A Beginner’s Guide to Polyamory

Don’t know ENM from swinging? We’re here to help you figure out what form of non-monogamy could be right for you.

Polyamory (Whitney McPhie/Zena Kanes)

At some point, every single person wonders, what would it be like to date more than one person at a time?

Portlanders are no exception. The city’s dating scene is witnessing a surge in individuals exploring relationships with multiple partners. Folks navigating an ever-shifting dating landscape are pursuing ethical non-monogamy (ENM) and polyamory, which are shedding their reputation as taboo topics that inspire giggles and raised eyebrows.

As sleepless singles navigate late-night swipes, the question arises: Is non-monogamy the missing puzzle piece in the quest for connection? WW spoke to life coach Christina Dynamite and professional counselor Andrea Aragon, who specialize in non-monogamous relationships, to help people across Portland find the answer.

Defining Ethical Non-Monogamy

It might sound obvious, but the first step to discovering if non-monogamy is right for you is understanding what it is. Dynamite says ENM describes relationships in which individuals can consensually and openly date others, with honesty about their romantic and sexual involvements.

These relationships may or may not include romance, sex and involvement with each other’s partners. “ENM serves as an umbrella term encompassing various relationship types, including monogamish, polyamory and swinging,” explains Dynamite.

Signs Non-Monogamy Might Be Right for You

According to Dynamite, if you are reentering the dating world or exploring new relationship dynamics, the following are signs that non-monogamy might align with your relationship goals:

1. While casually dating, you find yourself developing feelings for more than one person and questioning the need to choose.

2. You value your autonomy as a top priority, but desire committed and connected romantic relationships with multiple partners.

3. You often feel constrained or trapped in traditional monogamous relationships but still seek meaningful connections.

Considerations Before Embracing Non-Monogamy

If some or all the signs resonate with your relationship goals, Aragon says, there are three important things to evaluate about yourself before jumping into the ENM dating pool.

1. The Authenticity of Your Interest: Make sure that your desire for non-monogamy is self-driven, not influenced by external pressures. “If you are partnered and unhappy, then non-monogamy is not going to fix that or make it better,” Aragon says. “If trying ENM feels like self-abandonment, it probably is.”

2. Evaluate Your Relationship Aptitude: Assess your interpersonal skills and confidence in managing relationships. Positive indicators include amicable relationships with ex-partners, and the ability to connect with diverse individuals. Successful long-term relationships with friends and family, and job stability indicate effective communication, problem-solving, empathy, patience, open-mindedness and humor—all of which come in handy when engaged in ENM relationships.

3. Assess Your Confidence and Bravery: Self-confidence and bravery are essential for navigating the challenges of ENM and dating. Non-monogamy often involves increased rejection and demands an ability to be honest about wants, feelings and boundaries. Creative thinking is crucial as you explore unconventional paths, requiring courage in trial and error. Comfort with discomfort signifies readiness for the non-monogamous journey.

Common Myths About Non-Monogamy

If you are still unsure about non-monogamy, Dynamite dispels common myths that hold many back from giving this unconventional relationship style a try.

1. Commitment in ENM: Contrary to the misconception that ENM lacks commitment, Dynamite asserts that maintaining multiple relationships requires a higher level of commitment, as it involves agreements with multiple partners.

2. Sexual Focus in ENM: While there is potential for increased sexual activity in non-monogamous relationships, Dynamite emphasizes that, aside from swinging, the primary goal is often expansive love and connection rather than solely sexual encounters.

3. ENM Is Not Cheating: Dynamite clarifies that ENM is not equivalent to cheating, as it involves consensual agreements between partners. However, cheating can occur within non-monogamous relationships if agreements are breached.

4. Addressing Jealousy: Dynamite challenges the notion that being a jealous person disqualifies one from non-monogamy, emphasizing that jealousy can be worked through with self-reflection, open communication, and support.

Tips for Exploring Non-Monogamy in Portland

If you are ready to give the non-monogamous dating scene a try, Dynamite offers the following tips:

1. Be Honest About Your Journey: If you’re new to non-monogamy, be honest about your beginner status and take the initiative to educate yourself on the terminology and mindset associated with non-monogamy. Read books and listen to podcasts that can help you understand some of the basic terminology and common mindsets that will help you start to unpack internalized beliefs.

2. Seek ENM Communities: Portland boasts numerous ENM and poly social communities that welcome newcomers. Connecting with like-minded individuals can provide invaluable support and a sense of normalcy.

3. Self-Reflection and Goal-Setting: Create a comprehensive list of relationship desires, non-negotiables, and personal goals for self-improvement. These lists can guide your journey and foster clear communication with potential partners.

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