Are you considering giving polyamory a try?
Then you should think about the pros and cons of polyamory first before you get into something you might come to regret.
Learn how a poly lifestyle can be an antidote to boredom in your relationship, but also how difficult it can be to deal with jealousy issues.
Pros of Polyamory
Let’s look at the advantages of polyamory.
If you feel attraction to somebody, you don’t need to suppress it. You are free to act on your impulses.
Poly relationships reduce pressure. You are less likely to catch yourself thinking, “Oh my god, I am stuck with this person for the rest of my life.”
Being with different people will lead to different experiences. Person A might want to discuss books with you. Person B might introduce you to the BDSM scene. Person C might take you fishing.
One lover might sweep you off your feet with their positive, infectious outlook on life. Another one might center you with their calm, rational energy.
We all crave a certain level of sexual variety. Just like we don’t want to eat the same meal for the rest of our life, we don’t want to sleep with the same person for the rest of our life — even if it’s our favorite person.
Being poly, you are free to experience as much sexual variety as you desire.
Freedom From the Social Construct
Love is prestructured by social constructs. For example, a relationship is commonly considered unsuccessful unless it leads to marriage.
Being poly helps to overcome these constructs, by questioning them and coming up with better alternatives.
It can be a massive ego boost when you have several attractive partners fawning over you.
The Freedom To Express Your Feelings
Many people in monogamous relationships stop expressing their feelings because they have learned there will be a backlash. They withdraw into themselves.
In contrast, poly relationships emphasize radical honesty. You are expected to say exactly what is on your mind.
Better Relationship Skills
The more tennis matches to play, the better you get at tennis. It’s the same with relationships. The more relationships you have, the better you will get at that particular skill.
In monogamous relationships, many things are simply not discussed. For example, what constitutes cheating? Flirting? A long hug? A massage?
In poly relationships, these are the first things being discussed. Everybody needs to know what the rules are.
Poly relationships tend to bring things into the open.
For example, if you have trust issues, it will soon become clear to everybody. You might be able to hide it from one person, but not from several people.
By being confronted with these problems, you will be able to let go of them.
Many of us have rather infantile notions of whom we want to be with. We dream about princes on white horses or fuck toys with perfect bodies.
Polyamory can help to cure you of these unrealistic notions. With feedback from different sources, we are more likely to wake up to the realities of adult love life.
Letting your partner explore other romantic options requires a lot of trust — and vice versa. By walking this path together, this trust will only increase.
A New Spark
Polyamory can reignite a relationship that has gone stale. It can reintroduce an element of adventure.
“Feeling” the Other Person
Navigating jealousy issues together requires a lot of communication. As a result, you develop an almost preternatural ability to feel each other.
A Focus on Problem-Solving
Poly lovers tend to have a hands-on mentality. When a problem arises, you sit down together and find a solution.
That is the opposite of many monogamous relationships, where problems are often kept under wraps.
While most poly relationships require clearly defined rules, these rules can always be renegotiated. In fact, they must constantly be renegotiated, as new people enter into the relationship network and others leave.
While a breach of trust is still possible in poly relationships, it’s mitigated. The big boogeyman — sexual infidelity — doesn’t quite hold the same sting.
Saving the Existing Relationship
Opening a relationship up can sometimes help save it. People who would otherwise have separated now remain together.
It is also plain exciting to have sex with different people and to explore different sides of your personality.
Not Taking the Other Person for Granted
Since monogamy guarantees exclusiveness, the partners tend to take each other for granted.
With polyamory, there is more of an incentive to keep investing in the relationship. Because if you stop caring, your partner will shift their attention elsewhere.
Less Pressure To Get Married
People in poly relationships tend to be more skeptical of institutionalizing love, aka getting married.
Also, for legal reasons, you cannot get married to multiple partners, at least not in the Western world. So, overall, there is less pressure to get hitched.
Having said that, there are couples having an open marriage. It’s still an option if you want that.
