If you’ve ever heard the term monogamish, you might wonder if the person misspoke. It certainly raises eyebrows. How can monogamy be less than, well, monogamous?
Yet, this term is gaining traction as couples explore what rules work for their relationships.
You’ve likely heard of polyamory and ethical non-monogamy. Monogamish relationships are a specific subset of relationships that are considered monogamous.
These relationships are likely just shy of the norm of one-on-one relationships.
What is a Monogamish Relationship?
Author, podcaster, and public speaker Dan Savage coined the term monogamish in 2011 to describe relationships that are centered around one primary relationship but also include an element of an open relationship.
For monogamish couples, the couple is considered to be the primary protected, long-term relationship.
Similar to an open relationship, these married or long-term/exclusive couples communicate about other desires outside the relationship.
They may have flirtations or casual sex with someone other than their partner or may bring outside partners into the bedroom with their partner.
These relationships are considered monogamous because there aren’t multiple commitments happening. There is only one agreed-upon relationship, and everything else outside of that does not supersede the original relationship.
For instance, the couple could choose to bring in a third member to the relationship, but it would not be considered a throuple because the third member would be considered secondary to the primary relationship’s needs.
Friends with benefits and swinging can also be acceptable within a monogamish relationship if both parties agree to those conditions.
What is the Difference Between Polyamory and Monogamish?
Monogamish might sound a lot like polyamory and even resemble ethical non-monogamy, but there is a difference.
Whereas polyamorous individuals can have relationships with multiple individuals, monogamish couples stay devoted specifically to one another, and anything outside of that relationship is considered casual.
Monogamish couples have more in common with those in open relationships than specifically polyamorous relationships.
For people who prefer traditional monogamy, it may seem like a fine line between monogamish and polyamorous couples. In both cases, communication is vital to the health of all the relationships involved.
However, in monogamish relationships, it’s particularly important for couples to communicate in order to make sure that an additional outside relationship doesn’t begin to take precedence over the primary marital bond.
Some people might feel more comfortable branching out into monogamish relationships rather than risking the jealousy and perceived danger that fully equal additional partners could create.
5 Common Rules of Monogamish Relationships
Even though this seems like a less traditional type of monogamy, there are still common rules in place to protect the relationship.
The following are the most common rules and/or traits of monogamish relationships. These rules are intended to protect the primary, or original, couple.
1. Honesty Always
Honesty is absolutely essential for truly monogamish relationships. Both partners should be honest about their interests, desires, and intentions before pursuing them.
Without honesty, outside relationships violate the terms of the relationship agreement.
Part of this honesty should also involve allowing outside relationships to speak with the other member of the primary couple to verify the monogamish terms of the relationship.
Involving a single person in a sexual relationship with someone who is married should involve plenty of open communication.
It should be acceptable for the other partner to address any concerns that the single person may have about the ethics of the arrangement before continuing.
2. Firm Boundaries
Monogamish relationships also require firm boundaries. Both parties should openly discuss their own personal boundaries and any boundaries they’d like their partner to adopt.
Each person in the relationship should talk about what they consider acceptable and what they feel would violate the health of the relationship. These rules should be firm, and both partners should respect the rules set by the other.
These boundaries shouldn’t just be physical. Emotional boundaries should be discussed as well. Keeping outside relationships casual can be challenging.
Maintaining a loving relationship between the couple while keeping outside participants within the realm of casual hookups or friends with benefits is essential to the health of the monogamish couple.
3. Consistent Safety
An important part of monogamish relationship dynamics include an element of safety for all participants. Maintaining sexual health and avoiding sexually transmitted infections require open discussions with any participating individuals as well as regular medical checks to verify ongoing health.
While this might be an uncomfortable conversation for some people, it’s important to protect the primary couple as well as any outside participants from infection and pregnancy.
4. Regular Communication
Honesty at the outset is important, but it’s also essential to regularly check in with your partner to determine if the monogamish element of the relationship is still working for both of you.
Comfort may change over time. It’s possible that the original boundaries may need to be updated as needed to make sure both partners are satisfied with the arrangement.
It’s equally important to check in with any outside participants in this arrangement to make sure that it’s meeting their needs as well.
Not everyone is cut out for being in a monogamish relationship or being the casual participant inside one. Talking about what that looks like and how that feels beyond sexual satisfaction is important to treat each person with respect and kindness.
5. Making Time to Protect the Primary Relationship
In a monogamish relationship, it’s particularly important for the couple to make time to nurture and protect the primary relationship.
