What are polyamorous relationship rules and why do you need them? Well, for a simple reason that relationships are undergoing a revolution in today’s world. As society is leaning more and more toward a freer environment where one can design their life the way one likes instead of adhering to social rules, people are experimenting with the new choices they have. With new gender identities, diversifying sexual spectrum and different types of relationships, there is a lot to explore.
A polyamorous relationship is one such choice that many people are beginning to explore as they question, challenge, and redefine the limits of monogamy. While the idea of having multiple partners can seem exciting at the outset, things can get complicated and murky in the absence of clearly defined boundaries and some ground rules.
These rules can serve as an unwritten polyamorous relationship agreement, ensuring that the needs of everyone involved are met, no one feels unheard, unseen, or slighted and insecurities and jealousy don’t take hold. So what exactly are these rules? We’re here to tell you, but first, let’s take a look at how does a polyamorous relationship work.
How Does A Polyamorous Relationship Work?
A poly relationship basically stems from the school of thought that one can love and cherish multiple people at once. That finding the one or spending your life with one partner is actually unnatural. This school of thought paves the way for people to try a non-monogamous relationship where they are free to have multiple partners. However, it is nothing close to cheating since it is consensual and something that both parties are very well aware of.
One might say that a polyamorous relationship sounds quite like an open relationship. While the two are close in nature, there are a few differences between them. In open relationships, one still has a greater level of commitment to a primary relationship or partner. The purpose of open relationships is to try new things and to see what’s out there. But for polyamorous couples, there is no primary relationship as such. They can cultivate strong emotional connections with anyone they meet.
Being a poly couple takes some work
But before we get into the polyamory boundaries checklist, it is important you cruise through this story to get a better idea of how to navigate the complexities of such romantic equations. Polyamorous relationship rules serve as a guide, making it easier for everyone involved to not overstep the mutually agreed upon boundaries.
This true account will really give you an edge in understanding the dynamics better and give you clarity on how does a polyamorous relationship work. Since there are multiple people involved, it is important to do it right and understand the polyamory dating rules so that nobody gets hurt.
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Thoughts Around A Polyamorous Relationship
I was on a bus on my way to work, and her voice was almost inaudible over the phone. I walked to the front of the bus and asked her again, “So, what’s your deal with Mark?”
“I have huge respect for him,” she said, “And I know that without me in his life, he will not live.”
Before I could recover, she said, “I love you though. No wait, I should phrase that better, I love you, too.”
Either she loves me or she doesn’t. How can she say she loves him and also me, in the same breath? As soon as those words left her lips, things were falling apart around me, my world was crumbling, and I missed my stop.
When I fell in love with Monica a year ago, we were both married to different people and our marriages had reached a plateau. It’s like we were both in dead-end relationships. We found each other in a group of common friends, found common interests, and when she pointed out that the white balance was off in my nature photography, I started considering her as a guru. And then came the lenses and our trips to various jungles together. We were sharing a lot more than our lives…and then this happened.
I was left utterly confused
And she was quietly explaining it to me, like a teacher explaining the third dimension. Mark had been in her life for almost a decade, and it wasn’t a romantic relationship all this while. But now he has expressed his desire to meet her in Chicago. And she said she had to go, without a thought.
“How can you go to Chicago and see him? You know what he possibly wants. Will you go all the way and then not make love to him? Will you just lead him on?” I said to her while I was fuming. It felt like she loved me but she was also trying to keep this guy around and interested.
“Why are you only thinking of sex? Why is that important at all? And let’s say I do make love to him. Does that really mean I don’t love you? Am I not always with you on the phone? Telling you stories of my daughter and my husband, about what happened at work, and where I went for a walk in the evening? I tell you everything. Even those awkward nights when under the influence of alcohol, I find the courage to sleep with my husband,” she responded.
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She explained how they needed each other
“You see, Aidan, Mark is like the Pacific. He is so vast in his knowledge, its application, and his philanthropic reach that it is difficult for mere humans like me to fathom him. He loves to share every little detail with me, from a project plan to its execution. I’m like his life support. How can I take it away? The last time we fought, he went suicidal. We have cultivated a lot of emotional safety in our relationship. I can’t just walk away from that.
“If I love my husband, he will look after my family and ensure the equilibrium in my life is maintained. He is like the lake Mondsee, calm and still, dependable. At every turn, you can always expect to see the lake, calm even on a rainy day. If I love you, you will love me back like nobody else does and write me poems. You’re like a brook, happily flowing, never to settle, spreading happiness with your touch. Who else can do that?
“Now tell me, which love do I sacrifice? I love the three of you for three different reasons.”
I wanted a bigger place in her life
“You don’t have to sacrifice any, but shouldn’t Mark know about my presence in your life? It’s only fair, isn’t it, Monica? If I have to cohabit with him in your mind, he should have to do the same,” I said.
“He won’t survive if he finds out about your presence. You’ve been in many other relationships, Aidan. You’ve been emotionally battered at times, and also have witnessed nonchalantly the slow decay of love having been in a relationship that is beyond repair. You’ve come out of everything unscathed, haven’t you? You have the ability to regenerate, to bounce back. For Mark, I am the only one he’s relied on all these years. I can’t disown him, Aidan, I just can’t,” she responded.
It was difficult for me to come to terms with her love for three men and I wasn’t even close to ready to go over some open relationship rules list that could help us find some sort of balance in this multi-dimensional equation. But the only thing that mattered was that I love her and wanted to be with her.
