If there’s any concept worthy of exploration, it’s love… in all its odd forms. Or, perhaps not so odd as others believe them to be.
Have you ever heard of a polyamorous relationship?
With a vast presence of numerous myths, or if you’ve just recently heard about it for the very first time, there’s a possibility you currently have concepts in your head that have nothing to do with polyamory.
But, we’re here to abandon every myth, offer you a concise definition, and gain an understanding of polyamorous relationship rules.
What do the rules encompass? Or, is that something only poly people can decide? How many polyamorous relationship types are there? If you wish to understand the concept of polyamory and all its elements, or are perhaps just a poly person in need of empathy, don’t flee. We’re about to provide you with both.
So, what is polyamory?
The very term offers a lot of insight into what the meaning may be. Perhaps you are already familiar with the fact that ‘poly’ means ‘more than one’, and ‘amor’ means ‘love’.
See also: Why Polyamory Is Bad: 11 Honest Reasons
What is a polyamorous relationship?
Essentially, polyamorous relationships are those in which a person is involved with more than one romantic partner. Its primary characteristic is precisely romance.
It is not about excessive sexual desire
Poly people opt for more intimate relationships, but those relationships do not necessarily involve sex the same way that monogamous ones do.
For instance, you can be both an asexual polyamorist and a promiscuous polyamorist. The latter may be especially curious about polyamorous relationships, but those who don’t belong in that group aren’t interested any less.
In any case, polyamorous individuals actually tend to care about sexual health and use all necessary safety precautions.
But, this myth makes it seem like polyamory is all about sex. This is an issue due to society’s constant and strenuous efforts in strengthening our belief that monogamous relationships are ideal, and that we simply CANNOT love more than one person simultaneously.
Can you really love more people?
Most certainly, yes. The truth is that monogamy has been the norm for as long as we can recall, and people aren’t accustomed to breaking firmly established rules very easily.
There are numerous concepts that were once considered forbidden topics of both conversation and practice, such as the tendency towards same-sex relationships.
But, they are slowly becoming normal in the eyes of people as they should be. People prone to the polyamorous relationship style, on the other hand, have a more difficult time accomplishing this.
We had basically been children bearing witness to stories about the one true love, a man and a woman being infatuated with each other, and eventually having their perfect ending.
The idea of a third person, let alone more than that, has always been out of the question.
We were taught that we can and should pour all our love into only one individual because how could we possibly be committed to a lot of people? Commitment doesn’t function like that. Or, does it?
How do you define commitment?
The Cambridge dictionary does it this way: ‘’willingness to give your time and energy to a job, activity, or something that you believe in.’’
Are you really obliged to give your full energy to only one person if you feel like you have more love to give, and even more you wish to receive? What about people with more than just one friend? Would you ever ask them: ‘’Why, how do you manage to love all your friends at the same time?’’
You really CAN “give your time and energy’’ to multiple romantic partners. You are allowed to practice polyamory and fully enjoy it if that’s what you’re inclined to do. If you are a person who is more prone to monogamy, or just one friend, that’s perfectly fine, too.
Poly people are perfectly capable of true intimacy despite the number of their partners. The relationships they build aren’t any less meaningful only because they don’t involve a single partner.
Your wishes are valid
A lot of polyamorous people feel like they are disturbed in some way. It’s almost impossible not to be filled with guilt and shame when society never rests in its efforts to make you feel that way.
But, such emotions are perfectly understandable. Allow them to exist because you have enough on your plate anyway.
Even if you don’t accept your feelings or actions right now, eventually, you will. Just remember – if the world refuses to offer you gentleness, you need it from yourself all the more.
Should you join a polyamorous community?
Were you tempted by the idea of adultery, but hesitant in turning it into reality? Or, perhaps you and your partner were having grave relationship issues, and it occurred to you that the answer might just be polyamory?
It may also be that you don’t consider polyamorous relationships all that fulfilling. In fact, they make you feel unworthy and unloved, but nevertheless, you stay.
All of the aforementioned motivations for practicing polyamory are nothing but unwise and potentially hurtful.
If you feel that you can’t live your life in the absence of your significant other, and you decide to try polyamory for his/her sake, you should probably put an end to your relationship.
