To acquire wisdom, one must observe


Welcome back to the Student Sexuality Information Service (SSIS) column, where we answer any and all of Brandeis students’ questions about sex, sexuality, identity and relationships. If you have a question you’d like answered in our next column, email ssis@brandeis.edu or leave a question in our Google Form https://tinyurl.com/AskSSIS Any and all questions are welcome: there are no bad, stupid or weird questions! 

(Note: These answers are good-faith attempts by SSIS to be helpful to the Brandeis community, and are by no means exhaustive or to be taken as universal. If these answers don’t resonate with you, either pay them no mind, or reach out to us with suggestions for improvement!)

I am seeing a new person and I REALLY like them, but they told me that they are non-monogamous and I don’t know if I can handle that. What exactly does non-monogamy involve? If they’re polyamorous do I also have to be polyamorous? 

Thanks for reaching out with such a thoughtful question! It’s wonderful that you are seeing someone that you really like! It’s completely understandable to feel surprised, thrown off or maybe even a bit worried when learning about how your new person identifies. 

First, identities are incredibly personal; they’re kind of like fingerprints—(fairly) unique! Everyone’s identity is going to be a bit different, even people who use the same labels. 

You mentioned that the person you’re seeing identifies as non-monogamous/polyamorous. Polyamory (which is a type of non-monogamy) is the act of consensually being romantically/sexually/intimately attracted and/or involved with multiple people. Many—but not all—polyamorous people are interested in developing relationships with multiple partners. That could look like several casual relationships, one serious relationship and one or more casual relationships, several serious relationships or really any combination of relationships you can think of! 

If the person you’re seeing says that they’re polyamorous, they may or may not be interested in pursuing multiple relationships with different people right now. It’s up to you how you want to navigate this and you get to decide what type of relationship you feel comfortable with. You could continue seeing just this one person you are really into or you could pursue other relationships in addition to this one. Being in a relationship with someone who is polyamorous doesn’t mean you need to be polyamorous, but it probably does mean you’ll need to do a little bit of reflecting on how you want your relationship to look.

It might be beneficial to spend time reflecting on how much you want to know about your new person’s other relationships and what boundaries you’d like in place. Setting boundaries around what you are comfortable doing and discussing can help foster a healthy line of communication and make sure all parties’ needs are met.
Lots of books have been written about polyamory/non-monogamy. The SSIS library has copies of “The Ethical Slut” by Easton and Hardy, “Opening Up” by Taormino and “More than Two” by Veaux and Rickert. If you’re more of an auditory processor there are some cool podcasts that address non-monogamy, including several episodes of Savage Lovecast, and most of Multiamory. As always, feel free to drop into SSIS and chat with a peer supporter. We have virtual and in-person office hours this semester, and if none of our office hour times work for you we’d be happy to schedule a chat. All of our contact info, office hours and directions are on our Facebook and Instagram (@ssisbrandeis).

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