This article expands the horizon of what relationships can look like.
After a decade of non-monogamous relationships (open relationships, friends with benefits, polyamory, etc.), I have found an intersection that best reflects my current values. That intersection is called Solo Polyamory.
Solo Polyamory is a relationship style that focuses on yourself as your primary partner while still cultivating intimate connections with others. It favors organic friendship values over traditional relationship milestones such as marriage and kids.
Ultimately, Solo Polyamory provides an opportunity for reconnecting with yourself without leaving behind the incredible connections that one can forge with others, be they romantic, sexual, or platonic.
What is Polyamory?
Polyamory is simply the idea that loving more than one person is ok.
Now, polyamory usually refers to romantic loving, which entails a degree of intimacy, be it sexual, emotional, or both.
If you believe you could have more than one romantic partner, then you might as well be polyamorous.
I am, and it's really nice.
What's interesting is that you can always decide how to structure and prioritize your polyamorous relationships. For example, some people might choose to have a primary partner while considering other relationships secondary, some others might see all of them as equals.
In any case, you have the freedom to shape your relationships however you see fit.
What is then Solo Polyamory?
Solo Polyamory is pretty much Polyamory, except that you are your own primary partner.
That's very interesting because it means flipping the script.
If you are in a primary relationship with yourself, all of a sudden the protagonism your partner had in your life, goes to you. All the questions that were usually consulted with your partner, are now only yours to decide:
- What movie do I want to watch tonight?
- Where do I want to travel next?
- Where do I want to live?
When your primary partner is another person, you have no choice but to compromise. That's simply the price one has to pay if you are in a relationship. Sometimes it's also the price of love.
But when you are in a primary relationship with yourself, you don’t have to, or better said, you don’t need to compromise because you'll be loved regardless of what you'd love to do. And that is the most empowering thought I've ever entertained.
Solo Polyamory is strongly supported by the idea of self-love. And while you don't have to be polyamorous to have self-love, the label of having "a relationship with yourself" is a refreshing terminology that lets everyone know your priorities when it comes to romantic relationships. That doesn't mean you are a narcissist, it simply means you are putting your oxygen mask first before helping others.
Imagine redirecting all the energy, time, and love you give your partner, towards yourself. What would happen then?
What if instead of thinking of them constantly, wanting to share all your weekends, and dreaming of growing old together, you wanted to do that with yourself? What'd that mean?
- Imagine booking a table for 1 person in your favorite restaurant, and then ordering that dish that gives you that absolute feeling of joy.
- Picture taking yourself to the movies with a big box of popcorn while you enjoy your favorite director's latest movie.
- How about booking a weekend just for yourself in a spa, with delicious wine and your favorite book while having nothing (and no one) to worry about?
That's perhaps what people call: me-time.
You could use some me-time, right? Couldn't we all?
Me-time and Partner-time
What would our lives look like if we prioritized me-time over partner-time? What if partner-time were that thing we do, only after we had enough me-time, and not the other way around? How would that impact our relationships?
Some might say we'd be filled with so much joy and happiness that we'd radiate it back like an inexhaustible sun. That people around us would feel delighted in our presence and that our relationships would flow with continuous grace.
But that's just not reality, isn't it? Life is not that simple.
Some partners will struggle with the idea of you doing all those things without them. They might feel threatened. They'd probably ask you, "What's wrong?".
It might seem at first that me-time and partner-time are two irreconcilable ideas that exclude each other. But they don’t have to.
From the perspective of time, they do compete, but if you break them down in terms of needs, they can be intertwined.
Because partner-time is in reality just one of the many ways in which you fulfill your partner’s most important need: love. And love can be expressed and received in many more forms than just spending time together.
Maybe all you need to do is ask your partner. Find out what makes them feel beloved. In other words, ask them about their Love Languages.
Love Languages is a concept that derives from the premise that “different people with different personalities, give and receive love, in different ways.”
Perhaps you should explore how you and your partner communicate it:
Maybe then, you can find alternatives that allow you to prioritize yourself over the relationship without neglecting the love your partner needs. And if you both achieved that, you’d be unstoppable, in the most romantic sense of the word 💜.
That is… until you start talking about your expectations for the future because Solo Polyamory challenges those as well.
The Story of Life
Remember what was it like when you both first met? (if you are single, think of your ex).
