There has been a lot of buzz surrounding polyamory for a while now. It’s mentioned and discussed in social media, it’s very common to find the term of dating profiles, and maybe the person you’re with is interested in it. Whatever the reason you’re here today, it’s likely you have a lot of questions about polyamory. To help you understand, we will discuss what it is, what it’s not, and we’ll get into the do’s and don’ts in case you’re interested in giving it a try!
The Basics of Polyamory
When people think of polyamory, they often think of orgies or group sex, but that’s a common misconception and we’d like to clear it up. We understand it makes sense to come to that conclusion, but the fact it’s just not true.
When we look at the meaning of the word “polyamory”, “poly” stands for “many” in Greek, and “amor” is Latin for “love.” Based on this, the idea remains very vague. Many and love put together can mean a lot of things; it may mean group sex, sure, but it’s a mistake to assume that’s what polyamorous means for all couples who engage in this way of life. The truth is polyamory can be experienced in a lot of different ways, and that’s the beauty of it.
Some couples prefer to keep their polyamorous relationship romantically and intimately exclusive, meaning they only have feelings for each other and they only enjoy the sexual company of other people, nothing more. Other couples may have feelings for other people and still have limits. And there are even some polyamorous couples who keep physical activity with others to the minimum (only kissing, touching, and maybe oral sex).
Couples decide together what their polyamorous relationship will be like, and this is done through open communication and complete honesty. Now that we’ve covered the basics, let’s take a look at the dos and don’ts of polyamory to expand that knowledge!
The DOS and DON’TS of Polyamory
DO Determine What You Want
This may sound very obvious, but you’ll be surprised how difficult it is to identify all the reasons you want to do something new, especially when it comes to your sexual experiences. Maybe you can’t see what you want clearly because of your upbringing, past trauma, or simply because you’re too stressed in your life to be emotionally awake.
Whatever is blocking you from connecting with yourself, you need to work through it, first and foremost. Introspection here is key; think about the experiences you’ve had and your past relationships. What did you enjoy most? What do you want from your next relationship? What needs do you want to fulfill?
You need to ask yourself these questions and many others if you want to get to the bottom of what you want and why you want it. It’s important that, if you decide to go into polyamory, you do it from a healthy and secure place. Polyamorous relationships are not a solution to any issues you may have, either with yourself or your partner.
Polyamory truly opens the door to many possibilities, both for single people looking to date more than one person or couples who want to invite someone else into the fold. In the end, you decide what you want your relationship to be by being honest and setting the limits and ground rules necessary to make things work in an effortless, fun, and exciting way.
DON’T Force Things to Happen
If you’re feeling super excited and you can’t wait to get to know a lot of different people, then you’re starting on the right foot. The key here is to remember you’re interacting with other people. It’s real life, it’s not a fantasy. What I mean by that is that not everything will work out as you expect it to. Sometimes you like someone, and they don’t like you back. Sometimes you think you know someone, and it turns out you don’t.
That’s okay! It’s just the way it works, no matter what kind of relationship you’re looking for. Sometimes finding the right people is not straightforward at all. This is why it’s important never to force things to happen. If something’s not working out, be honest with yourself and with your dates. Take things slowly, take your time to know the people you think you want to be with and pay attention.
DO Be Open and Communicative
Communication is one of the building blocks of polyamorous relationships. They simply can’t exist without open and clear communication between all the people involved. Unfortunately, we don’t have mind-reading powers and there’s also no script we can follow when it comes to these things.
Everyone involved in the relationship must speak their mind, be honest about what they want, about what they think, their feelings, doubts, and concerns, everything must be on the table. You shouldn’t leave any room for assumptions, because that’s how misunderstandings tend to happen. And more often than not, they escalate quickly.
As a rule, you don’t want to attach yourself to specifics. There may come a time where you’ll be interested in something and maybe your partner won’t be. In that case, you don’t want to make demands. There are other ways to meet your needs; you could do it with someone else. But if you come to that decision, make sure your partner is aware of it. Sometimes your partner will need to make compromises and sometimes you’re the one who will have to compromise. It’s all about finding a balance and getting to the bottom of your fantasies together.
It’s common for people to hold back on what they want. The fear of abandonment or rejection is real. But this is where communication makes a big difference. The more you open up to your partners, the more comfortable you’ll become expressing your needs and desires. Talk about your likes and dislikes, open the floor for your partners to do the same, and it will make your relationship better. Check in with each other often, never stop communicating, and you’ll be able to have a successful polyamorous relationship.
DON’T Feel Like You Can Do Whatever You Want
Just because a polyamorous relationship is non-monogamous, doesn’t mean you get to do whatever you want without regard for anyone else. Consent is what makes polyamory work; consent not just from your partner, but also from the people you bring into the relationship.
