I'll throw out my 2 cents about polyamory, though I am currently not in a poly relationship, and am mono with my wife. We had tried poly for a short time, then put it on hold (possibly indefinitely) until we gained an understanding of the issues that arose.
My Beliefs on *Any* Relationship, Poly or Mono
In my opinion, there are three commandments of any relationship that are critical to it's health. A tripod if you will, that when any of it's legs are kicked out, the whole relationship is in danger:
To Poly or Not to Poly
- Trust - There must be an unwavering, absolute trust. Outside of hiding what a gift you bought might be for a loved one, other secrets and things "left unsaid" are seeds of deception that will grow into full blows meltdowns. Trust like this may not feel natural for some, may be hurtful at times, but is very freeing when fully embraced.
- Communication - Communicating how you feel about your relationship often, and in depth, is critical. When communication breaks down, little problems become enormous, pain amplifies, and lovers become estranged. Like trust, it may not always be comfortable or nice, but communication is something a healthy couple should demand of themselves.
- Commitment - Commitment to the health of the relationship and the happiness of your lover is also critical. I have often said that if it feels like you are bending further, working harder, and contributing more than your partner, you are likely doing just enough. Seeking perfect balance is a fairy tale. Relationships are work, and those that work at it receive wonderful relationships.
This question is similar, to me, to the questions people ask about getting married or having kids. A pitfall I have seen throughout my life is that people tend to think that the best way to fix problems in their relationships are to shake them up violently with something new, like marriage, kids, or polyamory.
To me, that seems counter intuitive. If marriage, kids, and polyamory all add additional challenges
, and will not fix problems in a relationship, only make them harder to focus on.
The time to consider these types of changes is when the existing relationship(s) are strong, healthy, and ascribe to the three commandments in the previous section.
This is not to be a naysayer on the idea of polyamory of these other things, quite the contrary. If they are approached in a healthy manner, each can bring great rewards, and a richer life.
Rules and Regulations
It may seem unromantic, or business-like to clearly define and codify rules and boundaries into contract form, but it's absolutely critical IMHO.
The thing is, monogamous marriage as most of society understands it is a heavily documented, aggressively indoctrinated relationship structure with enormous amounts of material devoted to the ins and outs of how it is supposed to work, what is or is not acceptable, and what is expected of all parties. Most of us grow up to be taught all of our lives about the virtues and righteousness of mono marriage as an institution (though we also become subjected to how it frequently meets with abject failure).
Polyamory has no such advantage. In our society you may a well be trying to leave a cult without the benefit of a deprogramming specialist or ready support structure. it is the less taken path.
To add complexity to that, there are more flavors of polyamory than ice cream selections at a 31 flavors parlor.
Negotiation of the rules and formal codification of them, with the understanding that they may be amended if all are comfortable and agree, or to protect the core relationship(s) is a must. If anything it will bring out of hiding many concerns or issues that polyamory brings to the table. Things like STD testing, resource allocation, scheduling and boundaries are essential to preplanning, and are potentially devastating if left hidden or unexplored.
My Personal Boundaries - To You It May Not Apply
Some of the things that my wife and I has worked out prior to exploring polyamory are as follows.
We felt that any new partner brought in should also be one that was at a minimum a compatible match for friendship for all partners involved. As an example, it would be critical for me to know and gain some comfort and trust with a new partner my wife might introduce for me to satisfy my protective instincts. The idea that both of us should be comfortable going out with a new partner to have dinner, or go bowling, for instance, should not be a foreign one.
We felt that any new partner should be honest with any other partners they had about dating one of us. Neither of us would want to be a dirty little secret, but more importantly that type of behavior and willingness to betray a loved one would be incompatible with the types of relationships we were seeking to form.
We also felt that if there was a hint of the new partner seeking to cause damage to our core relationship (leave him/her for me), or undermine our relationship in any way, or if one of us felt that the new partner was a threat, that each of us had the obligation to pause or stop dating that person unless those issues were resolved to both of our satisfaction.
I feel that polyamory is a fantastic way to grow and enrich the lives of a couple, and that for many, if not most people, it's a more natural fit than the typical monogamous relationship.
I feel it's a harsh construct to demand that a couple guarantee to each other that if one should die or become incapacitated, that they are left without other loving partners to help and support them in times of need. Some have said to me that other family members, fathers, mothers, brothers, sisters and such, could fill such a role. I would argue that if that type of responsibility was expected, then why would we also not want said family to pay for our life insurance or similar things. I personally would feel more at ease if I were to know that should I die first, my wife would not be left romantically alone, and be forced to start from scratch.
I could go on forever. Instead, I'll stop mow before this post gets any longer!