You were interested but not invested, excited but not sold, intrigued or not at all. But you were there anyway, getting to know each other, one date at a time. No rush.
Maybe you were dating two people at once, maybe not, but that was ok, you didn't have to disclose that, not yet anyway.
Soon enough, under a full moon on the top of a mountain, you made passionate love to each other consummating your deepest desires. Or maybe not quite, maybe you just fucked on the couch one night.
Regardless, something was ignited. You felt a rush of excitement through your veins, and all of a sudden you both wanted to drench yourselves in each other.
And you did. You made the step.
And a relationship was born.
Soon enough, you were spending a lot of time together. Too much perhaps. It was fun though, getting to know someone. You also got to know yourself. With time, friends and family started to wonder, "Are you dating someone?". And you knew it was time.
So you did it again. You made the step.
You made it official.
Time went by, things got easier (or maybe not), but of course, the thought of living together started to make more sense. At this point, you were already meeting several days a week at whoever's got the nicest place.
Either one of you colonized the other, first with a toothbrush, soon with pajamas, or maybe some tampons, regardless, it was about time, and you both knew it.
So once again, you did it. You made the step.
And you moved in together.
You already know the end right? Marriage, kids, buying a property together, all the way to a comfortable retirement.
It's a popular story, some people call it "The Story of Life", some others "The Relationship Escalator".
Editor's Note: Nobody really calls it The Story of Life, but it worked for the narrative.
The Relationship Escalator
The relationship escalator is really cool, it simplifies things, and it might as well be every person's destiny. Surely your destiny as well.
I mean, could you even imagine your life without those steps? What kind of life could you even have if, by the time you are 50, you are not married nor have kids?
That'd be disastrous!
Imagine showing up to your friend's birthday party and you being the only one without a family: "Don't worry Joe! Soon you’ll find the one", your friends say while they continue to talk about the sleep deprivation caused by their kids.
No! You won't be like Joe. You’ll surely find someone. You are attractive and young. Besides, what alternatives are there anyway? I mean, sure you could try to “live life on your own terms” and make your own way, but isn't that like a lot of work?
Narrator: It is.
I mean, it might as well be fun, but is it worth it?
Narrator: It is.
Who are you, really?
Living life on your own terms sounds fun until you have to figure out what your own terms are. We barely ask ourselves that question: “Who are we and what do we really like doing?”.
But here’s a tip, ask yourself what you would love to do if you were done with the Relationship Escalator: You already found your soulmate, mated, married, raised two beautiful kids, and they are on their own way now.
What would you like to do then? What pops into your head? You’re done with the todo-list life gave you at birth, now what?
- Traveling and seeing the most outstanding places in the world?
- Getting your sailing license and navigating the seven seas?
- Or maybe taking singing classes and performing at bars?
You can pick anything. Isn’t that exciting?
And in reality, you don’t have to wait until you are done with the Relationship Escalator, you could start now. Not like now now, but in a few minutes when you are finished with this article. Or maybe just tonight.
Seriously, ask yourself: What would you do with your life if you were done with those predefined steps?
You might say, there’s nothing popping up because those steps are exactly what you want to do with your life.
Fine. You win. Go on. Be happy.
But what if you were deceiving yourself? What if there was some hidden untapped potential ready to be discovered the moment you truly ask yourself that question? What if there was more life beyond the Escalator?
Say you are curious. You buy the bullet. You decide to (temporarily) discard the idea of the Relationship Escalator and instead live life on your own terms, prioritizing yourself over the idea of marriage, kids, or living together.
What happens to your relationship then? How can they know you love them if your ideas of the future are so different?
The reality is that those steps in the Escalator are just representations of love, conventional ideas of what it is supposed to look like, but there are many more ways to convey it:
- What if instead of a wedding you put that money into a love trip together on a new continent?
- What if instead of moving in together you find an exciting hobby you can enjoy on a weekly basis?
- What if instead of having kids you combine your skills to make a cool art project together?
Don't those alternatives sound cool as well? (perhaps even cooler?)
And in any case, that doesn't mean your partner has to renounce their dreams, they can simultaneously allow other people in their lives with whom they can realize them. And that’s a significant advantage for relationship styles such as Polyamory or Solo Polyamory.
