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Unlearning Toxic Monogamy

Deconstructing the Relationship Hierarchy

From a very young age, we are all taught that monogamy is the only “correct” way to experience love, intimacy, and trust within our partnerships. We are raised within a culture that conflates jealousy, possessiveness, codependency, and ownership with romance and devotion which subsequently forces us to accept relationships that leave us feeling dissatisfied and unfulfilled.

The relationship hierarchy is one of the most detrimental aspects of toxic monogamy that we have all been taught. Relationship hierarchies trick us into believing that our romantic/sexual relationships should always take priority over all other relationships in our lives. Consequently, we decrease the expansiveness of our support network and place an exorbitant amount of pressure on our monogamous partnerships to fulfill all of our sexual, romantic, mental, emotional, and spiritual needs. 

By placing monogamous partners at the top of the relationship pyramid, we devalue the rich, nourishing, fulfilling romantic and/or platonic relationships that we cultivate with people who may not become long-term monogamous partners. It also, unfortunately, prompts a sense of inadequacy and failure during periods in our lives when we do not have a consistent monogamous partner to engage with. Thankfully, the principles of ethical non-monogamy can assist us in unlearning the relationship hierarchy regardless of whether or not we choose to engage in ethically non-monogamous relationship models. 

Unlearning the relationship hierarchy:

1. “Partnership” is not exclusive to individuals who you are romantically and/or sexually involved with! Reframe every important relationship in your life as a form of partnership: parents, siblings, children, roommates, best friends, bosses, coworkers, collaborators, etc. 

2. All of your partnerships require attention, care, support, communication, and mutual respect, not just the romantic/sexual ones. Each partnership is specific and individualwith its own special needs that require you to be open, receptive, empathetic, and responsive.

3. Each partnership allows you the space and the freedom to explore different sides of yourself. The way you interact with one partner is entirely different from the way you interact with others because each specific partnership feeds you in a way that others cannot. This does not mean that competition and/or comparison needs to occur between partnerships. Everyone has a special place in your life that cannot be replaced. 

4. Boundaries are necessary within all of your partnerships. Your ability to communicate, adjust, and respect your and your partners’ boundaries is a direct reflection of your capacity to engage in intimate, trusting relationships. Boundaries within platonic relationships are just as important as your boundaries within romantic/sexual relationships and should never be neglected, ignored, or downplayed.

5. There is plenty of love, care, and support to go around! If one of our partners expresses that they cannot support us/engage with us, we can reach out to one of our others partners to see if they have the time, energy, and capacity to do so. 

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