Can polyamorous relationships work in Ghana/Africa?

Photography by Chika Oduah

I’m not convinced that monogamy works – at least not for me. In my primary relationships there’s always been a point where I’ve felt like, ‘oh my god, I need to sleep with someone else’. And this desire to sleep with someone else has had nothing to do with whichever relationship I was in. I could have felt loved, been having amazing sex, but a year, two, or three down the line I inevitably miss the excitement of sleeping with someone new. And so finding myself newly single in recent months I have decided to give polyamory a go. I’m not having much luck though. I’ll tell you why.


Did you read my blog post, ‘Don’t sex the ex’? I think I need to re-name that ‘Don’t sex your most recent ex’. I believe its important not to fall into the habit of sleeping with (your most recent) ex because that makes it a hundred times more difficult for either of you to move on from the relationship that has just ended. But of course one of the ways (not necessarily the best way) to get over a relationship is to have a different relationship…but I digress, so back to my efforts at polyamory. In recent weeks I started chatting and sleeping with an ex fuck buddy. I told him about my desire for openness and honesty in my sexual relationships, and asked him if he would consider telling his girlfriend about his desire to sleep with me. He was adamant that he couldn’t. In his words, ‘she told me that she knows I would do my thing, and she doesn’t want to know.’ On one hand I think fair enough, not everybody wants to know who else their partner sleeps with, and he is insisting that she knows he won’t/is not faithful but…how do I know he is telling me the truth? And haven’t I now become somehow complicit in him cheating on his girlfriend? On the other hand I am not in a relationship with her. I haven’t made that commitment not to cheat so that’s on him not on me.


I also decided that I didn’t want to make this guy my only lover and that I would also look for a woman fuck buddy so I asked one of my friends to hook me up and she did. But Ama’s (not her real name) situation is also hella complicated. She is married with children, and although her husband knows that she’s been attracted to and had sexual relationships with women in the past, she doesn’t feel she can be honest with him about her desire to start a relationship with another woman. She is also happily married but would really like to have a separate relationship with a woman. Again this is another situation where I will be the third wheel – being the third wheel in and of itself is not an issue for me. The other wheels not knowing about me is what I find challenging.


Is this a challenge particular to Ghana? Polygamy (where men have multiple wives) is common and for the most part accepted/tolerated in our society but not Polygyny (where women and men have multiple partners). I feel like in real Ghanaian lives most people are consciously or unconsciously in polygamous relationships. From my observations, and anecdotally, I feel like a lot of people cheat on their partners, and the emphasis is on not being caught/not ‘disrespecting’ your partner by being caught. Instead of this hypocrisy could we move towards a model where we are rather honest with our partners about our desires and negotiate agreements that work for both or multiple partners? Could polyamorous relationships work in Ghana? Are you in an African country and in a polyamorous relationship? Share your thoughts

Photography by Chika Oduah

18 comments On Can polyamorous relationships work in Ghana/Africa?

  • Even polyamory itself is hard but it would be much less so if people were just honest. I mean brutal, self-effacing honesty. Nothing else works. So the ability to say ‘I really rather sleep with just X right now’ (with its reasons aka, they are new and I’m excited about discovering them) and not having the other person hear/feel that you are rejecting them. Also, if that ever changes, to be honest enough to move on. It’s tricky with marriage and kids.
    I couldn’t do poly to be honest. If I have either partner, I’d much rather they were with just me, but I think this might mostly be for medical reasons. I don’t like barriers to where I eat.

    • @Nnenna – I hear you sis. I think polyamory itself will be very hard, maybe harder than monogamy because of the practice of brutal honesty…lol’ing at barriers to where you eat. Nor I sis, nor I…

  • This is such an interesting piece. I have tried to broach the topic but more often than not Nigerians don’t like to have this level of honest conversation and yet as you have stated cheating is rife in the community. I think this could and probably should be embraced or at least understood by more people. I’m not sure it’s for me but then I respect the essence of it. Human nature is not supposed to be bound or tied down by societal norms.

  • @Nana, very eye opening. I think a few of us have friends we actually make out with and dont consider lovers yet when we meet with their so called ‘significant others’ we cant help but feel like the third wheel. Honesty is important and yet we dont know if we are ready for such brutal honesty and its consequences.
    @Nenna, i feel you about wanting ur partner to be with just u kkkk sometimes its too good to share.
    @Lois, that last bit about human nature, i love it!!