Because this means that you have utterly different needs. What your partner wishes for is a greater amount of love, which, in their eyes, one individual cannot provide. And, you prefer being committed to only one person.
You are both entitled to your wishes, but neither of you should abandon them to please the other person because that would only leave you with dissatisfaction. Gather your inner strength and depart from the relationship.
Whichever of the two you are, when it comes to your happiness, you should take the matter into your own hands, but also acknowledge that you are accountable if you hurt the other person without thinking of what they need.
Furthermore, if you’re of the opinion that accepting polyamory will make your relationship problems vanish, you’re looking at it in the wrong way.
Are polyamory and monogamy really that different?
At their very core, they are both about mutual respect and love. If you’re struggling with finding that in monogamy, it’s unlikely you’ll encounter it in polyamory.
It’s also not uncommon for people to think that a polyamorous relationship is directly linked to infidelity. But, poly people are actually completely frank with each other. It doesn’t constitute cheating because that would require the truth to be concealed from your partner(s).
This particular type of relationship, on the other hand, is all about openness. Each person is aware that other connections exist in their partner’s life.
They may decide to share intimate details or keep them to themselves. The concept of privacy is ever-present, and each couple has their own boundaries.
Perhaps you don’t want to know about your partner’s other intimate relationships, but they want to know about yours.
Or, it might just be comfortable for all of you to spend time together.
Sometimes, one partner doesn’t want to hide that he’s in a polyamorous relationship, but the other is not ready to share due to the fear of judgment, and the decision of the latter should be taken into consideration.
Polyamorous relationship rules:
Boundaries do vary from one individual to another, but the main polyamorous relationship rules never alter.
And, what are those?
Perhaps you’ve already comprehended the topic to answer this question yourself, but assistance will be offered.
Respect your partner’s boundaries
One of the ground rules of polyamory is hidden precisely in the previous paragraph – fully respecting each other’s established needs, or lack thereof.
If you selfishly claim that your partner is obliged to fulfill your own need while you don’t take into consideration how he/she feels about it, you may want to reconsider your ways.
It is understandable how difficult this can be as well, but the key is holding yourself accountable and improving your behavior, which will ultimately lead to a healthier relationship.
Consent is necessary
The next grand rule of polyamory, and undeniably the most relevant one, is consent.
This is a very delicate topic nowadays, and while it deserves all the attention it gets, we will only focus on its aspect within the boundaries of polyamory, whose synonym is actually consensual non-monogamy.
It’s important to bear in mind that each partner in a polyamorous relationship gives their consent, and this is precisely why it functions well.
Each individual is not just willing, but also more than happy to engage in multiple relationships, all the while fully respecting everyone they are committed to.
All partners can be treated equally and co-exist together in relationship anarchy, but most of the time, the poly person commits more to one relationship than the others.
They are called primary and secondary partners. But, even despite that there is a lack of equality, mutual respect, and love, each relationship is carefully nurtured depending on what they need.
Polyamorous relationships types:
In this type of polyamorous relationship, people tend to love and commit to more than one partner while still keeping their independence intact. They are neither sharing the same roof with their partner nor depending on/helping each other financially.
This doesn’t make the relationship any less valuable. On the contrary, the person who is inclined towards solo polyamory derives power from their independence, which helps them maintain healthy intimate relationships.
This type of polyamory is perfect for you if you don’t mind spending quality time with your partner’s partner(s). Feelings of awkwardness don’t exist. It’s rather just all parties co-existing in harmony and acceptance.
The meaning is fairly evident in the very term – it involves three people. It’s either one person having an intimate relationship with the other two people, or them all being intertwined.
This type of relationship is similar to the throuple. It only concerns four parties, and they may or may not all be involved with each other.
When it comes to this particular type of polyamory, the partners know of each other’s secondary partner(s), but aren’t really involved with them in any way.
This is a very specific type of polyamorous relationship, and it involves numerous people all being romantically intertwined with each other.
This is another very important relationship structure. It consists of more than two romantic partners who are equally important to one another, and who, interestingly enough, dismiss anyone outside of their circle.
The poly-mono relationship
In this type of relationship, only one partner is a polyamorist whereas the other has no other romantic relationship.
