The Do’s and Don’ts for Healthy Polyamorous Relationships

Each and every couple has the potential to experience difficulties, causing complications in their relationship, we all know this. Having a partner can be hard at times. Always compromising, communicating, and contributing to the relationship in a way that specifically fits your partner. Always having to consider the other person’s wants, needs, and feelings can make any monogamous relationship challenging.

Polyamory adds a whole new layer of complexity to intimate relationships. In addition to the normal challenges anyone in a traditional, or ‘vanilla’, relationship will face, polyamory adds a few more challenges of its own.

If you’re new to polyamory, you might be feeling overwhelmed, but don’t worry! I want to make your journey into non-monogamy as simple as possible! This is a simple guide to some of the “dos and don’ts” of healthy polyamorous relationships.


Dos:


1. Do Understand Your Wants & Needs:

You really need to know what you want and need out of a relationship before you jump into one, especially for polyamory relationships. Not everyone’s needs are the same and focusing on your needs is way more fulfilling than focusing on what your partner’s other partner is getting. Instead of complaining that the other partner gets more of something, try communicating that you would like to have more.


2. Do Pay Attention to the State of a Partner’s Existing Relationships:

If you are considering joining a person who is already in a relationship, take a good look at that relationship. Is it in good shape? Do the people involved have good problem-solving skills? How good is their communication? If the relationship has problems, how will they affect you? Will you be the person who suddenly becomes expendable if the problems in the relationship become too great? Sometimes, people who have problems in a relationship will seek to fix those problems by adding new partners. As a general rule, this approach rarely works. Be careful of a partner who seems to want to be with you because he is escaping things in his other relationships that he is dissatisfied with.


3. Do Try to be Flexible:

Many of the problems in polyamorous relationships stem from resource management; a person with two lovers can still be in only one place at a time, and there will be times when that person’s attention seems to be divided. Flexibility and creativity can sometimes go a long way toward solving these problems. For example, if a person has two lovers, each of whom wants to sleep with him five nights a week, it may be that the most flexible solution involves sleeping with both of them for three nights out of the week. A willingness to be flexible in the way a problem is solved is an asset in any relationship.


4. Do Pay Attention to the Way You Relate to Your Partner’s Other Partner:

Be conscious of the fact that even if your relationship with your partner’s other partner is ambivalent, it’s still a relationship. Like all relationships, it will do better if you pay attention to it, acknowledge it, and are conscious of it. That doesn’t mean you have to be best friends, or lovers, or anything else, with your partner’s partner. However, It does mean that your partner’s other partner is not a nonentity; they are a person who is significant to someone you love, and your life will be easier if that relationship has a strong foundation.


5. Do Know Your Limits:

This is perhaps the most important single thing you can do in any relationship. Knowing what you want and need in order to be happy is an excellent first step in being happy. Just as importantly, it’s an excellent first step in not being unhappy. If you do not know where your absolute limits—the boundaries that, if crossed, will ensure that you cannot be happy—are, then you’re likely to discover them only when those boundaries have been crossed, resulting in unhappiness.

Just forget the romantic myth that your only concern should be for the happiness of your partner; every person in a relationship deserves to be happy, including you.


Don’ts:


1. Don’t Keep Score:

Compassion and fairness are worthwhile goals in any relationship, but as anyone who’s ever been a child knows, sometimes things don’t work exactly the way we expect them to. Fairness operates on a global level, not a local level; there may be times when one partner, for whatever reason, is going through a crisis or is facing problems or for whatever reason needs more support and attention. As long as that support is available to all the people in the relationship when they need it, it’s not a question of keeping score.


2. Don’t Predetermine the Shape of the Relationship:

Sometimes, particularly with people who are already an established couple, it can be easy to decide the kind of relationship they want, the shape that relationship should take, and then try to fit a person into the parameters of that ‘perfect’ relationship. People are complex, and every person will have his or her own ideas and desires and needs in a relationship. Treat your relationships in a way that respects what they are. Give each person a voice; you are having a relationship, not looking for spare parts! Listen to what the relationship is telling you, instead of trying to force it to be something specific.


3. Don’t be Afraid of Change:

Relationships are dynamic and are subject to change over time. No relationship stays the same forever. In fact, healthy relationships are constantly evolving through conquering challenges and overcoming obstacles. Everything will be okay if you are willing to work with your partners as your life changes. You should be able to commit to the idea of including your partners in the ways that you experience changes.


4. Don’t Rely on Your Relationships for Validation:

If you look to your relationship to tell you who you are, or to define your worth, then your sense of self will always be tied up in the state or form of your relationship. This is why you need to know your wants and needs before you enter any relationship. Just remember that value and worth that come from within you rather than from around you, can never be taken away from you.


5. Don’t Demonize or Build Up Your Partner’s Other Partners:

Your partner’s other partner should not be your enemy. Don’t turn your partner’s partner into a monster, or imagine that your partner’s partner is better looking, better in bed, funnier, smarter, or more generally worthwhile than you. The first path leads to hostility and anger; your partner’s partner has feelings, just like you do, and they deserve to be treated with respect. The second path leads to insecurity, resentment, and feelings of inadequacy. Tearing down your partner’s partner won’t make anyone any happier. Neither will tearing yourself down. If you can see your partner’s partner clearly and objectively, as a human being, and strive to treat that person gently and with respect, everyone—including you—will be happier for it.

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