The reaction of most people to the concept of non-exclusive relationships is skepticism. They are for people who ‘haven’t found the right one’, ‘need to grow up’ or are ‘commitment-phobes’.
But is this view accurate? Should all non-exclusive relationships be labelled as unrealistic fantasies of an infantile male mind?
I would argue a strong ‘No’.
Consider two exclusive relationships: a 15 year old boy going out with his first girlfriend and a couple happily married for 50 years. Tarring all non-monogamous relationships as childish is the equivalent of labelling both of these as the same.
Yes, there are men and women who want to sleep with lots of people. But there are also people who have incredibly deep, caring and loving relationships with a single person, whilst also having the freedom to sleep with others if desired.
They are able to achieve this because they are secure in themselves, have learned to deal with feelings of jealousy, and are able to communicate with their partners in a direct, honest and open way.
As such, it’s more appropriate to look at relationships through the dimensions of not only exclusivity, but also depth.
Explaining the attributes
Depth is a measure of how emotionally bonded you are to the person you are in the relationship with. Broadly it can be split into the values of Casual and Serious.
- Casual (shallow). If you have only just met them for a first date, your depth of feeling and emotional attachment is low. You don’t have strong romantic feelings for the other person. The more you see the person, the more your depth of feeling towards them grows. The speed of this growth is dependant upon you as a person, how you act during dates, and the personality woman you are dating. A relationship can remain casual for a week, or a year, or several years. As most people want to find a serious partner, they work hard to get to know someone quickly and shorten the amount of time spent in the casual phase. If they don’t sense the relationship could ever become serious it is often called off. Another option is to date casually whilst continuing to search for someone to have a serious relationship with. A casual relationship does not mean you have NO feelings or sense of care towards your partner. You may get on perfectly but some aspect of their personality or physicality means you can’t see the relationship ever becoming serious.
- Serious (deep). You spend a great deal of time with the person and have romantic feelings towards them. You may have told them you love them. At the top end of the scale you are living with the person and your lives are completely intertwined.
Exclusiveness can be about the physical act of sex, or about emotional intimacy.
- Non-exclusive. You have not had the exclusivity chat with your partner, and therefore there is no expectation of exclusivity. You might be single, dating multiple women, or in an open relationship, and are free to flirt, talk and have sex with other people. If in a couple, rules may have been agreed as to what behaviour with third parties is and isn’t acceptable.
- Exclusive. You are only able to be intimate (sexually and emotionally) with a single partner. Most boyfriend/girlfriend and marriages fall into this category. If dating, you have had the talk and both parties have agreed to it. Straying is labelled as cheating.
The four categories of relationship
Combining these two attributes together gives us four types of relationship.
Casual and non-exclusive. You are dating and sleeping with one or multiple women but are free to go on dates and have sex with others if desired. You are getting to know the women in your life to decide if you would like something more serious with them.
Serious and exclusive. The traditional relationship model. You are in a relationship with one person, and are not having sex or emotionally involved with anyone else.
Casual and exclusive. Some people do this when dating. You are still getting to know one another, and you don’t know how much you care about them or if they are right for you, but you agree not to date or sleep with other people.
Serious and non-exclusive. You have a girlfriend or wife but you are allowed to sleep with other women, and she is allowed to sleep with other men. There may be a set of rules agreed upon about what behaviour is and isn’t acceptable. For example, one night stands are permitted but going on dates is not.
Depth trumps exclusivity
Just as it is possible to have shallow or deep monogamous relationships, it is possible to have shallow or deep non-monogamous relationships.
During the early phases of dating I advocate remaining non-exclusive in order to develop abundance mentality, build your confidence as a man, attain sexual variety, and get a feel for the types of female energies you enjoy in your life.
After you have built a sexual connection with them (casual, non-exclusive), you can then choose to transition into a monogamous boyfriend/girlfriend style relationship (serious, exclusive) or a non-monogamous one (serious, non-exclusive).
Notice the end result of both styles is to develop a deep, serious relationship, building a strong emotional connection with women. Exclusivity is the less important aspect.
In most relationships exclusivity comes first. After a period of dating (typically one week to three months) the man or woman decides they want exclusiveness. One week is certainly not enough time to have decided if there is a deep enough connection to build a relationship that will last. Three months is better but may still not be enough time to work out how you really feel about someone.
Instead, I urge you to put depth before exclusivity. Only commit to an exclusive relationship (if that is what you are seeking) when you know you have established depth.