Once upon a time, in the Mad Men era and beyond, no one was monogamous. Oh, sure, they got married and swore up and down to their spouses that they were faithful, but after the three-martini lunches, out came the mistresses. 60 years later, that lifestyle is more outdated than boss-approved sexual harassment. These days, the modern couple is more likely to snuggle up with a joint after bonding over their mutual stoned sex adventures at a poly play (a.k.a.: sex) party.
Polyamory literally translates to many loves. It’s a relationship format that means a couple is dating—not just having sex with—other people. “A major misconception is that polyamory (and other forms of openly non-monogamous relationships) are just an excuse for people to not commit romantically. While some people may indeed use the guise of polyamory in this way, research shows that polyamorous relationships are just as committed as monogamous ones,” says New York City-based sexuality and relationships scientist and consultant Dr. Zhana Vrangalova. Dr. Zhana also created Open Smarter, an online course that helps people make smarter decisions about their relationship choices using their unique relationship personality.
Relationship formats are couture, not off the rack.
Relationship formats are couture, not off the rack. There are many forms of ethical non-monogamy (ENM) for couples to choose from. Some only date other people together, or play at parties, or during times of long-distance. There’s a relationship format for every couple. Polyamory is often either hierarchical poly, in which a couple is one another’s “primaries” but also dates others, or non-hierarchical (solo) poly in which one does not place any partner above another. It can be fun, it can be the ideal solution for many, but it can also be hard. And some say cannabis can help.
“My primary and other partners all smoke cannabis, so it makes it a lot easier for us to connect,” says founder and chief conspirator of The New Society for Wellness (NSFW) a sex and cannabis-friendly private members club in New York City Daniel Saynt. “I recently introduced two partners for the first time and our shared love of weed definitely helped get everyone into a comfortable mental space to explore. I loved bringing over rolled jays to the two of them while they got to know each other better. It makes these sometimes difficult talks easier.” Studies show that cannabis can increase divergent thinking, which is the brain’s way of connecting seemingly unrelated ideas. This can help couples of all relationship formats come up with fun and kinky things to do in the bedroom, such as try new role-playing scenes. The same research also shows that overall creativity is enhanced, which can help you come up with novel solutions to unique issues (such as meeting your partner’s partner, also called a “metamour”).
Jealousy will naturally arise in a poly relationship, just like any other relationship. Contrary to popular belief, poly people are not immune to jealousy, they just tend to understand how to navigate it. “Jealousy is always a concern in open relations, but how we acknowledge and navigate jealousy determines if we can help mitigate it or make it fester,” says polyamorous educator, activist, and co-founder of The Sex Work Survival Guide Tiana GlittersaurusRex.
“Cannabis helps me think more logically than rationally or emotionally when I'm facing jealousy or experiencing it myself."
While the green may not cure the green-eyed monster, research suggests that it can help reduce negative bias. Studies have shown that THC from weed attaches to our cannabinoid receptors and can interact with our emotional processing. This can help us see the glass half full. Translated to relationship, cannabis could help us assess a situation, and rather than focus on petty jealousies, appreciate our partner. “Cannabis helps me think more logically than rationally or emotionally when I'm facing jealousy or experiencing it myself. Each inhale I take of a vape or joint helps calm my nervous system and gives me a moment to pause then organize my thoughts so I can listen to my inner voice and express myself more clearly,” she adds.
Despite all our progress, polyamory is still taboo and can come with challenges regarding coming out to family or potential partners. “I frequently work with clients who are navigating their sexuality. This causes both cognitive and somatic (bodily) dissonance, which is incredibly anxiety-provoking for most,” says somatic psychologist and certified sex therapist Dr. Holly Richmond. “Anxious people have difficulty sleeping, eating (too much or too little), with cognitive focus, maintaining stable moods, and stable relationships. Using cannabis, in my clinical experience, most often has a positive impact on the anxiety that helps people more easily cultivate understanding and awareness of their sexuality.”
"Cannabis helps calm the parts of your brain that do a lot of shaming. It can help calm the anxiety down.”
Cannabis, both in the form of medical marijuana and for those who self-medicate, is used to treat and lower anxiety. "Cannabis helps calm the parts of your brain that do a lot of shaming. It can help calm the anxiety down,” says psychologist and author of Building Open Relationships Dr. Liz Powell. However, the evidence regarding cannabis for anxiety is conflicting. While it provides natural stress relief for some, depending on one’s disposition, in addition to dosage and method of intake, it could lead to paranoia in others. “Some people can get more anxious or paranoid when consuming cannabis, and it also negatively affects working memory, so unless you’re a regular user and have developed some hacks around it, it might not result in the most productive conversation,” Dr. Zhana says.
This is why one should ideally consult a doctor or pharmacist before starting a cannabis regime to find what’s best suited for them. Just like relationship formats, cannabis is not one-size-fits-all. These days, there are so many different strains, and terpenes, and cannabinoids, and methods of intake that one can tailor their cannabis use to their needs. Because as sex and dating is more fun when it’s done responsibly, so is using cannabis, and if one is to enjoy the combination of the two *chef’s kiss* they deserve nothing but the best.