One thing that comes up really frequently in sessions with folks who are starting out in non-monogamy after a lifetime of default monogamy is how awkward it can feel.
There are LOTS of valid reasons why this happens, and I wanted to share a few with you. but before I dive in, I wanted to emphasize one critical skill to move through the awkward new beginning phase: self-compassion.
Self-compassion is having the ability to recognize when things are off and loving yourself anyway. Learning to strive for greatness, acknowledge your growing edges, and love yourself all at once.
It takes practice (just like dating while partnered) but there are lots of tools that can help you get there. Check this website for some great resources.
Okay, now back to the main point.
Why it's awkward when you start opening your relationship:
BACK IN THE SADDLE
If you've been practicing monogamy in a long-term relationship, then reentering the dating scene can feel like a whole new world. There are new apps, sites, groups, and places to meet folks and it can be a little overwhelming.
Not to mention the courage it takes to put yourself out there meeting strangers.
And then there's the hard truth that the majority of real dating doesn't match up with the fantasy you might have had coming into this. I mean, sure, you'll meet some fantastic babes out there. But the majority of dating is really spending time with nice people and have lukewarm connections you're not sure about until you do hit it off or meet someone else who you're more excited about. Not quite as sexy as you may have hoped.
If you've been living a mainstream monogamous lifestyle until now, practicing ethical non-monogamy means a whole new world of language and clarity when talking about consent, boundaries, and expectations in your partnerships.
Figuring out how, and when to bring these things up can be a little bumpy at first because you haven't practiced. With time and practice, that awkwardness will go away and you'll be able to be clear and consistent with greater confidence.
Mainstream/default monogamy in our culture loves to pretend it's possible to be attracted to only one person for years (or a lifetime). And while lots of people philosophically understand that simply cannot be true, few folks have any practice talking or hearing about other attractions in their partnerships.
As you begin talking about the attractions you're feeling come and go notice what shows up for each of you in your partnerships and give yourself plenty of time and space to feel through your reactions so you can learn from them.
BALANCING NEW ENERGY
Many people who are new to non-monogamy simply haven't had much practice balancing time and sharing emotional presence with multiple partners.
Being intentional and clear with your time and space boundaries will take a little practice- be patient with yourselves.
Starting out in non-monogamy can be really exciting, and I frequently see clients get a little carried away with the momentum of this big change. It's not uncommon to lose track of your self-care routine, friendships, or get distracted from work and other passions.
But in order to make a non-monogamous lifestyle sustainable you've got to have me time outside your new relationship(s). Keep track of your self care needs to help you stay connected to your wellness routines, friendships, and other commitments even if it gets exciting.
TAKING NEW RISKS
For a lot of people the begining of ethical non-monogamy is also the first time they really start asking for what they want in relationships and setting boundaries and expectations. This can be a monumental shift in the way you're doing relationships (it is for lots of people).
So trying all that new self-connection, self-advocacy, and self-regulation can feel awkward, or unusual because it is new.
Finally, beginning a practice of ethical non-monogamy with a partner can bring up intense and surprising emotions. You'll want to build skills and practices that help you stay grounded even when those emotions show up, but to shift your responses you'll need to change things- and change often leads to a little awkwardness.
Here's a little video I posted on my facebook page about this very topic. If you want to talk more about this (or about relationships in general) give me a call, I'd love to chat.
Hi! I'm glad you're reading. Let me know if I can help you:
- open your relationship & practice polyamory with integrity
- move beyond jealousy, fear, and insecurity
- manage intense emotions that arise in conflicts
- rebuild trust after infidelity or dishonesty
- shift stuck communication & codependent relationship patterns
I lead couples retreats, host workshops, and see private clients online (and in Portland, OR).
Call me for a free consultation to rethink the way you do relationships.
Gina Senarighi, MS, MA, CPC is a communication consultant, sexuality counselor and certified relationship coach specializing in polyamory, open relationships, jealousy, and infidelity.