Polyamory 101: What you need to know to get started opening your relationship

Polyamory 101: What you need to know to get started opening your relationship

It’s totally possible to have a healthy, loving relationship while practicing polyamory. Read what it takes to sort this out to make polyamory work.

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What is polyamory?

Polyamory simply means “many loves.” It’s a modern, reclaimed term compared to more outdated words with less agentic connotations, like “polygyny” and “polygamy.” It’s a term for people who want to express their desire to have more than one romantic relationship.

Polyamory can take many forms - it can mean having multiple relationships at once. It can mean having a primary partnership in which both partners have other partners or mean a relationship with more than one person involved. As you can imagine, sorting this out can get a bit complicated, so communication and trust is the central tenet of doing polyamory work.

Is monogamy “natural?”

Several books on the subject argue that monogamy is a social construction- that is, the mating-for-life thing humans do isn’t an innate tendency, but something that humans in our modern society do and so has become the cultural norm. The fact that non-monogamous societies exist and have existed throughout history proves that having only one mate isn’t the only way to live your life - and in fact, one could argue that our culture isn’t a monogamous one at all - serial monogamy seems to be the trend, as few people have only one partner throughout their whole life - and the fact that many people have multiple partners at one time also shows that monogamy isn’t the default setting for humans. Some social psychologists note that neither polyamory nor monogamy are innate, inherent mating strategies, but the result of environments. Either way, however, you want to love is up to you! As long as all parties are enthusiastically consenting, any way you love is the right way.

Polyamory Isn’t for Everyone

Modernly, people are questioning social constructions, rejecting norms, and embracing a polyamorous lifestyle. That said, if you find that you’re not interested in polyamory, or you try it and don’t like it, that doesn’t mean you’re any less liberated or adventurous than people who are. Human responses like jealousy and possessiveness are very real responses to the idea of sharing a partner, and as long as those emotions don’t become destructive, it’s natural to feel that way.

It’s totally possible to have a healthy, loving relationship while practicing polyamory. Conversely, it’s possible to practice polyamory for reasons that don’t contribute to your relationship in a loving and healthy way. You should feel content and satisfied in your current relationship, because if you’re trying to open things up to solve problems there, it’ll probably backfire. If you’re opening your relationship because you feel fear that your partner will leave you if you don’t, an open relationship won’t do anything to help dispel fears and insecurities. The best way to approach opening your relationship is with mutual love, respect and trust, and the knowledge that it’s a large ask to expect just one person to fulfill all your emotional, mental, and physical needs. Successful polyamory relies on parties who can truly be happy for one another that their partner is feeling fulfillment and love from a source outside themselves.

Trust & Communication

It’s messy and difficult to do polyamory without a lot of trust and communication between yourself, your partner, and your other partner(s). Before you open your relationship, it’s important to set boundaries and decide what everyone involved is okay with and what limits are. When dating or sleeping with more than one person, complete openness and honesty is paramount. Secrecy and omissions of truth are how feelings get hurt and trust goes by the wayside. It may feel uncomfortable or unnatural to communicate this much, but more is always better.

Opening Your Relationship

There are lots of different ways to “do” polyamory. Maybe you and your partner decide to have sex with other people - maybe it’s only oral sex or kissing; maybe it’s sex only and no romantic attachment. Maybe you both decide to form relationships with other people. Maybe you both decide to bring another lover into your relationship and form a throuple! Discuss before you open what type of relationship you’re both interested in. Be sure to also discuss safety measures if you are indeed having sex with other people.

So, after enough cautionary tales and disclaimers, why open your relationship?

Because… you get to have sex with more than one person. Or if your relationships aren’t sexual, you get to have more love in your life! Just like you have different friends that you enjoy different activities with, you can have lovers who fulfill different roles in your life. You may find that your relationships flourish, with less pressure on one person to serve all your needs.

Studies also show that people in polyamorous relationships actually have more sex with their primary partner than monogamous people. They also tend to enjoy a wider variety of sexual activities - within and without their primary relationship.There’s also something really liberating about simply being happy for your partner’s happiness, and finding joy knowing that they’re being taken care of while you have time and space to take care of yourself.

Let’s also face the facts - butterflies don’t last forever. As your primary relationship gives way to contented, secure companionate love, it’s easy to miss the fiery passion that can be found in the beginning phases of a new relationship. An open relationship allows you to have your cake and eat it too. You can enjoy the excitement and thrill of the chase; or explore specific interests that your primary partner may not be interested in.

As a result of the communication necessary to navigating an open relationship, you may also find that talking about everything comes easier, which can improve all sorts of aspects of your life. Your relationship may become stronger, as well as your friendships and even professional relationships. As you learn to express your desires, boundaries, and needs inside the bedroom, you may find an overall sense of improved command and freedom in all aspects of your life.