Monogamy is sometimes regarded as an archaic relationship paradigm, especially when compared to what are often billed as more “evolutionary” paths of intimacy such as polyamory, ethical non-monogamy (ENM), or open relationships.
But, as was recently pointed out by Jamie Wheal on a podcast interview with Layla Martin of This Tantric Life, just because a relationship is polyamorous doesn’t actually mean that it’s unconventional. There are conventional and post-conventional versions of both non-monogamy and monogamy.
Traditional monogamy is often based on the idea of ownership and control. The partners in a conventional monogamous relationship may feel that they have a right to dictate how their partner behaves, who they spend time with, and what they do with their bodies. This can lead to dishonesty, jealousy, repression, possessiveness, and control issues.
Conventional non-monogamy may feel evolutionary simply because it’s not monogamy, but ENM/poly/open relating can sometimes become a way to justify addictive or avoidant behavior, boundarylessness, superficiality, trauma-bonding, and immaturity.
Both paradigms have the potential to be highly problematic… yet there’s a sense from both “camps” that each paradigm is somehow superior to the other.
So, how does one create something else? Something more sacred, mature, and liberating?
If you’re someone who is interested in creating a liberating, growth-oriented, post-conventional sacred monogamous relationship, then this article is written for you.
What is Sacred Monogamy?
Sacred monogamous relationships are treated as a divine union: they are built on a foundation of mutual respect, trust (and trustworthiness), and a willingness to grow and evolve together through honesty, curiosity, interdependence, and communication. With this intention, a committed partnership becomes a spiritual journey… a divine union in which each partner can cultivate ever more awareness, presence, sensuality, integrity, and vitality.
No matter whether the partners are hetero or homosexual, in a post-conventional monogamous relationship there is encouragement and support for each partners’ full expression in both their “go” and “flow” states. Neither person is locked into gender-normative roles, and each partner is given the spaciousness to continually explore how their authentic identity wants to express.
There is room for each person’s needs and desires, as well as acceptance that those needs and desires will likely shift over time. As the relationship unfolds, this level of trust and encouragement builds incredibly deep intimacy.
What to look for in a partner:
When you desire to co-create a sacred, post-conventional monogamous relationship, there are a few key elements to look for in a potential partner. And of course, these are aspects that you must be willing to bring to the table, too.
They need to be on their own journey of personal growth and healing. In order for the relationship to operate with consciousness, compassion, and understanding, each partner needs to have the capacity to take personal responsibility, and enough self-awareness to be able to see their patterns; both the beneficial ones AND the non-beneficial ones. Look for someone who’s unafraid of (or at least non-judgmental about) therapy, plant medicine work, coaching, or other methods of personal development.
They must be a good communicator. Do they share their needs, desires, fears, and stories with relative openness and ease? Or do you have to pull things from them with multiple prompts and re-assurances of emotional safety? Consider how they talk about their prior relationships and partners. Are they playing the blame game, or are they able to acknowledge the gifts of that relationship and their contributions to why it ended?
They respect boundaries; both yours and their own. This looks like not pushing your consent, not rushing you, and honoring any requests that you’ve made for space or time. They don’t use tactics like fear, shame, or guilt to manipulate you. They demonstrate an ability to continuously open up to you over time as you develop a bond and intimacy.
They are empathetic without taking on (or trying to fix) your emotions and challenges. They’re able to meet your challenging emotions or upsets with an open heart, without feeling the need to immediately fix or heal you; an impulse which often comes from a place of wanting to offload whatever discomfort they are experiencing in response to you as much as it’s a desire to ease your suffering.
They have a spiritual practice or belief system. This often doesn’t mean they are religious, but rather, they have a perspective of themselves and the universe that includes more than meets the eye. Perhaps they practice yoga or meditation, are fascinated by metaphysics, or believe in some form of higher power. Maybe they believe that, while not everything “happens for a reason,” that we can always choose to grow from our experiences.
They’re skilled at the art of repair. And I’m not talking about fixing broken pipes or mending a cushion, although that’s awesome too… When you experience a conflict or misunderstanding, how do they approach it? Are they able to stay present with you and work together to resolve the issue? Are they willing to admit when they could have done or said something differently? Even if they don’t handle it perfectly, your potential partner needs to be able to collaborate with you when times get tough.
They want a monogamous relationship. Even if they’re not sure how to create one that stays vibrant and evolves over time, they want to explore co-creating a union with (just) you. Perhaps they’ve explored non-monogamy before and discovered that it doesn’t really align for them. Perhaps they’ve been serial monogamists, but haven’t yet found a partner to grow and evolve with for the long-term. Don’t spend time trying to convince a potential partner why monogamy with you is “going to be different,” look for someone who is already grounded in what they want from a committed relationship, and whose ideal relationship structure is a match for what you want.
Can you evolve your existing partnership into a sacred union?
Absolutely! If you’re already in a monogamous relationship, there are quite a few things you can do to evolve it into a more postconventional/sacred state. Here are some of my favorites:
A sacred relationship won’t be a perfect relationship.
You’re still humans, after all! And relationships are one of the most, ahem, effective places to face your wounds, triggers, assumptions, and unconscious or immature behaviors. Our partner will no doubt bring out the best AND the worst in us over time.
Even the most sacred union will face the same challenges that any long-term partnership can experience: from the biggies like infidelity or sexual stagnation to smaller issues like bickering over chores, built-up resentments, or communication challenges.
The most important thing is not that your relationship be without problems, it’s that you’re each able to learn from your mistakes, commit to improvement, and follow through on that commitment. What makes this process sacred is bringing devotion and heart-centeredness to your partnership.
When approached with reverence, playfulness, open-mindedness, and a shared priority on growth and well-being, monogamy can become an exciting, inspiring, divine relationship paradigm that’s evolutionary, rebellious, and deeply fulfilling.
To your sacred union and post-conventional monogamous bliss!