How to find polyamorous partners
9 Best Polyamorous Dating Apps
ICYMI, there are *so* many dating apps out there nowadays. From Hinge to Bumble to Tinder, if you’re out there in the ~dating world~ odds are that you’ve tried them all. But what about people who identify as polyamorous? It’s a little more difficult to navigate those apps when you’re poly (more on that later), which is why there are great apps out there specifically dedicated to those seeking polyamorous connections.
First things first, what does it mean to be polyamorous, exactly, and how common is polyamory? "Being polyamorous is being in a relationship with more than one person," explains Gigi Engle, a certified sex coach, sexologist, and author of All The F*cking Mistakes: a guide to sex, love, and life . (Think of it like this: Monogamy means "one" and "poly" means many.) "These are two relationship styles, but both are equally valid," says Engle. Polyamory basically boils down to being non-monogamous in a consensual, ethical way, partnered with opening your heart to more than just one person at a time.
So, what does the term "ethical" mean in this case, since, TBH, it can be subjective? In short, polyamorous relationships can be structured in a bunch of different ways (maybe one person is the primary partner, maybe everyone’s on an even playing field, etc.), but being ethically non-monogamous is a way to ensure that everyone involved in the relationship is comfortable with the situation, explains Women’s Health advisory board member Chloe Carmichael, PhD, a New York-based therapist and author of Dr. Chloe's 10 Commandments of Dating.
TL;DR, it’s all about communication, transparency, and most importantly, consent in your relationship, Carmichael explains. Because polyamorous relationships involve multiple people, everyone being on the same page is crucial. That said, let’s get into the fun stuff. If you’re polyamorous and you want to spice up your dating life by hopping on some new platforms, we've got you covered. These are the absolute best polyamory dating apps, according to experts.1. "Traditional" Apps Like Hinge, Bumble, Tinder, etc.
If you’re planning to use one of the more traditionally "monogamous" apps like Hinge or Bumble, there are a few helpful notes for your profile to signify that you’re looking for more than one partner. First, make sure you state that you’re ethically non-monogamous (ENM) in your profile, says Janet Brito, PhD, a clinical psychologist and certified sex therapist based in Hawaii. For seeking other polyamorous individuals, you can also write that you’re seeking "like-minded folks."
Looking to add a third party to your current duo? Just make that clear, and ensure that both you and your current partner have account access, Engle explains. It may help to even set boundaries with that partner so that you’re using it together rather than separately. "Total transparency is needed to make this work," Engle says. "Don't be cagey or coy, because that is coming from a place of dishonesty, which is not a good place to start." Noted!
PSA: Feeld is one of the best apps out there for poly folks, according to Engle. "People have better overall experiences with this app, as it's meant for open relationships and those looking to explore alternative-style sex, such as kinks," Engle says.
In short, Feeld encourages you to be yourself on the platform, Brito says, even if that includes seeing several people. (AKA, it’s a breath of fresh air.)
Ever heard of #open? "It’s a new app built on the concept of non-monogamous dating," says Engle.
So yep, this app is literally designed for polyamorous, ENM, and open people. They have a breadth of virtual and IRL community events, too, so you can get a jump start on meeting your next crush ASAP, all while being surrounded by like-minded people.
You’ve probably heard of Ashley Madison, the website known for affairs and discreet dating. "It’s popular but controversial," says Brito. "Lots of folks use it."
Now in app format too, the site claims that the service is legit for everyone, including polyamorous individuals specifically, Brito notes. The main tenet is that Ashley Madison is a judgment-free zone, which means it’s also a place where poly people can explore their sexuality and date, too.
"This app caters to bisexual folks seeking polyamory," Brito explains. In short, BiCupid is for everyone who’s into a wide range of relationship styles. Whether you’re looking to add a third to your current relationship, want to meet more single polyamorous people, or just want to chat with other bi-identified folks, you can do that on BiCupid.
No, OkCupid isn’t specifically known for its polyamorous community, but it actually *does* now have features that allow you to express your polyamory identity, says Brito. This means that you can search and match with other polyamorous people on the app seeking both short-term connections and longer-term relationships in your area.
Up for hookups, specifically? Downdating is the app for you, says Brito. It allows you to select whether you’d specifically like to go on a date or just ~hook up~ with a certain person, which the company feels is a more honest and mature way to approach dating. If you’re poly, this means that you have the opportunity for a variety of different experiences at your disposal.
MoreThanOne is designed *specifically* for polyamorous folks. The app is for both single polyamorous people as well as for open, ethical, non-monogamous relationships. And, yes, according to the app, it’s welcoming of all genders, sexualities, and identities, in case you’re not about putting labels on any of your own identities.
Another app built to fill a gap in the polyamorous dating space, PolyFinda lets you navigate dating the way you want. It was made for all genders and preferences by members of the polyamorous community, and you’re encouraged to put all of your information out there: State whether you’re in a pair and looking to add more members to your relationship, any characteristics about the people you’re looking for, or whether or not you’re in the mood for something casual.
Madeline Howard is a writer, editor, and creative based in Brooklyn. Her work has been published in Esquire, Nylon, Cosmopolitan, and other publications. Among other things, she was formerly an editor at Women’s Health. Subscribe to her newsletter ‘hey howie’ at madelinehoward.substack.com.
How to Meet Polyamorous People
I’ve been interested in polyamory for a long time, and I have a question: How do you find partners? How do you meet polyamorous people?
