How to Start and Have Successful Polyamory Relationships?

How to Start and Have Successful Polyamory Relationships? Polyamory Terms, Is polyamory illegal? Check if it is right for you and more.

How to Start and Have Successful Polyamory Relationships?
How to Start and Have Successful Polyamory Relationships?

There’s no one-size-fits-all approach to any relationship, and that also applies to polyamorous ones. Everyone does polyamory a little differently. There are no rules set in stone, but the people involved in any given relationship create their own boundaries and agreements. The key is to make sure you are honoring whatever boundaries and agreements were made and openly communicating your desires if they’ve evolved beyond the original terms. [1]

How to Start and Have Successful Polyamory Relationships?

If you already have a partner, the first step towards establishing a polyamorous relationship is to talk to your partner about it. If you are nervous about bringing it up, you may want to gauge their interest in or knowledge of the topic by:

Inviting them to watch a movie with a polyamorous situation
Asking them what they think about polyamorous people you both know
Asking them their thoughts about a non-monogamous celebrity
Sending them an article about polyamory
Bring up the topic in a moment of peace, in a safe space and time. An argument is not the best time to ask about opening up the relationship. If your partner says no or expresses concerns, listen to them.

Relationship specialists recommend reassuring your partner that you still care about them. Express your reasons for wanting to try polyamory while also assuring them that you are committed to the relationship.

However, if you already know that you are poly, whether you have a partner or not, it may be best to seek out new partners who are already polyamorous, or at least interested in non-monogamous relationships. [2]

Explaining polyamory to partners

When it comes to sharing your polyamorous lifestyle with new potential partners, it’s important to bring it up early, Hall says. And since polyamory can take quite a few forms, you’ll need to let this person know what polyamory means to you.

“Being upfront and honest from the beginning is respectful, can prevent misunderstandings and hurt feelings, and ensures no one is wasting their time and energy,” she explains. “Most people in the polyamorous community are adept at communicating their boundaries, limits, and expectations, and that should include a brief, thoughtful way to communicate with potential new partners.”

Explaining your desire for a polyamorous relationship to a current partner you’re in a monogamous relationship with can be a little more difficult. Asking this person to move away from the familiarity they know in order to make room for others can be tough, but it’s not an impossible task. The biggest rule here, according to Dolinova, is being honest without being brutal. She encourages you to find the words to express your wants, fears and hopes without hurting your partner’s feelings in the process.

“One of the cardinal rules: Don’t try to open your relationship when things aren’t going well. It will definitely not fix it, and, in fact, will undoubtedly make things worse. The time to look at exploring polyamory when you’re in a monogamous relationship is when your relationship is healthy, strong, and exciting, and you both want to know what it would be like to have even more love in your lives,” she adds.

But what happens if your partner isn’t open to accepting your desire for a polyamorous relationship and they are hurt?

“Anecdotally speaking, it’s really hard to come back from it when one partner expresses a desire to go outside a monogamous relationship and the other person is really hurt by it,” Dolinova says.

Though not impossible, she says the desire for polyamory doesn’t typically fade if it’s a sincere desire for a relationship style. That’s because the desire for polyamory isn’t necessarily about just wanting more lovers; it’s often about wanting the freedom to explore loving relationships with multiple people.

That said, sometimes people believe they want polyamory when what’s actually happening is that they’re dissatisfied with their current relationship and are looking to have their needs met elsewhere. In such cases, opening up this conversation may open dialogue about how to make satisfying changes within your monogamous union.

Helping Your Loved Ones to Understand Polyamory

Coming out as polyamorous should always be your choice. You may choose to come out to personal friends or family members, but not to coworkers or acquaintances. Consider why you would like to come out before you do so.

Some experts recommend finding out a person’s thoughts about polyamory by asking them a few questions before you come out. You can ask them about another alternative lifestyle choice or a movie with polyamory in it to gauge what they may think about polyamory.

When coming out to children, relationship experts recommend waiting for the child to ask about your relationships. Give honest and age-appropriate information. Present the information in a calm manner to help children feel safe and secure. [2]

Different Ways to Start a Polyamory Relationship

“Opening” an existing relationship

Sometimes a couple will “open up” their relationship, Dolinova says, which might mean one or both of them begin to date other people (with each other’s mutual consent). It could also sometimes mean a third person dates both of the partners, forming a three-person relationship (also known as a throuple). Alternatively, two couples might choose to become romantically or sexually involved with each other.

The hierarchical approach

Within a polyamorous relationship, some may choose to prioritize one partner above others, making that person their “primary” partner. There’s also the option to have multiple primary partners or leave the space for additional relationships that could blossom to the primary level, or those who prefer the hierarchical approach might opt to stick with one primary relationship. In this setup, the other partners are considered secondary partners, and they often must accept pre-existing rules or limits on time defined by the primary relationship members.

But while the words primary and secondary have been used for a long time to indicate more hierarchical relationships, many people now find these “oppressive,” Dolinova says. Some people instead (or additionally) use the term nesting partners to refer to partners that share a home or living space.

The non-hierarchical approach

A polyamorous relationship can also exist without placing one partner or relationship above others, which is sometimes referred to as relationship anarchy. You don’t have to have any primary partners; you could instead choose to have multiple relationships without ranking them. Terms like nesting partners can still be useful to simply indicate partners that you live with without implying a hierarchy.

Solo polyamory

“Some people practice ‘solo polyamory,’ where they have several partners but don’t live with any of them. You might say there are as many ways to practice polyamory as there are people in such relationships. The only common thread is that all people involved need to know about one another and be willing to communicate,” Dolinova explains.

