Common Mistakes in Poly Relationships

Some common mistakes made in polyamorous relationships can tear a relationship apart, however, these mistakes if caught early enough can help the relationship by bringing partners closer together.

Even though you may have the best intentions, there are many mistakes that can be made by any polyamorous group that can bring a relationship to its knees. Many people within polyamorous relationships come from a monogamous relationship, which can be similar to polyamory but with subtle and not so subtle differences. While polyamory can be straightforward for some, to some people it is very difficult because they are not used to the emotions and feelings typically felt within the beginning phases of a polyamorous relationship. Here is our take on the common mistakes made by polyamorous people within poly relationships.

Don’t Make Assumptions: Open Communication

Within any relationship, especially a non-monogamous relationship, it’s best to not make assumptions about anything. Especially when it comes to feelings, emotions and more than anything, rules! One little detail left out about a specific poly rule can lead to the demise or a very difficult time within a relationship. The same goes for assuming a partner is ok with how everything is going, but in reality, they are not. Ask them! Ask them how they are feeling, go into detail – ask good thought provoking questions and put yourself in their shoes to better understand where they are coming from with a particular issue. Be sure to talk about exactly what they are expecting from the relationship and what your expectations are as well. If you are both on the same page with everything and all the feelings as well as emotions are on the table for everyone to see, there is a much better chance for a simple resolution to an issue in the future.

When my wife and I come to a disagreement, we go for a walk and talk about it. It’s the first thing we do, because a light exercise has a calming effect and boosts your ability to reason. By doing this we are able to get on each other’s level and better understand why they are feeling the way they are feeling about the particular issue. After our walk, we lay down in bed and discuss the resolution of the issue and how to move forward together.

For Every Action, There is an Equal and Opposite…

While Newton’s third law may not apply exactly to polyamory, it does provide some insight into the fact that when something is done, there is a reaction. Let’s say you rub your hand on someone’s leg while you are sitting down eating dinner with them, then the rub leads to kissing which eventually leads to sex. The initial action lead to reaction, which lead to another action then reaction, etc. Within polyamory, when there is an action you have done to your partner, there is a reaction by your partner. This is obvious – right? Let’s take this to another level now. Let’s say you go out for drinks one night and end up fucking a lady you met in a bar, then go home to your family. While the action of fucking another person is entirely within the rules, note the fact you didn’t wear a condom. You were drunk – and stupid. So you messed up, what do we do now? There will be a reaction by your partner, and it will be intense, and there will be a fight. Action > Reaction

Let’s switch it up a bit, maybe that was a little too blunt and obvious. Let’s say you set reservations for a dinner out with your primary and your secondary, however, you do not invite your primary partner’s secondary. Your primary may end up holding resentment towards you or perhaps your primary’s secondary will find out and hold resentment and frustration towards you. Herein lies the difficulty because you must be aware of the reactions to your actions and everything you do holds some weight – even in the words you speak. Be careful, you can’t take them back!

Manage Your Emotions – Not Your Partner’s

Emotions and feelings are powerful. We all know this. We also need to remember that just because we have an emotion that’s difficult to manage, our partner’s have similar emotions that are similarly difficult to manage at times! When we feel an emotion human instinct is to immediately act on the emotion and do something about it. Think about it. When was the last time you were angry? Did it affect the people around you? Did other people around you notice you were angry? I’m sure they did, even if it was subtle. Generally within relationships when one person feels a depressing or difficult emotion, the other partner (or partners) feel like they need to do something about it. They feel like they need to do more than just “be there” for the partner. It’s good practice to be there for your partner or partners, but don’t try to micromanage their feelings.

Their feelings are valid, and their feelings alone. Only they can truly understand exactly what they are feeling. When you try to tell them ‘Oh, I’ve felt that feeling before, I know exactly how you feel…’ this plays into making them feel like you are downplaying them and their feelings are normal, but not valid. Remember – feelings are valid, no matter what.