The poly community is made up of some interesting people — people who are not intimidated by social norms, who like to think for themselves. As part of that subculture, you will get to meet them.
Many of us subscribe to the myth of “The One.” Supposedly, there is some magical soulmate out there waiting for you.
As a result, we flat-out reject people who don’t live up to that soulmate ideal.
When you go poly, you are free to explore all kinds of relationships, not just the soulmate option. And some of these “inferior” relationships will turn out to be highly rewarding.
Overcoming the Notion of Ownership
Monogamous relationships are based on the notion of property.
When we transitioned from living as hunter-gatherers to being farmers, for the first time, we started to accumulate property (land, cattle, houses).
Suddenly, it became important to know who the father was. You wanted to make sure that you were passing on your wealth to your genetic offspring, not the mailman’s child.
Hence the stellar rise of monogamy in recent history.
Poly relationships try to overcome this material fixation. You don’t own the other person, neither sexually nor emotionally. And they don’t own you.
A More Complete Life
Non-poly people always assume the main attraction of polyamory is sexual variety. But the real appeal is that you get to experience different sides of yourself with different people.
For example, a couple of years back, I had one lover who I could be extremely silly with; we were like children around each other.
In a parallel relationship, I got the chance to act more dominant. With a third partner, I was able to explore more of my intellectual interests.
All these different facets inside you — you are allowed to express them. You can play many roles, as many as you have partners.
Many monogamous relationships suppress personal development. It threatens the status quo.
The fear is, “What if my partner changes too much?” Then they might not want to be in the relationship anymore.
In poly relationships, you tend to get more leeway. Your partners are not laying claim to you (or less so). There is room for personal growth.
When people say, “I want to get fit,” what they are really saying is, “I want to look more sexually attractive.” That’s why gym memberships go up right before the holiday season.
But once you are off the market, a.k.a. in a monogamous relationship, that incentive goes away. You think to yourself, “Why bother? I already am in a relationship.” So, you proceed to eat that box of Oreos.
In a poly relationship, you are never off the market. That means you always have an incentive to stay fit. Your sexual self-interest keeps you hungry.
No Shallow Compromises
Many people will settle for the first halfway decent partner they come across, for fear of ending up empty-handed.
If you already have several partners, that scarcity mindset vanishes. There is no need for shallow compromises.
You can say whatever you want about poly relationships, but they are not boring. The relationship network is always in flux.
In contrast, monogamous relationships almost inevitably turn boring. There is not enough new input.
In a poly network, there are more people around to provide help, should you need it. This could mean:
- Raising children together as a group
- Taking care of someone who has fallen sick
- Helping someone to grieve
- Supporting someone who is financially struggling
If you are poly, there is always someone around who you can talk to. This not only includes your romantic partners but also their partners. It can be really fun to bond with your girlfriend’s other boyfriend.
If you have several lovers, there is less of a chance of you becoming codependent on one. You are not putting all your eggs in one basket.
New relationship energy (NRE) is the emotional high you experience at the beginning of a new liaison. People in monogamous relationships might experience this euphoria every couple of years (or never again). You are free to experience it anytime.
If one relationship ends, you always have other lovers to help you through the breakup phase. It will make a huge difference in dealing with the pain.
More Attachment Figures
If you are poly and have children, there will be more adults around for them to connect with.
This makes the experience more enjoyable for everybody.
The parents will be more laid-back, knowing that there are other people who can occasionally take over.
And the kids will grow up more inspired, learning new behaviors and skills from various sources, not just the two primary caregivers.
Friends for Life
After a breakup, there is a good chance that you will remain friends with former poly lovers.
If you didn’t hate them while you were together and they had sex with other people, you probably won’t hate them once the relationship is over.
Such deep friendships can be even more rewarding than the original romantic entanglement.
Three or four people with a full-time income living together have a significant advantage over just two breadwinners.
You will better be able to split costs for rent, cars, appliances, subscriptions, etc. As a result, everybody will have more money to play with.
Cons of Polyamory
Now let’s have a look at the disadvantages of polyamory.
