The more we grow as a society, the more people become interested in things that used to be considered taboo. For example, non-monogamous relationships have become a hot topic not only on social media but everywhere else. People are more open to discussing polyamory and other monogamy alternatives more freely.
That’s why today we’ll be discussing polyamory, how different it is from monogamy, swinging, open relationships, and, of course, cheating, and we’ll also talk about how people can adapt polyamory to their needs and desires.
Additionally, we’ll discuss how you can jump into polyamory, both as a single person and as a couple. Today’s article is meant to be a rundown of everything you’ve always wanted to know about polyamory so you can walk away with the basic knowledge you need to decide if this is the kind of lifestyle you want to pursue.
Before we get into today’s contact, we must be on the same page when it comes to the meaning of certain words we’ll be using quite a bit. As you already know, a relationship is how we become connected to other people. And there are many ways to do that, which is why there are so many types of relationships, based on both structure and dynamic.
We are social creatures, whether some need a bit less time for social interaction than others is irrelevant. The fact of the matter is we all need each other, we all enjoy having company in one way or another. This is why we have so many different relationships in life. There are family relationships, friendships, acquaintances, roommates, co-workers, and so much more. We even have a relationship with our local butcher or our trusty electrician.
Relationships come in many different structures and dynamics, and our commitment to them is defined by the context of those structures and dynamics. For example, you’re not going to swear undying love to your hairstylist or barber, but you are committed to sitting in their chair once every month. So, let’s take a moment to discuss the different types of relationships!
Types of Relationships
Monogamous relationships consist of two people who decide to be exclusive, sexually, intimately, and romantically. This is what society sees as a “normal” relationship, and it’s the norm we’re all pushed to conform to. Just as we’re conformed to being cisgender or purely straight.
Of course, there’s nothing wrong with monogamy or being cisgender or straight. The problem is when society tells us those are the only things we can be. No matter how hard society tries to make us all equal, the fact is we’re not! We don’t even eat ice cream the same way as everyone else. So, why should we be shamed into being, dating, having sex, or loving the same way?
All other relationships that involve more than two people are considered non-monogamous, including polyamory, swinging, and open relationships.
Open relationships consist of two people who decide to be sexually involved with people outside of the relationship. People in open relationships can have sexual relationships with other people both individually or together (threesomes, foursomes, orgies, etc.). The couple is romantically exclusive, meaning an open relationship is about sex and only sex.
Swinging consists of couples who decide to have sex with other couples and individuals as well. Known as “the lifestyle”, swinging is also just about having sexual connections with other people. The main couple remains romantically exclusive. Swinging has been around for a long time and there are swinger clubs, swinger parties, and even swinger cruises where people in the lifestyle get together and have fun.
It’s worth noting here that neither open relationships nor swinging should be confused with polyamory. In both of these types of relationships, there’s the main couple whose romantic relationship is exclusive. Everyone else is only an extra and there’s no commitment between them. The only commitment is to have a good time, but there’s no intimacy beyond sex.
We’ve finally arrived at the definition of polyamory. Polyamory is when a person can date, be committed to, or love more than one person. It’s different from the two non-monogamous relationships discussed above because the focus is not solely on sex. Polyamorous people build connections, they develop feelings for and make commitments to more than one person at a time.
Poly relationships work differently depending on the needs of the people involved. In polyamorous relationships, there are no secrets. Sure, they have boundaries, just like any other type of relationship, but there are also commitments and respect for everyone’s feelings and needs.
How Is Polyamory Not the Same as Cheating?
Cheating is when someone in the relationship disrespects the commitment you’ve made. If you were committed to being monogamous, and you’ve started relationships with other people, you’ve broken the trust your partner had in you. Cheating can also happen in non-monogamous relationships. For example, if you’re committed to being honest and keeping your work about the commitments you’ve made, you’re cheating.
The difference between polyamory and cheating is that polyamory is consensual and all parties are aware, cheating is the opposite. Not to mention it’s a clear break of trust and communication. If you think you have to hide anything from your partner, then something’s not right.
Breaking commitments and cheating are serious violations no matter what kind of relationship you’re in. If your partner has cheated before and you want to make your relationship open to prevent that, we have some news for you… It won’t work. If your partner can’t maintain just one commitment: faithfulness, they won’t be able to handle multiple ones, which is what a non-monogamous relationship requires.
There’s no such thing as a lack of commitment in non-monogamous relationships; in fact, it becomes more important than ever. So, if you think non-monogamy will save your relationship or fix your issues, you’ve got another thing coming.
How Is Polyamory Done?
As mentioned in the beginning, polyamory can be done in different ways. The structure and dynamic of your poly relationship will depend on the needs, desires, and situation of everybody involved in it. So, if you want to determine what works for you, you need to think of the structure and dynamic you need.
In a hierarchical poly relationship, the main couple is the primary relationship and all other relationships are secondary. Primary relationships are the priority in this scenario. Also known as primary/secondary relationships, this dynamic places a lot more responsibility and commitment to the primary relationship.
In this hierarchical scenario, primary relationships have a certain level of control over secondary ones. For example, a partner in the primary relationship will be able to veto a secondary relationship for whatever reason, usually a good one. This means the other partner won’t be able to have a secondary relationship with the person that has been vetoed.
On the other hand, a non-hierarchical poly relationship is very different. There’s no main relationship, so not one relationship will have power over the others. In this dynamic, all relationships are equal and they can grow freely, without being influenced by others.
