What Is Polyamory and How Does It Work?

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People express love in different and unique ways, and no relationship dynamics is the same. While monogamy seems to be more socially acceptable, many people are coming out with the fact that they want something more than what one person can possibly give. This is why polyamory and having a relationship with more one person seems to be a topic of discussion these days.

Polyamory

Polyamory involves being in an open sexual and romantic relationship with more than one person at a time with the consent of all parties involved. People who are polyamorous could be gay, lesbian, heterosexual, bisexual or transgender. There are different combinations of sexual orientations and gender identities that exist in a polyamorous relationship.

While polyamorous relationships are unconventional and may be equated to having an open relationship, they are however not the same thing. And open relationship involves two committed partners agreeing to have sex with other people while not necessarily having any emotional attachment with those people. Polyamory also differs from bigamy which involves marrying more than one person at the same time. Bigamy is illegal in western societies, although it is still practiced in some others.

One of the things that make polyamorous people unique is that they more often than not reject the social construct that is marriage and staying with a single partner for a lifetime. Values such as fidelity, loyalty, communication, trust and honesty which usually are guidelines for monogamous relationships mean entirely different things to polyamorists.

For instance, polyamorists define fidelity not as sexual exclusivity to one partner but as being faithful to the agreements made about a relationship. Polyamory offers release from the monogamist expectation that a single person must meet all of an individual’s needs (sex, emotional support, primary friendship, intellectual stimulation, companionship, social presentation).

Increasing publicity about polyamory and other forms of non-monogamous relationships have given people – majorly of the younger generation – more options to choose from. However, polyamory is not as easy as it seems. Of all the forms of non-monogamy which include Swinging and open relationship, polyamory is the most difficult in terms of communication and negotiation necessary to sustain it. If you think having a single boyfriend or girlfriend is hard, imagine having multiple partners with each of them being aware that you are with someone else. It may seem like an arduous task.

Pros and Cons

The advantages of being in a poly relationship are numerous. You are allowed to have different partners with their diverse realities and experiences, and this gives rise to new shared experiences and adventures. You never have to worry about breaking anyone’s heart or cheating because it is a consensual agreement by all parties involved.

Polyamory also creates a room for a greater support system. Your physical and emotional needs are attended to by your partners and not just dependent on a single person. This gives space to love more people and be loved in return.

There is, however, a downside to polyamory. Since monogamy is the norm in many societies and religions; it is not socially acceptable to have different partners. Your friends and family may judge you harshly for your decision to be in a poly relationship.

Furthermore, while polyamory ensures a more significant support network, it also means you will be dealing with different people and their problems, and this could burn you out. Balancing several partners with their needs and schedules is one of the most challenging aspects of polyamory. Some partners may have more needs than others and finding a solution which leaves everyone happy may prove difficult.

Dos and dont’s for a happy polyamorous relationship

It is agreed that polyamory is not for everyone, it requires extreme emotional intelligence and self-control to pull off. Since polyamory does not follow the mainstream definition of what a relationship should look like, the logistics involved are somewhat different and confusing to those who are willing to embark on it.

Although it is generally agreed that each polyamorous relationship is in its way and different from others, certain basic guidelines ensure a happy poly relationship.

Know Yourself

Because polyamory may seem attractive and trendy especially among millennials, many may choose to go into it without being informed about what it entails. Knowing yourself is beneficial because it would enable you to understand your needs, boundaries, capabilities and priorities. Honesty is a huge deal in polyamory, and it will be difficult to be honest in a polyamorous relationship if you are not honest with yourself.

Don’t Coerce People Into Your Relationship

Sometimes, people—especially people who are already part of an established couple—decide the sort of relationship they want and then try to force another person to fit into that relationship. Humans are complex creatures, and every person will have his or her ideas and desires and needs in a relationship. Trying to force a person in a box hardly ever works.

Give each a chance to express themselves; you are having a relationship, not looking for extras! Pay attention to what the relationship is telling you, instead of trying to force it to be something specific.

Understand Consent

In any relationship – whether sexual, emotional or otherwise – consent is the most important. Ensuring that all parties involved willingly participate in a polyamorous relationship at the most basic level is necessary. It is a common theme in poly communities where some heterosexual men want the licence to freely have sex with other women without any guilt and badger their current partner into initiating a poly relationship with another woman.

The women, in turn, try it begrudgingly because the price of saying no is too high. It becomes comical when the relationship self-destructs due to the woman having more dates while the man finds it hard getting new partners.

Don’t Let Problems Sit

Although addressing problems is never comfortable, resentment is a very addictive drug. There is the risk of letting small problems snowball and become great when you don’t tackle them at the initial stage, and this is true for not only in relationships but also life in general.

Learning to be open and honest about problems is very important. Be self-aware enough to query any negative emotions you may feel at any point in your relationship. Ask yourself what is bothering you and learn the necessary tools to bring this up with your partner(s) before the problems grow and fester.

Pay Attention to the State of your Potential Partner’s Existing Relationship

Before entering any poly relationship, it is in your best interesting to take a critical look at your prospective partner’s current relationship. How good are they at communicating? How well do they solve problems that may arise? While we may wish to have the power to look at the future of a relationship, it is impossible to do so. However, if your partner cannot manage problems in their relationship, it is a sign that they are likely not able to handle problems in yours. Sometimes, people who have problems in their existing relationship may seek new partners to fix their problems and this hardly ever works.

Anticipate Jealousy

It is a given that there will come a time when jealousy will arise. How you handle this issue is vital for a successful poly relationship. Before initiating a poly relationship, it is best to consider how jealousy affects you. Are you a very jealous individual? How do you cope with jealousy in your daily life? If you have a personality that struggles with jealousy then a poly relationship might not be for you. It will stress not just you but also others in the relationship.

Be Flexible

Flexibility is essential to any relationship, be it monogamous or polyamorous. Polyamorous relationships are more complex however because there are several people involved as opposed to monogamy that involves just two people. Polyamory requires flexibility and creativity as there are times when that person’s attention will be divided. Flexibility involves time management and knowing how to be flexible in a manner that solves the problem is a great asset in any relationship.

This article is for educative purposes only and not to be substituted for professional medical advice.

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