The Purrfect Guide to Practicing Non-Meownogamy

Steve Dean
Published in
10 min readNov 27, 2017

Decades of societally-reinforced meownogamy got you feeling like a sourpuss? Do you find yourself clawing at the arbitrarily-imposed boundaries and expectations of traditional relationships, wondering if there’s another way?

I know that we tend to be pretty territorial. It’s hard enough sharing the litterbox with just one furry partner, let alone several.

And let’s not forget jealousy, the emotion that so many of us get stuck on every time we think about our partners receiving care and affection from other people. We’re so quick to think, “Hey, what about me, though? Am I not enough?!”

But I’m here to show you that you really can practice non-monogamy in a healthy and happy way, full of head scratches, snuggling, and some peace of mind, even (or perhaps especially) when your partners are receiving validation from others.

So let’s get started.

Laying the groundwork for your first non-monogamous relationship


First, let’s understand what “non-monogamy” actually entails. Strictly speaking, it’s anything that is *not* monogamy, but when you think about it, there are countless things we can do with others that might fall outside the bounds of what you might consider monogamous. In the examples below, think about how you’d feel when your partner does the activities with a friend or family member versus with someone they’re physically attracted to:

  • Grabbing coffee
  • Holding hands
  • Scheduling trips / vacations
  • Sharing deep, vulnerable emotions
  • Exchanging massages
  • Platonic cuddling

All of the above activities can be perfectly innocuous, but they can just as easily blur the lines between monogamy and non-monogamy, leaving you confused about whether you or your partner is remaining faithful to what you’ve agreed upon.

Factors to Consider

Second, let’s think about WHY people choose non-monogamy. Sometimes, the traditional monogamous relationship box just doesn’t feel right. It can be clunky and not conform to the actual desires and logistics that you and your partner(s) are dealing with.

Sometimes the people you’re dating give you very different styles of attention, affection, and care, so it feels wrong to cut your other partners out entirely simply because monogamy dictates that you must. Imagine having a friend you’ve platonically cuddled with or exchanged massages with for as long as you can remember, and suddenly your newfound monogamous partner declares that they’re not comfortable with you maintaining that connection, despite the fact that it’s been something you’ve enjoyed for decades before ever even meeting this new partner.

Non-monogamy may not only permit, but actively encourage you to continue deepening the bonds you have with all your partners and friends, and not restricting the activities you love and cherish (see the above list) to only one person for the rest of your life.

Sometimes the type of attention one partner needs is not what you’re ready to provide. Opening the relationship can enable them to have certain needs met by others while you still invest in your core relationship together.

Okay! Now that you’re non-monogamous, let’s explore the common pitfalls people encounter early on.

So you’re now open. Non-monogamous. Maybe even polyamorous. Congrats! But this is only the beginning. Get ready for lots of newfound joys and challenges.

Friends’ Expectations…

Expect friends to offer some common criticisms of your newfound lifestyle, like “oh, so you’re just into orgies now?” and “you can’t have your cake and eat it, too.”

Of course, our friends can only draw insights and perspective from what they’ve already heard, read, and experienced, so while their comments may feel insensitive or hurtful, it’s important to remember that you’re entering territory that the people around you may have never traversed, let alone conceptualized, so be patient, as it can take some time for them (and you) to get adjusted to this entirely new set of mental models and social/romantic expectations.

New Relationship Energy…

Be careful with that onrush of emotion you get when you first open your relationship. You may feel invincible, like you can now do anything! This can lead to reckless behavior.

Sometimes you bite off more than you can chew and can feel temporarily overwhelmed by a flood of new partner possibilities.

Be wary that just because you really like your new partner, it doesn’t mean you should automatically force your existing partners to meet them, too. Love does not always follow the transitive property of arithmetic.

Give your partner agency and let them decide for themselves when they’re comfortable meeting your new partners. Personally, I’ve gone as long as 7 months before finally meeting one of my partners’ other partners. Other times, I’ve met them the very same day I met my partner. So much of non-monogamy is an exercise in feeling out what makes sense for you in your own dynamics. When you venture off the beaten path of monogamy, there’s a lot that you’ll need to start creating and defining for yourself.

Preference Negotiation…

Sometimes too much enthusiasm and love can render one or both of your partners overwhelmed. Not everyone likes to escalate love and intimacy at the same rate.

Practice the basics of non-violent communication in order to foster more empathetic dialogues with your partner(s).

