Dear Poly Dude: Is there a Right or Wrong Way to do Polyamory?
Dear Poly Chick/Poly Dude is a collection of anonymous queries that have been submitted by people through the Site, our Facebook page or Email. The answers provided are our opinions, formed through years of being immersed in polyamory. Take our advice with a grain of salt (or pepper). We have no boundaries, so ask us anything! If you want a Chick-specific or Dude-specific answer, let us know; otherwise, we’ll surprise you!
Dear Poly Dude,
Is there a right way or wrong way to do polyamory?
We all like to be successful in life. It’s easy to think there must be a right and wrong way to go about each goal we set for ourselves. Relationships are no different. It’s natural to want to know the winning formula; the last thing any of us want to do is make any grave mistakes that could jeopardize existing relationship(s) or limit our ability to forge new ones. Here’s the kicker: just like in monogamous relationships, there isn’t a “right way” or “wrong way” to structure polyamorous relationships that works for everyone.
To illustrate, let’s consider a monogamous marriage. Is marriage only between a man and a woman? Is interracial marriage wrong? How about arranged marriage? Throughout history, there have been countless types of relationships judged by one party or another as right or wrong; yet, people still have had fulfilling and beautiful unions, even when others have said they’re going about it in the “wrong way”.
In the world of polyamory, there are as many different ways to “do” polyamory as there are polyamorists. The Poly Chick touched on this last week; none of them are right or wrong. However, there may be one that fulfills your particular needs the best. Here are just a few ways that people have structured their polyamorous relationships:
* Hierarchical (Primary/Secondary/Tertiary): People using a primary/secondary hierarchy establish a set of rules intended to protect their “primary” relationship. For example: some primary pairs have “veto” power, a “no sex with others in our bed” rule, rules around how time is prioritized between partners, and agreements that financial partnerships, home ownership, or children are only to be with the primary.
* Triad: In many triads, three people have equal partnerships (non-hierarchical) with each other (often seen in Triangle). There are effectively 4 relationships in a triad: Partner A to partner B; partner A to partner C; partner B to partner C, and all three partners together.
* V (or Vee): One partner has two equal partners. This differs from a triad in that partner A has relationships with partner B and C, but B and C are not romantically involved.
* Tribe: A tribe is a loose construct that has multiple partners, typically living in the same place, with any number of partner pairing types.
* Non-hierarchical: This could be also seen as someone having multiple secondary relationships. People who practice polyamory in this way tend to shy away from labels and let the nature of each individual relationship organically form and drive how they prioritize their time and interactions with their partners. Because of its inherent looseness this type of polyamory can be challenging to practice if there are partners involved who feel they need to better understand their position or status to be secure in the constellation of relationships around their partner.
These are just a sampling of the different ways people structure their polyamorous relationships. However, there are not any hard lines; some combine several of these varied structures to define their relationships over time.
While, there isn’t necessarily a “right” or “wrong” way to structure polyamorous relationships, there are some essential factors to ensure healthy and fulfilling partnerships. It’s important to recognize that you will screw up from time to time. This is usually because of a lack of adequate communication; open relationships die without open communication. We have to be brave enough to communicate what we really feel about how our partner(s) are/are not meeting our needs. We have to be secure enough to hear from our partners when we are not meeting their needs. We have to tell the truth, no matter what.
As you can see, the world of polyamory can be a complicated soup of terms, flow-charts, rules, and needs. While there isn’t a “right” or “wrong” way to go about it for everyone, having the ability to openly communicate about how it will work for YOU and YOUR PARTNERS, and to make the necessary time commitments to grow those partnerships is essential for forming happy, fulfilling, and long lasting polyamorous relationships.