Beyond the confines of monogamy

When we picture a romantic relationship, we imagine an emotional partnership between two people. Monogamy is seen as the norm, but many people do not fit this standard relationship type. Martin (27) and Lark (28) are in a polyamorous relationship, which means they can date other people. 


Martin and Lark both live and work in The Hague. Martin has been working as a bioinformatician at a company that grows chrysanthemums twenty minutes outside of the city. His partner Lark (who uses they/them pronouns) is finishing their philosophy degree at Leiden University. 

This weekend, Lark and Martin are together. Every other weekend, Martin goes to his second boyfriend Lou (25), who lives in Arnhem, on the other side of the country.  Lou and Martin have been dating for over a year. Lark is not seeing anyone other than Martin at this moment. However, Lark says they have had a handful of dates in the last few years, sometimes leading to follow-up dates or short relationships. 


The couple was familiar with polyamory before they met each other. Martin says it has never been a problem for him to accept the other love lives of his partners. “One of the first dating experiences I had was with someone who was also seeing other people,” he says.  “In the back of my mind, I was never opposed to this. I never had any feelings of jealousy.” Lark mentions that he also had dating experiences with polyamorous people before meeting Martin, which opened him up to the idea. Lark: “I would just have a few drinks with other polyamorous people,” they say, “ It really opened my eyes. I thought staying independent as a person in love was nice.”


Martin says that monogamy is not a good fit for him because he values his autonomy. “My first polyamorous relationship wasn’t healthy. When I got out of it, I thought a lot about who I was as a person,” he says. “I realised that I wanted to stay my own person when I am in a relationship. Many people fuse together with their partner over time, but I like to keep my own independence.” Lark agrees with Martin. Lark: “There is a social script in our society, where we must follow certain monogamous rules  in a relationship. That doesn’t fit me.” They also add that monogamy can sometimes be very difficult, because of the expectations that people can have of their partners. “You can’t expect everything from your partner, even though you might want that,” Lark says. They add,  “As a polyamorous person, you can still get some things you want. It’s just not from the same person all the time.”


Some people might think that if you are non-monogamous, jealousy won’t play a part in the relationship, but Martin and Lark say that’s not the case. Lark claims that they especially found it difficult when Martin started seeing Lou. “It came in waves,” Lark says. “It was just difficult that I couldn’t spend the same amount of time with Martin anymore. But we spoke about it for a long time, and I realised that he wasn’t going to love me any less.” Martin comments on his relationship with Lou: “Lou and I also agreed that we would see each other once every two weeks, so we can still see each other enough to maintain our relationship, but also have enough time for our jobs, studies, or other relationships.”


Just like Martin, Lou also has another relationship. Martin doesn’t specify Lou’s other partner’s name, but does say that Lou and she have been seeing each other for a couple of months. Martin says that he also felt jealous when Lou started seeing her. Martin: “He talked about how he met her in much detail, and it made me feel a bit strange. I was confronted with the fact that she could see Lou way more often because they live in the same city.” Martin says that this is where polyamorous relationships become a lot more difficult. Martin: “You must disentangle a lot of feelings and get into a calmer place before you can bring this up. You can’t expect your partner to not see anyone else when you’re seeing other people yourself.” Martin says that he talked about his feelings with Lou, which relieved him of his jealousy. “He was happy I brought it up, and he doesn’t get into detail about his other relationship anymore. He is respectful of my feelings.” 


As advice to people who might want to explore polyamory themselves, Martin says that it’s important to be in touch with your own feelings. Martin: “If you feel jealous, look at yourself and think: ‘Why do I feel this way?’ Go to a calmer place in yourself and make sure that you are not making your partner solve your feelings. That way, I believe you can also have a loving, non-monogamous romance.”