Relationships are very often assumed to be between two people, no more, no less. But this isn't how things work for a lot of people and it can helpful to understand different forms that meaningful relationships can take.
Open Relationships and Polyamory
Firstly, open relationships and polyamory are not the same thing. Open relationships are a decision to have, polyamory is part of someone’s identity (not a decision in other words!)
Relationships with multiple partners can be tricky, but like any other relationship, what it really comes down to is communication and honesty.
If you want to include others in your relationship and this is the first relationship you’re in, it might be tricky to figure out if you want the relationship to be open, or you’re realising out you might be polyamorous. Either way, take things slow and handle things delicately with your partner.
Here are our tops tips to maintaining a healthy relationship if there’s more than 2 of you in the mix:
- Talk, talk, talk, talk! You’re going to have to have upfront and honest conversations about rules and boundaries. (For example, a lot of couples make rules about what kind of contact is OK, where contact can take place, what info needs to be shared with each other, etc)
- If it’s an open relationship, it needs to be a mutual decision which needs to be made before anything happens. If one of you wants it more than the other it might be a sign things aren’t right and if one of you decides it’s an open relationship after being with someone else that’s definitely a sign things aren’t right!
- If one of you identifies as polyamorous make sure you both understand what that means to each other, and that you’re both equally happy that it’s a part of the relationship.
- A sign that things are good is that you feel happy that your partner is happy, regardless of where that happiness is coming from. A sign that things aren’t so good is if you start to feel jealous about what’s making them happy. Again, it's all about having those honest and upfront conversations to keep things healthy.
- You may have an abundance of love to give in your relationship, but you can’t escape the laws of physics! You can only be in one place at one time, so make sure you’re giving appropriate time to everyone involved. There’s different types of polyamory and your style will impact the time you give to different partners. Some people have “Primary” and “Secondary” partners, and devote more attention to their “main” relationship, whilst others have “Relationship Anarchy” (which is a fun phrase!) where everyone is equal and gets the same attention.
- If sex is involved make sure you agree on some rules. Something called Polyfidelity comes into play here, where everyone involved agrees where they stand on the use of protection and on regular testing. If a new partner comes into the mix they have to agree to this too. Obviously we’d always encourage using protection (which you do anyway because you paid attention in sex ed class right? Oh, you didn’t get LGBTQ+ sex ed? All good, we made some here)
- If you want others in the relationship make sure it’s because it will make you and your partner happy and because you have love to share, not because you’re not getting what you need from your partner but don't want to break up or because you don’t feel loved or accepted enough. It’s not always easy to tell, and for every healthy and happy open (or polyamorous) relationship out there, sadly there’s one that’s there for the wrong reasons too.