A lot of people who are looking to date polyamorously will seek out new partners via a traditional dating platform like OkCupid or Tinder. This can work out sometimes, but there are a couple of other methods that are underused and often lead to better success rates.
Online Polyamory Groups
An easy way to start on your journey to meeting other polyamorous people is to check out online polyamory groups.
I have written a separate guide on how to search for and find online polyamory groups. Please see that article for step by step information.
Sometimes I get folks writing in asking me for online groups I would recommend. I really only have one group I can vouch for — and that’s because I run it. That’s the Poly Land Discord server. It’s hands down the best online polyamory group I’ve been a part of. It’s the best vibe. Wholesome, funny, supportive, just a wonderful bunch of folks.
Another solid method is finding polyamory meetups in your area. To do this, you can visit Meetup.com and search for polyamory groups near you.
These discussion groups and social meetups are even better than online dating because they have additional benefits. Sure, you can meet new partners through them, but you also get to meet people who may be more experienced with polyamory. This means you’ll likely learn a lot through talking with them. And you’ll also be able to make friends who can be supportive as you navigate any difficulty you might encounter while adjusting to polyamory, which can be crucial as some people find that their monogamous friends often struggle to understand the kinds of problems that poly people face.
Additionally, as you make more polyamorous friends, even if none of them become romantic partners, you grow your network of polyamorous people that you know. And simply having a wider social circle of polyamorous friends can increase your chances of finding partners. I myself have routinely dated people who were friends of a polyamorous friend.
The Kink Scene
Another great option for meeting polyamorous people is to consider exploring your local kink scene, especially if you’re kinky yourself. Not all polyamorous people are kinky of course (and not all kinky people are polyamorous), but there are a higher number of polyamorous people on the kink scene.
If you’re not sure where to start, you can go to FetLife.com. It’s basically Facebook for kinksters, except really NSFW (don’t log in to FetLife in a place where you can’t look at sexually explicit material). You need an account to view anything on FetLife, but it’s free.
There’s a section specifically for groups. To get started, you can either search for your area, polyamory/poly, or a combo of both. Some of these groups meet in real life; some are just virtual.
Be sure to read the group rules. Most of them don’t allow personal ads of any kind (though there are a few ones specifically for that goal — for example, “Poly, Kinky, & Looking“), but even the ones that don’t often have either online discussion topics that can build your knowledge base and/or offer in-person meetups about specific topics at coffeehouses or restaurants.
A Word of Caution About Coming on Too Strong
Most people who have been polyamorous for a significant length of time (especially women) are used to being hit on or sexualized by people who assume that being polyamorous means that you’ll automatically sleep with anyone (which is soooo not the case).
So it’s probably a good idea not to come on too strong. Focus primarily on getting to know people and building friendships, and if true compatibility is there, then relationships sometimes follow.
You may also find that if you’re new to polyamory that people might be reluctant to date you. Sometimes it can take a bit of time to build up a reputation of trustworthiness in a polyamorous circle, and there are simply some people who won’t date polyamorous people who are inexperienced (although some will and do).
This can be very discouraging, but I’ve found that once people come to know you and especially once you’ve dated at least one person (and have been seen to have treated them well/ethically), you may very well find that it becomes a great deal easier. Where once you had a world of hurt getting one date, you may find yourself becoming a hot commodity.
It’s good to understand upfront that it may be a while building up a reputation, but it’s ultimately worth it.
Whatever you do, make sure not to ruin your reputation by being too pushy and eager before people have a chance to get to know you.
Lessons of polyamory. How relationships with multiple partners taught me empathy, diplomacy and other important things - KnifeLessons in polyamory. How relationships with multiple partners taught me empathy, diplomacy and other important things - The Knife
Polyamory is not only a format of love relationships that allows for several partners, provided that they know about each other. It is also a set of ethical rules that help to painlessly establish any interpersonal relationships. Our author Lisa Moroz had a polyamorous relationship with two partners: read about her personal experience and how "open" relationships nurture diplomats, saints and neurotics. nine0003
I have always been amorous. The guy on the subway. Silent classmate. Mom's friend's son. Man in chatroulette. Sometimes for a day, sometimes for years. But stable - in a large number of people. It scared my parents, especially my mother. Once she nevertheless called me a word that is awarded to too socially liberated women.
I received such a stigma when I first had two young men at once. One lived in Poland and was my school love. The second is in Lithuania, where we studied at the university. With the first one, I liked to travel and build a common air castle in which we will raise five children and die on the same day. The Lithuanian boyfriend was a passionate lover and a romantic philosopher who took me to the candlelit roof and listened so attentively that at the end of the first month of our relationship he knew where I kept all my stash. nine0003
I couldn't and didn't want to choose. But society, represented by friends and parents who did not understand this, kept repeating: "Decide yourself!"
