If we were able to control our feelings and emotions it would be easier to differentiate between Polyamory and an Open Relationship. The former being described as not entirely based around sex, having love and emotional connections as its driving force, whilst the latter is seen as focusing almost exclusively on the sexual side. They are both carried out with the knowledge and consent of all parties and for the purposes of this article we will describe the whys, the pitfalls and the rules to follow along similar lines.
The reasons why couples choose to venture down this area of relationships are varied and complex, often they find it difficult to explain it for themselves. For example it could be a reaction against what they see as a restrictive family background, where at a young age they were not permitted to do what their friends were doing and wanting to catch up on lost experiences.
Some people can feel more comfortable in such relationships when it can be seen less is expected of them commitment wise and consequently find there is less pressure to conform to the wishes of a single partner. Perhaps they feel their present relationship is stagnating and thirst for change and new dramas to avoid becoming restless.
The concept of being completely honest to your partner about what you want can be looked on as an appealing prospect, as would be the greater variety of sex, the sense of freedom and the opportunity for new experiences that improve your social knowledge. Also factor in the addiction around the excitement of meeting new people without the attached guilt surrounding infidelity while logically thinking that having new friends doesn’t diminish your relationship with your best friend why should an additional sexual element affect your relationship with your partner? It’s a good question for the thought of breaking out of constraints can seem like an appealing proposition, so what is stopping us?
At some stage in many relationships it is possible, if not probable, that the idea of Polyamory or an Open Relationship is brought up in a conversation. The concept is not likely to be introduced by both partners at the same moment, for one is going to be the instigator while the other acquiesces. It can be seen, therefore, that right from the outset there is a power differential between the couple with one being the driving force while the other is less heavily invested in the process. This may not be considered a good starting point for with its inherent inequality in commitment a fertile ground for anger and resentment can be quickly created.
What other concerns need to be looked at regarding the downsides of these arrangements? Well, if you are commencing from a position in which there is low self-esteem be prepared to have this heavily tested in the course of events in which you are effectively creating a platform to be compared to other people. When this happens it will be inevitable that as well as apprehension, jealousy will be experienced at some point.
There also the unplanned circumstances which have to be considered including the significant long term effects of the increased risks of unwanted pregnancies and STDs. Less controllable however are our emotions. The couple can begin the project by assuring each other that they can keep their feelings in check while they explore but this guise of being in control of their future feelings is unlikely in reality to be possible. Can our emotions ever be under control or consistent? It is the case that they will not be predictable for either partner or their paramours.
It is difficult to shepherd our feelings when there are just two people involved in a Relationship when you double, treble, quadruple that number then it can be akin to attempting to herd cats.
Even the honesty seen as an advantage of such arrangements can be very much a double edged sword. It would be likely that neither partner, but especially the acquiescing one, will be wanting too many details to be divulged when their partner meets up with third parties. Once omissions happen, however, secrecy begins to appear and matters can quickly deteriorate with trust soon being lost. Trust is a very slippery emotion, once that goes from a Relationship it is difficult to get it back.
So, if despite all these pitfalls the idea still appeals to you, what are the best ways to go about it? Establishing some ground rules always seems like a good way to start any project, with both parties needing to discuss all aspects of the area first. You both need to feel able to talk about your wants and needs, your fears and hopes while at the same time realising where this is all heading. Do you have an end goal and if so what does it look like? Having everything out in the open right from the outset may help to avoid anybody getting hurt.
Wishing for physical and/or emotional relationships with third parties may be talked of in theory but the reality is that nobody can know what will happen and each partner must be fully aware of this. It will be necessary to admit what, if anything, is missing in the current relationship while it is important to also respect each other’s wishes.
Once you have begun to meet up with other people talk about your initial feelings, what you liked and didn’t but remember to have boundaries only discuss what your partner wants to hear. From a more practical position boundaries should also be in place regarding who will be involved, matters would be easier and less complicated if mutual friends, colleagues and exes were avoided.
Keeping this separate from your normal life would also be seen as necessary. Discretion will be seen as the better option than the raised eyebrows if you were to take your new lover to the family barbecue..
Realise that jealousy will be inevitable so it is important to discuss your concerns with each other as soon as possible before it gets worse but above all remember to prioritise each other, keeping each other’s needs and desires at the top for when someone else starts to become the leading item in your thoughts then things can quickly fade between you.
As can be seen there is a lot to consider here, an area that should not be rushed into so talking to other people about this gathering some thoughts and opinions could help to see the bigger picture and focusing on the most important aspects of our lives together.