Recently, someone mentioned to me that they were interested in experimenting with polyamory, but weren't sure how to bring it up to their significant other. The following was my response. I thought that others may find this useful as well.
Polyamory is a valid and wonderful lifestyle, for some people. Monogamy is just as valid and wonderful, for some people. Polyamory has become a catch-all word to describe all sorts of non-monogamous relationship choices, so it's important to begin with a question: Why are you considering polyamory?
- Are you attracted to someone new and want to explore a separate relationship with him/her?
- Are you interested in being able to be free to follow your urges and hook up with people you meet at festivals and other events?
- Are you wanting to find a new partner to bring into your existing relationship as an equal?
- Do you want the freedom to be sexually expressive of your affection with your friends?
- Are you looking to inject new energy into your existing relationship by beginning a new one?
- Are you both looking for an occassional playmate to share?
- Are you bored or frustrated with your current relationship and want some diversion?
- Do you feel pressured to try polyamory because so many people around you are doing it?
- Does it seem like a more natural relationship option to you based on your polytheistic spiritual beliefs?
- Do you have trouble remaining "faithful" to your partner, and so want to find a way to make your "affairs" more legitimate and honest?
Beware - polyamory doesn't "fix" or "solve" anything. If you're having problems in your relationship, they will remain and may even become worse if you prematurely embark on an exploration of polyamory. Open and honest communication is the single most important quality necessary to successfully navigating a polyamorous relationship, no matter how many partners are involved.
Also remember the popular poly maxim: "Love is infinite, time and energy are not." Although those of us who identify as polyamorous believe that we are capable of loving any number of people simultaneously, we also realize (or quickly learn) that all relationships take work, time, energy, and attention, which necessarily limits how many partners we can realistically keep up with.
If you and your S.O. do decide to experiment, you should discuss AHEAD of time, some of the following (and this is in no way meant to be an exhaustive list):
- Time and energy balance (who needs what kind of time and energy, and how to balance those needs)
- What is permissible (flirting with others, kissing & fondling, full intercourse, etc) and when
- The option of Veto power (will you each be able to veto the other's choice of additional partner?)
- Jealousy (what will you do WHEN jealousy rears its head)
- Hierarchy (will you adhere to the primary/secondary structure? will your family become a pod of equals?)
- Where trysts can happen (is it okay for your partner to use your shared bed for trysts with their other partner?)
- Agree to revisit your agreements regularly, and to communicate constantly about feelings, needs, boundaries, etc, especially if something changes - we often don't know what is going to trigger a reaction until we have that reaction, and so we need the freedom to renegotiate.
There's plenty more, but I encourage you to consider all of this first, and then do some reading and talking with other poly folk. I'd be happy to talk with you more in a private Temple session, if you'd like.