This can happen for various reasons. For instance, one partner wants a strictly romantic relationship whereas the other one is driven by sexual desire, and starts seeking sexual relationships that he can’t have with his primary partner.
Doesn’t this lead to extreme jealousy?
Naturally, polyamorists do get jealous and possessive over their partners, but they have a very different approach than monogamists.
When they notice such negative feelings, they refuse to be overwhelmed by them, but rather, proceed to observe them critically. Whether they succeed or not is of less importance than them actually striving to overcome them.
Maybe you don’t possess magical powers that will erase your thoughts or emotions, but you can still fight for the happiness of your significant other(s) as well as for the overall health of your relationships.
Process what you feel in solitude, or discuss it with your partner. In case you find yourself struggling more each day, maybe you ought to look elsewhere. Concealing your true emotions will only worsen the problem and lead to resentment.
Love yourself more
It’s possible to love someone but still manage to leave them because sometimes, love is not enough, and your wishes don’t collide. Refuse to succumb to self-sacrifice no matter how great your love is.
Choose inner peace and seek a monogamous relationship if you can’t deal with the jealousy, and let your partner be happy with his/her metamour(s), a.k.a., other partners.
But, if such negative feelings are absent, and you feel genuine joy to see your partner in a state of happiness, you are experiencing compersion.
This kind of emotional relationship greatly differs from those that people mistake for polyamory.
What is NOT polyamory
Polyamory vs polygamy
The first on the list is polygamy. Evidently, both terms include the same prefix, that is, ‘poly’, so it’s quite understandable that this may create confusion among people, even though the suffix of polygamy literally means ‘marriage’.
So, the focus is essentially on marrying more than one person, and it typically refers to men because throughout history, they have been the ones marrying several women.
Polyamory, on the other hand, is a romantic relationship. It’s not created out of the desire to dominate and exert power, but rather, to experience genuine emotional connection.
Nevertheless, not everything fits into a box. Polyamorous individuals may have corrupted motivations as well, just like those belonging to any other group, but at its very core, polyamory is about love.
Polyamory vs open relationships
Partners who are prone to consensual non-monogamy are even more often associated with those who are in open relationships.
It’s very important to differentiate between these two types because they are very distinct. As previously stated, polyamorists only want to create a safe space in order to provide each other with the intimacy they so dearly crave; each party giving consent and being aware of the other.
Open relationships, on the other hand, are all about casual sexual intercourse with no romantic attachment. Partners in this type of relationship would probably consider it utterly unacceptable for their partner to feel something for anyone else because they perceive commitment through different lenses than poly people.
But, then again – not necessarily.
Polyamory vs swinging
Swingers are commonly linked to polyamorists as well. They are usually couples seeking other couples in order to have casual sex. While these two concepts do differentiate, people may sometimes be categorized as both swingers and poly people, for instance, if polyamorists develop feelings for their sexual partners.
P.S. Some people think that polyamory is also a sexual orientation. Despite this being inaccurate, certain polyamorists tend to disagree while others consider it merely a way of living. It may even be perceived as a direct connection to one’s sexual identity.
This is not the end of polyamory misconceptions….
As aforementioned at the beginning of this article, nonmonogamous relationships are still a very forbidden topic in society. People disapprove of the lifestyle that these people lead.
This is why they sometimes deprive polyamorous families of employment, or even children if they’re fighting for custody. They perceive them as incompetent parents with a bad influence, the same way they do people from the lgbtq+ community.
But, the truth is that such components are irrelevant when it comes to raising children. There are many factors that impact the child’s personality.
What’s crucial is a parental figure who will create a safe environment for the child to exercise their personal freedom in. Monogamous people aren’t necessarily good nor necessarily bad parents either.
No one will ever criticise a parent for being verbally abusive and ensuring that the child grows up to be deeply traumatized. But, when a parent is a polyamorist, everybody judges them without question because they dared to cross the boundaries that society has imposed on them.
All in all
A polyamorous relationship has many types, and each partner is an individual in need of different things. They all consent to multiple relationships, and there are no secrets nor adultery as many may think.
It’s important to distinguish the myths from reality, but also to realize that in the end, nothing is really simply defined.
It’s not our job to put labels on other people, but to respect their own declarations about who they feel they are.