Polyamory — as a healthy, socially acceptable alternative to monogamy — is increasingly prevalent. People who identify as polyamorous agree that despite the hardest parts about being polyamorous, it's still ideal if you're naturally inclined toward the lifestyle. Like any other relationship, a poly relationship requires mutual understanding among all those involved, as well as honest and effective communication about personal needs, desires, and boundaries.
Although non-monogamous by definition, polyamorous relationships can sometimes look like monogamous ones from the outside. The difference, though, is that a polyamorous person can engage in multiple, simultaneous relationships with individual partners.
"Someone who's polyamorous may have an anchor family they live with, a steady sweetie in another state, casual hookup buddies in their town, and friends they 'swing' with," Aida Manduley, sexuality educator and social worker, explained to Elite Daily earlier this month. The benefits of being polyamorous typically include more romantic flexibility, greater freedom of sexual expression, and less pressure to subscribe to norms like traditional relationship timelines.
Still, with so many moving parts, you can probably guess that it's not always easy to navigate polyamory, especially if you've only ever had monogamous relationships up until now. To satisfy my own personal interests and to help those of you who might have similar questions, I've gathered what most poly people deem the most difficult realizations you'll face if you embrace a poly lifestyle.
Polyamory isn't a cure-all for your relationship problems.
Poly is not going to fix a relationship in which you've been cheated on. Poly is all about trust, cheating is about lying, and you can't trust a liar.
It's not the root of your problems, either.
Polyamory is not the cause of the relationship problem.
Being polyamorous in a monogamous world is hard.
A lot of problems one might want to blame on polyamory arise because figuring out how to live in a world not designed for polyamory can be really hard. Helping folks learn to navigate that is probably more important than blaming polyamory.
People will form their own opinions of you, without attempting to understand your choices.
As a hierarchical anarchist I've been told that not attaching myself to someone in a classically romantic sense and operating more as friends or tribemates means that I'm keeping people at a distance and/or creating a series of mercenary arrangements. Just because I think of myself as an eternal singleton who has sex with friends doesn't mean that there isn't intimacy in my friendships. I wish that they wouldn't assume that because I'm a woman sleeping with multiple men that I must be insecure and seeking approval, or a potential homewrecker with mischievous intent.
Sometimes, even therapy isn't judgment-free.
I think a lot of us are looking for support. We can usually only tell a handful of people about our being poly. The last thing anyone needs is to feel like it is some type of disorder. For many of us, monogamy feels like a disorder. As a therapist, I think that it's important to make sure that someone who thinks they might be poly understands that it is an ethical, honest agreement and not just an excuse to cheat. Support them in being honest, support them in working through jealousy. Support them in being a good poly partner.
Time management is more important now than ever before.
Being poly has taught me a lot more respect for people's time. Both in scheduling time to spend with people, and valuing the time that they make available to me. In a closed couple, it can be so easy to take the incidental time you spend together for granted, or to neglect to carve our quality time to really focus on enjoying time together.
Jealousy is something you'll have to learn to deal with.
As this is my first spin on the non-monogamous ride, jealousy has roared up on me in ways that I hadn't felt since my youth. I got to a point in my late teens/early 20's where I simply realized: "Well, it doesn't change anything if I find someone else attractive, so why would it for him?", and that was the end of my jealousy. I was able to just let go if they strayed because I figured that if they were willing to risk our relationship by cheating then, so be it. "I hope it was worth it, because I'm out."
Now that I'm in this new territory, I'm terrified all the time and it's not pleasant to feel like I'm not enough. I "KNOW" I'm a great girlfriend and person, but to have it straight up in my face that someone else could just as easily be allowed in... it's a lot.
There is an infinite number of ways to define your own polyamorous relationships.
The aspect of poly that I wish everyone knew about is that there are virtually as many different styles as there are people.
Every monogamous relationship is the unique product of the interaction between two unique participants. Same goes for each branch of a polyamorous network.
No relationship is perfect. Know that it's normal for you to experience ups and downs in each of your romantic relationships, whether they're polyamorous or not.
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