There are many different kinds of relationship styles, including monogamy and ethical non-monogamy. Solo polyamory, for example, is one of many ways to practice ethical non-monogamy.
With this approach, someone might have relationships with multiple people but choose not to mesh their lives with a partner or partners.
Solo polyamory is when someone has intimate relationships with multiple partners but still lives a single lifestyle.
For example, someone who’s solo polyamorous, or solo poly, might not want to live with, share finances with, marry, or have children with a partner.
Many solo poly people think of themselves as their own partner and believe that their most important commitment is to themselves.
They might not identify as part of a couple, throuple, or polyamorous pod.
A person doesn’t need to be actively dating many people in order to call themselves solo poly. Some solo poly people might also take a break from dating, romantic relationships, and sexual relationships.
They might also choose to be celibate or avoid romantic relationships and dating entirely.
Solo polyamory doesn’t mean that someone is unable or no longer willing to have a sexual or romantic relationship at all.
It also doesn’t mean that they’re afraid of commitment, selfish, or inconsiderate.
Not everyone who’s single and polyamorous will identify with solo polyamory.
Solo polyamory isn’t about how many people you’re currently dating. It’s about your desires and philosophy when it comes to relationships.
There isn’t a “right way” to do solo polyamory, and solo polyamory can look different to different people.
Someone might be solo poly for a short period of time or for the rest of their lives. They might have sexual or romantic relationships or none at all. They might choose not to have children or have children alone.
Solo polyamory might be for you if:
- you think of yourself as your primary commitment
- you don’t have a desire to marry, live with a partner, or reach other stages of the “relationship escalator”
- you’d prefer to focus on your own personal growth, hobbies, career, or mental health rather than on a romantic relationship
- you consider your friendships to be just as important as romantic relationships
If you’re interested in exploring solo polyamory, it’s a good idea to read more about it and connect with other solo poly people. This can help you figure out whether it’s a good fit for you.
There’s no “test” to determine whether you should be solo poly or not.
However, the following questions might help you reflect on whether it aligns with your current needs and desires:
- What are my values around marriage? Is it something I want?
- Would I want to have children with a life partner, if at all?
- Do I feel like I get something from committed romantic relationships that I don’t get from other relationships?
- What’s a “romantic” relationship to me? How does it look and feel?
- What do I think of the “relationship escalator”? Does it seem appealing to me?
There’s no right or wrong answer here, and your answers might change over time. That’s OK! Much like sexual orientation and gender identity, your feelings about your relationships with others can be fluid and evolve.
Setting boundaries and discussing expectations is important in any relationship, whether you’re solo poly or not. This includes discussing the future and how you’d like your relationship to change over time.
Many people have ideas about how a relationship “should” progress. Certain experiences are often seen as milestones that one should aspire to when it comes to committed relationships.
For example, a person might move from the first stage below to next until each stage has been completed:
- calling each other boyfriend/girlfriend/partner or referring to yourselves as a couple
- being open about your relationship online or in public
- meeting one another’s families
- moving in together
- getting engaged
- marrying and merging finances
- having children
Of course, the stages that people aspire to often depend on their culture, religion, beliefs, values, and personal circumstances.
This overall process is known as the “relationship escalator” — how relationships are expected to become more serious over time, marked by reaching these milestones.
Although many people might expect this relationship escalation to happen, not everybody wants their lives to become this intertwined. Many people, including solo poly people, don’t want to become married, for example.
It’s important to talk with your partner(s) about what you do and don’t want. Make your expectations clear. If a partner isn’t familiar with solo polyamory, perhaps send them resources so that they’ll be able to understand it better.
Communication is key with solo polyamory, as it is with every other relationship style. Talk with your partner(s) about boundaries, expectations, and future plans. Discuss solo polyamory and your beliefs and values on dating.
Introspection goes along with communication. Solo polyamory can give you the space to pursue what you want without needing to consider a partner’s future plans. Tune into what you really want, both relationally and individually.
Not only can self-reflection help you communicate better with your partner(s), it can also help you find what makes you happy, whether that includes your community, family, travel, work, hobbies, or something else.
It’s OK to identify with solo polyamory and later choose a different approach. You might be a solo poly for life; you might not. That doesn’t negate your experience or choice at the time.
Lastly, very few people understand solo polyamory. Well-meaning folks might pressure you into “settling down.” You might even face discrimination from other non-monogamous people.
While this isn’t OK, you might have to prepare yourself for confusion and intolerance from others.
Connecting with other solo polyamorous people might help, as they can be a source of support and advice.
Solo polyamory is a type of ethical non-monogamy that involves living a single lifestyle instead of pursuing a shared future with a partner or partners.
Although many people are unfamiliar with the concept, the idea of solo polyamory can also be liberating for those who identify with it.
Sian Ferguson is a freelance writer and editor based in Grahamstown, South Africa. Her writing covers issues relating to social justice, cannabis, and health. You can reach out to her on Twitter.