In the United States, and in most places around the world, monogamy is the default relationship style that people fall into. In romantic comedies, people often have to choose between two people to end up with “The One.” We are raised with the idea that we have to find “The One,” and if we don’t we will end up alone at the end of our lives. Women will be crazy cat ladies, and men will be forever bachelors, still only eating take out food at age 60. This kind of stereotyping and assumptions often create fear for people, that they will be lonely forever if their relationships end. This can lead to people staying in problematic or unfulfilling relationships for far longer than they should. So what other options do people have?
We are all familiar with serial monogamy, in which a person dates one person, they break up, and then they start dating a different person. Often, these two people break up as well, and the person continues to date a succession of different people. Marriage does not end this pattern of serial monogamy, as approximately 50% of couples marrying for the first time divorce . Second and third marriages have even higher rates of divorce, at 67% and 73%, respectively . And these numbers don’t even account for the number of people who cheat on their partner but remain married; effectively not being monogamous, yet continuing within a monogamous arrangement with their partner.
Many people don’t ever realize that there are other relationship style options. It is my belief that everyone should know that there are many relationship styles, just as there are many sexual orientations and careers and places to live. Why should your relationship style be decided for you by society, if these other aspects of your identity are not?
There are many kinds of relationship styles, such as swinging, polyamory, relationship anarchy, monogamish, and open relationships, to name a few. It is important to look into the various kinds of relationships to see which one will work best for you. Although there are many societal expectations that you will marry, be monogamous, have children, retire, and die, this trajectory does not actually work for some people. And that’s perfectly fine.
However, this article is not intended to talk people into alternative relationship styles. Realistically, most people will still choose monogamy, even when they know other relationship options exist. However, if you become aware of other relationship styles, and know that you would still like a monogamous relationship, you have now entered the realm of conscious monogamy. Conscious monogamy is when you consciously choose monogamy as a relationship structure, and co-create a relationship with your partner to encourage personal growth and relational growth. It is based on you and your partner’s choices and the agreements that you come to, rather than expectations from society or from one another.
In a consciously monogamous relationship, both people know that there are other relationship styles to choose from, but choose to be monogamous with one another. To take this one step further, people who are consciously monogamous also discuss exactly what monogamy means to them.
If you are monogamous, what does this mean for you? Are you allowed to kiss your friends hello and goodbye? Are you allowed to have a close, affectionate relationship with your ex? Is it okay to cuddle with friends? Are you allowed to watch porn, and if so, what kind of porn? Is it acceptable to flirt with strangers at bars? If there is a problem in your relationship, are you allowed to talk to your best friend about it? For some people, all of these things will be acceptable within their relationship. For others, they will not be, and it is important to know what both you and your partner are comfortable with .
Relationships are difficult, no matter what relationship style you choose. However, through communication, understanding, and compassion, you may be able to find the relationship style that fits best for you. If you are still looking for “The One,” that’s totally fine! Just make sure you are entering into your relationship with openness and curiosity, rather than fear and possessiveness. Enjoy your time together, and encourage each other to grow. Navigate your relationship agreements, and change them if something doesn’t seem to be working. If you need help with this, contacting a couples’ therapist may be beneficial.
If you are a couples’ therapist, it may be helpful for couples to navigate their relationships and talk about their expectations within the relationship, as so many people never do. It is common for people to enter a relationship and think they know what cheating means, but cheating in a relationship can mean something different for each individual. Some people consider watching porn as a form a cheating, while others consider it an exciting addition to their sex life. Neither of these people are necessarily wrong, but they do need to know how to discuss these topics and come to an understanding between them. You can help them do that.
 American Psychological Association. (2019). Marriage & divorce. American Psychological Association. Retrieved on January 6, 2019, from https://www.apa.org/topics/divorce/
 Banschick, M. (2012). The high failure rate of second and third marriages. Psychology Today. Retrieved on January 6, 2019 from https://www.psychologytoday.com/us/blog/the-intelligent-divorce/201202/the-high-failure-rate-second-and-third-marriages
 Baczynski, M. (2018). The four monogamies (which ones matter to you?). Asking for What You Want. Retrieved on January 8, 2019 from
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