It was tough, but I was beginning to wrap my head around this concept. If I don’t mind her husband, why should the presence of another man matter? And then she told me how Mark didn’t have many years to live because of his failing health. Amidst his busy schedule, he could find time only for Monica, his love, the companion of his soul.
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I decided to comply
I chose to look away when she went to visit him in Chicago and didn’t ask if she slept with him after all. She came back sad and clung to me even more. Suddenly very needy, she sought me out in the middle of the night, just to hear my voice. In our electronic communiqué, in that virtual hug we shared at 2 in the morning, the weight of her third dimension bore heavily on me. Unbeknownst to me, I had somewhere accepted Monica in her entirety. “I’m here, love,” I heard myself say.
(As told to Arijit Ghosh)
(Names changed to protect identities)
5 Important Polyamorous Relationship Rules
Now that we’ve heard first-hand the rationale behind wanting to be in a polyamorous relationship, there are also some polyamorous dating rules to truly reap the benefits of it. This kind of relationship can be complicated and get very messy, very quickly if you do not do it right.
But if you really want to make sure that your polyamorous dynamic is healthy, well then, you’ve come to the right place. Here are the 5 most important polyamorous relationship rules that you need to know:
1. Don’t ignore one for the other
Even though you are seeing multiple people, it is important that you respect the time and space of everyone involved. Don’t blow one off constantly for the other. They will see it right away and start feeling insecure. Remember, that you chose this life of seriously dating multiple people at once. You must try to do it in the best way possible. If needed, have an unwritten polyamorous relationship agreement in place to make sure that no one feels ignored or slighted.
2. Polyamorous couples should keep communication open
Be open in discussing boundaries in your relationship and what kind of space you all may need from one another. Remember, that honesty and good communication are keys to making a polyamorous relationship work. Don’t hesitate when expressing what you want and what you desire to them. Formulate a polyamory boundary checklist if you need to but keep things as open and real as you can.
Whether you are exploring throuple relationship rules or rules for an equation involving more than 3 people, the importance of communication cannot be overstated. From expectation setting to resolving conflict, expressing needs and desires, communication is the key to maintaining a balanced bond with different partners.
3. It’s not a competition
Feelings of jealousy can make you go into overdrive and start seeing your poly relationship as a competition. Maybe your boyfriend just mentioned a new woman that he’s starting to fall for. This does not mean that you start swiping aggressively on your dating apps to find someone new too. Try to be happy for them and trust the process.
One of the most important polyamorous rules is not to let your insecurities get the better of you. While partners must do everything they can to ensure that no one feels insecure on account of feeling ignored, the responsibility of reigning in such negative emotions is just as much yours as well. Otherwise, you can spiral into self-destructive behaviors that can have serious consequences for not just your relationship but also your mental health.
4. Don’t share too much information
Sounds contradictory we know, since we just told you to be as honest as you can be. Honesty is important but you do need to be careful about how much information and what kind of details you share. Details of your romantic and/or sexual escapades with another partner needn’t be laid bare or described in detail.
Oversharing can fuel feelings of insecurity and jealousy. You really don’t want to upset your partner too much. Similarly, don’t pry into your partner’s lives and try to get too much information about their other partners. Maintain a healthy understanding of how much information you need to share. Perhaps, how much you want to share and know about romantic experiences with other people can be defined in the polyamorous rules you set for yourself and your partner/s.
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5. Don’t lose yourself in the process
When you have more than one partner, your time and your day can start feeling very exhaustive very soon. Breakfast in Central Park with Duncan and then Roy drops by work to bring you lunch. Spending quality time with all of them is essential but spending all your time with your partners can quickly make things feel difficult for you.
This is a bit of personal advice not necessarily one of the hard and fast polyamorous relationship rules. Make sure you take out sufficient time for yourself and have enough me-time to get through the week. This is essential so that you don’t lose touch with yourself in the process of maintaining balanced and fulfilling relationships with your partners. Always remember, you can’t pour from an empty pot.
- People in a polyamorous relationship can have multiple partners and there is no primary relationship/partner
- Since the romantic equations are multi-dimensional, it’s vital to define polyamorous relationship rules to prevent things from getting complicated
- Honest communication, realistic expectation setting, and conscious effort to eliminate insecurity and jealousy are key to the success of a polyamorous relationship
- Polyamorous rules should be dynamic, with everyone involved open to making necessary changes as the situation warrants
With that, we hope you now have clarity on how does a polyamorous relationship work. It takes copious amounts of honesty, transparency, mutual respect to pull off such an equation. The important polyamorous relationship rules in truly making the best of your relationship dynamic cannot be stressed enough. However, if you’re struggling with a lot of feelings and emotions around the same, you can always opt for therapy and seek more advice that is fit to your personal context and needs. If you’re considering getting help, skilled and experienced counselors on Bonobology’s panel are here for you.
Cheating in a polyamorous relationship is basically when you are practicing polyamory and either one or all of your partners are not aware that you are poly.
There is no defined timeline for how long a polyamorous relationship lasts. As long as the arrangement continues to work for everyone involved, such relationships can sustain themselves. Even if the relationship between any two partners in such a setup does not work out, they can continue to be polyamorous in different relationship and with different partners.
Yes, they can if they are dishonest, evasive and try to have secrets from their partners. Hiding a new partner from the existing ones, for instance, qualifies as cheating in a polyamorous relationship.
A three-person relationship is called a throuple. Just like any other polyamorous relationship, here too you need to define throuple relationship rules to keep the dynamic moving smoothly for everyone involved.