Some people might experience anxiety once they make the move to a poly relationship. They cannot deal with the volatility of the situation.
Most people in a poly relationship will get jealous at some point. It is not always easy to accept that your lover is having sex with another person.
However, this is a bigger problem in relationships that were previously monogamous and have now been opened up. If you enter into a poly relationship with someone from the get-go, jealousy tends to be less of an issue.
In either case, you can learn to deal with it.
To some extent, that learning happens automatically. The more you expose yourself to jealousy-inducing situations, the more desensitized you become to it.
Also, you can develop strategies to stay calm.
The most effective one is to let your partner know that you feel jealous. That alone — the act of vocalizing it — will already provide relief.
Also, make sure that there is not an imbalance of opportunities.
If your partner has millions of sexual opportunities and you have none, it’s not going to end well. The one partner with fewer opportunities will go bananas.
The solution is to create your own opportunities. Work on your attractiveness. Become fit, become a better conversationalist.
But above all, put yourself out there. Talk to strangers. The more attractive people you talk to, the more likely you will find exciting new lovers.
Do so, and it will alleviate most of your jealousy. You won’t feel like being left behind anymore.
Too Much Noise
In a monogamous relationship, if you are feeling down, your partner will quickly pick up on it. In a poly relationship, there is a higher chance of it going unnoticed since everybody is busy with several other partners.
They Might Leave
If you invite other people into your relationship, there is a higher chance of your partner leaving you or at least downgrading you.
That’s because they get to directly compare you to other partners. It makes it easier for them to figure out whom they enjoy being with the most.
Also, we are drawn to the new, shiny object. What is familiar less excites us.
Different Levels of Enthusiasm
There is always one person who is more on board with polyamory than the other person.
It’s usually the person with the more interesting romantic options. Naturally, they are more excited to explore polyamory than the person with fewer options.
Where it gets problematic is when the more willing partner tries to persuade the other partner of going polyamory against their will.
To make matters worse, some people will play along, just to not lose their partner.
This is neither ideal for the pretender nor for the enthusiast. Nobody will end up happy.
Pressed for Time
One relationship is already time-consuming — several can take over your life. You will be so busy giving different people what they want, you will hardly have time for yourself.
It depends on how you go about being poly, though. For me, it was always more important to have the option to explore other partners than to actually explore them all the time.
Also, you should set clear expectations at the beginning of the relationship, communicating how much space the relationship can take up. For example, I work a lot. Therefore, I make it clear from the get-go that I only have so much time for another thing in my life.
Spend More Money on Dating
As a guy, if you are dating three or four people, you will have to spend three or four times as much on dates. For all the feminist theory in the poly scene, when it comes to paying for dinner, traditional gender roles usually win out.
Theoretically, when everybody is sleeping with everybody, there is a higher chance of someone catching an STD. Obviously, you can lower that risk by practicing safer sex.
However, you are more likely to be informed about an STD in a poly relationship than you are in a monogamous relationship with someone cheating.
Lots of Communication (Again)
I said earlier how communication is an upside of polyamory. But it can also be a downside.
When you are sitting at the kitchen table with your partner at 4 am, working through their jealousy pang, and you have to be at work in five hours, you might secretly wish for less communication.
Drama, Drama, Drama
With jealousy always an issue, many poly couples experience a lot of drama.
Some ups and downs are to be expected and can even keep the relationship fresh. But it can also get to the point where you miss the relative stability of a monogamous arrangement.
Lots of Expectations
If you thought meeting your partner’s expectations in a monogamous relationship was difficult, wait until you experience polyamory. Now you have several different people leaning on you.
An Overemphasis on Love
In poly circles, there is a tendency to idealize love over sex.
I suspect this is because poly people are so desperate to justify their relationship style. They want to be seen as useful members of society too. So, they keep emphasizing love over sex to get the approval of “normal” people.
I say, get over it. It’s not our job to support the Disney fantasies of the mainstream.
Own being an “ethical slut.”
