Hierarchical. Egalitarian. Relationship Anarchists. Just going with the flow. Old school polyamory.
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.
Educate yourself. There are numerous websites and books that address many different aspects of polyamory. Many major cities have poly groups. Talk to poly people. Educate yourself.
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.
I am an old timer. My wife and I lived in a polyfidelitous triad for almost 40 years with a woman that we knew since our teenage years. We never called ourselves poly. Never spoke of our sexuality. It was just our normal life. Our shared girlfriend had her own room in our home as did my wife and I. We were a family unit.
Now I read posts that disturb me. Seems that poly is being used as a mantle of respectability to cover people wanting their cake and eat it too. Most poly seems like an open relationship because there is a primary relationship and then the partners get to date others that never become part of the primary relationship. That id nothing new. Back in my day women and men did that all the time but it was not called so nice a name.
I read where husbands come home and tell their wives that they met someone and want to be poly. If the wife expresses fears they are made to feel like they are foolish and not evolved. Husbands and wives do not want to stop seeing other lovers even though their partner is uncomfortable with their “poly” life. I often hear that poly is natural and monogamy is not. Peeing and poop wherever you have to be is natural too and yet we do not do that either. We should rise above our nature or else we are no better than animals.
To be honest, all the couples we knew with some form of open relationship, did not last more than a few years and to date we have yet to meet any poly people who come close to our longevity. It was almost a cliche that a spouse would leave their marriage for a new and more exciting lover. We lost all of our friends like that and thereafter only socialized with monogamous couples who believe in long term relationships and sexual fidelity. We viewed ourselves as a normal family except there were three of us instead of two.
I may be wrong but to me, a relationship where all partners have lovers outside and separate from all their other relationships is just not being exclusive if date, or an open relationship if married. I dated several women at time since I was 12 years old. Yes, I started off young. I even dated other women when married and we never called it poly, just an open relationship. Now anyone who wants a safety net in case a new relationship does not work out, calls it poly. The worse are wives who have lovers and use their husbands as a source of income and safety net. We have a good friend who has a lover from before her marriage and through it. She married a guy with the knowledge that she was going to use him for financial support and that is just want she did. The poor sap married a woman he never would otherwise have a shot with and so he agreed to her terms. She quit work, had lovers and in private would trash talk her husband and call him a sucker and yet, her husband accepted their relationship because she called it poly and more natural than monogamy. He bought it because his first had an affair and when he found out she left him for her lover. What he is not realizing is that all his “poly” relationship is doing is having him give his wife permission to cheat. Knowing what she is doing does not change the fact that she is sharing intimacy, tenderness and love with other men.
While it is certainly true that you can love more than one person, isn’t a relationship finding those in it to be “enough” for you to be happy and sexually fulfilled. If not, why are you even in that relationship at all. Having more than one relationship is stressful, logistically a nightmare and an emotional rollercoaster. Every minute you spend with one person is a minute you cannot spend with another.