There will be other forms in addition to our classic marriage. One is already looming on the horizon: polyamory, or having more than one intimate partner.” – Volkmar Sigusch
While statistics show that the majority of people in the western world continue to seek monogamous relationships others are finding that this type of relationship does not work for them. Polyamory is simply the idea that you are open to having more than one loving relationship at a time. Just like monogamous relationships each polyamorous relationship journey is a bit different. Some polyamorous people may have previously tried monogamous relationships without luck, but others may have always known themselves to be polyamorous. Other couples may have started out monogamous and decided together to open their relationship to polyamory. Another term for polyamory is consensual non monogamy. Polyamory is not the same thing as cheating on your partner in a monogamous relationship. Just like a monogamous relationship needs a foundation of trust to be healthy, so does a polyamorous relationship. Polyamorous people can be any gender or sexuality just like those in monogamous relationships.
Let’s begin by defining some common terms you may encounter that are related to polyamory. A polycule is a group of people who are connected through romantic relationships. Members of a polycule are not necessarily all in a relationship with each other, but they may be. Members of the same polycule who are not in relationship with each other are called metamours. A metamour can be your partner’s other partner or spouse. They may also be in another type of relationship with your partner, such as a sexual, kink, or some other relationship status. Compersionis another term related to polyamory, which many refer to as “the opposite of jealousy”. Compersion means feeling joy when seeing your partner happy with another person.
Polyamorous relationships may have different structures, and even if you are polyamorous, you may find that your relationship structure is not compatible with all partners. Some polyamorous people may choose to have nesting partners (persons whom they live with) or primary partners. Sometimes, the primary relationship partners may practice hierarchal polyamory. Hierarchal polyamory means that partners may place more importance on certain relationships than others. The primary partners may share finances only with each other, live together, or co parent together. They may decide together about their rules for other sexual partners, or romantic relationships. Some of the more common polyamorous relationship structures are vee, triad (or thrupple), and quad. A vee is a relationship with three partners, where one partner is involved with two people who are not in relationship with each other (think the letter “v”). A triad is a relationship where all partners are romantically or sexually involved with each other. Sometimes this happens when two metamours in a vee decide to date each other. Sometimes this happens when a couple decides to open their relationship to another partner. A quad is formed when four people are intimately involved with each other. Sometimes two couples may join together to form a quad. Another way this can happen is when a primary couple opens their relationship and they each bring in an additional partner to form a quad.
Other forms of polyamory that are common are non hierarchichical and solo polyamory. Non hierarchical polyamory is when persons in a relationship consider all relationships to be as important as eachother. This is a more fluid relationship style. Some partners may live together, and some may spend more time together than others. In solo polyamory the person chooses not to live with another person or share finances. They reserve the right to make individual choices without those decisions being dictated by another person. Relationship anarchy is closely related to solo polyamory. The difference with relationship anarchy is that the person chooses not to make one relationship important over others. Meaning, there is no distinction between sexual , romantic, family, or friendship relationships. They may choose to be fluid in their relationships and dislike putting expectations on relationships. It’s important to remember that like all relationships, polyamorous relationships can change over time. Healthy relationships are flexible and able to meet the needs of the individuals in them.
What does Counseling look like in Polyamorous relationships?
Like all systems counseling, therapy with polyamorous relationships or individuals seeks healthy relationships with persons in the system. An affirming and competent therapist will help you strengthen your relationship with yourself and others in your system. You will work to improve communication, strengthen bonds and create and maintain relationships that can provide a safe space that is the basis of healthy adult attachment. Each partner can learn to provide security protection and comfort, helping everyone in the relationship have a more positive sense of self, and an ability to effectively regulate their emotions.