A woman who loves sex: why the word “whore” shouldn’t be a curse word
I didn’t know then that it’s legal to love two people and not lie to anyone, that there is even a special term to describe such a relationship - “polyamory” . I was in perpetual stress because of my "fallen nature", and my life turned into a tangled labyrinth of false testimony. In the end, everything was revealed - a beautiful story for three did not work out. But three slides of heart fragments formed. Therefore, when a similar romantic line began to peck at me again, I decided to approach the matter thoroughly. nine0003
Google returns over 25 million links for the query "is it possible to love two men at the same time". I have like-minded people - this is encouraging! From the comments of psychologists that such relationships are doomed to failure, because "the third is always superfluous", I moved on to the study of polyamorous monologues. I liked their ethics, honesty, ability to negotiate. They talked about compression - the feeling when you feel good because another feels good, about jealousy, which can and should be tamed, about the importance of speaking out your fears. I thought I could handle it. nine0003
While reading The Ethics of Fucking by Katherine List and Dossie Easton and the site of a polyamorous enthusiast, I was simultaneously looking for an opportunity to personally communicate with people who "have no one else. " I subscribed to several groups on VKontakte (the total number of members of which is more than 16 thousand people) and a couple of bloggers on Instagram. I found a polyamorous community in my city and invited five of its members to meet and chat.
Our meetings began with my story.
“It so happened that I fell in love with two guys,” I said, looking down. - One is a wonderful lover, besides, he courts beautifully. And with the second, I can share anything and agree to any experiment, because I trust him ".
"Of course, both know about each other." After this phrase, I was welcomed into the ranks of polyamors - I was happy to feel a collective belonging.
Four out of five respondents had a negative experience of multiple love. Only one man had a successful relationship; the only difficulty, he says, is financial. “How to be generous to everyone if you are not an IT specialist?” he asked me. Pretending that this was a rhetorical question, I took the conversation in a different direction. I was interested in how to efficiently allocate time between two (or more) important people. Someone talked about calendars and agreements, who celebrates the New Year with whom. Someone argued that you need to make friends partners. And someone complained about the hard division of a temporary resource. nine0003
I did not even hope to bring my men together. One of my partners (Artem) didn't mind meeting someone else. The second (Peter) tried with all his might to drive away the thought that there was someone else in our bed. I really wanted to tell him about that part of my life where Artyom is, but he pretended that he was of little interest in this. He developed strong defense mechanisms through which I never managed to break through.
Lesson 1. Don't plague people with your fears
I actively tried to persuade Peter to open up to me. One gorgeous sex was not enough for me. Plus, he is an interesting person - as I understand it, with a dramatic story that I really wanted to find out. But the doors were closed for me. But Olya, Peter's "spiritual" friend, had the password for them, whom I learned about in the most tactful way.
Once, in the middle of our sex with Peter, a girl called him, she sobbed loudly into the phone. It's good that I managed to finish, because I had to put on a dress and leave - she had already pulled up in a taxi to the entrance. Peter became her “vest” for that night. And my friend commented on this event like this: "If I were you, I would never remember him again." But I reacted with understanding: they support each other, what's wrong? At the same time, I was jealous: why can’t he open up to me, and is all wide open with her? nine0003
After that, I insisted that Peter tell about all his parallel girls. And he was looking for an opportunity to remain silent about their existence. “To remain silent does not mean to lie,” he explained. My pressure was met with resistance, so I changed my strategy and prepared a monologue about feeling alone and left in a situation of understatement. It worked. That's how I found out about three crushes and a one-time sex with a tinder girl.
It was different with Artem. He made me tell in detail about sex with Peter and feelings for him, in order to know that I was pleased, and to control our romance, of course. It was difficult for me to be frank about this - by the way, this is how I understood how Peter felt when I elicited information from him about other girls. It seemed to me that all of Artyom's questions were filled with anxiety. nine0003
So I asked him what he was afraid of. “That you will go to him, because he is better,” Artyom answered.
Unfortunately, I could not dispel his fear. I compared each candidate with my ideal man: who is better in bed, who is smarter, who jokes funnier? Therefore, I said that I would keep Artyom informed about what was happening with Peter, but I would not disclose the details of our sex life. “I’d better teach you how to properly handle my body,” I announced. nine0003
Lesson 2. Speak out any feeling and doubt
If this were an easy and superficial relationship, it would be possible not to waste time talking. But we were all trying to build a deep connection, so there was a lot to talk about.
My experience of being monogamous has shown that if you don't speak your hurt, anger and irritation, this cocktail of feelings will turn into a Molotov cocktail in a couple of days or a week.
In polyamory, the emotional bomb explodes faster, and its damaging effect is twice (multiply by the number of participants) times stronger. nine0003
There was a period when Peter spent little time with me: either work, or dates with other women, or friends. It seems it's time to switch to Artyom. No, that's not how it works - one second does not replace. Moreover, the lack of attention from Peter hurt me so much that relations with Artem began to deteriorate. He did not understand what the problem was; and she was not between us, she existed in a parallel reality, where no one knew about my condition.
When I realized this, I immediately set up a confrontation with Peter. Three hours of conversations - and the conflict is settled. After such an intensive, I began to follow the rule “if it infuriates you, speak up” in other areas of my life. Now I do not wait until the wick burns out, but initiate a showdown. She even started a ritual: once every two weeks, conduct interviews with each loved one so as not to accumulate resentment. At first, these conversations were difficult. Now everyone is looking forward to these wine evenings — a very close practice. nine0003
Lesson 3. Find out the reasons for your jealousy - it has a lot of benefits
In a serial monogamous relationship, when my partner and I had an unspoken contract for "no-no with someone else", copied from the collective unconscious, it seemed to me that that no I am jealous and generally incapable of this feeling. In a relationship where everything is possible for everyone, I suddenly began to flare up. On the one hand, such a relationship does not imply exclusivity. On the other hand, showing your anger to one partner is short-sighted: because of this, they might quit, I was afraid. nine0003
Polyamory liberated me and gave me the opportunity to examine myself in zealous outbursts - it turned out that I was not such a fury after all. And I also heard a lot of attitudes that blocked the path of righteous anger: “good girls don’t get angry”, “be patient and you will be loved”, “smile and you will be liked”.
Once Artyom told about a girl he slept with at a party. "She is very beautiful. Long hair, big breasts. Also interesting," he described. Already at the first sentence, I began to nervously tap my finger on the table. When he got to the positions in which they were having sex, I broke down and shouted: "Enough!" It hurted me. His story irritated and excited me at the same time. I got up and in a raised voice said everything that can be heard in a movie when the heroine accuses her lover of infidelity. But it all ended as quickly as it began. Belgian scientists say that anger lasts for two hours. And I have five minutes. nine0003
Evolutionary psychology claims that jealousy is a natural feeling that once increased our chances of survival. Swedish scientists conducted a study of gender differences in the experience of jealousy. For women, it turned out to be emotional, and for men, it turned out to be sexual. The explanation is this: a woman is jealous when a man falls in love with another because she is afraid that he will stop providing for her offspring; a man is jealous of a woman if she sleeps with another, because then the question of paternity will arise. nine0003
Another theory says that jealousy is a response to a threat. This may be the fear of losing a partner (in this case, a person is considered as property) or one’s uniqueness, the status of “best” and “only”. I dug up both of them from myself. And if the first - possessiveness - is a completely human feeling, as my psychotherapist said, then the fear of being worse, losing a beauty and erudition contest is a hello from my low self-esteem. I started working with her.
First of all, simply understanding the cause has already reduced the degree of tension. Secondly, I began to look for reinforcement of my value not only in relationships, but also in work. Thirdly, I began to pay attention to what my partners were saying. nine0003
The usual reaction of a person with low self-esteem to a compliment or praise is: "Oh come on, I'm not that pretty." Catching this still unspoken thought, I remade it into "thank you."
After some time, I began to believe beautiful words - auto-training worked, and attacks of jealousy passed even faster. I agreed with myself that every time I think that someone is better than me, I will remember my merits and obviously strengths.
Lesson 4. Develop Compression
One polyamorous guy from VKontakte, whom I met to discuss the pressing issues of a non-monogamous life, spoke with inspiration about compression: “I am so happy when my girlfriend is in love. Let it not be in me. Remembering his words a couple of months later, I envied: I want to feel it, not jealousy!
But where does this feeling come from? How can I be glad that right now my beloved is cumming from a blowjob with his new girlfriend? nine0003
I asked this question to polyamorous Mark, who we talked to a lot after I found him in the community.
“Imagine that you gave your friend a gift that she really wanted. You guessed her desire. What do you feel?" he answered with a question. I plunged into fantasy and brought out of it a pleasantly buzzing feeling somewhere in the solar plexus area. "This is it. This is what you will feel when your partner feels good,” Mark confirmed.
I tried to imagine how much Peter enjoyed sex with a tinder girl - I almost threw up. I respect all my feelings and understand that I am far from holiness. nine0012
But still, the buzzing happiness in my chest was much better. And I wanted to experience it again - for real.
First of all, I began to pay attention to my feelings when someone from my loved ones is pleased. Each time, my mirror neurons became more and more activated, and I reacted more violently to the happiness of a loved one.
For the first time, I felt compersion towards Peter when, after a protracted conflict with his "spiritual" girlfriend, they restored communication. We met after their joint journey, which he spoke of with delight. In my heart, I rooted for them and wanted them to be together, because I knew from my relationship with Artem what it feels like when you are accepted by anyone. It was a strange desire and at the same time very pleasant, similar to when you rejoice in the love of your close friend. nine0003
Lesson 5. Conflict properly
One day Peter got very angry with me: I once again canceled our meeting - "work, sorry, dear." He made claims to me one by one. I was ashamed and, in order not to endure discomfort, I changed the subject. A similar conflict was repeated a couple of days later, but with Artem. Then I thought: if two different people tell me about the same thing, maybe I should listen, and not run away?
If this were a standard relationship, my partner would take longer to get me to pay attention to the problem. Polyamory in this regard accelerates personal growth. nine0012
I've learned that avoiding conflict is fraught with getting stuck in my comfort zone. Attacks from both sides at once did a good job: firstly, I stopped avoiding quarrels and disputes, and secondly, I try to keep my promises.
Now I have a conflict schema. First you need to push the opponent to voice their claims. Each side has a say. The likelihood that it will be through a scream is directly proportional to the accumulated negativity (that's why I try not to bring myself up). When the heat of passion subsides, you need to offer solutions to the problem that can be done right now, today and in the long term. And at the end, add honey and list all the good things that are in your relationship. nine0003
Lesson 6: Stop being a perfectionist and learn to manage your time
There were two big problems in my polyamorous relationship. First, since it was a new experience for me, I rushed between the guys, continuing to choose from two options by inertia. Secondly, it was important for me to divide attention between Peter and Artem 50/50 without concessions. It shattered the nerves the most. The condition was similar to what people with obsessive-compulsive disorder experience if they did not turn the lights on and off exactly 12 times. I kept a constant score, gave grades, compared and was afraid to miss something. nine0003
There was a distance between me and Artyom (we lived in different countries). And with Peter there was no intimacy that I need to trust a person. When I was attracted to one, I deprived the other of attention.
