Polyamorous relationships can be deep intimate relationships that equal the intimacy of monogamous relationships. In the past 30 years, I have worked with polyamorous couples, groups and singles as well as monogamous ones. The differences are not found in the relationship style, they are found in the ways in which the people involved approach issues, conflict and the resolution of problems, commitment and the relationships themselves.
Any parent knows that it is possible to fully commit to your child and your child’s other parent. Love is not in limited supply. If you have 6 children, you don’t love child number six less than child number one. You don’t divide your love up in pieces.
This is true when the relationships are hierarchical (where there is a primary relationship and other relationships are prioritised less) and it is true when they are not hierarchical. Dividing time in ways that satisfies all partners in all relationships is the challenge. In monogamous relationships, time can be difficult to manage as well. How many wives complain that their husbands spend too much time down the pub, out with friends or at the office? Equally husbands complain that women spend all the time on the kids or out with girlfriends. When you master how you divide and apportion your time, your relationships all improve regardless of the relationship style.
Non-monogamous relationships require flexibility in thinking and flexibility in approach. To create successful non-monogamous relationships or poly-mono relationships, you have to learn to think flexibly, think outside the box for solutions, and negotiate well.
Compersion is experienced on a spectrum from appreciation of your partner’s pleasure at more of a distance to intense sexual excitement because of your partner’s sexual excitement. For example: Arla feels happy when Jethro is happy. When he goes out on a date, she experiences contentment when Jethro is enjoying himself. She does not want to know the details of his date nor does she want to be told all about the person he is dating. Jethro wants all the details of Arla’s experiences. When Arla is excited, Jethro is guaranteed to get an erection. Compersion is one of the reasons why polyamorous relationships work well. Feeling compersion increases emotional intimacy, the bond and attachment that partners have to each other and to their partner’s other partners.
Not all polyamorous people experience compersion. Some monogamous people experience compersion. For example, Jon experiences intense joy when Maggie manages to climb to the peak of the mountain. Terry experiences excitement and joy when Jeff gets his promotion. Compersion is antithetical to jealousy and envy. When we feel compersion, we are invested in our partner’s (or friend, or family member’s) well-being, self-actualisation, growth, achievement. When we feel compersion, we reaffirm how much we value and love our partners (family members, friends).
In working polyamorous relationships, each one of us recognises and celebrates the authentic unique people with whom we are in relationship. When you love someone, you want that person to fulfil their dreams, potential and have as many of their needs met as possible. You want that person to experience as much happiness and joy and love as they can hold. This can be more difficult in monogamous relationships where people often feel that their partner should be their everything or that they should be able to meet every need their spouse might have.
This is particularly important in situations that affect two people who are living together. If you are married and undergo an horrific trauma (such as a critically ill child), it can be hard to gain support from your spouse as you are both experiencing the same type of intense stress. In a working polyamorous relationship, you can draw on your other partner (s) for support. If you are monogamous, you might look to family or friends which is also helpful for polyamorous people.
They work best when a frame work is set up that includes rules, expectations, routines, rituals, problem solving methods and when this framework is regularly reviewed, especially when a new partner enters any part of the extended family. Are you going to live with any partner? With more than one partner? Will you live communally? Will you live singly? Are you going to have children? Will you raise children together? Are most of your relationships going to be more casual or only sexual? Do you want to meet your partner’s other partners? Will you socialise with each other? Will you just meet once or twice? Will you combine financial lives? These are just some of the questions to think about and then to discuss with and negotiate with partner (s). It is fair to say that polyamory is more complex than monogamy. The complexity is an attraction for some and a turn off for others.
Those who can work through the jealousy without requiring their partner to change behaviour are the people whose relationships work best. Jealousy is the emotion cited most often as being problematic in polyamorous relationships and is often the reason given for the failure of these relationships. In reality, it isn’t the jealousy that causes the failure. It is the lack of emotional skills. This is a problem in monogamous relationships as well but the problem is amplified when dealing with multiple relationships. There are simply more occasions for jealousy to arise.
The additional emotional skills and work required are far outweighed by the amplified rewards from sharing the joy, love, and pleasure that your partners experience. Compersion not only intensifies these positive feelings but it creates a growing feedback spiral. I have a hot evening with my girlfriend. I share my feelings and experience with my husband who experiences compersion. He has an intense lovemaking session with his boyfriend and shares this experience and feelings with me and I experience compersion. This leads to a weekend of lovemaking for the two of us. Our separate encounters elevate the level of arousal we feel when we connect next.
Our partners also experience compersion and if they are in other relationships, bring the joy back to their other partners and so on. The effects ripple out in waves through our extended romantic family and then feedback towards the centre in waves. The only skills needed to achieve this type of peak experience are the ability to feel compersion, the ability to communicate well, the ability to manage one’s own feelings, the ability to be fully present and authentic. Finally, there is the willingness to trust and be vulnerable. All of these skills can be learned and with practice improved until they are perfected.
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Dr Lori Beth is a UK registered (licensed) psychologist, and a sex & intimacy coach. She works with individuals, couples and polyamorous groups to resolve issues relating to sexuality, sexual dysfunction, explore kink, BDSM/power exchange and non-monogamy. She helps people who have survived sexual trauma create healthy sex lives. She works with people worldwide via Zoom and in person. Dr Lori Beth hosts two weekly podcasts; The A to Z of Sex Ò and Sex Spoken Here on iTunes, Stitcher and other podcasting services. Are you ready to explore what type of relationship style is for you? Will polyamory meet your needs? Sign up for a free 30 minute discovery session at https://the-intimacy-coach.com. Go to the contact page and on the right click on ‘click here’ to reach her diary.