Introducing a Poly Relationship

Introducing a poly relationship, or at least the idea of one to your partner:Polyamory may be a new experience that you are curious about and want to explore with your partner. Or you may already identify as polyamorous and want to introduce this relationship style to your partner hoping that he or she will be interested in sharing this experience together. It is understandable that you may be feeling nervous, apprehensive, unsure of how to approach this topic, or exactly how your partner will respond. Most people are used to monogamous relationships and have never experimented out of that context. You may be feeling worried that your partner may look down on this proposal, feel confused, or may not even understand exactly what is involved in polyamory. All of this may happen. You can not control another persons reaction.  Your goal is to be true to yourself.  As you increase your level of honesty with a partner, you will become more vulnerable. This vulnerability will increase your ability to be emotionally intimate with a partner.  The full you will be revealed. After revealing the full you, your partner is free to react to the real you.  The reaction, regardless of it being positive of negative will be an honest reaction to what you are truly thinking / feeling.  At this junction, your partner may decide that a poly relationship is an avenue that he / she wishes to pursue. Similarly, it may be a direction that your partner says that he / she does not want to pursue. Some people prefer monogomous relationships. In a healthy relationship, raising a sensitive topic, has the potential to bring a couple closer together.

If you already know that you identify yourself as a member of the poly community, and you are for the first time introducing a poly relationship, or at least this idea of one with your ‘monogamous’ partner, she or he may need an adjustment time. Their first reaction may or may not reflect how they feel three months from time. This is an idea that you have been struggling with, considering, excited by, for a while, while in contrast this may be your partner’s first exposure to the idea. Remember to give your partner the emotional freedom to react without being held to his or her innitial reactions. With that being said, if your partner, after a period of time remains strong in their desire for having a monogamous relationship, you  may need to prepare yourself to be willing to end this relationship or give up the idea of having an open relationship. Open relationships are not right for everyone.

Ideas for introducing a poly relationship, or at least the idea of engaging in one:

  • Create a comfortable space for you and your partner to talk. Make sure that neither one of you are under any time restrictions, or are anxious about the next task.  We strongly encourage having the kids be with a grandparent or babysitter. The dogs should already be walked, dinner plans made, and the house cleaned.
  • Ask your partner what his or her ideal emotional and sexual relationship would look like. What do they want out of it?  How do they imagine a closed or an open relationship will help them feel fulfilled. Mirror back their answers. Make sure you understand what they are saying. Then show empathy for your partner’s perspective and  validate their experience.  Remember, it’s not about you. This is simply your partner’s experience. Once your partner feels understood, share with your partner, your answer(s) to the same questions.  Ask your partner to mirror back your answers.  Remind your partner that he or she does not have to agree with you, the exercise is to simply see if they got your perspective. Once each of you understand where the other person is coming from, a more meaningful dialogue will emerge.
  • What is each person’s vision of bringing in a third person into the relationship. Is the primary bond between the initial two people? Or is it an equal three-way bond, where each person’s emotional needs must be equally valued, considered and respected? What happen’s if one person starts to feel jealous or wants out of the poly relationship and wants to resume monogamy?
  • Identify each person’s fears about engaging in an open or closed relationship. What are the potential drawbacks, or benefits. Create a list of desires.
  • Label each person’s desires into a category (if one fits). And see how the ‘identify’ feels to each person.
  • Read a book with your partner about poly relationships. What does the author suggest are the basic guidelines for a healthy poly relationship. How do those guidelines seem to you and your partner. Discuss the book together. Additionally, try reading some fiction about people who have lived that lifestyle. Then try to identify what you relate to in the book and why.
  • Talk with people in the poly community and see what their experiences have been. Then with your partner discuss your findings. What makes intuitive sense to you? What feels scary? What feels exciting? What are your boundaries / limits?
  • Make a list together of all the pros and cons to this relationship style and see which category each of you are more likely to be drawn towards.
  • If poly relationships are a direction that the two of you mutually decide to explore, be open or flexible to any rules or guidelines that need to be changed or decreased at any point on your polyamorous journey.

This tip was developed for the Center for Growth / Sex Therapy in Philadelphia.