Read more:

Polyamory Terms

Ethical non-monogamy: This is the umbrella term for consensual relationships where people agree to have more than one romantic or intimate relationship at a time. This means that whoever is involved in this relationship is in the know and agrees to the relationship dynamics.

Metamour: This is your partner’s partner. Metamours may or may not interact with each other, depending on the structure of the relationship.

Polycule: A polycule is the group of all the people who are somehow connected through the romantic relationships they are in. This doesn’t mean that they all have to be dating each other.

Polysaturated: A term for when a person is polyamorous but not currently open to new partners or relationships.

Compersion: The word compersion describes the feeling of being happy, turned on, or excited about the idea of your partner being happy, romantically or sexually, with another person.

Triads and quads: Relationships that involve three people or four people. The triad could also be referred to as a throuple, which means each person is actively dating the other two people in the relationship. A quad could consist of two couples.

V or vee: A V relationship occurs when two people are both dating a third person, but they’re not dating each other. The third person is often referred to as the “hinge.”

Nesting partner: A partner you live with. They may or may not also be considered a “primary partner,” meaning that you prioritize them above other relationships.

Is polyamory illegal?

No. Polyamory isn’t illegal, but there are limitations for these unions. According to Dolinova, there aren’t any laws preventing consenting adults from having more than one loving relationship at a time, but being married to more than one person is indeed illegal in (most of) the United States.

“Some polyamorous people would like for marriage freedoms to be extended so that groups of three or four or more could share the rights and benefits conferred by the legal institution of marriage. Groups who are raising children together would especially benefit from this,” she explains. “There can certainly be high social consequences for polyamorous people, though, ranging from not being recognized as a family by a workplace to having children taken away. So, while it’s not illegal per se, it does still exist in a kind of social gray area.”

Can polyamory be bad or toxic?

Most things can be wonderful for one person and not great for someone else. There’s a common misconception that polyamory is naturally toxic or bad, but that isn’t the case. Polyamory can be a beautiful way of relating to others, just like any other relationship style. What can make it and/or any other relationship toxic is what happens inside that relationship between the people in it, their actions, and behaviors.

Like any other relationship structure, polyamory can become toxic when there is “dishonesty, unhealthy power dynamics, consistently overstepping boundaries, disregarding others’ feelings and agreements, choosing to be in the relationship for the wrong reasons,” says Menezes.

Toxic polyamory can be avoided by knowing your limits. “A good rule of thumb to remember is that while love is limitless, time and energy are not. It’s important to know what your limits are in terms of how much you can give to each of your partners,” Dolinova says. “It’s also very important to watch out for one person ‘doing polyamory’ while not telling their other partners about it. The word polyamory has often been used as a shield for what monogamous culture calls ‘cheating.’ Remember: If it isn’t open and honest, it isn’t polyamory.”

Can polyamorous people be in monogamous relationships?

Yes, according to Antonia Hall, transpersonal psychologist, sex educator, and author of The Ultimate Guide to a Multi-Orgasmic Life. Human connections are complicated, and our needs and desires can change throughout our lifetime.

“Those people that are truly happy in both polyamorous and monogamous relations are called ‘ambiamorous.’ Ambiamory is not as discussed but might be worth consideration for more people,” she explains. “Polyamorous relationships require the same cultivation of friendship and intimacy as a monogamous relationship, and the desire to become monogamous can happen. But those who have spent years exploring and enjoying polyamory might find monogamy to be a poor fit over time.”

How to know if polyamory is right for you:

  1. You are willing to be completely honest with yourself and others about your desires and actions.
  2. You have a deep desire to spend time exploring different aspects of yourself with different people, each on their own terms.
  3. You think you can handle the practical aspects of dating more than one person and are willing to work those out with your partners.
  4. You often have feelings for many people at the same time.
  5. The thought of connecting with multiple people on an intimate level at the same time sparks joy and doesn’t leave you feeling exhausted.
  6. You often daydream about being in a relationship with more than one person at a time.
  7. You feel confined by the idea of being with only one person.
  8. You feel capable of loving and committing to multiple people at the same time.
  9. You are OK with the idea of your partner having intimate relationships with other people.
  10. You feel like you could ultimately be your best self in a relationship with multiple people.
  11. You have done the research and spent time trying to fully understand the dynamics of polyamory.
  12. You feel like you could bring trust, respect, open communication, accountability, love, and honesty to multiple relationships at the same time.

How to know if polyamory is not right for you:

  1. You are choosing polyamory in the hopes of fixing a broken monogamous relationship.
  2. The thought of having to consider, spend time with, and commit to multiple people feels exhausting.
  3. Anything outside of monogamy feels “unnatural” to you.
  4. You haven’t spent time self-reflecting and understanding your triggers, insecurities, and past trauma relating to love and relationships.

The bottom line

Polyamory occurs between individuals who are in consensual romantic or sexual relationships with multiple people at the same time. At the end of the day, both polyamory (and other forms of ENM) and monogamy can birth beautiful, healthy, and enriching relationships for everyone involved. It all comes down to personal desires and preferences.

Open communication and honesty are absolute cornerstones for any healthy relationship, but even more so when it comes to the vulnerability and sharing that polyamory requires. You don’t want to be the person who ends up breaking multiple hearts because you decided to enter a new relationship with someone before communicating your desire for polyamory to your long-term monogamous partner.


[1] mbg relationship:

[2] WebMD: