The first step of every polyamorous relationship? An honest conversation with yourself. Guest author Deanna Richards, LMHC, outlines the questions you should answer before diving in.
Polyamory is on the rise as more Gen Z’ers embrace a fluid understanding of sexuality. But even as stigmas dissipate and worldviews broaden, the nuances and logistics of life as a poly single often remain a mystery for those who’ve yet to experience it.
Polyamory isn’t as simple as having your cake and eating it, too. While it may be an exciting alternative for those who can’t get down with long-term monogamy, it’s still a relationship — or an overlapping series of relationships — that demands thoughtful consideration and respect.
So before you dive head-first into polyamory, take a moment to consider your answers to the questions below.
1. Am I dating to find a single partner I can spend the rest of my life with?
A yes or no here is a good place to start. If your goal is to become deeply connected with one person with whom you plan to develop a partnered life (a monogamous marriage, raising children in a two-parent household) polyamory — even in the short-term — may not make sense for you.
But if the traditional iterations of those scenarios are not a top priority, or if you find yourself questioning why it is you want them, there may be room for alternatives.
2. Am I dating to make one connection or do I want to potentially meet several people?
Once you’ve determined whether you’re interested in the traditional concepts of monogamous marriage or two-parent child rearing, you may also want to consider how many partners you’re open to having in your life.
Do you want to share all of your romantic and sexual experiences with a single person, or are you interested in sharing those experiences with a variety of people under fluctuating circumstances? Polyamory allows for profound and deep connections with several partners at any given time, but can in be complicated by factors like emotional distance or jealousy. That’s why it’s important to be totally honest with yourself about your expectations, your temperament, and your desires.
It’s also important to remember that you can absolutely still enjoy marriage, long-term partnership, and parenthood within the context of polyamory — it may simply look a little different from the traditional depictions to which many of us have become accustomed.
3. Am I willing to create room in my own life to make multiple relationships work for polyamory?
We’ve all seen it happen with our monogamous friends — they pair up, their relationship progresses, and ultimately, they aren’t around as much. Sure, it can be annoying to watch a friend become preoccupied with their significant other, but it’s natural for certain relationships to recede as monogamous romantic partnerships move forward.
One of the most exciting elements of polyamorous relationships is that they don’t adhere to this narrative arc — but they do still require time and energy. That means you may end up re-prioritizing other pieces of your life in order to allow several relationships to develop at once.
4. Am I ready to negotiate?
An ability and willingness to respectfully negotiate is especially crucial for someone interested in polyamorous relationships. More so than for monogamous partners, who have no need to discuss how they will deal with sex outside the relationship.
But polyamory is about navigating many desires (both sexual and romantic) with multiple people simultaneously. This means discussing and negotiating what you each can expect from the other, making compromises, and distributing your experiences among a number of partners. Will you tell each other about sex with other partners? Is sex even a part of your relationship? What’s off limits, and what’s ok? A willingness to talk about and navigate these tricky topics is key.
5. Am I willing to get tested?
With polyamory comes a unique set of sexual considerations: sex with multiple and rotating partners requires consistent, up-to-date testing and a willingness to share those results with every partner. Getting tested may not be the sexiest part of polyamory, but its importance cannot be understated. If this isn’t something you’re able to commit to, be prepared to tell your partners from the get-go and be respectful of their reactions.
Life as a poly single offers an exciting way for individuals to explore their sexuality outside of traditional monogamy, and to simultaneously develop multiple relationships within a context of respect and honesty. So if you answered these questions genuinely and feel you’re ready to dive in, use your experience as an opportunity for introspection and self-discovery. Have fun, be safe, and enjoy your poly journey.