Polyamorous Relationships: Dos and Don’ts

Polyamory is the practice of, or desire for, intimate relationships where individuals may have more than one partner, with the knowledge and consent of all partners.

Polyamory adds a significant layer of complexity atop the already complex job of managing a romantic relationship. Building good poly relationships doesn’t happen by accident; in addition to the normal challenges anyone in a traditional relationship will face, polyamory offers a few challenges of its own.

This is a simple guide to some of the dos and don’ts of polyamorous relationships. Of course, you’ll need the relationship skills that go along with any intimate interpersonal relationship as well!

Don’t keep score. Often, we may be tempted to try to turn multiple relationships into a tallying game. Fairness and compassion are worthwhile goals in any relationship, but as anyone knows, sometimes things don’t work exactly the way we expect them to.

Do understand that your needs have nothing directly to do with your partner’s other partner. Not everyone has the same needs, and happiness is found more easily in having your needs met than in having the same things as the people around you.

Don’t assume that polyamory will solve problems in your relationship. It can be a very potent and rewarding way to improve a good relationship, but it will expose the problems in a relationship, as well. It’s definitely not a good way to mend a damaged relationship.

Do pay attention to the state of a prospective partner’s existing relationships. If you are considering joining a person who is already in a relationship, take a good look at that relationship. If your partner can’t manage the problems in his or her existing relationship, your partner may not be able to manage any problems in yours.

Don’t take sides. There may be occasions when your partners have a disagreement. Regardless of how much you may or may not be able to help, it’s important not to take sides; a situation where one person feels ganged up on is destructive for everybody.

Do strive to be flexible. Many of the problems in polyamorous relationships stem from resource management. Flexibility and creativity can sometimes go a long way toward solving these problems.

Don’t assume the problem is polyamory.  Even traditional monogamous relationships can have problems with resource allocation, and even issues that may seem at first glance to be directly related to polyamory—jealousy, for instance—might still exist even in a monogamous relationship.

Do pay attention to the way you relate to your partner’s partners. Sometimes, your partner may love someone you yourself would not really choose to associate with. In times like that, it’s helpful to recognize that you are in a relationship with that person, even though your relationship may be indirect.

Don’t make assumptions about your relationship with your partner’s other partners. Sometimes, people may assume that anyone who is interested in a sexual relationship with their partner is also interested in a sexual relationship with them. It’s hard enough to find someone who is compatible with you, and it’s harder still to find someone who is compatible with both you and your partner.

Don’t assume polyamory makes you more enlightened. If you believe that you are better, more enlightened, or wiser because of your preferred relationship model, you may end up behaving carelessly.

Don’t make assumptions about your partner’s other relationships. When your lover takes another lover, it’s sometimes easy to make assumptions about the direction that relationship will take, or what they’re doing or experiencing together. Keeping a realistic assessment of your partner’s other relationships.

Do know what place you have to offer someone. It’s important that you know what it is you have to offer that new partner, and seek to provide a safe and secure space for that relationship to grow.

So do you have what it takes to be polyamorous?