What the Hell is This Poly I Keep Hearing About!?

Just because monogamy is conventional doesn’t mean it’s necessarily right for you. To figure out what type of relationship suits you, get a clear sense of the options. 

In this stream, Dr. Yoni Alkan, a doctor of human sexuality, explains various types of consensual non-monogamous (CNM) relationships. 

There’s a huge range of CNM options if monogamy isn’t right for you. That’s because every relationship has its own set of rules and boundaries — even if it has a no-rules rule. One person’s definition of a successful relationship may be different from another’s, and there’s no one-size-fits-all relationship structure — despite what society might have us believe. 

Here are four CMS categories to  consider (though there are many more): 

1. Swinging

This is when partners choose, as a couple, to engage in sexual activities with others. This could be a threesome, a partner swap with another couple, a sex party, etc. Swinging can also be a community and lifestyle where people play within the same group. 

2. Open Relationships 

This is when a couple agrees it’s okay to have sexual contact with people outside the relationship. This “takes the sting of cheating out of the sexual act.” This can sometimes help strengthen the bond between partners as they may feel compersion rather than jealousy. Compersion is feeling pleasure from another person’s pleasure.

This type of relationship can also help partners seek physical attention they aren’t receiving inside the relationship. For example, a bi person partnered with a straight person may want to be with a person of the same gender. 

3. Polyamory 

Polyamory involves relationships — not just sexual contact — with other people.  There are many different constellations of polyamory, but essentially it is based on the idea that there is an abundance of love in the world, and there’s no need to limit romantic love to one partner. 

4. Relationship Anarchy 

This is when a person doesn’t want to define a relationship with conventional terms, such as boyfriend, girlfriend, husband or wife. They may come up with their own terms, or use no terms at all. 

There are so many different types of CNM relationships and what works for you now, may not work for you in two years. It’s one big experimental process that hopefully involves tons of communication and reflection between you and your partner(s).

Video transcript

Hello everyone, hello world, hello O.school. I am Dr. Yoni Alkan. I have a Doctorate in Human Sexuality from the Institute for Advanced Study of Human Sexuality. I also have a Master's in Conflict Resolution and Mediation. I am a professional cuddler, so I do two major things. I teach sexuality and I consult about sexuality, so I'm a sexual educator and sexual consultant, and I'm also a professional cuddler. I do one on one cuddling with Cuddlist.com, and I run cuddle parties. I'm a certified cuddle party facilitator here in San Francisco by CuddleParty.com, which is a whole different thing, and I'd love to tell you all about it on a different stream. Today, we are going to talk about consensual non-monogamy. We are going to talk about various different types of relationships, and how they're structured, and what kind of rules do they have, or don't have rules, and how people construct it, and what feels good, and what does not. I want to start off talking about consensual non-monogamy by first of all saying a lot of people call it polyamory, right? I will make the distinction between polyamory, and consensual non-monogamy a little bit later. I will first say that I am using the term consensual non-monogamy. There are many other terms. Some people call it ethical non-monogamy. Some people call it alternative relationships. Some people call if the lifestyle. I call it consensual non-monogamy that's what appeals to me, and sometimes I use the term CNM to talk about it, so I'm gonna be using the term CNM a lot, CNM, which is consensual non-monogamy. You will see that, I will say it again later, so people coming in will know what I'm talking about when I say CNM, but, basically, when I say CNM, I mean different types of relationships. So before we talk about polyamory, or CNM, consensual non-monogamy, let's talk about monogamy first. The question that I would like to bring is why we choose monogamy? Why is monogamy so prominent in our culture? Because the vast, vast almost complete majority of relationships in our cultures are monogamous, and we'd like to kind of talk about why that is. The fact is that we don't really know. We don't have an absolute like that is what happened, and this is why we are monogamous, but there are a few hypotheses, and there a few ideas of why that is. One of them is biological. Some people say that that's the way humans are structured, that we are monogamous. I would like to specify that I don't agree with that. I don't think that we are monogamous. I think we are socially monogamous more, but we are sexually non-monogamous, and I will talk about that a little bit later, and I will show why I think that. So one of it is biology, right? You have a certain amount of energy that you want to put into your relationships, and to your siblings, sorry, to your offsprings, and how much energy you put into your offsprings in order for them to grow and live, and bring more offsprings, right? That's biology, that's the way our life works on this planet, so if you have two people putting all their energy into their offsprings, and you know that only the two of them you can be certain that that is their genes, and you know that both of them are gonna be 100% for those offsprings then you have a higher chance that those offsprings would live longer and survive. Having said that, that is not 100% true because there are also, you know, it takes a village, right? So I knew, for instance, a poly community, an intentional community that had the motto outnumber the children, right? So you want to have more adults than children in a certain group in order to take care of them, and it will be easier. Think about a single mom with three kids, that is tough. I'm not saying you're not supposed to do that, or it's wrong, or anything like that, no, it's just tough. It's a tough life, so having a few people, a few adults that could be helpful, but, again, I digress. Monogamy, basically, a lot of people say that it's because you want to protect your offsprings. That is, again, the biology, the biological reasoning for why monogamy, but there are many different other reasons. One of them is political, or how to say it lightly, how to control people. Sometime in the past it used to be religion that would try to control people, and would want to control them by saying what kind of sexuality is okay and what kind is not. They would say, you need to partner up with someone, so you could have only one partnership, and have sex only in that partnership, and then we can control you more easily. Think about it this way. Let's say that non-monogamy was legal today. Sorry, polygamy, specifically, polygamy, which means multiple marriages would be legal today what do you think the banks are gonna do with all their forms? What do you think insurance companies how are they gonna handle this is my partner, oh, and also this one, and they are also my partner, and all of them are allowed to make changes to my file, and get money if I pass away. It's complex and you know, sometimes, institutions don't want to handle that, don't want that hassle, so they want to try to control your sexuality, therefore, in this case control how you are. Control your status and the way that you live. The way to control people is through their sexuality, and we can see that in our culture a lot, not just with non-monogamy. You can see that a lot with LGBTQ communities, and also with kink. There are a lot of taboos in our sexuality. The other thing that is helpful in monogamy for controlling people, and keeping things in order is property. A lot of marriages are basically a bill of sale. You can think about the ketubah in Judaism. That is basically I am buying this woman from her father, and if this purchase is not good then I will pay so and so different coins in order for... So, it's basically a bill of sale, and it's horrible to look at it that way. It's really unhealthy. There are so many things that are wrong in this situation I'm not gonna start. Those are certain ideas of why monogamy is prevalent in our culture, but the thing is that monogamy, I have nothing against monogamy. Monogamy can be a wonderful thing. It could be something that's specifically right for the right people, and if you try monogamy and that's the way that you love it, excellent, go for it, do it, I'm all for it. It's really important that you find what is good for you, but the thing is most people don't choose monogamy. They simply get into it because that's the only option that we have in our culture. A lot of people just go into monogamy, instead of choosing it, like, oh, I was thinking about open relationships, or polyamory, and it's not right for me, I'm gonna choose monogamy. Perfect, that is fantastic. The only thing that you have to know about that is that by choosing that you might be also creating, you are putting yourself at risk for certain behaviors that people behave with monogamy, and we're gonna talk about that later. Part of it is, for instance, what our culture calls cheating. You have to know that that is what you're signing up for as well, that option, that possibility that that would happen, so, I am going to start talking about the different types of CNM. CNM is consensual non-monogamy. However, before I start I want to ask you all a question. Write your answers in the chat. I know I will see it a little bit later. I will be able to answer your chats a little bit later, but I want to hear from you what do you think, what constitates, what constitates, what is happening to my English? What constitutes for you as a successful relationship? Let's say that you have a relationship, and you say, oh, my God, that was a successful relationship. What characteristics to that relationship apply, like what characteristics makes that relationship a good and successful relationship? I want you to write these comments in the comment section in the chat and I