If your new to polyamory or even if you’ve been around the block, you may have heard these terms or others like them. They are used to describe kinds of relationships that exist in the polyamorous community. Unfortunately, people don’t always agree on what is right or wrong.
Debates spring up about how people should practice polyamory. Some of these debates can get pretty heated. There are those who will claim “their” polyamory is the only type of polyamory. If you’re not practicing their version then you’re not really polyamorous, your only “playing” polyamorous or your on the “fringe” of polyamory. Others claim that polyamory can be practiced in various different ways, and it won’t make you any less poly or more poly. Some will go as far as to say that you can practice polyamory in any way you want and no one should judge you. Understandably, people get upset.
Is there a right way to practice polyamory?
Yes…and no. It depends on you.
I know, it seems like a cop-out answer, but let me explain. There is a right way to do polyamory. It’s the way that fits you and the relationships you’re in. Polyamory is not a one size fits all. Everyone doing it the way the other person does it does not ensure that you will be as successful.
People are unique. We are formed, shaped by the experiences in our lives. Though we may be similar in many ways, we are also very different. Does this mean there are no common elements to the relationship styles mentioned previously? There are common elements that a successful poly relationship should always have.
Don’t have a power imbalance: If one person has has more power or control in the relationship, it creates a power imbalance. Being equal in a relationship means having an egalitarian agreement or understanding that benefits everyone equally. That will be different for everyone. Keep in mind, this doesn’t mean tit for tat. It may mean that she needs hugs and you need a day to decompress alone. You both get what you want and thereby keep it equal. If you come into poly with a dysfunctional relationship, it will only create a dysfunctional poly relationship no matter what kind of poly relationship dynamic you may have.
Do not cheat. Polyamory is all about honesty. Everyone knows and accepts the relationships. If you lie to your partner about who you’re with or force your partner to “accept” polyamory, you are not practicing polyamory.
Communication is important. This can’t be stressed enough. In any relationship dynamic, communication helps to ensure everyone is on the same page as well as helping to work through issues that may arise.
Remain honest. This is part of communication. You and your partners need to be honest about what you want, how you feel and how everything is going for you. Once you start to color the truth or just lie to your partner about how you feel, you begin closing the doors to communication. You don’t want to do that. It’s also important to be honest with yourself. Don’t lie to yourself. Be honest with yourself.
Respect yourself and your partners. Don’t be selfish and don’t diminish you or your partners’ feelings. You and your partners’ feelings, desires and thoughts are important. It’s not all about you. It’s about everyone you are involved with.
Meet others. No man or woman is an island. We need people, connections, friends. You may live in a small community, but it’s still important to get connected.
What about these relationship styles? Which is better? Worse? I can claim that one is better than another. I could say how I have known hundreds of people over the last 15 years who have been successful doing it one way or another. I could point out the flaws in the relationship styles.
I could do that with every one of the previously mentioned relationship styles. I do see some as better than others, but that may not be true for everyone. That was hard for me to see when I first started polyamory. I thought that if I did the same thing everyone did I would be guaranteed success. That’s not true.
You have to look at your life, relationships, beliefs and values. You have to figure what is best for you. So do your partners. This is not always easy, especially when you find yourself on different paths. When entering into polyamory, we enter into a different world.