Partner Onboarding…

Remember that your partners may all have different comfort zones, past experiences (including past traumas), and preferences for how they handle new people in their lives. Take a moment to have a heart to heart with them where you explore how both of you prefer to onboard new partners. Sometimes it’s as simple as mentioning ahead of time who you’re going to see. Sometimes your partner will prefer a play by play of what you did, with whom, and why you did it.

Some people prefer a “don’t ask, don’t tell” style where you don’t mention your outside partners at all, but be forewarned: such an approach can make it difficult for you to share important details with your partner. You may not be able to joyously share a recent experience with a new partner, or worse, if you have a negative experience with a partner, you may find yourself with no one around to talk to about it.

Communication Methods…

Whether you’re doing monogamy or non-monogamy, communication is paramount, so make sure you fight for a relationship style that best fits your particular needs, and always be open to modifying the relationship together to fit any new developments. Relationship structures should reflect the desires and needs of the people in those relationships, not the other way around. It is your relationship, after all.

To understand what relationship structure you should opt into, it’s important that you get in the habit of clearly expressing your needs.

Part of the beauty of non-monogamy is that nothing is taboo. Whether you want more sex, more partners, different kinds of sex, different kinds of partners, or more personal space and ability to explore your own sexuality independently, you should feel comfortable sharing these needs and desires with any and all of your partners. They are not required to be your “everything.” Lean into difficult topics of conversation, and encourage your partner(s) to do the same. Don’t be afraid to champion yourself, your choices, your partners, and your beliefs.

When you eschew monogamy’s requirement of only having two partners, you suddenly realize there are billions of people in the world who can become your allies and confidantes in your respective quests toward discovery, fulfillment, and self-actualization.

When Expectations ≠ Reality

Try as we may, sometimes we just don’t know ourselves very well. You may think you’re okay with your partner seeing someone else, but then the fateful day comes when their first scheduled romantic outing comes up with a new partner and you end up a panicked ball of stress and anxiety.

It’s quite natural to have a wide variety of feelings about any particular thing, and some of those feelings are totally unpredictable until the thing itself is actually happening. In these situations, meditation and quiet self-reflection can be your best friends.

Feeling jealous or insecure right this second doesn’t mean you’ll always feel that way, or that those are even the most accurate labels for the feelings you’re experiencing. Take a moment to further explore those emotions. Practice some loving kindness (Metta) meditation to explore the world from your partners’ viewpoints and experience moments of genuine compersion. It took me about 3–5 months of practice and experience to develop my compersive muscle, but when it came to Metta meditation, I began seeing (and feeling) the results the very first time I tried it.

Understanding Jealousy

Dealing with jealousy for the first time can feel super uncomfortable.

First of all, remember that you’re not cheating on one another, so there’s no need for hiding, skulking, or making rapid escape plans.

You may also fear that your partners’ existing partners may not have been fully informed of your presence in their life and may pop out unannounced and threaten you.

Cheating is commonly defined as violating the terms of your relationship, typically through intimate acts with another person, but when your relationship isn’t premised upon monogamy, then engaging with other partners is not — and cannot — be considered cheating. It is still possible to cheat within non-monogamy, though.

Consider an open relationship in which you and your partner agree to abstain from having unprotected sex with other partners. If either of you violates that agreement, it would still be considered cheating. It all comes down to what you specifically agree to with your partner.

Even absent any form of cheating, you can still feel jealousy. Coping with jealousy can require some quick mental reframing.

Instead of being jealous that your partner is developing deep and meaningful connections with people they love…

…you can instead be the one helping them find someone who fits exactly the kink they’re looking for. You’re a team, after all, and their success is your success.

Being able to be incredibly vulnerable and transparent about your needs and desires, and to work together in the fulfillment of those needs and desires, is one of the cornerstones of happy non-monogamous relationships.

You’ve Done It. Welcome to Your Non-Monogamous Future.

In the end, if you do it right, you and your partner(s) can relax together, secure in the knowledge that you’ve made an awesome effort together.

Thanks for reading!

  1. If you think this could help others, send some claps.
  2. For personal dating and relationship help, reach out to me on
  3. About me — I’m an online dating consultant and speaker as well as superconnector who helps people find new jobs, housing, relationships, friendships, and personal development strategies. I like to write about dating, relationships, and how to get connected to awesome jobs and careers. If you’d like to support what I’m working on, you can contribute right now on my Patreon page!
  4. Special thanks to Dale Markowitz, Samanee Mahbub, and Jonathan Leung for their feedback and editorial assistance on this article!

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Steve Dean

Dating Industry Consultant & Relationship Coach, | Host of Dateworking Podcast