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Polyamory

The Dark Parts of Polyamory No One Talks About

Social Media can make polyamory seem almost magical. Because it’s easy to put on the happy mask and only show the good parts, the fun parts. This is true no matter who you are. But I have a secret to share: it’s not all sunshine & rainbows.

In our effort to make the largely monogamous world understand and accept us, we can tout polyamory as a this beautiful alternative that is free of the struggles monogamous folx face. Which can be true. But in doing so, we deny, hide, or just gloss over the hard and messy parts of polyamory.

More Than Words

One of the big tenets is communication. Polyam folx are forever talking about talking. Whenever someone asks the community about a situation in their relationship, the first answer is always: Did you talk to them about it? Communication is the key to living this life. But that’s true regardless of what relationship your in. It’s true for familial relationships (parents/kids, siblings, etc.). It’s true for platonic or professional relationships (friend circles, bosses, coworkers).  And it’s true for romantic relationships, regardless of the form they take. Communication is important. And can make or break any type of relationship.

The part that we fail to talk about in the context of polyamory is the amount of work this takes. Communication goes beyond talking about your feelings, or sharing plans. It is learning to say those things without being asked. It requires you to do the hard work of analyzing your own reactions and feelings before sharing those with others. It is remembering to share plans with multiple people; and learning to take responsibility, and then apologizing, when one person inadvertently gets left out of the loop.

Open Your Ears

Let’s not forget the other side of communicating. You have to listen. A lot of us have grown up not really knowing how to listen properly. We listen to react, to argue, to reply. How many times have you had a conversation with someone and while they were talking, you were already forming your response to them? We have to re-learn how to listen in way that allows to actually hear the other person. To hear what they are saying between the words, in their tone and inflections and body language.

It is more than just the words. It is the thought and work you’ve put in to them, before you say them. And it is the act of listening, not to respond but to hear what is being said and not said.

Green With…

Another big piece we gloss over: jealousy. That green-eyed monster does pop up in polyamory. We are not immune. We are human. Polyam folx are quick to turn the topic of jealousy into compersion. Which is an amazing feeling that is not exclusive to polyamory. You’ve felt it when your significant other got that promotion, or your best friend got married/had a baby, or your kid graduated from school. That is compersion.

Jealousy is the other side. In my polyam life, it usually pops up when a need is not being met. And those needs tend to have to do with my love languages. So if someone is getting more time (which is my main love language), I can feel that jealousy pop up. And I do not always recognize it for what it is. So there are definitely times where I can be… bitchy and withdrawn. Which of course, doesn’t fix or help anything. Did I mention we are human? This is the hard part, the part the community tries not to talk about. Because in order to deal with it, you have to get to know yourself. You have to learn your reactions and triggers. You have to learn to recognize when jealousy is speaking to you, feeding you lies.

It doesn’t always lead you to compersion either. Sometimes that jealousy leads to hard conversations instead. And that’s okay. Jealousy can be used for good, if you do the work to figure out the root of it.

Polyamory Isn’t Perfect

No, it’s not all sunshine and rainbows. There are growing pains along the way. Problems you thought you had figured out in the beginning have a way of popping up again later on down the road. Sometimes they look a little different, sometimes they look the same. So you have to learn, adapt, and keep going. Polyamory can be an amazing way to form relationships and family. But it is not perfect or easy. Anyone who tells you otherwise is selling something. 

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General Info Polyamory

Jealousy, Sex, Communication, & Compersion: The Truth About Polyamorous Relationships

Hello class, and welcome to Introduction to Polyamory! We are going to answer some of the top questions about polyamorous relationships. Please hold all questions until the end. Do you have your notebook and pen handy? Great!  Here we go!

What is Polyamory?

Polyamory is literally “many loves” when broken down into its root words (poly) and (amor). It is on type of relationship under the large umbrella that is Ethical Non-Monogamy. Many others include, but are not limited to: Swinging, Open Relationships, Monogam-ish.

Back to “many loves”. It is the belief that a person can have multiple loving relationships with the full consent and willingness of their partners. And without compromising any part of those relationships. Polyamorous relationships can look like any monogamous relationship.

Aren’t polyamorous relationships all sexy times and naked games?

No! Some relationships are not sexual at all. And some are purely sexual. Just as some monogamous relationships are.

This is a common misconception about polyamorous relationships. But many people in these relationships will attest to the fact that this lifestyle is about the loving connections we can make with other humans. Those looking for purely sexual encounters are often pointed toward Swinging communities.

What about all that jealousy? And what exactly is Compersion?

Jealousy is actually less of an issue in polyamorous relationships. Because everything is out in the open and talked about incessantly, jealousy has very little ground to gain any kind of foothold. That is not to say it is not a problem at all, or that it can’t pop up. It’s simply saying that jealousy is less likely to become a big problem than in monogamous relationships.

In fact, polyamorous folx like to share their experiences with what they refer to as jealousy’s opposite: Compersion.

It is that feeling of joy for your partner’s happiness. Monogamous folx could compare it to that feeling of happiness when a friend gets married. Or when a family member receives good health news.

Compersion is sharing in your partner’s happiness, specifically in regards to their relationship with their other partner. It is being able to enjoy their giddiness at text messages and dates, in sleepovers and phone calls. Being happy with them, as well as for them.

But isn’t that all just cheating?

No. Why? Because everyone involved is aware of and consents to it before anything happens. Communication is such a huge key factor for those in polyamorous relationships.

And, despite what some may think, cheating is not just for monogamous folx. Cheating can and does happen in polyamorous relationships. Any act that breaks trust and boundaries in a relationship can be considered cheating. For some, watching pornography is cheating. For others, it is only sexual relationships outside of the core one. Only the people in the relationship can define what cheating means to them.

The 3 C’s of healthy polyamorous relationships: Communication, Communication, Communication

It’s a little like the running joke for real estate: Location, Location, Location!

You might think communication is a no-brainer when it comes to relationships. You may be one of those people who are already good at expressing your wants and needs and feelings to your partner. But the majority of people aren’t. It is something we learn the hard way, usually through multiple failed relationships.

In polyamorous relationships, communication skills are a must. Everything is talked to death it seems. People in polyamorous relationships learn to be open and honest about everything going on their lives with each of their partners. They learn that keeping secrets or hidden feelings are unhealthy and lead to major problems all around. So talking about boundaries, feelings, and all of the stuff you were taught to just bottle up inside, becomes normal and freeing.

And that includes the uncomfortable topics like safe sex practices and STI status and screenings. If you are going to have grown up relationships, you need to be able to have grown up conversations about all the things those relationships could entail.  

Communication skills with others are paramount in polyamorous relationships. But you must also be able to communicate with yourself. How can you explain to your partner that you are feeling left out or insecure if you are not able to figure out those feelings for yourself. Communication starts internally. You must learn to recognize thoughts and feelings for what they are, where they stem from, and then share that with your partner(s).

Is Polyamory right for me?

Only you can answer that. Polyamory is hard. It’s not for everyone. And it is not a way to fix or help an existing troubled relationship. There is no one size fits all approach to it. If you are interested in exploring polyamory, or any form of ethical non-monogamy, start with some reading. You can check out our resources list here for my favorite books, podcasts, and websites.

Alright, that concludes your Introduction to Polyamory! I hope you learned something. Please leave any questions you may have in the comments below. Or shoot us a message here.

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