The Common Reasons Why Polyamory Doesn’t Work

Dating experience | | Expert Author , Relationship & Intimacy Coach
Updated On: March 15, 2023
why polyamorous relationships don't work

It’s well-known that monogamy comes with its fair share of problems. Jealousy, insecurities, and trust issues can all creep up and manifest themselves in a few ugly fights. Hence, it’s not too hard to see that when you throw other people into the mix, these problems can grow manifold. That’s why poly relationships are hard as well, perhaps harder than their monogamous counterparts. 

It’s a common misconception that maintaining a polyamorous relationship is a walk in the park since people presume that there’s no jealousy, incompatibility, or infidelity (yes, there can be cheating as well). However, as you’ll find out, wherever there’s love, complications tend to follow. 

In this article, relationship and intimacy coach Shivanya Yogmayaa (internationally certified in the therapeutic modalities of EFT, NLP, CBT, REBT, etc.), who specializes in different forms of couples counseling, talks about the common problems polyamorous couples face. 

Why Polyamorous Relationships Don’t Work: The Common Issues 

How long do most polyamorous relationships last? The common consensus is that most polyamorous dynamics are short-term and solely seek sexual pleasures. In most cases, relationships that are driven by hormones often tend to fail. 

When such a dynamic is being sought because of a fear of commitment, a fear of missing out, a fear of limiting yourself, or a fear of rigidity, polyamory can turn toxic. But when the world of polyamory is approached with the right morals in mind, it can be a wonderful thing. 

As I like to put it, polyamory is “living and loving from the heart, not the hormones”. It includes compassion, trust, empathy, love, and other basic essentials of relationships. There are many reasons why those feelings are threatened. Let’s take a look at some of the reasons why polyamorous relationships don’t work. 

1. The usual suspects: Incompatibility and resentment 

In polyamory, since there is more than one partner, there will always be a complication between contrasting personality types. Maybe the third person who enters the relationship doesn’t get along with either of the two partners.

There may be a lack of acceptance, recurring resentment and arguments. As a result, things won’t go too smoothly in the long run. 

Related Reading: Signs You Might Be A Unicorn In A Polyamorous Relationship

2. The blurred lines around infidelity

One of the reasons why polyamorous relationships don’t work is infidelity. Polyamory basically means that there may be more than one sexual or romantic partner in a relationship with the consent of everyone involved. 

If one partner engages in an exclusive relationship with a new partner without the consent of any of the existing members, it’s essentially infidelity. 

It is also observed that polyamorous people can also shift into monogamy. One of them may call it quits and decide to go on to monogamy in the future. This, of course, results in the primary partner feeling disheartened and shocked. 

3. Miscommunication about rules and agreements 

The reason why polyamory is tough is because so many couples tend to overlook the conversation around rules and boundaries. Initially, they may try to shrug off this conversation by assuming that they’re both on board with the same things. 

Sooner or later, they see the cracks in their foundation and realize that a few rules should have been set up. Be it external or internal relationship issues, there might be a violation of what was (or rather wasn’t) discussed. 

4. A pang, or bucket loads, of envy

To think that poly relationships don’t suffer from jealousy is a myth. Issues with time management, jealousy that stems from insecurity and unhealthy comparisons are likely to arise in any dynamic. 

If somebody has more partners every weekend, it’s easy to see why it might leave the primary partner grinding their teeth. Deciding who you’re going to give time to and who you’re going to sideline can often result in a lot of jealousy.

5. Issues with sexual orientation 

In all likelihood, the polyamorous world is probably more dominated by people who are bisexual. They find the world of polyamory easier to fall into. However, one of the main reasons why polyamorous relationships don’t work is when one of the partners is straight and the others are bisexual, or some similar sort of discrepancy. 

Maintaining a polyamorous relationship depends on harmony, compatibility, and of course, a mutually beneficial sex life. If the physical aspect of the whole thing is a cause for concern for one of the partners, it’s easy to see how jealousy can crop up. 

6. Common relationship issues

Certain common issues in relationships can plague any bond, whether monogamous or polyamorous. Perhaps certain disruptive habits take hold, or maybe they’re not able to get along in the long run. Certain addictions, or even incompatibility like one partner having an extremely high sex drive while the other has a low libido, can affect the dynamic. 

Related Reading: Polyamorous Relationship Story: Conversations With A Polyamorist

7. Complications that arise with children 

Poly relationships are hard enough to navigate with multiple adults. But when a child is thrown into the mix, things can get a lot more awkward. If someone has a child from a previous marriage or they have a child in a polyamorous relationship, a plethora of questions present themselves.

They would need to figure out who plays what role, and what happens if one of the partners falls out. Who lives with who? Who takes care of the baby? One partner may want to bring up the child in a certain way in a certain religion, the other may want to bring up the child in a different way in another religion.

8. Money matters 

One of the most common reasons for divorce is finances. Even in the cases of maintaining a polyamorous relationship, figuring out who pays for what or who contributes how much is extremely important. 

They need to really really work out the finances within them, the intricacies of the contributions. Polyamory is toxic or has the potential to be when such things aren’t discussed by the partners. 

Related Reading: What Is A Unicorn In A Relationship? Meaning, Rules, And How To Be In A “Unicorn Relationship”

9. The taboo nature of it 

Since a polyamorous relationship is so taboo in most cultures, the families often tend to be not involved in such dynamics. The partners, if they’re living together, need to do so in a hush-hush manner. They may not be able to get married because they’re in a poly situation. 

In one situation, I remember a person I was talking to told me that he had always been poly, but had to get married to someone because of familial pressure. “I don’t know how to tell my wife about my way of life,” he told me. When I asked why he got married, he said, “My family forced me into it, they couldn’t have even accepted the idea of me being a poly.” 

While some of his partners knew about his wife, she had no idea about his ways. She eventually found out through the random numbers he had on his phone. As a result, of course, the whole thing fell through. 

How successful are polyamorous relationships? The answer to that completely relies on how you manage to overcome these common reasons why polyamorous relationships don’t work. Hopefully, you now have a better idea of what can go wrong, so you know how to best avoid it. 

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