Since becoming openly polyamorous I have been approached by several friends and acquaintances for advice on anything from open marriage to personal issues within their monogamous relationships.  I generally don’t mind.  I don’t really really think being poly has anything to do with having some kind of personal relationship gnosis, but I’m always willing to share my experience and any knowledge I’ve gained from it.

A huge topic recently has been how to broach the idea of polyamory to one’s significant other.  In some cases my answer has simply been not to.  In others it has come with warnings and a personal checklist of sorts.  I’ve decided, having gone through this three times in the past month, to share a little bit of what I’ve told them.

The first step is self evaluation.  Why do you want to pursue this relationship?  If it’s because you’re unhappy with your SO or simply because you want to sleep around, I will stop lending advice on the spot.  Please stop reading.  If it’s because you feel like your needs aren’t being met, this isn’t alway a bad thing.  The next questions are “how and why aren’t they being met?”  Are you interested in things your partner isn’t?  Are you just really hard to satisfy?  and Are you communicating your needs to your partner?  Does s/he have any clue you need something more?  It may be as simple an issue as not expressing your needs and desires completely.  It may not necessarily be a need for new flavour.  In this case, consider your options.  The last option is that you simply realize the capacity to love more than one person and want to experience that love.  In the same way we have the ability to love our children equally we have the ability to love our partners just as equally.  If this is you, kudos.  You’ve got it!

The second evaluation is the risk.  Are you willing to take a risk?  Once you broach the topic, whether your partner agrees or not, whether you ever try some form of open relationship or not, whether it’s even discussed, you cannot take it back.  Just bringing it up will have consequences.  Are you willing to suppress your needs and desire to grow to keep the peace, or are you ready to face whatever reaction comes from taking this chance?  Both can be devastating, but both can be the right choice for you.  How well do you know your partner?  Are you prepared for fights and hurt feelings?  Are you prepared for confusion?  Are you prepared for endless negotiations and re-evaluation?  Are you prepared to have every one of your insecurities dredged up and exposed?  Are you prepared to let go of a little control and just let it happen?  This, and more, will happen.  The fulfillment and comfort level you achieve with yourself an others in the end is worth it, but it takes work and growth from you and your partner.  If you’re not both willing to do this, it won’t happen, that is, if s/he doesn’t strangle you in your sleep or call an old priest and a young priest  just for asking.

The last evaluation is whether or not this shift to an open relationship will help or hinder your current relationship.  Will it add more complication to an environment already stretched thin?  Will it take time you already don’t have?  Adversely, will it make your communication and trust stronger?  Will it lead you to discover new things about each other and yourselves?  Will it make you both less dependent on each other so you spend the time you do have together enjoying things you both like?  This is the trade-off.  When you start doing things your SO doesn’t like with other partners, it frees up the time you are together for mutually enjoyed activities.  You may even get new ideas from other partners for things your SO might like to do.  Just make sure the laundry gets done.

In the end, I cannot advise anyone to open up his or her relationship.  Nor can I ever say it’s a good idea to broach the topic with an already committed significant other.  You must decide what you are willing to live with and without.  You must decide what level of work you are willing to put into the old and the new.  You must decide what’s worth risking and what isn’t.  Most of all, you must decide how you love and why.  In the end, that’s all that really matters.

Go now, evaluate.  Evaluate often and truthfully.