will read it a little bit later. If not then I will give you some ideas that I've heard from other people, from previous times that I've talked about this subject. While you answer what is a successful relationship, and your point of view, I would like to give you the four different types of relationships in my opinion, of non-monogamous relationships in my opinion. The way that I see it, I break it down into four different groups. Swinging, open relationships, polyamory, and relationship anarchy. These are four different types of relationships. I would like to state, again, there are endless types of consensual non-monogamous relationships. These are just the main groups that I see nowadays in our culture in the non-monogamous culture. So I will start with what is swinging, right? Let's talk about what does it mean to be in the swinging community? Thank you, Keemiez, I will read that in a minute. What defines someone as a swinger? So, swinging is a type of consensual non-monogamy that is done as a couple, so you are partnered with someone and you have a couple that decide to do some activities together, sexual activities with other people, but together, or just thinking of themselves as a couple. So, for instance, they could bring someone into their bed, and have what's called a threesome. They could go to a party together, and have sex with other people together. They can find another couple and do couple swapping. They are still, they are doing that together as a couple even though they might not be in the same room together, they are still having that activity as a couple. So that's the first thing about what is swinging. The other thing is that swinging is a community, swinging is a culture. By the way, swinging is also the most popular type of consensual non-monogamy in the U.S. There are a lot of people active in the lifestyle, in the swinging community. It is huge, especially, in the Midwest it's just really big, and there are a lot of people. That means that it creates a culture and community. That is really special because that means that when you join that community you join those kind of cultures, and you learn about the dos and don'ts, and you learn about specific people in the community, and you learn a certain etiquette, and you learn a certain lifestyle. That also means that there's a certain air to that community, and a certain, how shall I put it, it feels in a certain way. Now I'm now a swinger. All I know is from other people that I've met in the swinging communities, people that I've talked to and heard about, so this is not for me personally, but what I've learned is that the culture in swing community a lot of the times, not everywhere, but a lot of times it is very male-centric, so a lot of times it looks like the women are the gatekeepers to sex. You have to basically, women hold that kind of gate, and they decide whether there will be sex or not. There is a lot of very heteronormative. There is lot of, well, also, gender normative in that sense. It's just a certain type of culture that was cultivated within the swinging community, which I don't really fancy that much, but that's just my opinion. Other people love it and that's great. Go for it as long as you keep yourself safe, and keep everyone involved safe. So that's a little bit about swing culture. Now I want to go back and read a little bit what would you say constitutes as a successful relationship? So, Keemiez, nice to see you again. You say love and trust and support. That is beautiful, beautiful stuff, I agree. I think that really helps a successful relationship. It helps when there is love, trust, and support. Thank you so much. John Adams Returns. That's cool, I just feel bad for myself, and I'm not being able to understand how people are in multiple relationships when I can... I assume you mean cannot even form the first one. Great, John, that is a huge thing, and we will talk about it when we talk about polyamory. First I want to say thank you for Keemiez for answering my question about what constitutes as a successful relationship. So, CCG, thank you, honesty. Honestly is another thing, that's fantastic. John Adams Returns, don't worry. I will return to your question a little bit later, but for now I want to talk about love and trust and support, and honesty which are altogether, and that's fantastic. I want to add a few answers that I've gotten through the years, which is how long the relationship lasts. How strong is the bond. Whether we actually buy a house together. If we have kids that amounts as a successful relationship. There are many, many different ways that people count a relationship as successful by. Now, throughout the years every time I ask that question, and here included, no one said that a successful relationship happens when that person that I'm in a relationship with only has sex with me. I'll repeat that. A lot of people have all sorts of different values of what counts as a successful relationship, but fidelity, sexual fidelity never comes up as a cause for a successful relationship, like what makes a successful relationship. That's kind of the root of open relationships, which is the next type of CNM, consensual non-monogamy, that I want to talk about. So, when we talk about sex, there's always this question of what is sex, right? While we start answering that, like, huh, is usually, people define sex as penetration, right? That's it, well, that's first of all very heteronormative, but, second, well, if that's the case, well, again, in heteronormative then what do lesbians do? They don't have sex? They do. Then what about a blow job, is that sex? What about a hand job? What about hugging? What about hugging naked is that sex? What about just rubbing one against the other, fully clothed and reaching an orgasm is that sex? What about having a deep conversation into the night that you talk with someone about deep, deep things, is that sex? I don't know, because each person defines what sex is differently, therefore, infidelity from a relationship can be defined in various different ways. For someone, for many people, having these kind of deep and emotional conversations with someone else other than your spouse is cheating. There's nothing sexual in there maybe, but it's still cheating for some. What about holding hands? What about gazing into each others eyes intently? What about seen in public holding hands? All of these things are different questions that you can ask yourself about what is the level of fidelity or infidelity in my relationship. So what people do is in open relationships they take that bar of what is infidelity, and move it to a place that is more open, and relative to our culture. So they have more activities that are not considered infidelity with other people. So, the way that goes is that basically, you know, for some people they can say, oh, you can totally have penetrative sex with the other person don't kiss them, right? Each couple, each relationship, builds their own kind of rules, and what feels good to them, and what not. They find what is right for them. So in open relationship the idea is that it is one couple that has the ability to have sexual contact with other people. It's not necessarily, not necessarily, just keep the sexual contact between the two of them, but they can have sexual contact with other people. What happens in open relationships is that they take the sting of cheating out of the sexual act, and put it into the lying act. So, again, you take the idea of cheating someone, mistrust, that's where it comes from. The mistrust is not because his penis was in her mouth. The mistrust was because I didn't know about it. That's the thing. You take the sting out of the act, and put it into the lying or hiding, and then you have a different story because, yes, there are cheating in open relationships. It's not the sexual act. It's the cheating, it's the actual lying that