In the past decade, we’ve seen polyamory emerge from the shadows and become a popular lifestyle for many. Even celebrities are talking about their polyamorous relationships, including the likes of Will Smith and Jada Pinkett Smith, Tilda Swinton, Ashton Kutcher, and many more.
When my partner found “polyamory” for the first time, it was not as mainstream as it is today. Reading about people who can form romantic attachments with multiple people at once was truly fascinating to us.
I remember feeling so identified with polyamory and excited to know that there were other people out there. These courageous people were disregarding the rules we’ve been taught to follow all our lives about relationships and the world wasn’t ending.
Luckily, society has evolved a bit and non-monogamous relationships are no longer being discussed in the media with the same tone they use to discuss sexual depravities and other awful things. Media has become more realistic about the fact that there are many alternatives to the way we have relationships.
People are indeed more aware of polyamory today than ever before in history. However, that doesn’t mean there aren’t many misconceptions about the topic. There are many things mainstream media doesn’t get right about polyamory, which is why today we wanted to provide a complete guide for all you curious cats out there who want to understand more about this.
We will discuss what polyamory is and what it isn’t, the advantages and disadvantages, and what it takes to try polyamory out. Without further ado, let’s get into it. Grab a snack and get comfortable, because there’s a lot to explore!
A Definition of Polyamory
When you look up “polyamory”, you may find that the definition varies from one source to the other. However, people who are polyamorous all agree there are two main components. Polyamory consists of having simultaneous romantic relationships with several people and the consent and full knowledge of everyone involved is required.
What this means is that polyamory is a combination of rejecting social controls on relationships, polygamous marriages, and scenarios where one partner goes outside the relationship to fulfill a sexual desire with the permission of their partner.
Polyamory is not cheating because it doesn’t include any form of deceit. In fact, it may not include casual sex or swinging either. This is because polyamorous partners may not engage in sexual relations with each other. After all, there’s a difference between sex and romantic love.
Yes, some polyamorous couples engage in casual sex with others, but if there’s no intimate connection or love, that casual partner shouldn’t be considered a polyamorous partner. There are poly people who like swinging, but having sex while there’s no emotional connection between the two is not polyamory. For many polyamorous people, sex without love is even unpleasant!
What’s the Difference Between Polyamory and Open Relationships?
If the people in an open relationship share romantic connections, it can be considered polyamory. But if the open relationship is based only on sex and there’s no emotional involvement to other partners, then it doesn’t fit the bill for polyamory.
Some polyamorous relationships are sexually exclusive, so their relationship is closed. What that means is that the people involved only have sex between each other, but they don’t bring other partners into the fold. These relationships are “polyfidelitous”, but they’re also referred to as “group marriage.”
Why Are Couples Interested in Polyamory?
The first thing you should understand is that not everyone who gets into polyamory does it in a relationship. Single people also explore polyamory, especially if they’ve always struggled with monogamous relationships and they don’t want to live a single life anymore.
There are also people who commit to polyamory because someone they like is polyamorous, only to feel resentment down the line because it wasn’t something they truly wanted for themselves. In short, couples and single people go into polyamory all the time, but it’s important to have good reasons to do it.
The Wrong Reasons to Get Into Polyamory
Couples and single people often get into polyamory for all the wrong reasons. For example, it’s not uncommon for people who have cheated or been cheated to consider polyamory as a way to have their cake and eat it too. But it doesn’t work that way. Cheating is a big issue and it requires a lot of personal growth and work to come back from that. Polyamory won’t fix it.
Another common scenario is when someone in the couple is bisexual and they believe they can find another bisexual person to complete the picture. However, this is not very realistic. In the community, these people are referred to as “unicorn hunters” because the possibilities of finding a bisexual person who’s equally interested in both partners is very unlikely. As unlikely as finding a unicorn. It’s worth noting is not as impossible as finding a unicorn because some people do find someone interested in both, but it’s still very difficult.
It’s also common for partners to suggest polyamory as a way of keeping a partner that doesn’t want to be in the relationship anymore. In some cases, some people find monogamous relationships to be too intense and they believe polyamory relationships will be a little less so. But the opposite is true! As you can imagine, this never works. None of these reasons are good reasons to get into polyamory, and it will most likely end in tears.
If you’re running away from issues in your relationship, want to stay monogamous, or are afraid of intimacy and intensity, polyamory is simply not for you. And if you only want to get laid more often and have more than one sexual partner, polyamory won’t work for you. People know when they’re being used, and unless they’re aware of the context, such as in swinging or casual sex, they will be hurt.
