What’s Mono/Poly?: A Basic Introduction

a branch with leaves curling around an inscription that reads "Love who you want, how you want, as many as you want"
Image by Sarah Mirk / CC BY

I really enjoyed your recent post on viewing monogamy and polyamory as a spectrum. It made me realize I don’t know a lot about mono/poly. What are some common reasons people are in mono/poly relationships? Can it work? Can it be fair? Or does the monogamous person just suffer all the time?

Mono/Poly, What’s That?

When thinking about mono/poly relationships, it might help to think of it as just another pairing subtype. Mono/mono and poly/poly are also subtypes, ones that are more common and familiar to most people.

A mono/mono pairing is a relationship between 2 monogamous people. When no mono or poly setup is specified, relationships are often presumed (rightly or wrongly) to be a mono/mono relationship. This is also known as a monogamous relationship.

And a poly/poly pairing is a relationship between 2 (or more) polyamorous people. This is also known as a polyamorous relationship.

And last but certainly not least, a mono/poly pairing is a relationship between a monogamous person and a polyamorous one.

Common Reasons for Mono/Poly Relationships

Sometimes a monogamous person falls in love with a polyamorous person. And because of that love, they decide to find a way to make it work, even though polyamory isn’t something they themselves desire.

And other times mono/poly results when the mono partner encourages their partner to seek other connections to fulfill needs unmet by their relationship. For example:

  • One scenario I see frequently is an asexual partner who encourages their allosexual (i.e., not asexual) partner to have other partners.
  • I’ve also seen this in pairings where the poly partner is bisexual, and the mono partner (who is not bisexual) encourages them to seek relationships with other genders.
  • And very commonly a kinky person will be allowed to seek BDSM-based connections with others outside of their vanilla relationship.

In these cases, the outside relationships can help free the mono person of the burden of feeling like they need to meet all of their partner’s needs and the disappointment that comes from feeling like they aren’t doing so.

Mono Half Doesn’t Seek Out Others or Poly Half Doesn’t Allow It?

In most mono/poly relationships, the monogamous partner has the option of seeking additional partners but simply does not do so. This can be because:

  • They don’t want to. They don’t want anything more and/or don’t want to deal with the extra work of extra relationships.
  • Life circumstances prevent them from doing so. They’re too busy with work, etc.

In very rare circumstances, a poly person may want to have other relationships themselves but not allow their partners the same freedom because of the insecurity it causes them. I do not advise this. I think it’s a terrible and selfish way to conduct relationships (and to conduct oneself). And mono/poly relationships based on this will most likely fail.

The only way I could possibly see this working if it’s in the context of a power exchange situation and the submissive gets off on the unfairness aspect of the Dominant having other partners and their not being allowed to. Maybe then. But it would have to be the submissive’s kink. (See also: cuckold fetish.)

Can There Be an Upside for the Monogamous Partner?

Yes.

Every relationship is different, but there are monogamous people in mono/poly relationships who feel good about it.

I have found, however, that mono/poly folks tend to be quieter about their relationships than those in mono/mono or poly/poly. Unfortunately, other people (of all stripes) tend to be very judgmental of mono/poly pairings, even more so than they are of poly/poly ones. Nearly everyone new to non-monogamous relationships goes through an adjustment period (poly/poly or mono/poly). Short-term stress is so common that it’s practically expected. But much of the long-term stress reported by monogamous people in mono/poly pairings tends to center around comments from friends and relatives who view their partner as cheating on them.

But as I mentioned before, many monogamous partners find great relief from having help to meet their partner’s sexual needs.

And even in situations where the arrangement isn’t necessarily anything the monogamous person would have chosen, some monogamous partners find benefits from mono/poly (delightful metamours, extra free time, larger social circle, etc).

This isn’t something that necessarily everyone in their life will understand, mind you, but mono/poly relationships can absolutely work for the people directly involved.

To Counter the Long-Term Stress, Find People in the Same Boat

One thing can that really help with the stress of long-term judgment is to find other mono/poly folks to talk to.

There are a surprising number of discussion groups out there, although you may have to dig a little.

Here are a few I found to get you started:

Poly + Mono Relationships (Facebook)

Polyamorous/Monogamous Support (Yahoo)

MonoPoly – The New Game! (Fetlife)

The first two are closed groups, and for the third, you’ll need a Fetlife account to access the site (but they’re free and very easy to set up). Note: Fetlife is a very NSFW site so make sure you don’t sign up while you’re at work (unless you work somewhere really sex and kink-positive).

In addition to these, there are many local in-person groups that you may be able to access, depending on where you live.

 

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1 Comment

  1. Hi, I had a few comments/questions I was hoping to get answers/replies to. As someone who’s only recently found polyamory, I was hoping you could answer some very similar points but from the perspective of the poly. Recently, I’ve fallen in love with a friend who is in a monogamous relationship. She, a bisexual, seems very open to the idea of polyamory, but I’m afraid of making things awkward between us if I bring this up to her. Like I said before, you seem to cover a lot from the mono’s side, but I was hoping you could go more into a poly dating/having a crush on a mono (possibly poly) who’s also in a mono relationship. What If I’m in a monogamous relationship but my partner wont let me seek other relationships, or isn’t open to the idea? Also, you talk some about the initial stress a mono may experience in a mono/poly relationship, but what about a poly? Now I know my questions may seem difficult because we’re talking about a mono person who may or may not be poly (my friend) but anything helps. I’ve been stressing out so much about the whole thing because I can’t seem to find the right words to say when I finally bring this all up to them.

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