Exploring alternatives to monogamy

When I moved to Berlin 6 years ago, I made a conscious choice going forward in my intimate and romantic relationships. I would lead with open disclosure that I wasn’t entirely monogamous. Identifying as monogam-ish, I left my days of eventually cheating on partners back in the States. Full disclosure – Berlin colors itself with as many alternative relationship models as one could imagine, so I found myself in good company. These days, I know more people living in open relationships than monogamously. Now, I am by no means an expert on all the existing shapes, constellations and arrangements people make – but follow me through a look inside the kaleidoscope of how people love and connect.


Monogamy is a relationship model where individuals form a committed and exclusive partnership with one another. It’s considered the societal norm – although that’s up for grabs if we wanted to delve into a more holistic view on global history. Monogamous relationships are often characterized by deep emotional connection, shared values, and mutual support.

Monogamy can take various forms

Serial Monogamy: This refers to engaging in a series of exclusive, long-term partnerships throughout one’s life, with each partnership ending before a new one begins.

Lifelong Monogamy: This represents a commitment to one partner for the entirety of a person’s life, often symbolized through marriage or long-term commitment ceremonies.

Monogamish: Coined by sex columnist Dan Savage, monogamish relationships involve a primarily monogamous partnership with occasional, agreed-upon exceptions for sexual or romantic exploration outside the relationship.

Ethical Non-Monogamy: Ethical non-monogamy serves as an umbrella term encompassing various CONSENSUAL relationship models. It emphasizes honesty, communication and respect for all parties involved. This inclusive approach promotes emotional intelligence, compersion (feeling joy from a partner’s happiness with others) and creating a sense of community among partners.

Open Relationships

Open relationships embrace consensual non-monogamy, where partners agree to engage in sexual or romantic interactions outside the primary partnership.

Within open relationships, two common models are:

Swinging: Swingers engage in recreational sex or sexual activities with other couples or individuals, often in organized social settings or through online platforms. This lifestyle emphasizes mutual consent, communication and respecting boundaries.

Non-primary Partnerships: In this model, partners maintain a primary committed relationship while allowing occasional sexual or romantic encounters with other individuals. Clear communication, trust and emotional transparency are crucial in these relationships.


Polyamory refers to the practice of having multiple loving, consensual relationships simultaneously. It emphasizes emotional connections and the potential for long-term commitments with multiple partners.

Some variations of polyamory include:

Triads and Quads: These involve three or four individuals forming a committed relationship. Each member may have connections with one another, creating a dynamic web of love, support and interdependence.

Hierarchical Polyamory: Hierarchical polyamory involves individuals having a primary partner while also engaging in additional relationships. Hierarchies may include primary, secondary or tertiary relationships, with varying degrees of emotional and practical entanglement.

Relationship Anarchy: Relationship anarchy challenges societal norms by emphasizing autonomy, individualism, and freedom within relationships. This approach encourages partners to define their relationships based on their unique needs and desires, without adhering to traditional labels or expectations. Relationship anarchy embraces fluidity, personal growth and egalitarianism.

Solo Polyamory: Solo polyamory celebrates autonomy and independence within non-monogamous relationships. Individuals in solo polyamory prioritize their individual needs and personal growth, maintaining multiple relationships without seeking a primary partner. This model encourages self-reliance, personal freedom and open communication.

Friends with Benefits

FWB refers to a relationship dynamic where two individuals engage in sexual activities without the commitment or emotional attachment typically associated with romantic partnerships. It involves friends who mutually agree to explore a casual sexual relationship while maintaining their platonic friendship. FWB relationships prioritize physical intimacy and may involve regular sexual encounters, while emotional connection and romantic expectations are usually limited.

Companionate Relationships

Companionate relationships prioritize companionship, emotional connection and support without a strong emphasis on romantic or sexual involvement. These relationships often develop between long-term partners who may no longer engage in sexual activity due to various factors such as aging, health concerns or shifting priorities. While sexual intimacy may not be present –  companionship, shared activities and deep emotional bonds play a central role.

Queer Platonic Relationships

QPRs challenge the conventional boundaries of friendship and romantic partnerships. These relationships prioritize deep emotional connections, intimacy and commitment beyond the traditional confines of friendship, while often lacking the romantic or sexual aspects associated with romantic relationships. QPRs allow individuals to form meaningful and supportive partnerships that exist outside societal expectations and labels, providing a space for queer individuals to navigate their unique needs for companionship and love. This can include co-parenting children and living in community.

Choosing to Remain Single (Flying Solo)

Some people find fulfillment and happiness in embracing a solo lifestyle, choosing to remain single and independent. This decision involves consciously opting out of pursuing romantic relationships or long-term partnerships, instead focusing on personal growth, self-discovery and individual goals. By embracing solitude and self-reliance, those who choose to remain solo prioritize their own well-being, freedom and autonomy.

Flying solo can offer numerous benefits, including:

Self-Exploration: Being single provides an opportunity for deep introspection, allowing individuals to discover their passions, interests and values without the influence or compromises often associated with committed partnerships.

Personal Growth: Choosing a solo path enables individuals to focus on personal development, self-improvement and achieving individual goals. It offers the freedom to dedicate time and energy to career advancement, education, creative pursuits, or personal hobbies.

Autonomy and Freedom: Remaining single or solo grants individuals the freedom to make decisions independently, manage their own time and prioritize their needs and desires without considering a partner’s preferences or obligations.

Emotional Independence: Being single allows individuals to cultivate emotional self-sufficiency, relying on themselves for emotional support, self-care and resilience. It can encourage the development of a strong sense of self and self-esteem.

Diverse Relationships: Choosing to remain single does not mean avoiding all connections! It opens the door to building diverse and meaningful relationships, such as close friendships, chosen family bonds or engaging in casual dating and non-committed relationships.

I’d like to end with noting that we can move through different relationship models over the course of our lives. There’s nothing written in stone about how we love and connect with ourselves and others.

Happy self exploration!

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