So, what is polyamory anyway?
In it's simplest form polyamory can be defined in two ways:
Polyamory is the practice of having many loves.
Polyamory is the practice of loving many ways.
Love doesn't have to mean sex.
Polyamory is the practice of having many loves and/or loving many ways. But that may or may not involve many sexual partners. Often people get really caught up talking about the sex part of polyamory, when there are many forms of intimacy and caring connection involved.
It could mean a deeply intimate connection with many friends, sharing affection with a bestie on occasion, having an a-sexual play partner, or staying in a very loving intimate co-parenting relationship after divorce.
Even in monogamous relationships, sex really is a minority of the experience shared, intimacy comes in many other areas of the relationship (parenting, learning, travelling, making mistakes, making up after an argument, creating a life vision, accomplishing goals etc).
The good and the bad in polyamory
At its best polyamory supports the health and well-being of all parties. It can be a wonderful way to grow self-awareness, deepen connection and intimacy, cultivate support systems, explore our sexuality, build families, and learn more about ourselves in the world.
At its worst, polyamory becomes an avenue for our past difficulties, poor self-care, and miscommunications to be amplified. If you have a history of dishonesty, conflict avoidance, caretaking, poor boundaries, resentment, disrespect, and self-doubt or criticism practicing polyamory is only going to give you more arenas to practice those toxic behaviors.
Healthy polyamory is diverse and changing
There are lots of different ways to "do" polyamory. Some couples have many lovers independently or shared, some couples meet other couples and form a quad, other polyamorous folks practice solo-poly and become their own primary partner and on and on.
Of course, there's no way to define these non-traditional ways of relationship. Healthy non-monogamy means custom tailoring your relationship boundaries and agreements to the needs of you and your partners- so each polyamorous relationship is a little different from the next.
Couples who stay together are able to negotiate changing agreements over years as new partners come and go and additional relationships grow and change. Healthy polyamory is adaptable polyamory.
Instead of getting too hung up on specific definitions of terms, I recommend you focus on your needs and getting clear with your partner(s) about theirs. The more energy you focus there the better able you are to make non-monogamy (or monogamy for that matter) work for you.
If you want help clarifying what's right for you, give me a call for a free consultation. I'd love to support your journey.
Hi! I'm glad you're reading. Let me know if I can help you:
- reconnect with passion & desire in long-term partnerships
- rebuild trust after infidelity or dishonesty
- move beyond jealousy, fear, and insecurity
- manage intense emotions that arise in conflicts
- resolve sexual dysfunction & disconnect
- change communication & codependent patterns
- open your relationship & practice polyamory with integrity
I lead couples retreats, host workshops, and see private clients online (and in Portland, OR).
Call me for a free consultation to rethink the way you do relationships.
Gina Senarighi, MS, MA, CPC is a communication consultant, sexuality counselor and certified relationship coach specializing in polyamory, open relationships, jealousy, and infidelity.