The Right Reasons to Get Into Polyamory
If you’ve discovered that you can have romantic feelings for more than one person at a time and you’re capable of loving more than one person at a time, that’s a great reason to get into polyamory. If you’ve never understood why people limit their love to just one person and you want to change that in your life, polyamory is for you.
Let’s be honest here. Some people are not suited for polyamory; if you can’t have one healthy relationship, you won’t be able to have healthy relationships with multiple people at once. If there are unresolved issues in your life that are getting in the way of developing healthy and positive relationships with others, you need to resolve them. Otherwise, you’re hurting yourself and others by being in relationships that are toxic and negative.
Intimate relationships have great healing power, that’s true. But you can’t expect love or sex to be your therapy. If you have issues or past trauma, it’s important that you take care of yourself first. Look for the help you need to solve these issues before you jump into any relationship, let alone into polyamorous relationships.
Why Is It Not Enough to Have One Lover?
No one said having one lover is not enough. You can have a life with just one partner, travel the world together, have adventures, and enjoy your sex life. However, some people want to share their love with more than one person, and that’s okay, that’s what polyamory is about.
Polyamorous people can’t stop themselves from loving who they love. That doesn’t mean they have sex with all their partners, it just means they can have sex with more than one partner, if they so choose, without fear of hurting other people. In other words, polyamorous works perfectly for everyone involved as long as they’ve communicated their needs and desires.
More often than not, monogamous people only think of sex when they think of relationships. Sex is a major focus in the life of a monogamous person and it determines who they spend their time and their life with. Frankly, there’s a certain level of obsession with sex, the same people on a diet are obsessed with food.
And yes, sex is an important part of life and relationships, but other things are much more important and that would warrant such an extreme fascination, such as life choices, family, identity, and so many other things. It’s not just about sex!
The Advantages of a Polyamorous Relationship
In some ways, polyamory is even easier than monogamy. The first big advantage of it is that you no longer have to suppress your need to love or deny that you’re attracted to other people. Another impressive advantage is that you can write the rules of your relationship instead of having to conform to rules written by other people.
Polyamory allows you to create this network of relationships with wonderful people that will always be there for you. And even if things don’t work out between you and someone, you’ll still have other beautiful relationships going on. In many ways, your partners become your family. You’ll have a network of people you can turn to for many different things.
Another important advantage of polyamory is that it provides the opportunity for you to look inward and get to know yourself better than ever before. You’re forced into self-reflection to determine what is it that you need and desire, not only in a relationship but also for yourself. In other words, it gives you the opportunity to come to terms with your identity and wake up to it like never before.
You would be surprised how many of your life choices were made having someone else’s opinion in mind. Once you take control of your life, of what you want, what you like, what you enjoy, what you desire, you will be able to tailor your need relationship dynamic so that it fits like a glove. No more bending out of shape for anyone, and no one should bend out of shape for you either.
The Disadvantages of a Polyamorous Relationship
It’s not precisely a disadvantage, but it does require a lot more work than ever before. When you’re in a polyamorous relationship, you’re forced to discover your individual needs and desires. But you’re not the only person in the relationship.
That means you also have to become aware of your partner’s needs and desires. That can only be done through talking, for hours and hours about your feelings, your expectations, your concerns, and so much more.
Another drawback of a polyamorous relationship is that every decision must be communicated and discussed at length, with everyone who will be affected by that decision.
There’s no denying that polyamorous people will face a certain degree of social pressure and, in some cases, they are discriminated against. There are still a lot of people out there who are ignorant of this subject or who decide to hold on to stigma. Polyamory is not a protected lifestyle, which means anti-discrimination legislation doesn’t mention it. It’s still poorly understood, so you need to be careful.
When polyamorous couples travel, it’s important to be careful. For example, in Dubai, sex outside of marriage may cost you 2 years in prison. It doesn’t matter if it’s consensual, it’s just how their laws work. As I said, polyamory is still very poorly understood and the laws will reflect that, not just here, but everywhere else in the world, and it’s something you must be aware of.
What If I Try Polyamory and It’s Not for Me?
You must understand that polyamory is not a kind of deal you can’t break. Yes, it’s an agreement, but it’s the kind of agreement that can be negotiated and changed at any moment. It’s not set in stone, so if you’ve tried it and you’ve discovered it’s not for you, perhaps you should try another focus. If that doesn’t work for you either, it’s okay to quit and go back to monogamy, whatever works for you!
Every day, some couples decide to open their relationship while others decide to close it. Every day, people make changes to their dynamic according to what they need and what works for them. Every day, people end relationships and begin new ones. So don’t close yourself off at the first sign of trouble. If you want to make it work, you can. And if you don’t, that’s okay too!