is cheating in open relationships. Once you have a stream of communication you can definitely do that. You can definitely communicate about what kind of relationships and sexual contact you are having with other people, and make sure that it is okay with your partner. Again, I'm talking about open relationships, which is a couple that have sexual contact with other people. Let's see. A lot of people say, like, oh, my God, if they're gonna have sexual contact with someone else that's gonna hurt me so badly. Well, that is something to talk about, but, also, a lot of times I hear that when there's a couple, and someone has sexual contact with someone outside that partnership, when they come back they actually love that partner more. Their relationship is stronger, and I've heard that happen so many times that I got to say it's a pattern, it's a thing that happens when there's a couple that does extramarital sexual contact with other people knowingly, and lovingly, and understanding, and in the open, and not lying to one another they come back into the relationship, and the relationship becomes stronger. Sometimes, the type of sexuality that you have might not coincide with your partners. For instance, if you're bisexual, and your partner is straight, or gay completely. If you are kinky and your partner is vanilla. If you have a certain type of sexuality that your partner cannot answer to then you might want to consider an open relationship for that kind of sexuality. If someone is dating someone else, and they are completely heterosexual, and that someone else is bisexual they might want to have contact with their own gender, but you can't give them that because you are the wrong gender they might want to seek that outside of the relationship. That is okay, that's understandable. That's the way our human body works, and you want that, but you can't give that to them. So that's an example of how open relationships can cater to that kind of relationship. So I have some frequently asked questions about open relationships and I'm gonna answer that. So a common question is what about STIs, sexually transmitted infections, what's called STD, used to be called VD. What about STIs, how do you keep yourself safe? So the only way to be completely safe out of STIs is not have sex at all. However, that doesn't really work for humans because we're a horny bunch, so we do have sex with other people. So the way to keep yourself safe from STIs is to be knowledgeable and to be upfront, and have safer sex practices. For instance, there should be clear rules about what kind of sexual activity, and what level of STI safety you have with other people, if you are fluid bond with someone or not. Fluid bond means that you have unprotected sex with them. You are bond with them by your fluids. That means that if something happens whether it be pregnancy or STI you are bond to them in that journey, wherever that journey takes you, you are bonded to them. So you might be fluid bond with one person, but have barrier sex with another person, i.e. using a condom, and you want to have those kind of conversations. Now you want to be tested regularly. Every three or six months depending on the person, depending on how active you are it really changes from person to person. You want to be tested regularly. The other thing that happens is that you can also add, I mean, I highly recommend adding the safer sex talk to your practices. So what is the safer sex talk? You can look up sexy elevator speech from Reid Mihalko at ReidAboutSex.com, but, generally, it is a known concept of safer sex talk. The idea is like this. Before you get sexual with someone, someone new that you don't know well enough you want to have the safer sex talk while you're still clothed. When you are still clothed you want to sit and talk with them, and have a quick, really, it's just a couple of minutes of safer sex talk. It consists of when was I tested, last tested, what was I tested for, and what were the results? What is my relationship status, and what kind of safer sex practices do I do? So, for instance, usually the STI tests that people do is syphilis, gonorrhea, chlamydia, and HIV. They, usually, they try to also test for HSV, that's herpes one and two. Not always, you can't always have that. Sometimes, HPV comes into the conversation. Hepatitis B and C are also something that you can look into, but, basically, the main four is syphilis, gonorrhea, chlamydia, and HIV. You want to get tested regularly, and then you can disclose I've been tested a month ago, and it all came out negative. The next thing is what kind of relationship status do you have. I am fluid bond with this person, bonded with this person, but I have safer sex with other people, and what does safer sex look to you? I use condom on penetration. I use condom on oral, but not when I give, only when I receive. You know, each person brings their own things into the mix, and what feels right to them. The idea behind it is not only to remove the taboo from STIs, and make it normal and easy to talk about it. It is also that you want to know what kind of risk you are stepping into by having sexual contact with the other person. Notice that I keep on saying safer sex talk. It's not safe sex, it's safer. You want to find your risk and be aware of it. If you are aware of your risk, and you're aware of your risk with your other partners as well you know what kind of risk you take, and whether you are a safer person to have sex with or not, and, therefore, someone coming and approaching, and wanting to have sex with you will know that as well, or at least can assume that because you can never know. So the next like frequently asked question about non-monogamy is what constitutes as an open relationship, and what kind of things do you do? You don't have to be completely open about everything. Yes, let's do all of the things. You can definitely say this relationship between you and I is open to kissing other people, but I don't want to have genital contact with other people. You can definitely choose what level of openness your relationship is in. Every relationship is different. The next question, which is very, very popular is what about jealousy? So a lot of people feel jealous by their partner having sex with someone else. Now, I understand that's a human response, and that's a human response that's complicated because there's so much to say about jealousy, and I don't have the time to talk about it, but I will say a few things. One is must there be jealousy? It's not a necessity. Sometimes, our culture tells us, oh, you got to be jealous of that person because A, B, and C. You have to be jealous because they are having sexual contact with another person. Culturally, you have to be angry, but you don't have to. No one is telling you that you got to do that. I mean, they're telling you that doesn't mean that you have to do it. Some people have the opposite reaction from jealousy, which is called compersion. Sometimes people talk about compersion as the opposite of jealousy. Compersion is the feeling of pleasure in another person's pleasure. Deriving pleasure from seeing another person having fun, and enjoying themselves. In a relationship point of view, in a relationship aspect, compersion helps a lot of people enjoy it when their partner is having sex with someone else. They are enjoying the fact that that partner is happy. Someone else is making them happy, but they are happy. A lot of people want to make their partners happy. Sometimes, you can't give them what another person can. Actually, that kind of brings me I'm gonna do a quick aside, which is something that I really like saying about consensual non-monogamy your partner can be the most perfect person for you. They can be gorgeous, and sexy, and funny and smart, and have a great career, and a fantastic parent, and a great provider and safe, and feel so good in so