The Old Paradigm is a Failure


My Grandfather cheated on my Grandmother.  My Father cheated on my Mother.  My first girlfriend cheated on me with my friend.  Was I destined to repeat this tragic pattern? Should I believe “Fuck love, it does not exist?”  Life is not just black and white, with two options. Let us see it for what this really is:  cheating, lying, and selfishness is extremely common in any culture and any era.  Does that make it right?

Why does being cheated on hurt so much? Is the cheating the “attack” that hurts, or was the wound already there? Who decided one man and one woman marriage for an entire lifetime was the only acceptable option? If historically it was acceptable for an emperor to have concubines, when did this change?  Are most married couples you know in a healthy *workable* relationship? (notice I did not say words with arbitrary meanings like “happy” or “loving”)

Where do we even start? We can only attempt to be in the inquiry.  If you strongly believe that marriage between a man and woman is not right for everyone … then surely there is room to consider that there are other models for long-term partnerships.

After another heartbreak several years ago, I began to question why this old paradigm of monogamy + lying + cheating was accepted as the norm. I discovered the possibilities of Ethical Non-Monogamy (ethical implies honesty, clear communication, agreement), such as:

Polyamory — “[one] establishes emotionally and/or sexually intimate relationships with multiple people at the same time. The partners all know about each other….” — Psychology Today

Open — “generally indicates a relationship where there is a primary emotional and intimate relationship between two partners, who agree to at least the possibility of [sexual] intimacy with other people.” — English Wikipedia


A New Paradigm Emerges
To be clear, I am not saying I personally practice or desire any particular model at this time. I am available for healthy intimacy and connection (the opposite of verbal- emotional-physical abuse, manipulation, lying). Having these meaningful relations does not always involve sexual intercourse. I am also truly curious to know how my non-monogamous friends have great flourishing relationships. And so, I asked these amazing experts!


Diana M. Adams, Esquire: leading lawyer for LGBT+ community, communications teacher, mother of toddler; Germany/New York City;
My husband and I have been together for 12 years [and] have been in a consensually open relationship the entire time. We have a very happy marriage. We are welcome to fall in love with other people as well as have sex with other people. I'm bisexual, and it was important to me to keep my queer identity and have my own feminist control over what I do with my body and my love. Now that we are parents together and share finances and have these deep commitments, we added the agreement [of absolute honesty and healthy relationships] that we would only be in other connections that are positive for our marriage, and that we will continue to prioritize our parenting family unit above other connections.

What advice can you give anyone new to polyamory?

Everyone involved needs to manage their own emotional health and be self-aware enough to know their own needs and sensitivities. You need ninja-level communication skills and deep emotional honesty with yourself and with your partners. You need to put in effort to have a successful polyamorous relationship; [for me] the pay off is worth it.


Rachel Santos: Tao Tantric Arts Facilitator/Performer/Activist; NYC
In my adolescence, pre-teen experiences I wanted to kiss everyone, not just 1 person!  I remember fantasizing about 3 boys in my class sitting around my bed caressing me. Having only one partner never seemed like it made any sense to me. I remember having secret crushes on multiple girls too.

I am honest right away about being bisexual and polyamorous, and having connections with multiple lovers.  I can’t say that everyone is 100% content 100% of the time, though I don’t believe monogamy guarantees that either!  Sometimes physical or emotional intimacy ebbs and flows w certain people.  Regardless of those waves, the love and respect are constant.

Typical romantic expectations/gender roles learned from movies/TV — do they affect you?

Having my rent paid, for example, has never been a big consideration for me as it’s been important for me to establish and maintain my independence since I left home at an early age and never wanted to be dependent on a man for survival.


Valarie — Non-Monogamous, Performer/Professional Dominatrix; NYC
Around age 25 I chose to become non-monogamous because it was the easiest way to stay true to myself and my partners.  Before that I felt confined in my relationships and I could never be who I truly was to the person I was closest to. I think intimacy exists when you peel away layers of obligations and expectations and you can simply be yourself and feel seen by the person you love. 

What is most challenging thing about non-monogamy in your experience?

Non-monogamy challenges all of your programming - everything you were told how relationships are supposed to be.  You have to discover your own way and sometimes it is scary and you feel jealous. But jealousy is never because of another person, it’s actually about what you feel about yourself and your own fears.

Instead of thinking about the ideal relationship as being either a monogamous or polyamorous dichotomy, think about it this way:  you have to see every human and every relationship as having its unique characteristics, needs, and desires. People do not exist as unique beings, just to serve a one-size-fits-all relationship. The true essence of going into a relationship is not to fit into a mold and fulfill a societal obligation.  It is to feel like we have a support network where we are loved, respected, and can be our true selves.


■Text/ Dr. Wang Newton