An alternative to monogamy: what you need to know about solo polyamory

solo polyamoury

Some people enter your love story and stay for a few pages/chapters but rarely stick around for the happily ever after. In between ‘single’ and ‘in a relationship’ is a grey area of unknowns. Paraphrasing Ester Perel, there was a time when monogamy meant you slept with one person for the rest of your life and now monogamy is sleeping with one person at a time.

Where monogamy was the be all, end all, there are now plenty of alternatives a single person can explore. One of them is solo polyamory. I have to preface the following by saying that it’s not for everyone but if you’re open to the idea, it may be just be the perfect way to spend your single (ish) days.

What is solo polyamory?

Elisabeth A.Sheff PH.D., describes it as

a fluid category that covers a range of relationships, from the youthful “free agent” or recent divorcee who might want to “settle down” some day but for now wants to play the field with casual, brief, no-strings-attached connections, to the seasoned “solo poly” who has deeply committed, intimate, and lasting relationships with one or more people. Some solo polys have relationships that they consider emotionally primary, but not primary in a logistical, rank, or rules-based sense, and others don’t want the kinds of expectations and limitations that come with a primary romantic/sexual relationship.

In other words, they enjoy dating and relationships but not necessarily with the end goal of marriage and children.

The upside of solo polyamory

I recently spoke to a guy friend of mine who is a ‘solo poly’. He’s what many would describe as a good catch. When he told me he was exploring solo polyamory I first thought it was a better way of saying he was ‘playing the field’.

But – playing the field suggests there are no feelings involved. Having been in different relationships as a solo poly, he insists that deep feelings can develop – that his relationship status isn’t just all hook ups.

“Even if people do want to find a life partner, it’s an excellent holding position. For example, my close friend is 33, single, very successful and beautiful but she doesn’t feel great about her age or being single. She’s dating to find a life partner”, says RL, 35.

“If she re-framed and decided to have a child with or without a man, that she’s not going to start a ‘relationship escalator’ with anybody. I’m just going to find people to spend time with. They can be free from the press and have love relationships with people”.

The idea of solo polyamory sounds great at first but like everything in life, there are upsides and downsides.

The downside of solo polyamory

When feelings get involved…

Relationships aren’t rational. It’s easy enough to get emotionally attached in a friends with benefits situation let alone a temporary/semi permanent relationship. When you have something that resembles a relationship, it’s tempting to invest all your emotional energy into it. The problem? It takes away the emotional space you have to meet someone who wants to be in a relationship for the long haul. I’ve seen many women get caught up dating men who don’t share the same views for their future. They stay because the relationship offers all the likeness of a relationship and that for most is better than being alone.

So how do you invest emotionally without going too far? It’s not always easy:

“I feel guilty for heart breaking and deceiving girls because even if you tell them you’re not looking for anything, they still fall in love. Polyamory gives me a clear framework that I can educate them on. A current girl I’m seeing wants a monogamous relationship but she’s happy spending time with me until she meets that guy. Best thing is – there is love between us. She’s also dating other people and, I support her with that. If she wasn’t dating, it wouldn’t work”.

So what’s in it for everyone?

Solo polys can date whoever they want as a free agent without the ‘slut’ label. It can be a holding pattern till they’re ready for marriage and children.

Monogamists can date whoever they want, fall in love until they find one partner they want to spend the rest of their lives with.

When you take a step back from the dating jargon, solo polyamory is really just another term for dating without the promise of commitment. It has everything a relationship could have, without the label and expectations.

Can it really work?

For a solo poly to date a monogamist, a few things would have to happen:

  • Open and honest communication
  • The person into monogamy would have to be dating other people
  • Boundaries need to defined

I must admit I’m a traditionalist. I love the idea of dating with the purpose of finding one person to share your life with. But I also know many singles (my mom included) who are really happy on their own. The choices you make now don’t need to be permanent. If you do choose solo poly you can make the switch back to monogamy any time.

Not keen on the idea of solo poly? That’s ok too.

I’ve helped many women find their guy without compromising their values. Check out the School of Love. 

Photo credit: Toa Heftiba

Iona

Iona is a Wellness Coach specialising in relationships and dating. She works with single women to write their own love stories.

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3 Comments

  1. Reply

    Emma M

    April 2, 2018

    Wow! This sounds very familiar. I have seen the pattern and even have experienced someone who was not just dating me openly but I just never knew that there was a term for it. Being somewhat a monogamist, I couldn’t handle it so I left.
    I guess it works for some and not for others, especially because emotions get all caught up in it.

    • Reply

      Iona

      April 14, 2018

      Yep totally agree. It takes a lot of communication for this to work, especially if one wants monogamy.

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