many ways, they can be perfect for you. There's one thing that your partner cannot be, and that is they cannot be someone else. They cannot just physically, cannot be someone else for you, and sex feels different with one person and another. While you can fantasize, and do all sorts of role play, to experience kind of sex with another person they can't actually be another person. That's the way physics work. So that is something to think about, about what can you give your partner and what you cannot. If your partner needs to be in contact with another person then that's something to think about. So the other part I'll just backtrack, and talk one more second about jealousy. That is that jealousy doesn't necessarily have to be a bad thing. It might be an emotion that is difficult to hold, but that emotion can lead you forward into really discussing things with yourself and say, huh, why was I jealous? What was I jealous of? What is different here, what is making me jealous? Let's break it down and kind of feel around what in this act makes me jealous? Then maybe you can change it so that next time it won't hurt again. For instance, hey, I really loved it that you got together with that other person. That was fantastic. I was really happy to see how happy you were, however, the fact that you did it in our bed was really uncomfortable for me and it hurt me. Not by your fault, you didn't know, but that when I looked into it and I started thinking why was this so difficult for me, I figured out the fact that you were in our bed, which I feel that is a private place for us, kind of like a holy place for us, and that felt bad to me. Do you mind having sex with that person again, not in our bed, please? There you go, you just figured out something new about yourself, and you can go forward with your relationship, and make things better so that next time you won't get hurt, and, hopefully, they can continue having sex, and enjoying themselves. The next frequently asked question is about children. What do we tell our children? Let's say that we are parents and we have children, and we like to have sex with other people, what do we tell our children? My answer is nothing. It's none of their goddamn business. Do you talk to your children about your private sex life just everyday? Maybe you talk with them about sex. I hope you talk with them about sex in general, but do you talk about your personal sex life? The vast majority of parents do not. There's no reason for them to know about your sexual activities either. The last thing that I get about open relationships is kind of like the, oh, my God, not me, never. This will be horrible, I do not want this. My partner will never agree to it even if I want to. I'm never gonna think about it or talk about it ever. So, not necessarily. I mean, it could be not for you, that's great. Once again, if you come to it in a form of choice, you've thought about non-monogamy, you've thought about open relationships, and you said, nah, that's not for me. Great, perfect, you chose the way that you live, and it wasn't dictated to you by our culture, so that's fantastic, please do. If you think that your partner will not be able to handle that kind of conversation, I don't know, what kind of conversations can and can you not have with your partner? That's a good question. Do you think you can dive deep on really difficult subjects with your partner? Do you think they can hold space for you if that is something that's important to you? Maybe it's a good idea to come and talk about these kind of things with them. Think about it. They might not react the way that you think that they'll react to. You can preface your conversation with, look, I really love you. This has nothing to do with our relationship. I don't want it to break up. I don't want anything like that, but this is something that's burning within me, and I would really like to talk about it, and it's important for me that you hear me out. It doesn't mean that we're gonna change anything, but at least I want to have a discussion about it. It was just an idea of how to approach it. All right, so that was open relationships. So, I'll go back for people who just joined us. I am talking about consensual non-monogamy. That's CNM, consensual non-monogamy. I said that there are four types of CNM. Swinging culture, open relationships, polyamory, and relationship anarchy. We've talked about swinging, and we talked about open relationships, and now it's time to talk about polyamory. Thank you, Keemiez, you're saying it's really helpful. Thank you, oh, that's great, I'm really glad to hear. Thank you so much. Oh, and John Adams Returns, also, I'm not worrying. I just don't think that my answer is helpful. Having one is a huge portion of having a successful relationship. Oh, now I understand what you mean. You're saying just having a relationship, and having just one, is a part of what makes the relationship successful. All right, thank you, thank you for sharing that. Once again, thank you, Keemiez. So, I want to also remind you that there's a chat box here, and I want to hear your questions. If you have any questions about CNM, consensual non-monogamy and all its types, that's what we're talking about today, so please free I want to hear your questions, and see what's on your mind. So, like I said, we talked about swing culture, and we talked about open relationships, and now I want to talk about polyamory. Now, a lot of people when they talk about CNM they say poly, and that's a misnomer because polyamory is a type of non-monogamy, but colloquially people use the word poly to describe CNM, but I want to make the distinction between the two, so I'm gonna talk about polyamory, which some people call poly, and that's fine because that's a type of CNM. So the difference between open relationships and polyamory is that open relationships like I said is two people that have sexual contact with other people, that's great. Polyamory means that you have multiple relationships with other people, so it's not just a couple, and it's not just sex that you have with other people. You have actual connections and different relationships, and different relationship structures between one another. I will talk about different kind of constellations of relationships of polyamorous relationships. Polyamory, basically, when you think about it it's like when you equate monogamy to polyamory you're kind of like which do you like better, mom or dad? Which of your kids do you like better, right? These are questions like that you can't really answer, and say I don't like that kid which is mine. You usually love all your children. You love them differently, but you do, you love them all because they're your children. Same thing with relationships. You can love more than one person at a time, and build a relationship with more than one person at a time, and that is called polyamory. Now when you have that kind of feeling of abundance of love I have so much love to give, and I want to give it to this person, but I also want to give it to this person, it kind of changes your perspective of this world, and the way that you live in this world when you live in a world of abundance, rather than a world of scarcity. If you want to have connections with more people, and have relationships with more people, but you can only have relationship with one person you're in a place of scarcity, you want more, but you have only very little according to yourself. If that is your personality you better kind of figure it out, and figure out what's good for you, and what kind of relationship you want. A lot of people say kind of like what John Adams Returns is saying is that, oh, my God, I can't handle one relationship. How am I gonna handle more relationships? That's kind of the thing. You're saying double the trouble. It also means double the support. You have more people that can support you when