At some point, I started to set reminders to "write P. " and "Call A." Time management helped at first, but the feeling that now everything would collapse tormented me permanently.
Everything has always been imperfect.
This is what caused the destruction of our V-shaped triad. And also the fact that Peter never stopped defending himself from me with his silence. I understood that it is difficult to trust a woman who at any moment can pack her suitcase and fly to the sea with another, especially if you are used to living in a monogamous paradigm. But I didn't want to try to get him out of my shell anymore. nine0003
Artyom and I were left alone, returned to a monogamous state. At first, it was unusual for neither me nor him: 100% of my attention was focused only on him. But then I started to enjoy traditional relationships again. It's so simple! Therefore, when the prospect of a trinity loomed, I retreated: I wanted to heal my nerves, and not rush into a new pool.
In the process of recovery, I decided to upgrade the skill of the correct distribution of time. HRs advise working out a balance between work and personal life so that one day you don’t burn out to the point of depression. So I set a clear boundary between home and office, in the hope that if I could organize these areas of my life when new lovers appeared, it would be easier for me. So I learned to prioritize, stopped criticizing myself for imperfection, and if before I couldn’t rest until all things were ticked off, now I give myself indulgences without a twinge of conscience. nine0003
Lesson 7. Choose your relationship format and don't be afraid to adjust it
My polyamory started in an open group with the only rule - everyone is free and honest with each other. But in this format, I felt anxiety every day. Neither meditation, nor sedatives, nor workaholism saved me. When our trio broke up, it became easier for me. And real peace came when I set limits in relations with Artem.
We have agreed that we will be the main partners for each other. nine0003
Each of us can date other people, but if one becomes uncomfortable with the behavior of the other, he will stop it for the good of the relationship. Our contract is not signed in blood, which means that it can be revised when the conditions become too "close" for both.
I fall in love every two or three months, but they feel different. When I fell in love, being a loner, I experienced euphoria and was constantly tormented by doubts: are my feelings reciprocated, are they of the same strength and what to do if not? Now that I have a loved one, all anxiety has evaporated - only a concentrated high remains. Even if the stranger does not respond to me with the same feeling, I continue to feed on energy from my emotions towards him, transfer joy to my relationship with Artem or to work. If the feelings are mutual, even better - then there is twice as much strength for everyone. True, such relationships quickly end, because the guys start to win me back from Artem, but I don’t need it. We say goodbye to them. And when you have support, it's easier to do it. nine0003
Lesson 8. Give freedom to another and you yourself will become free
Increased responsibility for the feelings of two important people at once turned into an awareness of freedom. Monogamy is a simple system for managing and distributing resources, in which trust is backed up by an alleged no-sex pact with a third party. But can I again fit myself into social norms if I have already gone beyond these limits? I can trust a partner only if he accepts all my desires and feelings. Once having tried on jeans in size, you no longer want to squeeze into those that make your waist narrower. nine0003
Polyamory as a form of relationship. Reflections in the context of psychotherapy
Year of publication and journal number:
2017, No. 2
The article discusses the phenomenon of polyamory, reviews modern scientific research on this topic, describes the ethical and psychological aspects of the phenomenon, discusses the features of psychotherapy for clients who have chosen a polyamorous lifestyle. nine0003
Key words: polyamory, polyamory, polyamorous lifestyle, psychotherapy, forms of intimacy.
At the end of August this year, the second conference “Non-Monogamies and Contemporary Intimacies” was held in Vienna, organized by the University of Vienna. Sigmund Freud (SFU) and dedicated to the issue of polyamory. There, with a report on the psychotherapeutic view of this issue (namely, from the point of view of Gestalt therapy), my colleague Dr. Arthur Dombrovsky, who subsequently, drawing attention to the extremely narrowly presented material, inspired the study of this topic and the writing of an article. nine0003
Polyamory (or polyamory) (ancient Greek πολύς - numerous and lat. a mor - love) is a system of ethical views on love, which allows the existence of multiple love relationships between one person and several people at the same time, with the consent of all participants in these relations. Contrasted with monogamy, where partners negotiate "romantic exclusivity" for each other, but also infidelity, where one partner has a relationship with another person without the partner's consent (Hymer and Rubin, 1982).
Most polyamory supporters hold the view that the need for intimacy and love varies from person to person, and the condition of sexual and emotional exclusivity is not necessary for a viable long-term emotionally significant relationship. In particular, they recognize the natural (regardless of gender) desire of a person to have several love relationships at the same time and allow the possibility of maintaining such on the basis of trust, respect and a responsible approach, without creating ethical and emotional conflicts. nine0003
The presence of love relationships, and even more so of several, is not a necessary condition for polyamory as a way of life. According to Deborah Anapol (Anapol, 2012), polyamory is primarily a discursive practice of awareness, ethical experience and pronunciation of love as the main meaning-forming characteristic of human existence, while sexuality is the most important, but far from the only component of polyamorous identity. At various times in their life, a polyamorous person may be in a monogamous love relationship or have no love relationship at all. In this regard, it would be more correct to speak not of a polyamorous lifestyle, but of a polyamorous worldview (Hymer and Rubin, 1982; Anapol, 2012).
