Author: Shrimp Teeth
Exploring queerness, polyamory, and sexuality
Navigating intimacy and autonomy in polyamory
A lot of settled couples turn to polyamory as a way of trying to balance the inherent tension between intimacy and autonomy. For some people, simply understanding that they can take more time away from their partner can resolve the feeling of imbalance.
In compulsory monogamy, couples are often told that intimacy must outweigh autonomy in order to demonstrate commitment. In reality, people have different preferences.
For some more alone time or distance makes them a better partner. For others, it’s the opposite.
I’ve noticed a lot of stigma when compmono (compulsive monogamy) couples needed space.
Often, couples will seek to open their relationship as a way of meeting their need for autonomy. While this can work brilliantly, it can also backfire for people who actually just need more time to themselves.
It’s important, especially in long-term relationships, to be able to do things without your partner.
We need to stop conflating commitment with 24/7 365 access to partners.
You can be committed to a relationship and also need/ want some degree of separateness.
Some couples open their relationship without directly addressing the issue of space, thinking non-monogamy will automatically resolve the problem, and then find themselves really struggling to decouple.
Their jealousy arises just from their pal being away from them. Again, this isn’t about monogamy or polyamory being inherently better than the other, we all have different preferences. I’m describing a necessary mindset shift that must happen as couples transition from one structure to another. Even if you’re monogamous it’s good to discuss.
An exercise I discuss during peer support sessions is setting up dates with yourself (without your partner!!) Being comfortable being away from your pal is a first step before starting to date new people.
Being comfortable alone is also important for monogamous couples. Again, there’s no single formula that will work for everyone. However, we all have to navigate balancing connection and space in our relationships.
The more we practice having frank discussions with our pals about needing independence, the less we feel stuck.
And as a reminder, being alone is not a bad thing. Being away from a partner is not a bad thing. Having friends separate from your partner is not a bad thing. Having hobbies you don’t share with a partner is not a bad thing. Living apart from a partner isn’t a bad thing.
Let’s stop pretending that being with a single other person every moment of free time works for everyone.
Taking time to yourself is a tremendously important and healthy part of maintaining long-term relationships. Intimacy doesn’t have to plummet in order to have some space.
Sam is a sex educator and artist who explores queerness, polyamory, and sexuality through their work. She’s passionate about exploring ways to broaden relationship structures to foster more connections between people. They use art and illustration as part of their education process.
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