you are in emotional stress, or if you need any help. If you're child-rearing, like I said outnumber the children, right? It takes a village. It's really interesting to see how you build those kind of connections, and how they not only make things more complicated because they do I'm not saying that poly is easy. It can be simple, it can be complicated. It is mostly not easy because you have to put work in it. Let's face it, you have to put work in any relationship that you have. So you have double the trouble, but it also means that you have double the support. I mentioned that there are different constellation. Oh, hey, KG, or Kilogram1427. Hey, just joining, great talk. Thank you, thank you so much. I'm happy that you're enjoying the talk. Please, ask me questions, I'd love to hear them. So here are a few constellations of what kind of relationships, how people build their poly relationships. Oh, yes, before I go into that. The difference between polyamory and open relationships is polyamory also open? Not necessarily, just like open relationships might not be polyamorous relationship. Polyamorous relationships doesn't necessarily mean that they're open. If you have more relationships with different people, but all the people in that polycule, that's the term for that structure of relationships, if all those people in those relationships only have sexual contact within themselves that's what's called polyfidelity, and that means that that group only has sex with itself, therefore, they're not open. They're polyamorous, but they're not open, right? Because they only have sex within themselves, within the boundaries of that relationship. It just happens to be that that relationship has more than two people in it. Right, so different types of constellations of relationships. So there can be a very popular one is a V relationship. That means that there's one person that has relationship with two other people, but that means that these two other people do not have a relationship with one another. They are just joined to that one person, and that's called a V relationship. By the way, again, I'm throwing terms at you. Those two people are called metamours to one another, so this person is this person's metamour and visa versa. So they are not in a relationship with one another, but they are connected by the person at the head of the V, so that's a V relationship. If all three people are involved in a relationship with one another then that's called a triad, right? You have triad, but you can also build up the number, and it doesn't necessarily have to be only three people, but that means that they all have relationships with one another and not just between one person. There are intentional communities and collectives, which is basically like a group of people who say we are in this type of relationship, and are gonna start defining what that relationship looks like. Let's see. There are special conditions of CNM, so there could be a relationship, a poly relationship that is only I have this partner is my partner, but the other person they are my partner only for BDSM reasons, so we are in a D/s relationship with this person, but this person I have a life with and we live together. These are both serious relationships, and they're not just having sex, not that there's anything wrong with just having sex, but still it is different. We don't have regular sex, we only have kinky sex. It's another type of constellation of a relationship. We don't have time to go into it, but there's also hierarchal and non-hierarchal. That meas that I have a primary relationship with secondary relationships, or that I have all my relationships on the same level. We don't have time to go into this, but that is another type of polyamorous relationship. So I will also give you the frequency asked questions about polyamory that I get. So, I'll go back to the question what about the children? How do I explain that to the kids? Here my answer is different, because when you're in a relationship with someone, and they are a big part of your life you might want to consider including them in your life also. Also, you want to include them in your life that means also with your kids as well. That makes things a little bit more complicated, but I will say that kids will feel comfortable with whatever you show them that normal is. So I'll explain myself. If you show them that this is my... I don't know, I'm just making up stuff. This is my wife and this is my girlfriend, and we're gonna go on a picnic together. They're not gonna really ask questions because you show it as this is completely normal. We are just going on a picnic together, and it's gonna be a lot of fun. You don't have to really dig deep and say, oh, my God, we are in a hierarchical relationship, and we are polyamorous. You don't really need to dig deep if you explain to the kids that's just the way that we are, you know, and it's fine. One thing that you should watch out is that they understand that it's different on the outside world, as opposed to how it is at home because if they start to go out to school, elementary school, and start to talk about your mom's boyfriend, and then your dad and your mom's other boyfriend, and maybe her girlfriend that might be weird for some people, unfortunately, and, unfortunately, consensual non-monogamy is taboo in our culture so much so that the LGBTQ community works so hard, and kudos to them. This is fantastic the advancement that they had on how our society views LGBTQ people. They're still not perfect, you know, there's still a lot of work to be done for equality for LGBTQ people, oh, my God, so much work, but today saying to someone that you're gay, or that you're trans is way more accepted than I'm poly. Maybe not in specific circles, but yes to others. It can be dangerous to people. People can lose jobs. Unfortunately, consensual non-monogamy is still taboo in our culture, and that really saddens me, but that's something that we need to change, and that's a part of what we're doing here, talking about it here on O.school, and all over the world. So, please, yes, talk about consensual non-monogamy. That's what we're doing here. One more thing about kids and poly, if you talk about your relationships, and let's the say the kid has their parents, and one of the parents has another partner, and kind of have extra uncles and aunts, and, you know, they have more people in their lives, what's the difference between that and having a divorce? All of a sudden they have more relationships in their lives, and more people take care of them. That's great, you know, you don't really need to explain that because socially that's accepted, but consensual non-monogamy is not. So think about it, you know, basically, ultimately, it could be good and healthy for the kids if it is done properly. The second question that I get a lot about polyamory is whose got time for that? Oh, my God, there's so much work to be done. How can I even get there? I don't have time for one relationship? How am I gonna have time for three? My answer to that is, yeah, time is one of the most valuable resources in polyamory, and it is very difficult to manage that, and you kind of need to in order to get around and survive. Thank God for Google calendar, and you share calendars with one another, and you say today I'm with this person, and tomorrow I'm with that person, and I want to schedule some time with you, so let's put it on our calendars, and block that time for us to be together, and you can see that I'm with this person or another person. It's amazing what you can achieve, and what kind of problems you can circumvent by communicating, and having a joint calendar, is one of the ways that you can do that, but, yes, time is a constraint on polyamory. All right, we are almost at time. Thank you, Chew, thank you so much for putting all those links. We are almost at time, but I think