Have you ever felt insecure within a relationship because your partner was emotionally attached to a partner? How about when they were physically intimate? It’s important to understand that the two come hand in hand most of the time and it’s a goal of the relationship some of the time. It’s literally not possible to allow your partner to be with somebody physically, but not emotionally. It’s like telling someone not to fall in love with somebody else. Emotions happen, whether they are voiced or not! It’s much better to understand your own emotions rather than trying to control someone elses’s.

Our Story

When my wife came to me and asked how I would feel if she told her boyfriend she loved him, I was taken back and immediately said no! Don’t tell him that – I’m not ready for you to fall in love with someone else. While we were sitting in the car talking about this, I quickly realized how stupid it was to try to control emotions. They are their feelings, and theirs alone. I can’t stop love, nobody can. Whether love is said or not, the emotion is still there. It’s very similar to other emotions – so don’t try to control your partner’s emotions, let them feel what they need to feel and don’t try to stop them. However, feel free to discuss those emotions with them and what makes you insecure about them as well.

Overly Using Polyamory Rules / Abusing Rules

Rules are a touchy subject for many non-monogamous relationships because they are obviously restricting, that’s why they are rules. Let’s start with why rules are put into place shall we? Rules are put into place to keep the relationship together, rather than falling apart. They are in place not to avoid insecurities, but to avoid the destruction of the relationship. Some polyamorous groups put simply too many rules into place, which makes the relationship simply too restricting. My wife and I simply have 3 rules: 1) Open Communication, 2) Honesty, 3) Use Protection. Everything else falls under those three rules.

Now when we say have too many rules, we mean more along the lines of be careful what rules you do have in place and more importantly, timing those rules. Let’s say one of your lovers goes out on a date with a woman, and your lover immediately falls in love with that woman. The next day you are feeling insecure, so you immediately retaliate with a rule that notes no falling in love on the first date. Wow – could you imagine how that talk would go? Be careful with rules. They are restricting, and binding.

Relationship Growth Between Partners

One of the most common mistakes people make within polyamorous relationships is building relationships. You may think, what?! How is that possible! Well. It’s subtle and you may not even realize you are doing it, but we will explain. Let’s go from a couple’s standpoint for this, because it’s the simplest to understand. There is you and your primary partner, and you are dating another couple. Lets say your partner’s relationship with one of the other people grows much faster than your relationship with the other person. You feel insecure because you are feeling like your partner is receiving much more attention than you from this relationship, and thus you come to your partner and ask them to slow their relationship down to match your speed and connection with the other partner. This can cause issues because you have no way of controlling this, much of this is similar to what we were talking about love. You can’t control emotions – you can’t control relationships. You can control you, and you alone.

Relationships evolve on their own, not according to any sort of set rules as every person is different. Every person has a different personality, a different thought of what love is, when ‘I love you’ should be said, and when sex should happen and how. Everybody is different, so how is it possible to think that two non-monogamous relationships can evolve in the same way or much less at the same speed?

Take it from us – don’t try to control relationships outside of your own. If you have insecurities, talk to your partner about them and maybe come up with some guidelines that may help you become less insecure for the short term until you can better understand the feelings and come to terms with them.

Avoid Jealousy by Dating the Same Person

One common thing poly people get wrong is by trying to avoid jealousy and insecurities by dating the same person. Jealousy stems from a lot of different places with a lot of different feelings, but we won’t get into that now. The same with insecurities, there’s a lot to it. However, trying to avoid jealousy and insecurities by dating the same person only amplifies the issue and makes things worse because jealousy and insecurities are irrational! Both emotions come from a place in the mind where the person feels backed into a corner with no way out. So whether you are trying to date as a triad to avoid jealousy and insecurities, it won’t work out well. Jealousy and insecurities will still happen, and things will be just as difficult. It’s best to identify what the jealousy emotion is stemming from and talking it out with your primaries or poly group. The same goes for insecurities. Identify what is causing the insecurities, then place rules to avoid the insecurities until they are better understood or talk it out and get through them.

NRE: Polyamory New Relationship Energy

Oh the great NRE (new relationship energy). While we will not talk about exactly what this is here, we will talk about what kind of issues it can create if the polyamorous group is not aware. NRE can seriously hurt any relationship that already has a foundation, even if it is a strong foundation built around polyamory, and even if there is an understanding of what NRE is! New relationship energy is best understood by knowing that it will happen, it will eventually go away and it can be worked with. This is best dealt with by understanding priorities as well.

