How Do You Cope With Polyamory?
A Little Bit Of History...
According to Wikipedia, polyamory is the "practice, desire or acceptance of many intimate relationships that are not exclusive with respect to other sexual or intimate relationships, with knowledge and consent of everyone involved". This differs somewhat from cheating, where neither partner is aware of the other, and it usually ends up being very messy when the lie is discovered.
A lot of people define polyamory as 'consensual cheating', and in a way it is. However, the problem lies in the 'knowledge' aspect of it. Cheating implies that the main partner was unaware of what happened, whereas in polyamory everybody is aware of what is happening. Any new partners are also aware that the relationship is not exclusive, and that this is something that should be thought about before any intimacy happens.
The idea of polyamory isn't to "have your cake and eat it" either - it's not an excuse to sleep with anyone and everyone. The idea is to have meaningful relationships that may not always go the distance, but are certainly not just a quick fumble in the hay, as it were. Every relationship has meaning, and every relationship should be thought about well in advance and discussed with all partners.
How Do You Cope If Your Partner is Poly But You Aren't?
This is the trickiest question of all to answer. I, for example, am polyamorous but my primary partner is not. Don't get me wrong, it's a real tough one. From wrapping your head around the idea that your partner isn't monogamous to accepting the idea of other relationships, it's a massive concept to get a hold on, and it isn't easy. However, there are some tips that can help to ease the magnitude of the situation.
- Do your research. A lot of people assume things about polyamory that simply aren't true, or are misconstrued. So find out about it before you discuss it. Whether that's looking at Wikipedia articles or talking to other poly people, research before you discuss.
- Communicate. Talk to your partner. The only way it will work is through communication. Whether that's being honest about any reservations, or asking your partner what their limits are, communication is key.
- Honesty. This kind of goes hand-in-hand with communication, but it's important nevertheless. If you're not being honest in your communications, the whole thing falls apart. Sure, sometimes it's not what the other person wants to hear (i.e. you've slept with a new partner, or things with a primary partner are getting serious) but if you're serious about polyamory, honesty is key.
- Don't be a dick. Polyamory isn't an excuse to sleep around. If you want to sleep around, don't get into a relationship. Polyamory is about making relationships and having experiences that are more than a quick shag and then the walk of shame the next morning.
I'm not saying that polyamory is the easiest thing to get your head around, but the tips above sure help. Respecting your partners at all times is paramount, otherwise everyone ends up hurt and then you've got one hot mess on your hands. Speaking from experience, it never ends well that way, so remember to be honest and respectful at all times.
How Do You Cope if You're Poly But Your Partner Isn't?
On the flip side of things, there's a lot of responsibility for the polyamorous partner. Obviously there's the guilt factor because no matter how open you are with your partners, you're still going to feel bad about it. This is mostly because society has taught us that monogamy is the only way a relationship can work, and that "one man and one woman" etc is the only way to go. Now obviously it isn't the only way to go, otherwise swinging and polyamory etc wouldn't be as prevalent as they are. So, here are my tips if you are the polyamorous partner.
- Honesty. Before you start any relationship, tell them that you are polyamorous. That way they know what they're getting into, and they know what's happening. It also helps you to sort out who can and can't deal with it, and saves unnecessary hurt.
- Communication. At every step of the relationship, tell each partner what has happened unless they explicitly request otherwise. That way, you again avoid any unnecessary hurt and you are respecting your partners.
- Don't take the mickey. So many people say to me "Oh so you're basically sleeping around". NO. Sleeping around implies that I don't care about my partners, when in fact it's the exact opposite. At any point where something changes, every partner is informed and given time to express any reservations, or end the relationship should they so choose.
These are the "Golden Rules" for polyamory in my opinion. It's not about sleeping around, or cheating, it's about expressing your feelings for other people within the perameters set down by yourselves and others. It's a group decision rather than one person calling the shots, and it's done with everyone's knowledge and consent. That's the most important part. No lies and no hiding things.
The Public Decision!
Would You Consider An Open Relationship?
No relationship article is complete without a breakup section, and unfortunately they do happen. No breakup is easy, but polyamorous breakups are hard. After all, you're not just losing a partner, but your other partners may also be losing a friend, and the entire dynamic changes.
Losing a primary partner.
This is always the hardest one, I find, because your primary partner could be someone you've been married to, or shared a home with, or had children with. The entire dynamic changes because you're losing a serious relationship rather than something that may have been less serious.
In this scenario, I would treat it as if it were a monogamous breakup. Go out with friends, have a few drinks, but do not sleep around. Honestly, it's the worst idea ever.
Losing a secondary partner.
This one's a bit trickier because, depending on the seriousness of the relationship, it can range from a simple "I don't think things are working out" to an "I don't think we should sleep together any more". Either way, you have to respect the breakup at all times and never try to change things. Polyamory isn't as simple as monogamy, and if somebody can't deal with it then you should never try and make them. Sometimes things just don't work out.