My Relationship Rules: The Polyamorist
Relationships fascinate me; the intricacies, complexity, and varying rules for each partner (both spoken and unspoken). In this new 3 part series I’m asking the question, so what are your relationship rules?
Meet Mia*, as she opens up about her polyamorous relationship.
Whats the difference between polygamy and polyamory?
Big difference. A polygamist relationship is when a man is married to two or more women at a time and there is no martial bond between the women (this is called polyandry if a woman is married to multiple men who do not share a marital bond). Polyamory means “many loves”. It doesn’t have to mean “many sexual lovers” though, in my experience, it often does. Polyamorous relationships generally consist of people who are seeking to build (or who are open to the idea of) multiple intimate relationships. There are innumerable ways of practicing polyamory (including “primaries”, “secondaries”, “dyads, triads, “circles” and “constellations”) but many of us give emphasis to the importance of “ethics, consent, negotiation and trust” as means of guiding human relationships rather than a priori agreed upon sets of rules. In essence: trust is more important than monogamy.
How does this lifestyle work for you and your partner(s)?
Polyamorous arrangements vary and, naturally, they change and evolve as people do. This is what ours currently looks like: we have no “sex” rules (except safe sex) and we have no rules about intimacy except complete transparency, honesty and respect.
This works well for us but it’s not for everyone. This probably sounds like a cliché but communication is absolutely critical. You have to talk. You have to be willing to talk and you have to be willing to listen. You have to be gentle and graceful in holding each other’s hearts and you also have to take responsibility for looking after yourself. It works for us because we communicate about EVERYTHING.
I cannot emphasise enough that there is no one particular version of polyamory. Everyone (literally) does it differently. Some swingers call themselves polyamorists and other polyamorists are offended by this because they see their lifestyle as less about recreational sex and more about the potential social, political, spiritual connections and implications that are possible in a polyamorous lifestyle. I would place myself in the latter camp though I won’t be offended if you compare me to a swinger.
Why did you both decide that this was the relationship for you?
It was more like a natural evolution than a decision. When my primary partner (Don*) and I met neither of us was looking for a “serious” relationship and both agreed that we would see other people. In addition to my interest in Don I was also seeing Natasha (a woman) and it turned out that all of three of us got on well. Our relationship with Natasha didn’t continue as she moved overseas. However, I think that early experience while we were still in the early months of ‘dating’ (we still ‘date’ both each other and other people!) provided us both with some insight into what our love could look like and we began to openly question the practice and ideals of monogamy as they related to us. We realized that we had accepted and internalized a set of rules about love and sex that weren’t our own, didn’t reflect our own feelings and no longer served us.
What compromises do you need to make in your relationship, does this differ from monogamous relationships?
I don’t think there is much difference here. We have to compromise all the time as do all of our friends in monogamous relationships. It’s possible that we are more verbal about sex/intimacy-related compromises but I don’t think we necessarily experience them any more or less. Plenty of my monogamous friends are making relationship/intimacy/sexual compromises daily. They compromise their sexual feelings when they honor the rules of their relationship and refrain from pursuing a relationship (sexual or even platonic) with someone they have a strong sexual attraction to. We make similar compromises too. Sometimes one of us is attracted to a person that the other isn’t – we make compromises in how we manage that… we don’t simply force that situation to work or lie about it to ensure we still get what we want (in the short-term). All relationship is compromise.
What is the best relationship advice you can offer other polygamous or monogamous couples?
“Love one another and you will be happy. It’s as simple and as complicated as that”. Or – for something a little more prescriptive (and probably more unsexy than you hoped): Build and maintain a strong foundation. Little things matter a lot. Sure, big, dramatic and nasty things can cause pain and end relationships but so can little things. It’s called “death by a thousand paper cuts”. Don’t kill your love and relationship by not paying attention to the little things. Practice daily commitment through the mundane tasks of life. If you say you’re going to take the rubbish out – do it. If you say you’ll be somewhere – be there. When your foundation is strong you can do anything. Seriously. Anything. *Names have been changed to protect privacy.