Priorities are your long-lasting relationships, that person or persons you been in a relationship with for years and you love dearly. The people you come home to every night, the people you spend most of your time with and understand. By keeping your priorities straight, you can still have new relationship energy yet still continue to have a solid relationship with your other partners without them feeling like they are being left in the dust or ignored. NRE can be blinding, we know, but trust me when I say this – it’s a beautiful thing that should be welcomed!

Creating Relationships

A general issue within polyamorous relationships is when new relationships are formed when currently set relationships are unstable. How do you know your current relationship is unstable? You will feel it and you need to sure your partner is on the same page with you if your relationship is unstable. Bringing in anyone to an already problematic relationship can not only add drama, but also add insecurity and a much higher risk for jealousy as well. Bringing in another partner to a polyamorous relationship can also jeopardize the current relationships because of the turmoil it can bring in. It is also highly unfair to your current relationship to create another relationship if your current relationship is having issues.

Would you want your partner running off with a new fling directly after a fight? What if you two weren’t talking? Keep things simple. If the person you are dating can’t understand needing to take a little time to fix your current relationship, are they even worth dating at that point? My wife and I like to be sure we are sexually, emotionally, and mentally stable before bringing any new partners in or even dating new partners for that matter. Respect each other and any current relationships then everything else will follow.

Be Careful Around Amateurs

An amateur is generally someone who is new to something and does not fully understand what’s going on or how to deal with things in the current area. Getting yourself involved within a polyamorous relationship with a couple that does not fully understand what polyamory is, or how to deal with the emotions involved can almost certainly lead to disaster. What happens when one person or both persons from the other couple feel jealousy for the first time? Ouch. I would not want to be there. The pain will come from having to break off from dating the couple because they couldn’t handle what polyamory is all about and were scared off by the feelings involved.

Our Story

My wife and I were at one point this very couple. We were new to polyamory and were unsure of exactly what is going on, but knew we wanted to try an open relationship and swing with another couple. So we did. However, after a few dates with the couple, I felt jealousy hit me hard in the face, then ended up breaking it off with the lady. She felt horrible because she felt she hurt me and betrayed my trust, but on the other hand, I felt bad too because I let me feelings get the best of me before I fully understood them as well. Most poly couples goes through these feelings of insecurity at one point or another, and will more than likely snap and cause immediate drama before understanding jealousy and insecurities involved. This is typically the case when a couple goes from a monogamous relationship into a polyamorous relationship.

Are You an Amateur?>

If your relationship does not permit bringing other people in, or dating other people, obviously – don’t do it. Humans are not things or objects, they are people with emotions, insecurities whom are capable of all the feelings you feel every day. Bringing someone into your relationship if you are unsure of polyamory or unsure of what you really want out of a relationship can bring in a lot of pain to your current relationship, to yourself and to the other person you are bringing in. Typically you will want to sit down with your current partner or just yourself and brainstorm about what exactly you are wanting. Experimenting is a possibility, but try to first understand the feelings involved without hurting someone else, this can be done through NSA sex or just swinging if you like. This way emotions are not a requirement and you can get an idea for how you may feel about having your partner be with other people. Do you enjoy it?

Are Your Needs Being Met?

Relationships generally start out of a need for something. This need may be a need for an emotional connection, a need to fill that gap of loneliness, a need for simply just sexual release. There are many reasons for starting a new relationship, even if you are currently within a relationship. A person wanting to create a new relationship even though they are currently in a relationship is generally doing so out of wanting to have a need met or by not having a need met by their current relationship. It’s important to note that just because your currently relationship does not satisfy a need does not mean that need will be satisfied elsewhere or by a specific someone else. Talking to your partner or partners about these needs is generally a good place to start because they also may have a need for what you are wanting! Maybe you want more sex and perhaps so does your current partner, but they feel like you may be putting it off even though you are getting the same feeling from them. Let’s see if I can explain that better.

