Althea Answers Polyquizzically: Is It Possible to Love Without Limit?

Dear Althea,

I’m a novice at the poly life and wonder what you can tell me about the hellos and hazards of loving without limit. What I mean to ask is, do poly folks actually love without limit? Is being poly about being promiscuous, or is it about long-lasting relationships with multiple partners at the same time?
I don’t mean to pun, but all my poly friends do it different ways. I’m trying to figure out my position (okay, that one was on purpose) in poly life as a bisexual woman married to a straight man. My partner supports me having relationships with other women, just as I support him having relationships with other women. But neither of us is ready to take the first step. The more we learn, the bigger the poly world is. Is this making sense?
Our main concern is whether opening our relationship will lessen our love for each other. My instinct is it will make me love my partner more. Both of us are inspired by letting the other fully explore her/his full sexuality. 
After reading your last post, I wondered if you could tell me more about poly life, maybe throw some resources my way. So, back to my main Q: Is loving without a limit a thing? And how can it be my thing? Q&A with Althea on TRB Click To Tweet
Polycuriously,
J

***

J,

Thank you for your question.

I’m a fan of first things first. . . so, first let me say there is no ONE RIGHT WAY to poly.

That being said, there are some consistent concepts that pervade most polyamorous relationships:

  1. Honesty/Transparency
  2. Communication
  3. Agency/Consent
  4. Safe Sex

Let’s break those down a bit:

Okay, ONE. Honesty and transparency are kind of a no-brainer. Hopefully, they’re already present in your already existing relationship(s). Living polyamorously especially requires a high level of trust, and trust only works where there is honesty. I have a friend who says “trust, but verify” and I agree, especially in the beginning. Sad but true, there are individuals out there who use the word POLY when they’re actually sneaking around. If someone tells you they have a “don’t ask, don’t tell” arrangement or isn’t happy to have you meet (or at least say hi to) their current partner(s), be careful.

TWO. Let’s be honest, poly is WORK, but it can be totally worth it unless you aren’t prepared to put in the effort and time of real communication. In that case, you won’t have the best experiences. In fact, it’s a good idea to really dig into your communication style(s) and maybe even intentionally work on your skills in this area before pursuing poly life. There are a number of good books on communication and I’ve included a couple in my “poly boot camp book list” below.

THREE. I had never heard the word “agency” in the sense of “control of your own body/self” prior to becoming polyamorous. Agency is the idea that each person belongs first and foremost to themselves. Loving someone does not confer ownership (ok, maybe in some D/s situations, but that is a whole separate column). That includes no ownership of their body, their time, their effort, etc. This is related to consent. One cannot give consent without complete information, and respect for each person’s agency requires clear consent.

And FOUR. As for safe sex this, too, should be a no-brainer. Educate yourselves on the risks, the options regarding preventing unwanted pregnancies and/or health challenges. There are tons of resources on the internet, or speak to your doctor. I know this is a hard conversation for some folks, but it is key. Protect yourself, protect your partner(s). Be specific and explicit about your expectations and comfort zones in this area. As my mother used to say “if you can’t talk about sex, you shouldn’t be having it.” (see TWO, above).

Often, when we stop trying to make one person everything, we can appreciate what makes them unique and precious to us. Click To Tweet

Most of your other questions are well addressed in some of the books I recommend below, but here are some highlights:

Love is infinite, but time, energy, resources, and SLEEP are not. Remember you will need time for self care as well as taking care of your partner(s). Relationships and people only thrive when they are “fed.”

Most of us find that we have new appreciation and feelings of love for our partners when we poly. So, far from loving less, it almost always results in loving more. Often, when we stop trying to make one person everything, we can appreciate what makes them unique and precious to us.

At the most basic level, poly is about what YOU want it to be about. You (in negotiation with your partner(s) get to decide how you want it to work. That is both the beauty and the challenge. I encourage you and your partner to explore some of the ideas in some of the books below then sit down and make your own map. And then explore, revise, and repeat.

Althea’s Poly Bootcamp Booklist

Specifically related to ethical non-monogamy…if you’re only going to check out a few books, read the 1st two…

More Than Two: A Practical Guide to Ethical Polyamory
ISBN-13: 978-0991399703, ISBN-10:0991399706

The Ethical Slut, Third Edition: A Practical Guide to Polyamory, Open Relationships, and Other Freedoms in Sex and Love
ISBN-13: 978-0399579660, ISBN-10:0399579664

The rest of these books aren’t specific to non monogamy (and in fact Hold Me Tight assumes monogamy, but it’s worth reading ‘around’ that bias). They all, however, relate to skills and conceptual understanding that could save you some pain and contribute to your growth as a potentially poly person…

Nonviolent Communication: A Language of Life, 3rd Edition: Life-Changing Tools for Healthy Relationships (Nonviolent Communication Guides)
ISBN-13: 978-1892005281, ISBN-10:189200528X

Hold Me Tight: Seven Conversations for a Lifetime of Love
ISBN-13: 978-0316113007, ISBN-10:031611300X

Passionate Marriage: Keeping Love and Intimacy Alive in Committed Relationships
ISBN-13: 978-0393334272, ISBN-10:0393334279

Come as You Are: The Surprising New Science that Will Transform Your Sex Life
ISBN-13: 978-1476762098, ISBN-10:1476762090

Rising Strong: How the Ability to Reset Transforms the Way We Live, Love, Parent, and Lead
ISBN-13: 978-0812985801, ISBN-10:081298580X
The Power of Vulnerability: Teachings on Authenticity, Connection and CourageAudiobook, CD
1st Edition
ISBN-13: 978-1604078589, ISBN-10:1604078588

The Book of Forgiving: The Fourfold Path for Healing Ourselves and Our World
ISBN-13: 978-0

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Althea Hawk is a polyamorous, sex-positive, pansexual woman, a Reiki Master, a spiritual seeker and teacher.

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