7 Relationship-Saving Lessons Married People Can Learn From Swingers

Photo: weheartit
You don't have to open up your relationship to reap the benefits.

Repeat after me: Monogamy is not realistic.

This opening scene in the Amy Schumer movie, Trainwreck, seems to have given voice to a more mainstream conversation about non-monogamy. As hilarious as the movie was, there wasn't much in the way of showing how non-monogamy can be a positive, fulfilling experience, instead of how girls with daddy issues and a fear of commitment romp around New York City leaving paths of broken hearts and destroyed relationships everywhere they go.

My experience with non-monogamy has been hauntingly similar to Amy's in some ways, and glaringly different in others. I have learned to enjoy sexual expression with multiple partners sans guilt or self-judgment, but I have also learned a lot of valuable lessons about love by being in a committed polyamorous relationship.

You don't have to ditch your monogamous lifestyle (unless you want to!) to reap the benefits of poly love.

1. Jealousy is not an emotion, but a reaction to fear.

Jealousy doesn't go away. Even the most confident people experience it for different reasons, in different stages of their relationship. While it's easy to think that you're jealous because of something someone does, like when your partner spends too much time on his phone or schedules time with friends when you wanted a date night, this is rarely the root cause.

Often, jealousy arises when someone feels that they are not getting their needs met. The key here is in understanding that jealousy is not at all about the other person, but about your own fear (usually a fear of loss) that comes up when your needs are not being met in the way you hoped they would be.

A positive way to soothe this jealousy is to identify what your needs and wants are for yourself, and then discuss them with your partner. It's not a matter of asking your partner not to do the behavior that triggered your jealousy (unless it's something destructive that actually creates a lack of trust), but to give you more of what you need.

Once you understand that jealousy is rooted in fear and are able to identify the source of the fear (lack of time, potential loss of relationship to a new partner, etc.), then you'll be able to process jealousy much more effectively.

2. You can be someone's person, without being their only person.

What's important about this lesson is being able to have a support network that is comprised of more than just your partner. In monogamous relationships, this could be friends, family, and even a therapist. In polyamory, this could include another partner (or several!).

The more you spread your support out, the less pressure you put on any one person. Putting all your emotional needs on one person is likely one of the top reasons relationships fail. While fans' hearts melted when Grey's Anatomy's Meredith and Christina declared each other "their person," being in a romantic relationship and expecting your partner to be your only source of support isn't a healthy expectation.

Building up your emotional support network and having multiple "people" is key to having a fulfilling relationship, whether you're with one partner or many.

3. How your relationship works is 100 percent up to you (and your partner).

Society says that relationships have to look a certain way. It's common practice in polyamory for each set of partners to uniquely define how their relationship is set up based on the needs and wants of each person involved. While monogamy tends to lend itself to a more elevator type set up you know, dating, engaged, married, buy a house, maybe have a kid or two it certainly doesn't have to.

You can form other meaningful checkpoints that speak to how you and your partner want your relationship to feel. For instance, maybe having your partner meet your kids for the first time could be a milestone in the relationship. Others could be going on vacation together, having a key to each other's homes, or even supporting each other in big life goals.

The point isn't what your relationship benchmarks are, but that you define them with your partner based on what will be most fulfilling to both parties.

4. Relationships transition, and it is beautiful.

We all know that things change. Whether it's friendships, romantic relationships, careers or personal goals, things shift as we grow and enter into new phases of life. With relationships, this can feel particularly hard to navigate.

It's easy to get set in a routine within your relationship, but as people's wants and needs change over time, it can be beneficial to reevaluate and see if what you're doing still works for everyone involved. Staying stuck in your old relationship ways can lead to resentment, boredom, and eventually, the end of a relationship.

This can all be avoided by taking a page out of the figurative poly handbook and communicating about needs and wants as they arise so that smaller transitions can be made as needed. Even when partners discover that they need and want different things, being in regular communication with each other is a very beneficial tool in any healthy relationship.

5. You don't have to be everything to anyone.

We've all seen those couples who do absolutely everything together. Where one goes, the other goes. It's so reminiscent of high school, but a lot of adult relationships turn into this when one or both (or several, in the case of polyamory) partners lose touch with their personal life.

Getting too entangled with a partner, even if you're in a committed, long-term monogamous relationship, can be detrimental. Investing time in personal growth, hobbies that you do on your own, and friendships that aren't mutual is such a valuable and worthwhile choice. It allows you to be your own person while giving your partner(s) space to be their own person.

When you have two whole people come together, it's a lot easier to have a positive and fulfilling relationship. On the flip side, when you expect someone to do everything with someone, you fuel a sense of codependency that robs all parties of their autonomy and independence.

6. Not all relationships require labels.

Labels, by definition, are static and restrictive things. When you get into that static definition, it's hard to evolve and change. People's wants and needs change all the time, and requiring a relationship to have a label is essentially an attempt to pin down something that is, by nature, very dynamic.

People are hard to pin down, due to our ever-shifting growth. This isn't to say that you can't define your relationship as you see fit. It's more of a lesson in realizing that a title doesn't matter nearly as much as the way in which you relate to one another.

Some feel more secure in their relationship when they can clearly communicate to others what their relationship is. Others feel secure enough inside of their relationship that a title is extremely irrelevant. In polyamory, people will often have several partners with whom the only relationship label is "partner." One partner could be a life partner while one is a close and deep friendship. This allows growth without restriction.

Is it harder for monogamous folks to exist in a relationship without slapping down a label? Possibly. It's not impossible, though. Instead of demanding that your relationship is "boyfriend/girlfriend" or "wife/wife," you could simply say that you're in a committed relationship with your partner. Again, this is up to each individual relationship and their needs and wants.

7. Choosing to show up for love feels better than being obligated to show up.

This is an important concept, because there are a lot of people that have the mindset that if their relationship is labeled a certain way or progressing in the fashion that society insists that it should, then their relationship is locked in and they think that this provides stability when, in most cases, this can generate resentment.

This ties into the concept of being in love or loving someone. Being in love can be seen as something you have no control over, as if an outside force was causing you to feel the way you do. When you love someone, you're making a conscious, intentional choice to provide that love. Every day that you love somebody, you are reaffirming the fact that you care about them and want to spend time, energy, and attention on them.

When there's no intention behind the choice, it's almost a default setting where partners just do the things that they are expected to. I often equate this to getting flowers on Valentine's Day. Is it nice? Sure. Is it an authentic expression of love? Not really, because you're likely doing it out of a sense of expectation or obligation. I don't know any person who wouldn't rather get flowers or another expression of love on any random day than receive the same on a designated holiday.

This can be related to every act of love in relationships. You'll have a more meaningful relationship when both parties are making a conscious choice to show up and love each other, instead of doing love-like things because that's what has always been done and that's what is expected.