I'm gonna go on further. I want to respect your time, so if you need to leave feel free, I understand, but know that here on O.school, O.school/live, I'm gonna continue talking for another few minutes. I'm gonna go into... Oh, let me give you a sneak peek about what I'm gonna talk about. I'm gonna give some basic concepts of what I believe you should have in order to be in a consensually non-monogamous relationship, and I'm gonna also be talking about giving a few tips about how to better your... How to have that kind of relationship, not only what you need to have, but what needs to be in place in order for a relationship to survive in a consensual non-monogamous way. The other thing that I'm gonna talk about is relationship anarchy because I mentioned it and I didn't talk about it, so I will just explain it in a minute, and then I'll go into what kind of things you need to have in order to be in a CNM relationship, and, what things need to be in place in order for the relationship to succeed. Chew, just wanted to get them in there for anyone that had to go. Yes, thank you so much, Chew. Yes, so if you want to learn more about me you can go to YoniAlkin.com. You can look up the book that I'm writing, The Book of Cuddles.com. It's about cuddling, which is something completely different than what I'm talking about here, but still, and, also check out Elements of Sexuality.com, which is a really cool and geeky site. If you like chemistry, if you like sexuality, go and look at Elements of Sexuality.com, it's kind of fun. All right, so, again, if you have to leave I understand. Thank you so much for being with us. Let's stay a little bit longer and talk about relationship anarchy that's the fourth one. So I said swinging, open relationship, polyamory, and relationship anarchy. Relationship anarchy is a rather new term, kind of 10, 15 years, something like that. Basically, relationship anarchy defines a person who is a relationship anarchist doesn't want to define a relationship by terms that people use. So, for instance, people don't want to use the term boyfriend. People don't want to use the term girlfriend or husband, or partner, or all of these kind of terms. When you hear them, when I say wife, there are a few things that enter your mind that are connected to that word wife. Relationship anarchists don't want to use those terms because of all the things that I just put in your mind without even thinking about it, right? They want to define each and every relationship in the way that it is, so, I'll explain myself. I'll give examples, and, again, I'm just making shit up. This is my roommate, we are like brothers. Every now and then we have a little bit of sex, but not really something going on. We live together, but they are not a part of my life. I don't see ourselves connected in that way. That's one example. Here's another example. Here's a person that I see about once every six months. They are really important in my life. I love them dearly, and we have really, really deep connection. Every time that we meet, we have a whole day of having crazy sex, but then we go away, and we see each other in about six months. Are we in a relationship? That really depends on your definition of relationship. That's the idea that each relationship is defined in its own way and not by global terms. There's another form of relationship anarchy that I've heard of, which is people who just do not want to define anything. This is a person, we are together in one way or another. I don't want to define things. So that's relationship anarchy. I just wanted to get that in there. Basically, we are all relationship anarchists. Even if you're monogamous, even if you're married, if you're poly it doesn't matter. We are all, basically, relationship anarchists because we all use different terms to define our relationships, but by saying those terms you give all of those things that people basically define it by. I went a little haywire there, but you kind of get what I mean. All right, so here are some basic fundamental things that I recommend that you have in your arsenal if you want to go into a consensually non-monogamous relationship. These are really excellent tools for you to have in order to be in a CNM relationship. These are great tools for monogamous relationships as well. These are great things to learn about yourself in order to be in a relationship that I think is I don't want to say better, but I want to say it holds more. You go deeper into a relationship if you have these things in place. So one of the things is a sense of self-worth, and a sense of self-security. A lot of people don't believe that they deserve love. If you don't think that you deserve something then you won't get it. It is really important to understand that you deserve this love that you get from the people around you, and that you are worthy of those connections, and you are secure in yourself with having those connections, and with losing those connections. You want to be as whole with yourself as possible in order for you to be strong in a relationship, and, specifically in CNM, but also in monogamy itself. To know that I'm okay by myself. I don't need someone from the outside in order to be okay that allows me to be closer to other people that kind of security, self-worth. The second thing is that if you're thinking about opening you're relationship you have to feel secure in your relationship to begin with, so if you're in a monogamous relationship, and you want to open that relationship in whatever way, make sure that that relationship is stable, and it's in a good place. Opening it up because you are in trouble, you're in a rough spot very rarely goes okay. Notice I'm saying okay, not even good. Usually, it will just spiral out of control, and it will be bad, and you will have a bad concept of what is non-monogamy because, oh, my God, I tried non-monogamy once, and it sucked. Of course, it sucked because your relationship was broken to begin with. You have to have a strong relationship in order to talk and try opening it up. The next thing is kind of an extra, but it's important. Care for your partner, for your partners. I know that it's kind of a given, but, still, the idea that your partners are on your mind, and you care for them, and you don't want to hurt them, and you understand that their emotions are legit, and you want to take care of them. Don't forget where you stand and what's good for you, but keep them in mind as well. Don't be rampant. Don't be like, oh, I don't care. I'm gonna trample everything in my way, so I will get my way. No, you need to take care of the people around you as well, and consider them. That also means that the next thing that you need is self-awareness. You want to have the ability to introspect, and figure out shit for yourself, so if something goes awry it's not your partners responsibility to figure what's going on within you. They can't know because it's within you. It's your responsibility, you need to figure things out. They can help, they can accommodate. They can look out for you. I hope that they care about you, but, ultimately, it's your thing, and you have to investigate it within yourself. The last thing, and it's super, super important, and it's encompassing of everything is that you have to have the ability to have great, open and authentic communication. Oh, my God, behind everything that we've talked about it all comes down to communication. Are you able to communicate what you're feeling? Are you able to hear what the other person is saying? Are you able to step up and do hard conversations? Are you afraid to have those difficult conversations, and you're just not gonna step up and do them? You can't, in monogamy a lot of times you can coast by without having those conversations. It might not be healthy, it might not be good for your relationship, but you can coast by, yeah, you can get by. In CNM you