Of course, just as long as you both are ok with the idea of dating others.
The Story of The One
You know the story, don’t you? The one, the soulmate, that special person destiny has prepared for you.
Maybe you already found them.
Is it true then? Did you have an immediate connection from the moment you met? A connection so strong and deep that you began to doubt if you had ever truly loved anyone prior?
If that's true, you surely don't want to lose them. I know I wouldn’t. I’d be freaking out at the idea of parting ways at some point.
Although if you think about it, you are your soulmate's soulmate. So if they decide to leave you, they'd be losing their soulmate too. And that's quite an incentive to stick together regardless of reality, because either you both win or you both lose, but there’s no in-between.
It sounds like a prisoner's dilemma. And maybe that's how some relationships feel. Like prisoners caught in the idea that their partner is the one and only.
But you don't have to worry about that, because if you found your soulmate, nothing could go wrong. You just need to make sure you have indeed found them, or else you are just wasting your time.
Here are 5 proven characteristics of your soulmate:
- Your soulmate is a 10/10 (although mostly for you).
- They never wish to have sex with anyone else (especially with none of their friends or colleagues).
- Your soulmate doesn’t watch porn anymore (or so it seems).
- You both enjoy doing everything together (lucky you! I guess).
- You’ll be together forever because you’ll die about the same time and then you’ll meet in heaven to spend eternity.
Hopefully, your partner meets these criteria, or else…well.
Jokes aside, the story of The One has simply never been encompassed with the notion of dating others. In fact, it often portrays you as an incomplete fruit that needs to find its severed half somewhere in the world (also known in Spanish as your half-orange).
But you are not half anything, you are complete, or so I’d like to believe. I’d like to believe that every person is already 100% and that anyone who enters their lives is simply a 5% on top of that: an extra, a lovely extra.
What if it's not about finding the one but about enjoying the one(s) in front of you?
The reality is that no person can really fulfill all your needs just like no meal can satisfy all your cravings and no song can express all your emotions. I’m sure you’ve never met a friend who made you believe you didn’t need other friends anymore. Then why would it be so different with a partner?
Maybe it makes sense
Maybe it makes sense to replace traditional relationship ideas like The Escalator and The One with a mindset that prioritizes yourself and your own decisions in your life. To reevaluate the way we approach relationships and our role in them. To allow other partners in our life.
Maybe, logically speaking, it checks out.
And yet, you hear a voice telling you: “Nope. Still not for me.”
Well, there’s a good reason for that: Those ideas give you safety. Dropping them is like riding a rollercoaster without seat belts. You don't know where you'll end up and you'll probably get hurt.
The Escalator gives you a happy path, a well-known destination where you'll be full, complete, and safe. In addition, the story of The One gives you the certainty of love and company throughout your life.
Those ideas reassure you while you navigate the intricate waters of relationships and love. Because loving someone means being vulnerable, and you cannot be vulnerable if you don’t feel safe.
When you open up to someone, both physically and emotionally, you are entrusting them with your heart. And that’s no small thing. Because hearts are fragile and they deserve the utmost care.
So that voice is doing nothing but trying to protect you and your heart.
Feelings feel huge
I do believe that voice inside you has a point, your heart is indeed fragile, but I also believe: You are not your heart.
Feelings do feel huge, but they don't run your life, you do. A broken heart hurts, but it doesn't need safety as much as it needs love and empathy. And you can give it that. Maybe in the past, you just didn't have the tools but now you can.
When you are your primary partner it becomes easier to care for yourself. You no longer need safety, you provide it. You no longer crave love, you radiate it. You no longer need a partner, you might choose to have one, or many.
Solo Polyamory provides you with a mindset that empowers you, but that might as well be just the first step of a relationship that you cultivate with yourself. A relationship you can shape however you like.
Try telling yourself the words you'd love to hear from others: “Let’s travel the world”, "I want to grow old with you", and "Let's enjoy life together". Maybe then you'll realize you don't need to search for The One because you already found it within.
And once that happens, you may live and love, fully and fearlessly.
My complete gratitude to the people who earnestly took the time to proofread this article and provide their insights prior to publication: Martina Slobodova, Maria Chamarina, Markus Skergeth, among others.
Also, a heads-up to Tikva Wolf for her inspirational and lovely comics. Buy her books, games, or services.