The fact that monogamy appears as a doctrine, a prescription for how to live and how to love (Conley, Moors et al., 2013; Moors, Matsick, et al., 2013), is hardly in doubt, in essence, this form of relationship appears to be the only socially approved form of intimacy, and, like any axiom, prevents a person from independently exploring and mastering himself, his need for contact with others, the desired form of manifestation of love. The author of the article does not in any way oppose monogamy, but suggests, having somewhat delved into the topic, referring to the research and personal experience of people leading a polyamorous lifestyle, for example, described in the work of Elizabeth Shef (Sheff, 2015), who collected a collection of stories from people who living in polyamorous families, to think freely, avoiding cliches, assessments and upholding norms, remaining in this case on a humanistic position, insisting on the right of the individual to be free from social pressure. nine0003
“At first I thought that polyamory is a sign of a consumer society: a person wants to have everything that he finds attractive. But now I am sure that monogamy is unnatural. The Bible, religion, and conservatism, especially in the last few centuries, have shaped our approach to relationships and forced people around the world into a single path. I don't believe in him - it's important to explore what you're really disposed towards. As time goes by, I'm testing the theory of the relationship we're in right now. And I understand that if you love a person as much as I do Rebecca, and at the same time you can still have feelings for others, then polyamory is a healthy path. People who crave to consume others will not be stopped by anything, including monogamy: they will deceive themselves and their partners. (from Anya Sakharova's blog, Love Pentagon: How I Lived with American Polyamors, 2016)
The psychotherapeutic position implies tolerance and the ability to accept, however, in some cases, the conflict between the professional and personal position may be a difficulty for the psychotherapist as a person and psychotherapy as a process, when professional values run counter to personal ones. The value of human relationships and romantic love can affect not only the substantive aspect, but also the formal one. In other words, the value of family relationships for an individual may imply a certain unique form of such, for example, monogamy, which, as already mentioned above, despite cultural and social changes, in most cases remains the only form of relationship approved by society. The society puts forward rigid norms around gender sexuality, as well as around monogamy, where monogamy appears in the public mind as the only “natural” and “healthy” style of relationship (Conley, Moors, et al., 2013; Moors, Matsick, et al., 2013) . nine0003
Despite the demographic prevalence of polyamory, therapists are poorly educated about the lives and needs of polyamorous people, and most textbooks and pamphlets on psychology and psychotherapy do not mention this form of relationship. Among the few works on psychotherapy for psychoamorous clients are the earliest by Hymer and Rubin (1982), Weitzman (2006), and Labriola (2013). In Russian, we find only a few scattered studies on this issue, mostly of an ethical nature. So, one of the authors who had the courage to raise the topic of polyamory back in the Soviet period was Yuri Ryurikov, a critic, sociologist, philosopher, who published several monographs on love (in 90-x published his book "Treason and divorce, triangles and quartets"). In his works, Rurikov comes to the conclusion that a person is non-monogamous by nature and can love more than one person, which is reflected in the cultural heritage, in particular mythology, poetry, literature, where "love is full of violent abundance." In the book "Three Attractions" (1967), the author draws attention to the fact that the craving for the infinity of love is reflected in many poets of Antiquity. The motto for all of them could be the words of Virgil from the Aeneid: “Give handfuls of lilies”, and in love itself everything was natural and not forbidden. (Rurikov, 1967: p. 21). However, despite the many mythological and literary plots (myths about the Greek gods: Zeus, Poseidon, Aphrodite, the thirteenth feat of Hercules, etc. ), reflecting polyamory as an idea and as a form of relationships with other people, scientific studies, including Western ones, are presented rather narrowly (which, in the author’s opinion, is connected not only with the avoidance of discussing this topic, but with the complexity of the sample organization: since polyamory basically exists outside social norms and social legalization, many people, in an effort to avoid discrimination, hide the features of their private life). Nevertheless, certain studies can be found. In them we find both an indication of the rather wide distribution of this phenomenon, as well as a description of the connection between polyamory and certain other factors. According to Manley et al. (Manley, Diamond, van Anders, 2015), at least 265 polyamory groups exist in 158 countries. It should be noted that, as a rule, polyamory is studied on a sample of sexual minorities and in the context of their sexual orientation (including changes in its forms over time (sexual fluidity), while the empirical material of polyamory of heterosexual people is not actually presented, being transformed at the level of the idea itself into the theme of infidelity and adultery.
Researchers focus on the relationship between polyamory and sexual fluidity (Chivers, 2005; Diamond, 2012; Manley, Diamond, van Anders, 2015), polyamory, and individual characteristics of sexual desire (Diamond & Savin-Williams, 2000 ; Lippa, 2006), influences of intimate relationships and social context (Diamond & Savin-Williams, 2000; Rust, 1993). According to Manley, Diamond, and van Anders (2015), consensual non-monogamous relationships provide enhanced opportunities for the formation of intimate relationships in a person's life, which, starting as close friendships, may involve sexuality, since it is natural for emotional intimacy itself to manifest itself through physical contact (Diamond, 2008 ; Morgan & Thompson, 2006; Thompson, 2006). In addition, several studies have been conducted to date focusing on social labels and stereotypes about non-monogamous relationships (Conley, Moors, et al., 2013; Conley, Ziegler, et al., 2013; Moors et al., 2013), as well as the development phenomenology and the language of polyamory (Barker, 2005; Ritchie & Barker, 2006). nine0003
Most often, polyamory is considered as a pathological form, just like adultery, understood primarily as a symptom of inharmonious relationships in a couple, associated with dissatisfaction with needs or a neurotic state of the individual. In his study, Knapp (1975) found that 33% of the therapists he interviewed believed that people in open relationships had personality disorders or neurotic tendencies. 9-17% of them tried to influence the return of such clients to a monogamous lifestyle. Knapp (19)75) also notes that it was people who were in open relationships that were more pathologized, in the opinion of therapists, and not those who had secret extramarital affairs. These data are supported by the results of studies by Rubin and Adams (1978, quoted in Hymer and Rubin, 1982), according to which 27% of interviewed polyamorous people who had experience in psychotherapy indicated that therapists did not support their lifestyle. Similarly, Page (2004) notes that many of the bisexual and/or polyamorous participants in the study had difficulty finding therapists who were loyal to their sexuality and preferred form of relationship. nine0003
According to Weitzman (2006), even those psychotherapists who appear to be open-minded often find it difficult to work with psychoamorous clients due to a lack of awareness and knowledge. And if in large cities (here we are primarily talking about the United States) it is possible to find competent specialists in this issue in the list of specialists, then in small towns and regions this is almost impossible (Weitzman, 2006).