Every relationship here works separately, there’s no veto power, and no one can control relationships they’re not directly involved in. Partners have an equal commitment, responsibility, and power in a non-hierarchical polyamorous relationship.
What Types of Structures Are There?
Now that we’ve discussed dynamics, let’s talk about structures. Again, there are many, and the one you choose for your poly relationship must be based on your needs and desires, as well as those of your partner.
The V structure consists of one person who’s in a relationship with two people, but these two people don’t have a relationship with each other. So, in this scenario, you’re dating John and Jane, but they’re not dating each other.
A triad is simple: there are three people involved and they’re all dating. So you, John, and Jane are all dating in this scenario.
A quad structure is when four people are involved in the relationship. It could be one person dating other three people or two couples dating each other, etc. These four people can be committed to one another in different ways.
This structure refers to a group of people who are dating each other exclusively. Meaning no other individuals are allowed in the structure. In other words, you can have monogamous or non-monogamous couples, triads, and quad relationships, so you’re exclusive to each other and no one else can be brought into the fold.
Single polyamory refers to the people who have relationships with other people, all separate, outside of a hierarchy and they make their independence a priority. In other words, these people don’t identify themselves as being a part of a couple, triad, etc., and value their autonomy a lot more than sharing their lives with other people.
It’s a little bit confusing at first, but as your understanding grows, you’ll be able to have a better sense of polyamorous structures. It’s worth noting that these are not the only options for structures. The structures are virtually limitless and you have the power to create your own.
How Can I Get Started?
Well, learning everything there is to know about polyamory is a big task. That’s why we want you to learn as much as possible today, so we’ve made sure to simplify things to provide a full picture. If you want to get started with polyamory, here are some of the things you need to do:
Research and Do Your Homework
If you’re serious about polyamory, the first thing you need to understand is that it will require a change of lifestyle. That means you have to do your homework! You need to read books, articles (wink, wink), listen to podcasts, go to events, join groups or clubs, reach out to people who have made the switch, etc. You must do everything you can do to gain a better understanding. Why? Because you need to be sure this is the right thing for you.
Fantasizing about it is one thing, taking it seriously is another thing entirely. You need to be introspective and also hash things out, whether with people you trust or with a therapist. This is not a game where you can do whatever you want with as many people as possible. This is about learning to think about relationships and experiencing them differently as well.
There’s also no rush! Take as much time as you need to gain as much understanding as possible, as much certainty as possible, and as much clarity about what you want and need as possible. You’ll have to work on many things, communication most of all, so start today, but do it at your own pace.
Practice Introspection and Self-Reflection
Getting into polyamory is the perfect time for introspection and self-reflection. After all, you must have a good understanding of yourself, of what you want, what you need, and what you’re seeking. It’s time to let go of the things other people want you to be. Think about what you want out of a poly relationship, think about the reasons you want to make this lifestyle change.
You also need to think about your past relationships. What did you like? What did you hate? What do you regret? What successes did you have? What worries or concerns did you use to have? Do you think you’ll have them again? It’s important to review your personal history because it affects the choices you make, whether you realize it or not. The more you figure out about yourself, the more issues you’ll save yourself in the future.
It’s important to remember that it’s not just about you. If you’re walking into polyamory as a single person, you still need to think about the people you’ll date. And if you’re walking into this with your partner, you need to think about their needs and concerns as well. You must determine what you’ll be able to provide in these relationships, how much time you’ll be able to invest, what kind of attachment you’re willing to have, etc.
Remember polyamorous relationships require work and effort. They will require not only time and energy, but also planning, honesty, open communication at all times, commitment, compromise, and so much more. And you would be doing that with more than one person. Of course, the structure of your poly relationship will depend on these factors (how much time and energy you have, what kind of commitment you’re looking for, etc.), which is why you need to be clear about them.
If you’re going into polyamory with your partner, the first thing you need to do is talk about how interested you are in this and be on the same page about it. If you’re not on the same page about polyamorous, then you’re not polyamorous. It’s important you’re both enthusiastic and excited about it, if not, things might not work out for you two.
Being reluctant about polyamory is not how you want to get things started. No one should be coerced or manipulated into this; so if you want to get into polyamory but your partner doesn’t, you don’t have any control over it. If that’s the case, you must decide whether you want to continue being monogamous or end your current relationship.
But if you’re both on the same page and you’re very excited about trying out polyamory, then you’re starting things off on the right foot. However, there are still many things you need to reflect as a couple. Polyamory is not about spicing things up, other people will be involved and that means being considerate of their lives and their feelings.
As a couple, you need to discuss the type of relationship you want to have together and with other people. Reflect honestly on your feelings, needs, and desires. Also, be realistic about the way you’ve been able to deal with change in the past. Your relationship will evolve as a result, so talking honestly and openly right from start will make your journey easier.
As you can see, there’s a lot that goes into polyamory. This is why this can’t be stressed enough: you need to learn as much as polyamory as you can. There’s no way to go around it.
The more you know, the easier it will be to put things into practice. Not only that, it will be easier to explain to other people, such as family and friends who are curious about your change in dynamic.
Also, take it slow. This is not a race for anyone! There’s no rush here, so start by reaching out to other polyamorous people, then go to parties, join clubs, etc. Do things in stages and you’ll find the process will be a lot easier.