender, or only once in a blue moon, or your partner must be present, or only when you’re out of town on business, or only if you’re in Amsterdam, or only when your partner is in a coma – whatever setup works that doesn’t trigger mass destruction and the end of the world. I suggest you look into the books More Than TwoOpening Up, The Ethical Slut, and Sex at Dawn.

Are any of you readers monogamous-but-not, aka monogamish? How’s it working for you?


Sonora 2011-06-03 20:23:14

My *relationship* appears to be monogamous-but-not, at least for the time being. I’m interested in living a poly lifestyle and have given my heart to a man who is interested in living monogamously. In our case, through constant honest communication, we are both getting what we want. I am “allowed” to sleep with others so long as I follow a couple simple rules (condoms always, no men under our shared roof, and admission without gory detail). I’m amenable to all of that. He has sex with only me and has no current interest in others. That might change, and if it does we’ll renegotiate… although I have no inherent issues with him wanting to be with someone other than me, something might surface if it becomes an immediate reality.

Is this working? Yes. We had our bumps in the road as we traversed for the first time my having a tryst with someone else and initially it was dealt with poorly. We recovered quickly and reforged the bond that we have as PARTNERS and the relationship feels stronger than ever.

I must admit that difficult and painful as it would have been, I would have let him go before trying to mold myself into something I’m not.

I don’t know if that directly addresses the question at hand, but I feel like my experience of recent months and years might be helpful to some reader, even in this encapsulated form.


Sapphiewolf 2011-06-12 23:35:24

I know that if my future wife, girlfriend or lover ever gets the chance to have sex with Matt Smith, the current actor who plays The Doctor, I certainly would encourage it. So that way I could say that I had sex with him by proxy.


Ben Quick 2012-02-24 15:53:20

I have been in a monogamous relationship for 10 years and recently opened it up after a unexpected conversation with my wife. We are both naturally big flirts and enjoy interacting with the opposite sex. She had a girls night out with some friends and went dancing and I thought nothing of it as I trust her and realize that she and most gals love the attention they get during GNO. She told me how her married friend danced with a guy that her married friend found attractive and then I asked her if she danced with anyone. She indicated yes and began to get a bit defensive claiming that she really didn’ t find him attractive etc. I replied that she didn’t have to be defensive and that I believed it was natural for gals and guys to be desired (whether they are married or not) and that I am fine if she wants to have fun including sex as long as she uses condoms. I then followed that with my commitment to our marriage and family and that our commitment to each other does not always have to include a sexual one. Basically, I let her know my feelings on the subject realizing that she may vehemently disagree but I took the time to convey my love for her and commitment to our relationship.

To my surprise she completely agreed with me and said that I too could have sex with others along as I was safe. We then came up with basic ground rules some of which are obvious – always use condoms, no emotional attachment and discretion is critical due to public perception. We are still trying to decide what should be disclosed to each other as we are new to this but we left it for now as it is okay to have a fling, but don’t flaunt it in the other person’s face.

We both realized that while we love each other deeply and are proud of the family that we have made, we both immensely enoy the opposite sex. While neither one of us is actively seeking a partner at this time we both acknowledged that during the course of our marriage we would likely both want to have some flings. Except now, give our honestly with each other, we need not feel guilty about it but rather enjoy our natural flintiness and sensuality.

A few days after our conversation, my wife told me that our “open” conversation made her feel as close to me as she had in years because of the honesty and love we expressed for each other.


polynewb 2014-04-23 22:12:29

This is a topic that has given me the most pleasure and pain over the last year. I’ve tried monogamy and that doesn’t work for me. I’ve tried one poly relationship that I considered serious and a few others that were casual saying only. Those left me wanting a more serious commitment. I guess if I had to label myself right at this moment, I’d say monogamish probably fits me best. I think I could be very happy in a closed poly triad or quad situation or a monogamous swing situation. This ask sounds confusing because IT IS! All I know right now is that it’s all trial and error. Try it if it feels right then do it. If its more pain than pleasure don’t. It’s an ongoing journey that’s ever changing and sometimes you have to pull off the road, rest and reevaluate. I’ve decided for me, it’s less about finding the right label than it is finding the right people.


rphman 2014-04-25 13:49:48

For me an open relationship would not be to engage in sex with someone outside my primary relationship but instead would be about developing additional relationships that could include sex. I agree with the poly philosophy that for many and maybe most people it is a bit naive to expect one person to fulfill every need that we have. I have over the years of my marriage had several “emotional” affairs. That is to say I have developed deep meaningful relationships with both sexes where I could discuss intense theological and philosophical issues about the meaning of life, etc. Within these relationships I eventually felt comfortable sharing the most intimate experiences of my life without fear of judgement. The best part of this is that sharing these details of my life with another person allowed them to give me feedback that transformed my life in ways that only that person could do. Lovers whether emotional or physical can be the best mirrors that allow us to see ourselves more clearly.

My wife is a very insecure person which makes her prone to rabid jealousy. So I have never taken any of these encounters beyond the emotional state. However, I know that in some cases having the option to add physical intimacy to the emotional intimacy would have allowed the secondary relationship to be fantastic. And if my wife were willing today I would bring in people to enhance our relationship and help us both develop fully into who we are supposed to be. Again this fulfillment could be on a spiritual level, an emotional level, or a physical level.

So don’t interpret any of this to mean that sex, in and of itself is not a glorious experience. The creator endowed us with our sex organs to provide unequaled joy. Sex is an enticement or lure to encourage us to connect with others. The Bonobos have it right. Replace the handshake with sex, use it as a de-stressor, and understand its value for making the world a more loving place to live. But for me it is all about the relationship that makes life worth living.


Thea 2014-04-30 19:19:45

I believe that we do not need to “choose a team” or decide on a path. Monogamy may work for some periods of one’s life, and then at another time more than one relationship/sexual partners would work better.


Phoenix 2014-04-30 23:31:12

I was more a poly/casual relationship person before I met my current bf. I had a continual rotation of 2-3 guys (married or not, poly or not). I was open and honest with everyone (including their wives), and they knew I wasn’t monogamous. Currently my bf have been acting monogamous, but technically we’re probably more like swingers. I don’t think either of us could have another “committed” relationship along with our primary one – we just don’t have enough time together as it is. But we can see inviting a person or a couple into our lives for a casual fwb sort of situation.


Leave a Comment

Please see the Community Policy for comment guidelines and rules.

YouTube RSS




My name is Kendra, and I'm a beardoholic.


I just reread Scarlet Letter & it was so good and bad & relevant. Fascinating perspective of female energy & being punished & judged.


“Be true! Be true! Be true! Show freely to the world, if not your worst, yet some trait whereby the worst may be in…


I read Anthony Bourdain's book Kitchen Confidential when it came out & was disgusted by the "meathead bro" culture.…