If your partner says that they want other relationships too, and you find the idea absolutely repugnant or completely unacceptable, then say so and consider whether this really is the person for you. If it is a new relationship then the loss is not too huge and you can go on to find someone who believes in monogamy. But if you are intrigued, find the idea somewhat tantalising and possibly erotic, and feel secure enough in your relationship not to feel threatened, then perhaps you should stick around and find out if it might suit you too. If it is a long standing relationship and you don’t want to lose it, and your partner has declared that they want to open it up to other people, I would suggest that you see an Imago Relationship Therapist together to discuss the implications.
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Why would people be polyamorous? It can be difficult enough to manage one relationship let alone three, four or six at the same time. People who have become polyamorous often say that it allows them to explore sexuality as they wish, or they don’t want to be tied down in an exclusive monogamous relationship. But the truth is that many are doing it because they feel they must to please their partner, and there are often emotional casualties.
Coping with polyamory can be hard. Ester Perel, author of ‘Mating in Captivity’, advises, ‘The presence of other people [in the relationship] can be a fact of life; how we deal with it is up to us. We can approach it with fear, avoidance, and moral outrage; or we can bring to it a robust curiosity and a sense of intrigue. Acknowledging the others has to do with validating the erotic separateness of your partner. It follows that our partner’s sexuality does not belong to us. It isn’t just for and about us, and we should not assume that it rightfully falls within our jurisdiction. It doesn’t.’
There cannot be any possession or jealousy. Reassurance is key. There needs to be an acceptance of everyone’s freedom to love and be loved. If your partner says that he or she wants other partners, your first impulse may be to feel attacked or rejected. If the time comes when your partner does take another partner, you may feel that person is attacking you simply by existing. Take a deep breath, relax, and try to let go of it. Your partner is not attacking you, and your partner’s other partner is not attacking you; it’s important not to respond angrily, but to try to make a relationship that works for all of you.
It won’t always be easy. Compromises will be required from everyone involved. This may especially be true of a partner who is, at heart, monogamous, who will have to learn to adapt to an entirely new way to approach romantic relationships which may seem at first to fly in the face of everything learned about the way love is supposed to work.
There may be times when you will feel insecure, jealous, and hurt; this does not mean that your relationship is failing, and it is not wrong, bad, or irrational for you to feel this way. It simply means that your partner will have to take the time to pay special attention to your needs and your feelings, that’s all.
It is important to have boundaries and to be honest about setting them and acknowledging that your partner(s) also have boundaries. There needs to be good opportunities and regular times for dialogues around whats going on for each of you. The Imago Relationship Dialogue structure is perfect because it allows for deep feelings to be expressed in a safe way, so each can talk so the other will listen and listen so the other will talk.
Using Imago, those involved can express their fears and frustrations, annoyances and anger. I recommend to polyamorous couples and their partners to have a regular weekly conversation as an ideal way to ensure that everyone’s feelings are heard and needs are expressed and met. This includes other members of the relationship – many polyamorous relationships have all the participants meet each other from time to time, which does not mean that an orgy takes place, its just means that everything is in the open.
Franklin Veaux, author of ‘More than Two’ and who runs a website with the same name for those interested in polyamory, says,
Don’t keep score
Fairness operates on a global level, not a local level; there may be times when one partner, for whatever reason, is going through a crisis or is facing problems or for whatever reason needs more support and attention. As long as that support is available to all the people in the relationship when they need it, it’s not a question of keeping score.
Do understand that your needs have nothing directly to do with your partner’s other partner
It’s usually more helpful to ask “Am I getting what I need?” rather than “Am I getting the same things as my partner’s other partner?” Not everyone has the same needs, and happiness is found more easily in having your needs met than in having the same things as the people around you.
Don’t let problems sit
Addressing problems is never comfortable. Approaching a person who is behaving in a way that causes you pain or who isn’t meeting your needs carries emotional risk. Sometimes, it’s a lot more comfortable just to let small problems slide, at least until they become big problems. As tempting as it is to let things slide, though, the fact is that small problems or irritations can become magnified out of proportion when they aren’t addressed, and this is dangerous for any relationship.
Do ask for what you need
If you don’t ask for what you need, you can’t expect to get the things you need. If you discover that your needs aren’t being met, talk to your partner about it.
For more information and to get in touch with Annie, head to www.anniegurton.com