In contrast to the therapist's view of polyamory, many studies demonstrate the viability of non-monogamous relationships. A study of polyamorous couples in the Netherlands showed normal levels of marital satisfaction and self-esteem (Buunk, 1980, adapted from Geri Weitzman, 2006). Two-thirds of those surveyed by Knapp (1976) reported that their satisfaction with marriage increased after entering a polyamorous lifestyle. Rubin (1982), comparing the level of well-being in monogamous and polyamorous unions, did not reveal any significant differences. Conley and co-authors (Conley, Ziegler, et al., 2013), as well as (Manley, Diamond, van Anders, 2015) write about the same, who did not find scientific confirmation that a monogamous or, on the contrary, polyamorous style of relationships brings more emotional satisfaction and sexual satisfaction. nine0003
Studies of human sexuality in 48 countries showed that almost half of women and most of men expected to have more than one sexual partner in the next 5 years (Schmitt, 2005). A comprehensive government survey of society's attitudes, behavior patterns and relationships conducted in Finland in 1992 (age 18-75, about 50% of both sexes) showed that about 200 out of 2250 (8.9%) respondents "agree or really agree" with statement "I could have multiple sexual relationships at the same time" and 8.2% indicated in the field "lifestyle that suits best" at the current life stage could include more than one permanent partner. On the other hand, when asked about other ongoing relationships at the same time, about 17% indicated that they had other partners during the ongoing relationship (50% no, 17% yes, 33% refused to answer). (Paper prepared for the Society for the Scientific Study of Sexuality Western Regional Conference April 2002 and available online in the Electronic Journal of Human Sexuality Issue 5 April 16, 2002). According to Newsweek statistics for 2014, more than 500 thousand people in the United States live in open polyamorous families, mostly people from 30-50 years old, 40% of whom are with higher education. Society and legal institutions do not support them. In Russia, about 24% of marriages end due to the infidelity of one of the partners (according to government statistics). According to a study by Spring (1997), about a third of monogamous relationships are not actually monogamous, due to the presence of adultery (Spring, 1997).
Despite what has been said above, approaches to relationship psychotherapy, as a rule, continue to be based on the idea that a couple (primarily a man and a woman) and a monogamous form of relationship is the only norm. To what extent are psychologists and psychotherapists working with the family system ready to work with polyamory in an unbiased way, to what extent do specialists actually have the resource of acceptance, as well as sufficient competence, how conservative does the professional community remain? nine0003
Some specialists refuse to label cheating as a negative practice for the family. For example, family consultant Cathy Labriola (Labriola, 2013) proposes to define “cheating” as a different format of relationships that are already legitimate in their possibility of occurrence and prevalence in modern society. Free change of partners, according to Labriola (Labriola, 2013) , , is a conscious choice subject to ethical justification, and not deviation and violation of morality. We find a similar view with Deborah Anapol (Anapol, 2012), who in her book Polyamory in the 21st century: Love and intimacy with multiple partners draws attention to on the non-alternative conditionality of the intimate sphere by social, economic and cultural monogamous standards alien to it. According to Anapol, people don't resist because they either don't see an alternative or push it into the shadows. “Polyamory is natural and widespread in society, but as an institution of infidelity, office romances, repressed desires and languid memories of a happy youth, where monogamous requirements are reduced or reduced to a minimum. The question is not whether or not simultaneous love for many and acceptance of love for other partners is possible or not, but how to describe the already held, realized opportunity to overcome norms that block any reflexivity regarding one's own sexual identity” (Anapol, 2012). In this regard, a promising task is to remove the topic of polyamory from the field of "pathology", but consider it from the point of view of human nature as such. nine0003
Benefits of a polyamorous relationship
In a study (Page, 2004) conducted among 217 bisexual adults, 33% of them were in a polyamorous relationship, and 54% of 217 respondents indicated that a polyamorous lifestyle was their ideal relationship model. Some choose polyamory simply because they like to have the freedom to date whoever they choose (Sumpter, 1991). Others find that the lifestyle suits them because it allows them to express their sexuality with lovers from more than one gender group. But in any case, counselors and therapists, especially those working with bisexual clients, should be aware that some of them will be polyamorous (Weitzman, 2006). nine0003
Polyamory reveals certain benefits, of which, in the most general terms, three can be distinguished: greater sexual satisfaction, personal growth and development (this includes better awareness of one's own needs, more trust and courage, more opportunities to share with others), more active and emotional rich life (Knapp, 1976; Kassoff, 1989; Rust, 1993). Dixon (1985, cited in Weitzman, 2006) found that polyamorous people feel less possessive from their partners and also compete less with those who might seem attractive to a partner. Some polyamorous people have shared that they feel joy when their partner experiences feelings of closeness with another person (Keener, 2004; Polyamory Society, 1997 quoted after Weitzman, 2006). Research by Keener (2004) showed a high level of trust and a low level of anxiety about possible cheating by partners in a polyamorous relationship, since decisions about this form of relationship were made by all parties freely and on their own.
