The core do’s and don’ts in polyamorous relationships are similar those in monogamous relationships – only a bit more complex! The main difference, of course, is that there are more people involved with polyamory. This means more experiences to have, more personalities to consider, more emotions to feel, and more communication.
Below are a few tips I share with my polyamorous coaching clients on what to do and what not to do when considering or actively engaging in polyamory and other forms of ethical non-monogamy.
DO: Own your emotions and share them when they come up. For example: “Honey, I’m starting to feel a bit of anxiety around you going on a date tonight. I’m aware that I’m probably feeling this way because I have a tendency to feel left out when you do things without me. I would really love to feel included. I think the anxiety is telling me that I just want to feel safe and secure in our relationship. Maybe I don’t have anything to worry about. And, I want to be upfront with what I am feeling. Would you be willing to sit with me and reassure me when you have a date with someone it doesn’t mean our relationship is threatened?”
When we to tap into what we are feeling and consider what we need, we are taking a powerful step in getting our need met. When we share this with others, we are opening the door to be seen, heard, and supported. When we ask for support without attaching ourselves to what that might look like, we give others an opportunity to be with us without expectation. There is a sense of freedom in this sharing space. This space of authentic communication invites connection and creates intimacy in our relationships.
DON’T: Don’t play the blame game. Everyone is responsible for their experience. Everyone is responsible for their feelings. It can be easy to blame someone else for how we feel. Triggering situations bring up painful emotions. It’s very common and natural to resist feeling painful emotions. Remember, feelings are a natural part of being human. It’s okay to have feelings. It’s okay to ask for support. We’re all in this together.
DO: There are many different kinds of agreements to consider in polyamory and polyamorous relationships. Agreements might include information shared, boundaries around play partners, parameters around kinds of play and sexual protection. Regardless of the specific agreements, it’s important to consider the underlying intentions for the agreements. Take the time to consider the values of everyone involved in each relationship. Discuss what agreements (if any) are needed to support these values. This will look different for everyone. The key is to communicate and come up with agreements together. Keep in mind the best time to create an agreement is when everyone is on neutral ground.
DON’T: Don’t assume everyone will be okay with everything that happens. Don’t assume actions are without consequences. Don’t assume that acting first and asking for forgiveness second is the best choice. The key to maintaining healthy relationships, especially open and polyamorous relationships, is to be loving and true to yourself and loving and true to others. For me, that means being authentic, being honest and sharing my experience with others. It means allowing others to share their experience with me, being respectful of my own boundaries and the boundaries of others. It also means acting with integrity and loving kindness.
DO: Practice safe sex. Have important conversations before engaging in sexual intimacy. Discuss and share STI status and testing results. Take the time to share and discuss what is important to you regarding sexual intimacy. These conversations may feel awkward. That’s okay. Feel the feelings and have the conversations anyway. Take it a step further and share how you are feeling before diving into the conversation. Something like this: “I feel a little awkward addressing STI’s and it’s important.” When we share how we feel about the content of a conversation before we share the content, we create space for a deeper sense of connection and authentic expression. I have found that when I do this, I feel more empowered in my experience and more empowered in the delivery.
DON’T: Don’t engage in unsafe sexual practices and behaviors. Don’t lie about your STI status so you can sleep with someone. When we participate in shady practices, we hurt ourselves and others. Sharing STI’s creates a safer container for everyone involved.
Keep in mind that polyamory intensifies every aspect of being in a relationship. People who engage in polyamory, polyamorous relationships and other forms of ethical non-monogamy need to understand the importance of taking responsibility for their feelings and taking responsibility for their needs and their actions. I have found that a practice rooted in getting real with what’s happening in the moment, finding healthy ways to communicate what’s happening, and doing so in a way that creates a connection with everyone involved is the most effective way of maintaining happy healthy relationships over time.