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5 essentials for a successful ethical non-monogamous relationship

After working with people for the last 15 years on the theme of relationships, I am in awe of what we can accomplish together when it comes to venturing into unchartered territory.

The transition from monogamous to non-monogamous is not a new fad, though if you believe the Dutch papers today, it is definitely hot and happening. There are quite a few stereotypical ideas about the people who enter into a non-monogamous construction and I want to stress it is done by all types of people in all types of ways. This is also exactly what the challenge is; instead of one way with a certain set of clear boundaries and rules, non-monogamy challenges us to step outside the boundaries of what we may have known and create something new. It pushes us to explore how we want to do our relationships. It asks us to get to know ourselves like we never did before, to find the bravery needed for honesty, to set boundaries and create clarity. Above all though it challenges us to becomes self-sustained whilst also containing the ability and willingness to create deep, meaningful connections and togetherness with others.

So, what are 5 essentials for a successful ethical non-monogamous relationship?

  1. Perspective: perspective is everything. In order to have a successful non-monogamous relationship it is helpful to adopt a perspective from a zero sum game to a positive sum game. Where we are quite accustomed to a zero sum game perspective in relationships where we may puts confines on love and what we do with it, a positive sum game perspective invites us to look with curiosity and openness beyond the illusion of control, limitations and possession. It is very possible to feel commitment, intimacy and connection in a relationship where you are not monogamous. It actually brings more focus to attending to any of the relationships you have with attention and care and working together on it becomes a given. It invites us to process, deal with and/or act with love, in a way that is good for you and for all, since that is the gateway to real intimacy with yourself and others. Every single person has their life to live and my reactions to them are a mirror for you to become even more intimate with yourself. A change on perspective on what love is, what it means to be intimate with someone and how you can be your most successful self(ves) are helpful. You can love your partners for doing what is right for them, even if you have feelings about what they do. These feelings are a wonderful signal to your inner world to connect on and be supported in, without stopping them to follow their own direction.

  2. Find your own feet: autonomy is a key element for any successful relationship. Being aware that feelings and thoughts come and go and they are yours to process, deal with and/or act on is pivotal. Being able to stand on your own feet, knowing who you are and taking care of your needs, feelings and thoughts will enable you to be there for yourself and let others be there for you. If I take care of myself and you take care of yourself, we can meet each other as we are and be free and loved in any of our relationships. It can be a challenge for some to really understand what is your work and what isn't and how to not put something on someone else's table to take care of (or more usual to change about them). Love begins when you can find a way to have all parties be themselves and appreciate that selfness. This does not mean you won't or can't be irritated by some aspects of another human being, however it does mean that this irritation is yours to deal with, work with and share in a way that doesn't signal the other person should change. Which, they may, of course. There is a significant difference between asking someone to solve your irritation by changing they way they do things and bringing in your irritation in order to process it together.

  3. Play well with others: relationships are teamwork. You do it together. In order to build something meaningful, you want to create the best relationships you can. Bring your autonomous self(ves) and meet another autonomous self(ves) and connect fully, open and honest. Understand that every person has their own wants and desires, their own boundaries and needs and work as a team on how to make it work. Instead of becoming opposites, see the relationship as a third unit you are all creating and looking at. How can you be the best travel companions on this interesting and lively journey you are on? Find the ethics within yourself in why non-monogamy is important to you, what it means to you, what you feel strongly about it and express this to each other so you can keep your vision on this 'why' clear for all of you. Discuss what about it scares you and discuss what you need in order for it to work for you. Try to go deeper than initial time restraints or practical goals. Go to the heart of it and find out how to do it whilst keeping the intimacy alive in the relationship.

  4. Honest communication: Radical honesty in the face of fear is crucial. Anything you are afraid to share with your partner, will stand in the way of real intimacy. This does not mean share everything. Open and honest communication of where we stand/are internally, what our desires and wishes are, who we are and what makes us feel alive is essential to living your best life possible. Even if where you are might in fact be painful for another. Avoiding the pain is a sure way to feeling trapped, disconnected and unfulfilled. The best way out, is through. Of course it is very helpful if you learn how to contain someone who is feeling hurt (and not go into guilt, changing or explanation) and can really be present for their hurt in that moment. This hurt is theirs to process, but you can support them and love them where they are. Ultimately you want a partner to feel their best self(ves) in the relationship and honesty will get you there.

  5. Commitment: commitment is essential for safety, one of the basic needs for people in everyday life. If there is not enough safety, defence mechanisms start working and flight, fight or freeze will take over. No worries, it happens to the best of us and is essential to our survival, and you can actually learn how to cope with these types of reactions in relationships. Some people need more commitment than others in order to function well in a relationship. Commitment is not a promise to stay forever by the way. Commitment is the intention to all of the above; keep looking at your perspective, work together on this adventure and to really take care of yourself, to stay open and honest with yourself(ves) and others and to stay vigilant in doing your own work whilst in a relationship. And most of all to commit to loving relationships with self(ves) and others.


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