How to Do Polyamory, Successfully

It’s even harder than you think. Google can help.

By Marty Patail April 22, 2016 Published in the May 2016 issue of Portland Monthly

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Russell and Gina have been married since 2011. Both have other romantic partners also in polyamorous marriages. And those partners have other relationships. And so on. (It’s harder than you think!)

1. There’s no such thing as TMI. It’s all about communication. Not only do Gina and Russell make time for daily conversations, check-ins, and tell-alls, they are in constant contact via text or phone whenever they spend time with their other partners. Explains Russell: “It helps defuse things like jealousy and envy. It helps set expectations—when I’ll be leaving, when I’ll be coming back. It provides transparency.”

2. Become a planner—or else. For Gina and Russell, every date, activity, or evening on the couch requires coordination among as many as eight people (since each of their other partners is also in polyamorous relationship). The one indispensable tool: a shared Google calendar, where everyone can log and view plans, dates, and vacations up to a year in advance. “Time is the most valuable resource within a poly relationship,” Gina says. That’s a big part of my partner selection: can someone be consistent and not flaky with their time?”

3. Be prepared to grow. Russell and Gina stress that polyamory frequently puts them in difficult situations, in which they are forced to analyze their own feelings and behavior. “There’s a growth opportunity in being able to see your partner in love with someone else,” says Russell by way of example. “In polyamory we call that ‘compersion.’ It just means the flip side of jealousy. It’s an opportunity for growth, for overcoming jealousy.”

4. Get to know your lovers’ lovers. Poly couples still get jealous. According to Gina, they deal with it by getting to know the other people in their partner’s lives. “The tendency is to build things up in your head. ‘I haven’t met you, so you must be way cuter, younger, smarter, sexier.’ It helps alleviate a lot of concerns if you get face to face.”

5. Never force it. Some think polyamory is a lifestyle; others think it’s a sexual orientation. (Russell is in the former camp, Gina in the latter.) Either way, Gina says, building a monogamous relationship with a someone who you hope will be open to polyamory later is a bad idea. “Having someone change who they are for you is not a good way to go.”

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