Polyamory is still not widely accepted in the “regular” world. So, you will be judged. People will question your morality.
Women usually suffer more from this than men, as they are expected to keep quiet about their sexual preferences, even in this day and age.
Also, they are supposed to use sex for barter. Parents and female friends will be concerned with them being “too easy,” when they could trade their sexuality for economic stability.
When it comes to poly roles, secondaries tend to suffer the most from social ostracism. They don’t show up at family functions or on social media, to keep appearances.
There might also be repercussions for your career. If your conservative boss or your religious customers know about your poly lifestyle, they might fire you or not buy from you, respectively.
Finally, cultural paradigms play into this too. For example, if you are a gay man from a conservative Muslim country living a poly lifestyle, there will be some serious back push. You might go to jail or even be killed over your choices.
Being poly can come with legal ramifications, especially in the US, where religious judges might view your lifestyle as sinful.
Areas of concern include:
- Adultery laws. These apply if some people within your poly group are married.
- Housing laws. Landlords might now allow several unrelated adults to live together.
- Custody issues. Someone might challenge your suitability to raise kids.
- Employment contracts. You might have to deal with “morality clauses.”
Small Dating Pool
When you are poly, there is a much smaller pool of people you can date. Outside of large urban centers, dating might in fact become impossible.
This is further complicated by the fact that poly relationships require people with above-average self-awareness and communication skills. Otherwise, it will be hard to deal with jealousy issues. Such people are even harder to find.
The more people you date, the more often you might get your heart broken. In comparison, monogamous people face fewer heartbreaks.
Kids and Attachment
What happens if your kids become attached to certain members of your poly network, but these people then leave?
While this is a problem in monogamous relationships too, it is more pronounced in poly arrangements, especially the bigger the group gets. There is simply more fluctuation.
What if you fall in love with a monogamous person?
Now, they either have to do something they don’t want to do — share you with somebody else.
Or you have to do something you don’t want to do — confine yourself to just one person.
Poly relationships tend to be more unstable in comparison to monogamous relationships.
New people come and go. Emotional bonds form and dissolve. Relationship agreements are constantly being renegotiated.
So, if you crave emotional stability, poly relationships are not the best place for that.
To make parallel relationships work, some serious organizational skills are required.
You’ll have to coordinate multiple dates and sleepovers per week, remember various birthdays and family occasions, plan multiple vacations, etc.
It can become a full-time job.
A monogamous relationship is a closed-off game. There is a finite member of players and a finite number of needs.
A poly relationship is an open-ended game. It is not just what your immediate partners want, but also what their partners want. And what about their children? They have needs too. It just goes on and on.
Spreading Yourself Too Thin
Poly people are fond of pointing out how love is unlimited.
And while we might indeed be able to love many people, that’s not the same thing as actually having relationships with them.
The truth is you have only so much emotional energy to spend. Past a certain point, you will get burned out. I would argue that 2 to 3 lovers is a manageable number. Anything beyond that, and you might be spreading yourself too thin.
If you open yourself up — as you must do in a poly relationship — you become more vulnerable. You show more of your weaknesses. Some people might exploit that.
Too Much Competition
When you add new people to the mix, some of these people will excel at certain things. For example, they might be better in bed or more funny.
It is not always easy to deal with this kind of never-ending competition.
Monogamous couples can get very inventive. For example, they might try role-playing in the bedroom to spice things up.
With polyamory, there is less of an incentive to do that. If you need excitement, you will just get it with someone new. That is convenient, but also the easy way out, some would argue.
Too Much Hierarchy
Many poly people think of their lovers as “primaries” and “secondaries.”
With such hierarchies come rules, in regard to what you can do with your secondary partner. These rules might be about how much time you are allowed to spend together or what sexual activities are permissible.
Understandably, many secondaries dislike being at the bottom of the totem pole.
Glossing Over Deeper Issues
Sometimes, couples turn towards polyamory to gloss over deeper issues, like fundamental differences in values. Of course, such attempts to paper over the cracks are bound to fail.