will crash and burn. You have to talk about these things. You have to push them forward and say, it's gonna be a difficult discussion, but I have to talk with you about this. This hurt me, or I'm afraid I'm gonna hurt you. This bothers me. I don't know why, but I feel like that. Could you help me figure this out? I want to do this and that, but I'm afraid, can you help me? You have to have really strong communication skills in order for you to come forward, and say what your issues are. That's the only way that CNM works. Yeah, a lot of people say, polyamory, oh, yeah, it's all talk, talk, talk, talk, talk. Yes, you talk a lot in polyamory and open relationships, and other types of CNM. Definitely, talking is super important, and it's a big part of CNM. All right, one last thing before I let you go. Here are a few things that should be fundamentally available to you before you start to actually act upon opening your relationship, or heading into a consensually non-monogamous relationship. The first thing that I would do is educate yourself. Learn about it, read about it. Watch all sorts of live streaming sexual education talks about it at O.school. Go to live talks about it. Look on YouTube, read. Oh, my God, there's so much content out there about consensual non-monogamy. Learn, learn what it is just by listening here. If this is your first encounter with CNM I'm sure you've learned a lot. This is just one hour. Imagine how much you will learn by reading about it from different people. Lean about other people's experiences. Talk with people, find someone who is in a CNM relationship, and say, hey, do you have the time, and bandwidth to sit and talk with me? I would love to ask you some questions. If they say, no, all right, but if they say yes, you're lucky. You can sit and talk with them. The next thing that if you're in a relationship, and you want to open it in one way or another here are a few questions that you should ask yourselves. What are your goals? Are your goals to have sexual satisfaction with other people? Are you interested in multiple relationships? Are you interested in, I don't know, you have to set your own goals. What is my goal? What is your goal, and what is the relationships goal? Like what are we looking for by opening this relationship up. The next thing that I would advise you to have is a support network. That could be either a community of CNM people, poly, open, whatever. It could be a community for yourself, but it can also be friends, close friends who are in a non-monogamous relationship, and someone that you can talk with about stuff that you're going through, someone who will understand you. Yes, there are some friends who are open to the concept of non-monogamy, but they themselves are monogamous. That's a good start. If they're good friends they might listen, but they won't have the same perspective as someone who is in a CNM relationship, so I recommend that you do have someone that you can talk with about your consensual non-monogamous relationship. That really helps. The other thing that you can do with your partner if you want to open your relationship is that you can build a contract together. That contract doesn't have to be written down, though a lot of people find that helpful. It could be verbal. What are the things that we do want and do not want? That contract can change. You can definitely come back in a week, a month, a year, and say, you know what, I don't feel that way anymore. I thought that you having sex in our bed would bother me, but now, no, I'm okay with it. Go ahead, have fun, change the sheets after you. So, you know, you can change the way that you build your relationships, and you can change those rules, but have some kind of contract whether verbal or literally write down something with the other person so you can figure things out, and change things along the way. If you want a recommendation for a book about that, Eri Kardos wrote a book called Relationship Agreements. You can look that up if you want to learn more about how to do that. The last thing I want to give you tips about how to open your relationships, or what to think about when you open your relationship is that I want you to know that if you are going to open your relationship in one way or another, you are going to hurt your partner, and your partner is going to hurt you. That most likely will happen. It happens in our everyday life, and it happens in CNM relationships as well. The thing is that does not need to be the end of the world by someone hurting you not intentionally. If someone is hurting you intentionally, that's a completely different story, but if they did something that unintentionally hurt you that's okay. If you want to continue this relationship you can work on it. You can find out, figure out what hurt inside of you, and you can voice that to your partner, and if they care about the situation you can negotiate how you can work together in order for it not to hurt you the next time. This is a complex subject because this goes into negotiation and motions, and what really, you know, kind of trial and error of your relationship, but the basic idea is do not fear being hurt. It will happen and you can be strong about it, and move forward, and learn from it, learn from your pain, and move forward so you won't have that pain again. Yeah, we want to arm ourselves with patience and stamina, acceptance and kindness towards one another. So I want to finish up this talk. I just want to say that, again, I'll kind of reiterate the idea that non-monogamy can be great, but it might not be for everyone, and being in a monogamous relationship can be great. I just recommend that you go into it out of choice, and you choosing to go into monogamy, and not just going into monogamy because that's the way our culture works. It is okay, also, to look for alternatives to your relationship. Find other ways that your relationship works, and, yes, please look into it, and see what is good for you, and what is not good for, and what suits you and you might change that, people change, but at least have that basic discussion with yourself, and look into it and figure out what's good for you. If this lifestyle does not suit you, which is, again, perfectly fine, please find your acceptance of other people who do choose that lifestyle, and it is really important for them that they will be accepted because that's the way that they live their lives, and it is okay for them to feel that way. Please accept them and treat them kindly. All right, so that's it for today. Thank you so much for joining me here on O.school talking about consensual non-monogamy. Thank you for staying the extra 15 minutes. I hope that I gave you some valuable information. You can find me just like Chew put down in the chat box you can find me at Yoni Alkan.com. You can also read The Book of Cuddles, at least the bite-sized Book of Cuddles for now, on The Book of Cuddles.com. You can look at Elements of Sexuality.com. You can find me on Twitter and Facebook, and Instagram @DrYoni Alkan, Dr. Yoni Alkan. Thank you so much everyone. It was so much fun talking with you about consensual non-monogamy. I hope that you learned something, and I hope to see you soon here on O.school. Look at the calendar. You can see at O.school/calendar, you can see all the talks that are coming up. There's gonna be awesome talks later on tonight, so please enjoy yourself. Thank you so much for joining me, and I look forward to talking with you in the next streaming. Thanks, O.schoolers, see you later, bye-bye.

What the Hell is This Poly I Keep Hearing About!?

May 17, 2018
2:00 pm
Thursday, May 17, 2018
2:00 pm

In this intro to Consensual Non-Monogamy, Dr. Yoni will tell you about the types of alternative relationships out there, share some concepts of how they work, and will give you some tips to take into your monogamy that would enhance your relationship.