There’s no straight answer to how someone can form a polyamorous relationship, as everyone bonds differently with others and many have slightly altered relationship goals even when a poly circle is formed. Polyamory is where someone experiences multiple consensual relationships these can have romantic, kink, and or sexual elements which form the reason for someone to be part of your poly tribe. All those involved within a Poly group are aware of each other’s boundaries and limits. Some may share a particular partner whilst just being friends with the other members even. Depending on each individual’s relationship dynamics plus their likes and dislikes, a polyamorous circle of connected people can seem rather complex from the outside, but generally these networks of consensually aware individuals can work really well.
A network of Polyamorous individuals if known as a Polycule, generally most are non-monogamous, although there are some where a monogamous individual may find themselves as part of a Poly family but only want involvement from one of the people within it, carrying the motto: “If you don’t tell me about it, I’m ok with it.”.
In my past I’ve been in various combinations of polyamorous relationships. Ones where I’ve slept with multiple people in my poly family (sometimes at the same time). Ones, that have less sex, and exploring fetishists or other intimate non-sexual things we all share passions towards. Ones, that were serious. Then sadly someone where we’ve parted ways, not due to us falling out, but because the other individual(s) have decided that in reality they don’t identify as polyamorous.
I knew when I was very young that I wanted to date multiple people at once, and even in my teen years, it seemed to happen accidently. I had childish explorations where I openly dated multiple boys with them all being aware, and then I had relationships where we just accidently slipped into forming a polycule with the other close bonds being aware, but unaware with how to digest and translate it. There was no structure to these teenage relationships, but just like everyone else, we have to explore our sexuality our own way as teenagers and then find a path that works best. No one taught any of us about different relationship dynamics other than heteronormative monogamy. If we felt different to these ideals, sometimes the restrictions of our societal expectations help us back from exploring our true sexualities, and other times to pushed us into the unknown unguided.
What combinations of polyamory have I found most successful you’re probably wondering? Well, if I’m honest there is no set combination that I have found as a go-to formula. Other elements of my sexuality have influenced certain patterns when I am in a poly group, for example, I am Dominant and generally I will have a submissive or two within my poly network but this doesn’t necessarily mean we’d have sex but rather explore other erotic boundaries and bonding in the form of kink expression.
There are times when things have gone terribly wrong too, where heartache and emotions are splattered like slime exploding in a room filled with sand, and not a gungy mess that my splosher friends would even enjoy. Often these have been when someone has broken away from the realms of what’s consensual and broken the groups trust and ground rules, many know this as cheating. One, poly relationship that ended badly too was where one member overstep their grounds and became manipulative, due to the relationship combination it didn’t work for any of us involved.
The ones that end due to someone realising polyamory wasn’t for them generally have had the most natural and honest ending to them. Many of us are still good friends, so not all relationship endings are built on abuse and negativity.
Throughout the years I have learnt that there are elements that make a polyamorous relationship more successful, and that if you stick to them, you can have a good polyamorous network and family.
Just like any relationship dynamic communication is key. With poly you need to be able to talk-up when you have doubts, and you will need to be able to chat with multiple people about the same issue at times even if it does make you feel like you’re a stuck record. Depending on your dynamic having chats with your individual partners can be key and then scheduling a group date to all talk can be incredibly helpful. Communication is something we often neglect too, leaving it until something bad happens, but this shouldn’t be the way. Communicating with those in your poly network when good things happen too is important – we all need to be reminded of the positives more, but it can also make it a more comfortable setting to discuss any other issues that do arise.
Consent you here a lot about now days, and I remember when it was never mentioned in relationships – if anything I remember playing marriage games as a kid and the bride always gave up her consent during the vow’s. Consent is agreeing to limits and rules between you and your partners and no over stepping them. Some poly groups with have some universal limits every member is involved; a main one being whether they keep their poly group closed or open it up to allow causal encounters and dating. Consent may vary from each individuals personal and sexual desires and limits too, for example, if one member isn’t comfortable with blow jobs with a certain member but will perform that sexual act with another in the polycule, then that’s ok. If someone forces that member to perform a sexual act they are not into, then this is not ok. No means no. Consent takes time to communicate, sometimes conversations before each erotic act can be a way to see if an individual wants to explore new consensual limits or if they’ve decided they no longer enjoy a sexual act. Consent isn’t just about sexual acts too, and discussing things like household bills to who gets the check all work around a good foundation of communication and consent and lead to a trusting polyamorous family.
Rule are a method some use to say whether they are ok with certain things within the relationship dynamic. Rules can be in the form of a short list or more in-depth, I have known larger poly groups to do spread sheets of tick boxes even. Having a list of rules can help you to also start to slowly explore polyamory before you dive into deeper boundaries. You’ll find that some may change as your poly relationships grow, and then others aren’t recognised any more after a while.
Jealously is natural
Generally, this is one of the biggest mistakes that many make, often declaring that they won’t get jealous of their partner becoming sexually or emotionally connected with another. Jealousy is a really natural emotion and has its benefits in helping you workout if you are really happy with expanding your intimate circle. When jealously hits it’s always best to take the time to communicate with your primary partner and others it is affecting, discussing any concerns. Explore how the emotions are making you feel, do you have added fear in the mixture and need reassurance that they’d still be there for you even when exploring other individuals, or do you feel angry. Anger is a primal reaction to jealous, but we need to deal with it appropriately and try avoid projecting it onto others. Communication can help some massively. To help balance out worried and mixed emotions some poly groups find doing activities together can help. Getting to know those in your Polycule can support you when you go through emotionally challenging times. If the sensation of jealousy is just too strong, then maybe polyamory isn’t for you or that particular combination of polycule just doesn’t fit right.
Don’t over schedule – it will lead to emotional burn out.
This is incredibly easy to do, particularly when you are new to polyamory. The excitement of multiple relationships can make you want to explore all the things you can do together with your multiple partners at once. We want it all now, when really, we should spread things out. Due to work commitments, children, and other lifestyle factors it can be impossible to fit everything in all at once. Often, without scheduling you can try and do too much in the time you do have, yet forgetting that you need to be able to spend time bonding with not just one partner but all the others you involved with you. This means you need to factor in everyone else commitments too when setting up plans and dates.
Don’t forget about selfcare
This is something I am seriously guilty of. I have been so lost in some past polyamorous relationships that I have forgotten myself. Sometimes even feeling like my personality had been lost making me like a polyamorous auto-robot (think Stepford Wives gone poly). We need to take time to relax in our own bodies and minds. With poly there are so many things to do, take in, and people to interact with, that it can be mentally overwhelming and physically exhausting. Learning to take time to shut your mind off, or explore your solo pleasures and hobbies, is very important. Many say that when they do take time for themselves that it is selfish, but this isn’t true, caring for yourself and making sure you are physically and mentally happy. This is an essential part of a healthy relationship and your partners should be happy for you when you do. If you’re happy in yourself and have time to yourself when needed, it reflects positively in your relationship generally, making things go a lot more smoothly.
Don’t go Poly to fix your relationship
This is a big mistake and generally doesn’t work well. If you are in a monogamous relationship and are dissatisfied with it, you need to communicate this with your partner, rather than saying you’re trying polyamory. Polyamory is about multiple relationship and many seeking poly relationships are looking for deep connections that are more involved than just sex. If you’re seeking just more sex, then ask your partner if you could explore an open relationship for a while, or visit a sex worker together, or simply attend relationship counselling or coaching together to help explore ways to venture into new fantasies together.
There is no perfect relationship standard. As long as it’s consensual and all involved are happy that is the key and this takes trail and error. Take your time as you explore polyamory and be honest with each other.