There are certain things that will make or break a polyamorous experience.  I admit that in the early days of our relationship Hubby and I had innumerable arguments about boundaries, and every time we fought he would ask me why I felt the way I did.  My response was always a stubborn and shut down “I just do!”.  It was immature and a bit shortsighted of me not to want to dig deeper and admit that there may be reasons for my emotions.  My fears?  I might not like the real reasons for my emotions.  They might redefine character flaws.  They might point them out to Hubby.  He was trying to understand, and I needed him to not only understand but to care.  This is generally where logic brained Hubby meets emotionally charged romantic brained Autumn and communication flies out the window as if on fire.  The lesson here is that even if you have both decided to give polyamory a shot there are some conditions you should be willing to accept and some requirements you need to meet as a couple to ensure not only a positive experience but one that does not end in a messy breakup and a custody battle over a shitzu. 

The most important asset to any relationship, no matter what shape it takes, is communication, especially when emotions may be running high or people might not really grasp such abstracts as love and sexuality.  Each partner needs to state clearly, with no metaphors or ambiguities, not only what desires and intentions exist for the relationship but also any concerns and roadblocks may there may be.  There has to be an understanding that nothing is barred from the discussion as long as it stays a discussion and not blossom into an argument.  Only then can everyone feel like all the issues at hand have been addressed.  Ground rules need to be set, again in no uncertain terms, before anyone else is added to the equation to ensure there are no hurtful surprises, assumptions, or offences.  Things like “who are we looking for?”, “what will we do with them and what is off-limits?”, and “when in our schedules and our life together are we going to fit this new person?” need to be discussed.  Basically there needs to be a plan for “how will we do this?” that leaves room for compromise, growth, and change.  Believe me, there will be change.  When Hubby and I started out we sought out same-sex partners only.  If there was any opposite sex contact it was generally assumed they were at least bi-sexual if not interested only in the same-sex portion of our marriage.  When Hubby fell in love with a straight woman things changed.  In the long run they changed for the better, but it was a bumpy transition full of growth and compromise.  I admit, it also included hesitantly putting my faith in the belief that things would work out for the better and not leave me lost and alone.

Another important piece of the puzzle is security.  Trust is one of the hardest things for a couple to admit they may not have.  We can all say we love our significant others, but do we trust them indiscriminately?  Do you check your boyfriend’s text messages?  Do you read  your wife’s instant message or email history?  Do you stalk you lover’s Facebook for incrimination wall posts?  How do you react when your partner fails to answer the phone when you call?  Dig deep on this one or it will kill you.  Before  anyone else can enter a relationship it needs to be secure with itself.  We need to trust not only our partners, but ourselves and our marriages to withstand any blows it may take as a result of change.  This includes self-esteem and self-worth issues and honestly knowing the limits of each partner’s will power.  It can be easy to fall prey to “I wonder if he just wants someone prettier, sexier, smarter?” or “am I just letting her get away with cheating on me?”.  This is a mind trap, and once you let it take over there is little anyone can do to save the relationship. 

Once you can be sure of security the last step is honesty.  What motives do you have for wanting this?  Are you sexually unsatisfied?  Are you avoiding commitment?  Do you think it will make your husband love you more if you bring another woman into your marriage?  Are you afraid your girlfriend will leave you if you do not agree to her having a girlfriend?  I promise you these are all extremely poor reasons to live a polyamorous lifestyle.  If you can say, however, that you still look at your wife with wonder and love, that your feelings and desires for her have not changed and will nto change with the addition of another partner, and that you would choose this marriage above any other you have reached a level of union that will withstand any test this lifestyle may pose.  

I was asked recently what my advice would be for a couple who are just beginning and who may not know if polyamory is for them.  I would never say not to test it out, but I would say to take small steps.  Do not immediately involve people with whom you already share strong emotions and expectations.  This poses a grave risk of hurting everybody involved and possibly destroying friendships.  Remember, other people have emotions too.  This goes beyond just you, and even beyond just you and your partner.  Hubby and I began at a club as swingers.  Start there.  One of a few things will probably happen.  One, you will both decide you are just not comfortable enough to go this route.  It may bring up some issues you and your partner need to address.  Two, you will find playing without any additional commitment completely satisfying.  There is nothing wrong with this.  Three, and this is where Hubby and I began to identify as polyamorous as opposed to just swingers, you will still feel a void.  I liken it to the moment one realizes that a string of one night stands can never replicate or replace the intensity of a passionate, loving relationship.  This is when there is generally a desire for more than momentary pleasure.  This is where you start inviting these people to share your life not just your fun.  This is when you know that polyamory is right for you, and as long as all the other strengths and failsafes exist you will most likely have a positive experience. 

These values are not by any means exclusive to polyamory, so my task to you today, dear readers, is to look at your relationships and see if they have what it takes to withstand challenge and hardship.  If not, try to identify why.  If so, are you sure?  Do not wait for s crisis to test your bonds.  Fortify them in advance and you can do anything with love.

Go now.  Love.

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