  • Nana, while my comment is a lazy repetition of your words, I can not add more because these are exactly my sentiments! “I feel like in real Ghanaian lives most people are consciously or unconsciously in polygamous relationships. From my observations, and anecdotally, I feel like a lot of people cheat on their partners, and the emphasis is on not being caught/not ‘disrespecting’ your partner by being caught. Instead of this hypocrisy could we move towards a model where we are rather honest with our partners about our desires and negotiate agreements that work for both or multiple partners?” I have often debated within myself if I’d rather know and deal with all the emotional stress of knowing, or live in an illusion of an ‘its only me’ sort of situation. Though being honest is a good thing to do, I’m more concerned about the woman’s role in all of this. Recently, my preferred definition of equality is having equal access without discrimination based on what gender you are. If I can openly do it and not be castigated and if women won’t excuse men for their actions or if men won’t feel entitled to being with other sexual partners while shaming women, then everything will make sense, but then again, your question still stands, will polyamory work in Ghana, especially from the point of view of sexism?

    • You ask some good questions Efua which I think lie at the root of the challenges for negotiating polyamorous relationships in Ghana. Like we know, women get castigated for things that men get away with every day. Plus, I think we’ve also been socialised to be the more ‘sexually pure’ gender. We’ve never been encouraged to ‘sow our wild oats’, there’s no such concept as ‘girls will be girls’ etc….and yes I think couples need to start to have these conversations and start to negotiate the kind of relationships that they really want. The few guys I have discussed this with claim that their wives/girlfriends have not been open to polyamory but have more or less said, ‘I know you are going to do what you want anyway’ so giving tacit approval/turning a blind eye to the man cheating. And in our GH society I can see that happenning

  • This is such an interesting discussion. I recently realised I was non-monogamous and navigating that conversation with those particular words has been interesting. My boyfriend called it an open relationship at first, but he backed away from it when I expressed interest in men yet he was okay with me seeing women. On the other hand, my girlfriend and I had this same conversation and she was very supportive. I think many people have a hard time grasping these concepts because of ingrained ideas about jealousy. I wonder if in the next 10 years it will be an easier conversation to broach. A wonderful resource I found on how to navigate these sorts of situations is a favourite podcast of mine. They did a series called Polyga-May where they explored all issues around ethical non-monogamy. You should check it out. (specifically episodes 112-115)

    • @Enyonyoozi – I know right? Guys are always (ok maybe not always but in my experience are) cool when being open means you sleeping with another woman, but if its another guy then its a problem. Thanks you for introducing me to this podcast, I’ve listened to about 3 episodes so far today.

    • Thanks for sharing the podcast Enyonyoozi, jumping right in!

  • I’m a brown woman who started a polyamory support and peer education organisation in South Africa. Does that count?

    • @Andrea – I think so. Would love to learn more about how this work is going? And just out of curiosity, does Brown in your case mean South East Asian heritage?

      • @Nana Darkoa, I created the zapoly mailing list on yahoogroups in 2005, and migrated it to in 2015. We currently also have a public facebook page, a secret facebook group, monthly discussion picnics in two cities, and more irregular discussion meetings in two more. We’ve gathered some volunteers who are trained/willing to speak to the media, so we maintain a growing list of local polyamory articles/interviews on our website.

        No South East Asian heritage as far as I know. 🙂

        • @Andrea – Thanks for sharing. Just checked out your website. If I was in SA I would have definitely come to one of your discussion picnics. Would you be interested in writing a blog post on polyamory for this site?

          • I’m sorry @Nana Darkoa, I somehow didn’t get a notification so totally missed your question 2 years ago. I just came back to your post now because someone on a poly fb group asked about polyamory in Africa and I remembered a Ghana post and came looking for it.

  • Preach!
    To conjure James Baldwin, you would think you are the only one going through pain (read experiences)..but then you read.
    Thank you for your writing Nana, for this piece. Your website has been my place of calm.
    I like the idea of men, there is an assurance I get when I have a mate I can count on, talk to.. I like women; thinking about them keeps me up at night.
    Hence, I can’t inherently choose one over the other. But then, I date these beings and realize how intricate other people’s thoughts are that even the thought of suggesting polyamory seems to them like I am stuck in a Utopian world. On one hand, a man wants a proper African “queen”, the whole nine yards. The word queen is in quotes because it makes me cringe. On the other, a woman wants a proper girlfriend, one that isn’t stuck on that “meandering path” of bisexuality because we just don’t know when you wake up craving the D. Sigh.
    But then, it isn’t about the bisexuality. I am speaking for myself here. It ‘s not about the gender you present yourself with but the fact that at some point I will want to sleep with other people regardless of how eternal our love seems to be. It really isn’t you, it’s a me situation.
    So I have come to the realization that I can’t really explain the way I am. I can’t explain why I have grown in the same spaces with these people but I think so differently with them that I seem otherworldly to them. In my books, polyamory is as easy as algebra. But algebra is a foreign language for others.
    We might as well create our own version of wild, wild country at this point.

    • Creating our own version of wild country seems perfect! Thank you so much for reading and being part of this community @queerkenyangirl I hope you’ll send in a contribution one of these days. Hugs

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