What I wish I'd known about polyamory
November 6th, 2023
The advice I would give my pre-poly self.
A few years back, I’d never have believed that today I’d be in a happy, committed throuple relationship. Like a lot of people, I had only ever considered monogamy, and even would have gone so far as to say I didn’t think polyamory could work. But I’m now almost two years into a three-way relationship, and although I can remember the prejudices I might have held in the past, it’s difficult to relate to those views today. My outlook on life has definitely changed as a result of my relationship. I’ve changed as a person (I think in a good way) and I’m definitely still learning.
One of the tricky things about polyamory is that it’s often misunderstood and misrepresented. I’m thinking here of shows like You, Me, Her (which is basically a textbook of what NOT to do) and the arguably problematic Sex/Life which positions monogamous relationships as the only truly valid choice. As a person exploring polyamory, whether that’s through a throuple or quad or any other group dynamic, in an open relationship or other form of ethical non-monogamy, or even if you’re just curious about options outside of monogamous coupledom, it’s easy to be led astray by harmful misinformation. There really isn’t that much out there to guide us polyamorous folks. During my journey, I’ve worked a few things out (disclaimer: largely by making it up as I go along). Here are the things I’ve figured out, that I wish I’d known sooner.
Your choices are valid and you're not doing anything wrong
When you start exploring polyamory it can be nerve-wracking because you feel like you’re doing something that is so completely ‘other’, something that really goes against society’s standards. ‘Whoah, can we really do this?’, will be the question. And the answer is: ‘Hell yeah, you can!’ As long as your approach is consensual and you’re considering the feelings of everyone involved, your own approach to polyamory, however that is constructed, is valid.
Unless you are living in a country that criminalises LGBTQ people, you are not doing anything illegal. This is important to remember because the guilt and shame that can crop up around polyamory can trick our brains into thinking we’re doing something wrong, or that we somehow deserve judgement or prejudice. We don’t, and never will, deserve to be treated badly by people who don’t share our views on polyamory.
Polyamory takes work (maybe more than monogamy)
All healthy and happy relationships take work. This is true for monogamy too. People in relationships need to communicate, and keep communicating, if they want their relationship to grow and to stay strong.
The simple difference in a polyamorous situation is this: there are now more people with whom you need to communicate. This takes mental and emotional energy, so be ready for that. Even if you’re looking for casual experiences, you need to treat other humans with respect and sometimes that involves addressing a person’s feelings and having open, honest conversations. If you’re uncomfortable doing that, think carefully about whether polyamory is really for you.
You’ll learn a lot about yourself
It’s important when exploring polyamory to check in with yourself a lot. And I mean, A LOT. Like, daily. Know your boundaries and why you have them, but at the same time remain open to change. Only you can tell you if you’re happy.
Poly therapists are a thing There are a whole bunch of therapists specialising in polyamory. These include relationship therapists who you can see with your partner(s) to work on your relationship(s) together, as well as therapists who can work individually with people exploring polyamory in various forms. As a poly person, it’s really important to find a therapist who gets it and who isn’t going to see your relationship and lifestyle in a negative way.
You’ll get bored of answering the same questions (but do keep answering them)
Here are the top three questions people ask about my relationship:
- But what about jealousy?
- So… how does it work?
- So where is it going?
These questions all come from the fact that monogamy is centred as the norm. People want to know how a relationship between three people fits in with their (monogamous) view of what relationships look like. These questions are boring, but I have ready answers to all of them that I rattle off. It’s important to be patient when people question your dynamic. Help them to understand, and to see why it works for you. Don’t try to convert everyone to polyamory (it’s not for everyone) but focus on the positives and specifics of your relationship(s). Explain how you came to think the way you do: chances are you shared some of the same prejudices in the past and explaining how and why you overcame these can help other people to understand better. Check out our guide on explaining polyamory to friends and family for more tips on this.
The future is bright
I’m very lucky to live in an open-minded and liberal area, where LGBTQ people are not only accepted but celebrated. I appreciate that not everyone is so fortunate. But, the more I talk about polyamory (and other alternative relationship styles) the more I believe that a shift is coming. Polyamory is being more widely talked about than ever before. So if you feel like an outsider now, it might not be for long. Keep doing you.
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