Our Story

My wife and I occasionally get frustrated at each other because we feel the other one is frustrated for some reason. It’s basically a circle of frustration which frustration leads to more frustration – when in reality, nobody is frustrated and an emotion was simply just read wrong. It’s good to have open communication in this case and the same applies to needs!

Forcing Polyamorous Relationships

When we say ‘Don’t force a relationship’, what we are really saying, is don’t try to make a relationship be what it is not. How is that possible you may ask? Well, the first thing to remember is that if two people are simply just wishing to have a specific need met, and that’s all – let’s take sex for example – then the relationship may very well simply just be sex. Trying to force that relationship to be something that it is not, such as a deep emotional loving relationship, then the relationship may very well fail for that very reason. Force.

The same goes from couples dating other couples, or poly groups bringing in another partner. Trying to force that new partner to connect with everyone at the same level of intimacy and emotion is not possible, it will break the relationship and hurt most of everyone involved. So be aware of this, and make a note in your mind – don’t try to force a relationship to be something that it is not.

Relationship Isolation

One common mistake made by polyamorous groups is trying to isolate one relationship from the other relationships. Remember how earlier we were talking about Newton’s Law? Actions have an effect? The same applies here. One relationship will have an impact on the other relationships involved in the polyamorous circle. This issue is found more often within the polyamory mindset of a primary and secondary model.

The opposite is also true. Don’t try to force a relationship to be equal among everybody involved. Let’s say we have a quad that all love each other and wants to have fun together. Do they all four always go out on dates together? No – they separate, two people here, three people there, single every now and then. There must be space within a relationship to make it not feel so confining and forced to fit into a poly relationship mold it was not meant for.

Poly Groups: Too Much or Too Little?

When we say ‘Don’t force a relationship’, what we are really saying, is don’t try to make a relationship be what it is not. How is that possible you may ask? Well, the first thing to remember is that if two people are simply just wishing to have a specific need met, and that’s all – let’s take sex for example – then the relationship may very well simply just be sex. Trying to force that relationship to be something that it is not, such as a deep emotional loving relationship, then the relationship may very well fail for that very reason. Force.

The same goes from couples dating other couples, or poly groups bringing in another partner. Trying to force that new partner to connect with everyone at the same level of intimacy and emotion is not possible, it will break the relationship and hurt most of everyone involved. So be aware of this, and make a note in your mind – don’t try to force a relationship to be something that it is not.

Relationship Separation

Don’t try to separate yourself from the other relationships within your polyamorous relationship. This is fairly commonly come across in a relationship where one partner has a polyamorous mindset and the other a monogamous mindset. A big driving factor in trying to separate yourself from other relationships is fear, fear that your other partner or partners are going to love other people more than you. You may dehumanize them in your mind, and talk derogatory at them or about them to your other partners. It’s very easy to do this if you feel like these other people are competitors and you have to be #1.

Within a polyamorous relationship it’s important to remember, these are people you are talking about. These are people with emotions and feelings just like you. They love, they hate and they care. Meeting with your partner’s other partner can help you realize and get past some of these fears. Talking to them can help you come to the idea that they are not trying to take your primary from you, but simply are creating a relationship with your partner. Through this they can feel much more human and can help you quite a bit!

Time and a Place: Put Your Foot Down

We as humans do make mistakes, that’s a fact. We also know that sometimes we need to speak up. I had this issue early on when I was learning about polyamory by experimentation. I felt insecure and frustrated, and I didn’t put my foot down about some things. I also didn’t communicate openly. I pushed the feelings down and just hoped they went away with time. Sometimes people do make mistakes and need to be corrected, so don’t be afraid to speak up or put your foot down if you are feeling like something is going in the wrong direction! Your partner wants to hear what you are feeling because they can’t read your mind or feel what you are feeling.

Polyamory is the Problem!

Not necessarily. Polyamory can cause issues within a relationship, definitely, but sometimes polyamory isn’t the issue. Even with more traditional monogamous relationships there lies issues and problems. Try to not blame everything on polyamory because chances are, it’s completely unrelated. The first thing you will want to do is identify the issue and think outside the box why the issue is there. Blaming polyamory is certainly the easy way out, but it just may not be the issue!

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