Polyamory has become very common in conversation today, so people are more and more interested in it. Luckily for everyone who’s wondering how polyamory works and wants to know more about it, there are tons of resources online.
However, it can be overwhelming to go through everything, so today we bring you Polyamory 101. A basic guide that will teach you everything you’ve ever wanted to know about polyamory in a way that’s not stressful.
We’ve made it easy to digest because we want you to leave with a clear picture and a strong foundation so you can move on and learn more about it down the line. Without further ado, let’s get into Polyamory 101. Get comfortable, grab a snack, and take notes if you need to!
Polyamory: A Definition
Polyamory is truly a wonderful thing; it’s complex and nuanced, and people can create their own versions of it. But to be precise, polyamory is a type of ethical non-monogamy where people have the consent of everyone involved and everything’s out in the open. How polyamory is done will depend on the people practicing it; there’s no right way to go about it, no rule book to follow.
Polyamorous relationships all have one thing in common, though: communication. They’re extremely open about everything because communication is one of the building blocks of this kind of dynamic. Without communication, there’s no way a poly relationship can survive. Intense honesty is also a huge part of it. A poly relationship can be about being intimate and have other loving relationships or it can be only about the sex; it’s completely up to the people involved and what they want out of it.
For many, polyamory is not really a choice, it’s a sexual orientation, just like being gay, lesbian, or bisexual. In other words, it’s a part of their identity. For others, polyamory is a choice based on the kind of lifestyle they want for themselves. No matter which of these two categories you belong to, know that polyamory is a lifestyle and there are many people out there who live it happily and proudly.
If you’ve figured out that you’re polyamorous, it’s an exciting realization, as exciting as discovering a new belief. You’ll feel inspired to know every single thing, discuss with people in the know, and share your knowledge with like-minded folk. If you’re already in a relationship as you discover this, you need to take it slow. Your partner may not be as excited as you are about this, at least not at first, so you want to tread lightly.
Do You Think Polyamory Is for You?
If you truly think polyamory is for you and it’s what has been missing in your life, this is the perfect opportunity to evaluate not only yourself but also the relationship you’re in. If you’ve never discussed any kind of non-monogamy with your partner, they might be taken by surprise and be a bit distrustful about it.
However, you must be honest with them about your desires. Reassure them that your love for them hasn’t changed; it’s just you want to try something new, with them. You should know the poly journey to come is not easy. It’s not easy to switch from monogamy to non-monogamy; the dynamics are very different and there’s a learning curve.
This is why you’ll need all the help you can get. Counseling is a great way to handle the transition and avoid as many common issues as possible. To give you a better idea, here are the possible scenarios of admitting you’re poly and you want to give it a try:
Your partner comes to terms with it and is on board with a poly relationship
Once you come out and you discuss things openly with your partner, it may come a time where they decide they also want to give polyamory a try and come on board with a poly relationship. If this is the case for you, it’s important you start discussing your boundaries and rules for each other. This is done through communication.
Talk openly about your expectations and the things you wouldn’t be comfortable with. You must talk about this more than you’ve ever talked about anything else in your lives together. Nothing can be left up to chance and you can’t make assumptions about each other when it comes to these things.
Make sure you check everything in with each other and discuss everything, from the gender of your partners, to whether or not you’d like to be romantically involved with them, and everything in between. Whenever you two agree on something, both parties need to stick to your word. Otherwise, you will create distrust, and as you know, it’s difficult to come back from that.
Your partner is monogamous but agrees that you should explore polyamory
This is known as a “mixed-orientation relationship”, where one of you is allowed to be polyamorous while the other remains monogamous. It’s difficult, for sure, but it’s possible and many people can make it work. Again, through honesty, boundaries, and communication.
You or your partner decide the relationship should end
Leaving someone you love and you’ve shared many moments with is one of the most difficult things in life. However, people grow and change, and sometimes being with the wrong person can hold you back. If that’s the case, walking away is the healthiest thing for both.
You decide your relationship matters more than your curiosity
For some people, the bond they share with their partner is a lot more important than exploring polyamory (if their partner is not on board with it). That’s a very personal, very valid choice. However, it’s a decision you must consider very carefully. You don’t want to sacrifice something very important to you for someone else’s happiness. Sacrifice can lead to resentment, and resentment will end your relationship.
Admitting that you’re poly to your partner can be a bit nerve-wracking. However, it’s something you must do. If you think you’re poly or you at least want to try it out, you need to tell your partner. Prepare for the worst and expect the best. Think about the scenarios explained above and determine if you would be okay with each of them. Just breathe, and be honest. It will all be okay no matter what happens!
My Partner Is Polyamorous, What Happens Now?
If you were not the one initially interested in polyamory, but your partner has confessed that they are, it can be a shock. So, take a moment to feel whatever it is you’re feeling. Take as much time as you need to think about what they told you and how you feel about it.
If you’re the one that confessed their polyamory, have patience! Your partner may need a moment, especially if you’ve never even joked about being with other people. You’re dropping a bomb on them, so give them the time they need. They may not be on board with it right away, but let them know you want to talk about this. Also, reassure them of the bond you have and the feelings you share. These things have not changed for you, and it’s important they know that.
Whatever your situation may be, whether you’re the one interested in polyamory or not, you need to take your time to acknowledge each other. Pat yourself on the back for being honest with your partner even though it puts you in such a vulnerable position. And be grateful to your partner for being respectful and listening, even if they do need some time to process things.
If you’re on the receiving end of the poly bombshell, you should also thank your partner for coming forward. It would have been so much easier for them to just ignore their desires and move on, but they would be unhappy as a result and it would lead to many issues in the relationship as well. So, acknowledge their bravery and thank them for their honesty and the trust they’ve placed upon you.
Are Polyamorous Relationships Successful?
Polyamorous relationships can indeed be very successful. In fact, people who have jumped into it and made it their lifestyle claim their relationship has grown stronger as a result, they’re also happier and they’ve shared many wonderful moments together.
However, when either of you is unable to change and grow, to make compromises, and to learn how to be poly, you will have issues and the relationship simply won’t work. If you’re dishonest with each other, close-minded, and hold onto traditional beliefs, there’s no way you can make polyamory work.
Polyamorous relationships require change; it’s a transition. You can expect your poly relationship to work if you want everything to stay the same. That’s the challenge of poly relationships: making it work and being willing to make the necessary changes. None of which can be possible without trust and communication!