Having time together as a couple is important. Regular date nights and other attempts at romance can continue the emotional intimacy and make sure that the relationship remains a priority.
While outside relationships could bring excitement into your life, you don’t want to lose the spark with your main person.
What is the Difference Between a Monogamish Relationship and Infidelity?
It’s also important that monogamish couples fully understand the difference between the relationship arrangement and infidelity.
In a monogamish relationship, open communication and honesty are key.
As soon as an individual in this relationship lies or fails to communicate about a relationship, the monogamish nature shifts into infidelity.
A partner is not being unfaithful if the other partner approves their actions. However, if a partner lies, deceives, or otherwise fails to fully share what they’re doing with other partners, this is unfaithful to the original relationship.
Even monogamish relationships can have betrayal and infidelity. For instance, this could happen if a monogamish member falls in love with someone who is meant to be a casual participant.
It can also happen if there are outside relationships that the primary partner isn’t made aware of. These actions represent infidelity because they violate the relationship agreement.
Keep in mind that a relationship agreement isn’t necessarily a document that’s written by the couple. It could be the stated wishes and desires discussed at the outset of making a monogamous relationship monogamish. It’s still considered binding. If you respect and love your partner, you should continue to respect the stated agreement and suggest any changes as needed over time.
Is a Monogamish Relationship for You?
You might wonder if a monogamish relationship could work for you. Now that you know how it works, let’s see who it ideally suits.
If You Want an Open Arrangement — Yes, But …
If you’re open to outside relationships but want to keep your main relationship primary, it could be an option.
However, you will have to gain the full agreement and support of your partner and understand that this also opens up your partner to other sexual arrangements.
Note: The support part is essential. A monogamish relationship cannot work when only one partner likes this dynamic and the other is just going along with it to maintain the relationship.
It should be a mutual agreement that both parties enthusiastically consent to do.
If You’re a Jealous Person — No
If you are a jealous person, monogamish and polyamorous relationships are probably not for you. Have the maturity to understand that any curiosity you have for the lifestyle will not eliminate natural jealousy you might feel participating in it.
Be self-aware enough to know if you are capable of managing that jealousy or if it will cause you undue stress.
If You Don’t Practice Sexual Safety — No
If you are uncomfortable with contraceptives and sexual safety, this is also unlikely to be a good fit for you. Multiple partners necessitate higher levels of sexual safety than your garden variety exclusive relationship.
Not only do you have to consider preventing pregnancy, but you’ll also want to make sure to avoid sexually transmitted infections.
And if you refuse to use contraceptives, you are not mature enough to participate in this type of relationship structure.
If You and Your Partner Want to Have a Threesome — Yes
If both you and your partner want to have a threesome but don’t want to open up the relationship otherwise, then the monogamish lifestyle is ideal for you.
It allows you to bring in a casual third person without otherwise interfering with the relationship.
Of course, you’ll need to decide on the right partner to add to your relationship, but the mutual interest in a threesome is a good sign that a monogamish relationship could work for you.
If You Want Permission to Flirt Outside the Relationship — Yes
It’s also possible to have a monogamish relationship that endorses outside flirtation but doesn’t endorse sex with others.
If this is something you and your partner are both comfortable with, then a monogamish relationship could be right for you.
You might even use these outside desires and casual flirtations to share fantasies with your partner and enhance your physical intimacy. Remember that monogamish relationships have flexibility and don’t necessarily have to involve sex with others.
About the Monogamish Lifestyle
While traditional monogamy still has the stamp of approval from society, researchers are finding that ethical non-monogamy (ENM) and other relationship arrangements can be just as healthy and satisfying.
Due to the stigma, many couples aren’t openly monogamish, ENM, or polyamorous. Instead, they keep the terms of their relationship private in order to avoid outside scrutiny and criticism.
There are clear challenges to monogamish lifestyles. Discussing jealousy, deciding on outside partners, and even dealing with the emotions invoked when engaging with other people can create conflict.
However, monogamish couples have an outside advantage over more traditionally monogamous people: They already have a framework for total honesty and communication within the relationship and are more likely to confront these issues directly than their often less communicative counterparts.
Monogamish relationships might not be for you. Just keep in mind that researchers continue to explore types of ethical non-monogamy and open relationships.
They are discovering that many couples find happiness and healthy relationships in much less traditional arrangements.
As long as the relationships are consensual and work for your relationship, you’re likely on the right track to individual and coupled satisfaction.
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