The 3 Real Secrets To Making Monogamy Work In Your Relationship


Focus on building a great relationship, not on monogamy itself.

I often get asked about monogamy vs. open relationships. What are my thoughts on the subject, what do I practice, do I "believe in" one vs. the other?

I've worked with individuals, happily married couples, people on the dating scene, couples on the rocks and everything in between. And I have to admit something. Monogamous relationships are harder to really pull off well than open relationships.

However, the trajectory I set for my clients is fantastic relationships, and at that level monogamy simply doesn't arise as an issue. Seriously, people who are in a fantastic relationship aren't coming to me to discuss monogamy. It's a non-issue.

That said, here is what I know about monogamy that works:

1. Monogamy Is Not Conceptual 

"Monogamous" is a relationship state, not a personality type. It involves monogamy to a real, live human being, with all of their quirks and gifts and uniqueness. If you're currently in search of your ideal soulmate or your perfect match on this Earth, if you left a partner who cheated on you, in short, if you are not in a relationship, then I hate to break it to you: you are not monogamous.

You can't be monogamous without a partner. Without a partner, what you are is what we'll call monogamous to monogamy. You are monogamous to an idea. It's simply not the same as being monogamous to someone. Why? Because it takes a lot to connect with another human being. All the more so, to connect in a way that eclipses all others. If you're not actually in such a relationship—if you're not doing what it takes to connect with someone at that level, dealing with the messy realities and complexities of human relating—I'm sorry but you have no claim to monogamy.

There are plenty of people out there who use their laundry list of ideals, monogamy among them, to avoid relationships rather than to get into one. So get all up in there with someone. Then maybe we can have a meaningful conversation about monogamy.

2. Monogamy Should Be Organic 

Monogamy that arises spontaneously because the relationship really is that good. Where the thought of being with someone else draws a rather blank stare and a "Why?" Organic monogamy is descriptive rather than prescriptive. It requires no effort and draws little attention. It isn't so much chosen or negotiated as discovered.

"Monogamy" is a convenient label for what you're naturally doing, left to your own devices. Just as the Moon travelling freely through space orbits the Earth. There's no resisting temptation because there isn't anyone funnier, sexier, more attractive, more alluring or better in bed than the one you're with. There isn't any wandering because there isn't anywhere to go. 

3. Working Monogamy Is Being Monogamous To Someone

As opposed to demanding monogamy from someone. It doesn't work that way. Monogamy has everything to do with your behavior and nothing to do with your partner's. Sure, bargaining (or extorting) your partner's monogamy may well forestall their being with anyone else. Perhaps indefinitely. But it will never get you a good relationship if you don't already have one.

I frequent a Facebook group for singles who are all followers of a certain very popular motivational speaker. Recently a woman posted that she met a great guy. She described his many wonderful qualities and how well-suited they were. But he "refuses to be monogamous," and she was asking the group for thoughts on what to do. I read through the many responses, most of them some variation of telling her to dump the scoundrel and run as fast as she could, since he'll never change. I started asking her what she really wanted and what monogamy meant to her.

Exclusivity isn't a synonym for longevity. Exclusivity isn't the same thing as depth, or intimacy, or commitment. If your desire is to have a committed, long-lasting, passionate, deep, intimate relationship with someone, the only way is to build that kind of relationship with someone.

As for monogamy, the only kind of monogamy we really care about is the organic kind, where the relationship so far surpasses anything else out there that the desire for others falls away. But that, too, has to be built. If you demand it, you end up with monogamy without longevity, without passion or intimacy or depth.

So having a monogamous relationship does not consist of finding a monogamous partner. Crappy relationships are the birthplace of all the affairs of the formerly-monogamous. On the flip side, fantastic relationships can render "open" status functionally irrelevant. But in all my years of coaching/teaching—and living, for that matter—I've never seen monogamy, in and of itself, make a crappy relationship fantastic.

Focusing on monogamy as an issue won't improve a relationship, but focusing on improving the relationship can neutralize monogamy as an issue.

This article was originally published at Reprinted with permission from the author.