Navigating Polyamory


Learn from others
There are lots of resources available which have been created by an international community of people who have learned the hard way how to navigate the world of polyamory with the maximum of love and the minimum of heartbreak.
Consider reading the many great books, websites and online forums. Listen to the podcasts. Watch the videos. Join polyamorous communities and talk to people, whether here at BPP, other face to face groups, online groups, etc.

Work on your own attitudes and behaviours
Being open to multiple intimate relationships and providing your partner/s the freedom to do the same sometimes leads to uncomfortable and distressing feelings that can manifest as jealousy, anger, a desire to control others or to run away. Improving your emotional literacy helps to manage these unwanted feelings. Develop your confidence and security. Learn to take responsibility for your feelings. Identify your needs. Consider alternative ways of meeting your needs when your preferred strategy is unavailable or inappropriate. Cognitive Behavioural Therapy (CBT) is a school of psychology with helpful resources that encourage people to question whether their perceptions and fears are real or irrational.

Honesty and communication
Successful polyamorous relationships suit the people in them, and are based on informed enthusiastic consent, without relying on the less helpful default relationship assumptions that dominate our culture. Honest and effective communication enables you to articulate your needs, preferences and boundaries, and provide your partner/s with opportunities to do the same. This creates a foundation for you and your partner/s to genuinely listen to each other, negotiate the type of relationship/s you want, and decide how your particular relationship/s may proceed.
Each partner is encouraged to take responsibility for their own feelings and actions. However, being vulnerable and sharing your feelings with your partner/s can help you to manage uncomfortable emotions by providing opportunities for your partner/s to help you feel heard, supported and reassured. Non-violent communication (NVC) is method of communication with helpful strategies to reduce conflict and increase each individual’s opportunity to meet their needs.

Rules and agreements
While rules may provide a sense of security, they are often ineffective in their stated purpose. Rules will not stop partners from developing feelings or wanting change. Nor will they ensure a shared partner loves each partner ‘equally’. While some agreements about the nature of your relationship/s may be necessary to support boundaries, others may be overly restrictive and lead to one or more partners feeling hurt, unhappy and resentful. The most successful (and ethical) agreements allow for renegotiation when they are no longer needed or wanted, or when a new partner comes along who has not had input into the rules affecting them and their relationship/s.

Polyamorous people are not immune to jealousy, but are committed to working through those feelings in ways that respect everyone involved. Jealousy can be a sign of unmet needs (either actual or feared). Sometimes jealousy is a form of envy. It can also provide an opportunity to examine attitudes and assumptions in relationships which may be influenced by social conditioning or past experiences. Jealousy is not proof of love. Many poly people find it easiest to deal with jealousy by recognising, examining and discussing it when it happens.