Do Polyamorous People Feel Jealousy?
Most people feel jealousy in some form or another, no matter what kind of relationship you’re in. Some people feel jealousy very often while others don’t, it truly depends on your level of insecurity in the relationship.
In monogamous relationships, jealousy is often used to control the behavior of the other person. This is why jealousy is a concept monogamous people are very attached to because they like the sense of control that comes with jealousy. After all, it has proven to be a certain way to affect the other partner’s behavior.
In polyamory, there’s no such thing as one person having control over the other, but feelings of jealousy may arise. When you’re switching from a monogamous dynamic to a non-monogamous one, there will be a learning curve and you will go through a transition. It’s not uncommon for jealousy to be a part of that transition.
However, when there are feelings of jealousy, it ts usually the sign of something that has been left unsaid, a concern, a fear, or a doubt that hasn’t been expressed. So, if you find yourself having feelings of jealousy or other negative emotions, ask yourself these questions:
- Am I lonely when my partner is out with someone else?
- Do I feel like my partner is spending more time with other people than with me?
- Am I feeling neglected by my partner?
- Is there something that worries me?
- Do I feel anxious because I have unresolved issues with my partner?
- Do I feel like my partner has more fun with others than with me?
- Am I envious of the attention my partner gives to other people?
- Am I confused? Do I need more information about my partner’s partners and their intentions?
These questions will help you determine if there’s something underneath the surface you haven’t been dealing with and it will allow you to talk about it with your partner.
How to Jump on the Polyamory Wagon
If you’re certain you want to give polyamory a try, you must take your time. Before you create your profile on one of the many dating apps available that can connect you to like-minded individuals, take a moment, and prepare for this new adventure.
1. Adjust Your Mindset
Adjusting your mindset from monogamy to polyamory is one of the biggest hurdles people have to go through when they enter this community. You can’t go into polyamory thinking like a monogamous person; that kind of mindset will only set you back.
The mindset of monogamy is based on scarcity. Monogamous people think in terms of: does this person belong to someone else? Which lover is the “real” one? Will I feel special if there are other people involved? These are the kind of questions that pop up.
Polyamory, on the other hand, is based on abundance. The issue is that you don’t have enough time to share your love with everyone and be intimate with everyone all the time. But there’s no limit to the love you give and the people you share it with. This is why changing your mindset is very important going in.
2. Determine Your Weaknesses
You must know your weaknesses and quirks. It’s essential that you know yourself on a deep level, so not only the good stuff but the not-so-good stuff as well. We all have quirks, anxieties, doubts, insecurities, etc., but it’s important to come to terms with those things.
Know your limitations, know your weaknesses, and it will be easier for you to transition into polyamory because you’ll be honest about who you are. It’s not just about having a lot of love to give and being able to share it with others, it’s about being transparent and truthful with everyone you meet.
Be responsible for your shortcomings and you’ll find they don’t have to be a burden or a secret. People may learn to love you as you are, but that’s not possible if you’re constantly hiding the parts of yourself you’re less proud of.
3. Learn to Communicate Effectively
Communication is a huge part of polyamory. If you’re jumping into the polyamory wagon with a partner, you need to talk about this extensively. You need to learn to communicate a lot more effectively than before. Being honest and open is essential to the success of your polyamorous relationship.
You can’t assume things about each other in this context. If you do, it will become a problem later on, it will increase the possibility of issues, misunderstandings, and other negative things.
So, talk! Talk about everything. Talk about your limits, your boundaries, your desires, and determine not only with whom you’d like to have a relationship, but also what kind of relationship you want to have. Talk about your hopes, fears, expectations, and anxieties. The more you communicate, the easier it will be to transition into this new lifestyle.
4. Make Friends with Polyamorous People
Making friends with polyamorous people is a huge part of what it means to take things slow. Look for friends first, and then look for potential partners. You want to be able to talk to people who have been doing this for a while and who have found their rhythm. There’s a lot you can learn from polyamorous people who have been in the game longer than you.
Reach out to poly couples you think you can bond with and start a conversation. Learn as much as you can from them. And who knows, maybe that will lead to something else! But first, focus on friendship. Then, you can slowly try going to meetups and events for poly people. Soon enough you’ll be going on dates, but take your time!
My purpose here today was to provide a guide on polyamorous relationships and introduce you to as much information as possible. When you’re going into polyamory, knowledge is very important. I encourage you to continue learning! Read more articles, find books on the subject, listen to podcasts, reach out to poly couples online, join groups, etc., do whatever you can to immerse yourself and take it one step at a time.