Within a polyamorous relationship, there’s a structure; there are rules and limits that you need to set as a couple before you get into the lifestyle. These rules and limits leave no room for mistakes that can potentially harm your relationship. Some couples agree to share feelings with other people, some couples don’t. Some couples are fine with having sexual relationships in the same bed they share with their partner, some couples are not. Sometimes couples go with the don’t-ask-don’t-tell approach, while others share everything.
No matter what kind of arrangement you find works best for you, the point is you can be in a committed relationship and be with other people while still being respectful. If you still haven’t discussed the rules and limits, you need to get to that ASAP. Never assume anything about each other, and put everything out there. It’s the only way to lay a solid foundation for a polyamorous relationship, so do it right!
DO Listen to One Another
Listening to one another is vital for a polyamorous relationship to work. Heck, it’s vital for any kind of relationship to work. Even if you don’t like what the other person may have to say, listen to them and be respectful of what they’re sharing. Give yourself time to process as well, don’t react immediately.
That won’t do anyone any good! If you react to something your partner has said before you even process the information, it will damage communication. It will make them feel like they’re not safe to speak their mind and they will shut down. So, make a habit of listening to each other with an open mind, and things will go a lot smoother.
DON’T Worry About Doing Polyamory “the Right Way”
There’s no “right” way to do this; the beauty of polyamory is that you can make your own version of it by adjusting it the way it works best for your relationship. You can talk to people in other polyamorous relationships and see how they make it work, but don’t think for a second you need to do things like anybody else.
Find your path, together. Do you want to have multiple partners? Do you want to keep things purely sexual or would you like to be intimate as well? What things make you uncomfortable? What things are you most open to trying? The answer to these questions will determine how polyamory will work for you and your partner. The things you want to do right are: communicate, listen, and have consent. The rest is up for interpretation.
DO Determine Your Levels of Risk
There are risks to sex, and we’re old enough to understand that. This is why you need to determine what level of risk you’re comfortable with. When I speak of risk, there are many things to consider. For example, birth control. Which method are you most comfortable with? How much intimacy can be shared with other partners? What level of control do you want to have?
These are all things you need to talk about together. You can’t assume how comfortable your partner may be with all this, and they shouldn’t assume anything about you either. Be honest and open with each other. Work on the foundation of consent and what everyone’s comfortable with, and go from there. The last thing you want to do in a polyamorous relationship is abuse power, so don’t just make decisions for the two; discuss them, and decide together.
DON’T Give Into Jealousy or Insecurity
This is the biggest don’t in polyamorous relationships. Jealousy can be common in this kind of scenario, mainly because it’s difficult to switch from a monogamous dynamic to something entirely different. It’s a big adjustment and it won’t be a breeze to navigate. What’s important here is to identify where these feelings of jealousy or insecurity are coming from.
Whatever it is, don’t keep it bottled up. Talk to your partner about it and be honest about your feelings. You will find a way to overcome your insecurities, but you need to do it at your own pace. Jealousy is sneaky and it can come from anywhere. Maybe you’re not comfortable and you’re keeping it to yourself. Maybe things are going too fast for you. Maybe you’re feeling a bit neglected by your partner.
Whenever you’re uncomfortable or are feeling something negative, try to figure out where it’s coming from. Once you do that, it will be easier for you to talk about it with your partner so you can find a solution to the issue. It’s natural to feel worried about certain things; just make sure you let your partner know. Just talking about it will be a relief, and you’ll allow them the opportunity to reassure you, to be honest, and clear your doubts.
Just keep this in mind: if you’re struggling with feelings and doubts like these, it doesn’t mean your poly relationship is failing. It just means you’re going through the learning curve. It’s not a sign you should give up, it’s simply a sign that you must address a few things.
DO Learn About Each Other’s Love Language
This is something you must do at the beginning of every relationship. Love language refers to the way people like to express and receive love in a relationship. If you’re not familiar with each other’s love language or you’re just been assuming what it is, this is the perfect opportunity to learn about it. Especially because you may want to set your limits on how you express love to other partners if that’s even allowed in your version of polyamory.
As you can see, there are many things to consider when it comes to polyamory. It’s not a light decision to make. But if you want to explore your sexuality and have different experiences, you can’t keep denying that part of yourself any longer. Speak up about it, discuss it with your partner, and determine together whether or not it’s worth a try.
Switching from a monogamous dynamic to a non-monogamous dynamic will not come naturally. Just remember, communication, honestly, clarity, and consent are the pillars of polyamory. You will have to learn and unlearn many things to make this work, so there’s a learning curve to it, but you will get through it if you understand what makes it work. Be patient with each other, and above all, be open!