Polyamorous Relationship Difficulties and Psychotherapeutic Challenges
Most polyamorous people seek therapy for reasons unrelated to polyamory. In fact, they deal with typical difficulties - restlessness, anxiety, lack of self-control, etc. (Weitzman, 2006). At the same time, the task of the psychotherapist is to be open-minded, have a broad outlook and sufficient freedom to accept that the client's polyamorous lifestyle can be natural, viable and favorable for him, unless, of course, there are specific signs indicating the opposite. Often, polyamorous people are happy with their lifestyle, but are looking for a way to implement it more naturally and smoothly. On this occasion, Gary Weitzman (Weitzman, 2006) writes that the role of the therapist is to help polyamorous clients to recognize and articulate their needs, if necessary, help to agree with a partner about their relationship, characterizing their rules and form (which is also necessary in working with any other couple or family system). nine0003
However, it is also possible to single out the most typical psychological difficulties faced by polyamorous people, and, accordingly, psychotherapeutic tasks in overcoming them.
- Difficulties associated with identity. The development of a polyamorous identity occurs in stages, where each phase, with potential difficulties, can be accompanied by work with a psychotherapist. According to Weitzman (2006), the first stage in the formation of personal identity is the expansion of the boundaries of the self, along with the manifestation of interest in a polyamorous lifestyle, as well as the experience of conflict between individual needs and the mainstream of society. Sometimes a person feels polyamorous before they meet other polyamorous people, experiencing an acute painful feeling of loneliness, their own otherness, shame and fear of judgment. At this stage, supporting the therapist, informing about the polyamorous subculture, and helping to find social polyamorous groups appear to be the most important tasks (Weitzman, 2006). nine0250
- Self-disclosure and presentation of one's polyamory to an existing partner . Awareness of one's polyamory sometimes occurs against the background of existing monogamous relationships. In this case, the second stage of living one's own identity is self-disclosure to a partner, which is accompanied by the risk of being condemned and rejected. Here, the goals of individual therapy are to help with the client's feelings (shame, anxiety, guilt) and support in the event of separation from a partner (living through pain and grief) (Weitzman, 2006). However, at this stage, it is possible and effective to work with a couple, allowing you to understand and accept each other, go through doubts, confusion, fears, find a new form of relationship or, if polyamorous relationships are impossible for one of the partners, go through parting. In the experience of Weitzman (2006), some partners are willing to learn more about polyamory even if they are not sure that polyamory suits them as a lifestyle. nine0250
- Mutual interest of an existing partner in polyamory and the formation of a new form of relationship with him. Sometimes the partner is also interested in a polyamorous lifestyle, in which case the relationship is formed in a new way, accompanied by negotiations. In fact, this stage occurs every time a new relationship is established. At this stage, each participant voices his wishes and expectations, determines the desired boundaries, which can unfold against the backdrop of a clash of interests and views. The therapist in this case helps clients to speak openly, seek ways of cooperation and compromise, formulate rules regarding what is acceptable in their relationship and what is not (Weitzman, 2006). nine0250
- Inclusion of a new partner in an existing relationship. Not all polyamorous couples complete this step. Some agree on the possibility of sexual relations with another partner, while the family remains the same - two adults. However, sometimes love relationships involve three, four or more people at the same time who decide to live together. This type of communication, accordingly, brings new difficulties. A restructuring is taking place, again requiring discussion, but now with a large number of participants. The questions that are raised concern both psychological aspects and everyday ones (division of space, features of joint sleep, financial issues, etc. ) (Weitzman, 2006). nine0250
- Jealousy. Jealousy is often unavoidable in love relationships and, according to Cathy Labriola (2013), it is the main negative experience associated with open relationships. On the one hand, polyamory opens up new opportunities for building trust and overcoming jealousy (Ramy, 1975; Keener, 2004), on the other hand, including several people in close relationships can create competition between them. The problem of jealousy and differentiation (as the ability to distinguish uniqueness and appreciate all connections) can be especially acute when new relationships arise. Due to novelty, secondary (new) relationships can be experienced more vividly, cause more intense feelings compared to previously formed ones, and, as Gary Weitzman (Weitzman, 2006) notes, people who are just starting to lead a polyamorous lifestyle often have doubts and assumptions that the second partner is the best option. In this case, they can devalue the main (first) partner, stepping back or making hasty conclusions. It is important for the psychotherapist to maintain a realistic position, and when working with a couple (three) to help explore the nature and dynamics of feelings, to keep the focus on each of the participants in the relationship (Weitzman, 2006). nine0250
- Blurring of rules and boundaries. In a polyamorous relationship, rules and boundaries are the most important security factors for the participants in this relationship. Based on this, one of the tasks of psychotherapy may be the clarification and formulation of those, the correlation of the accepted rules with the personal needs of each of the participants in such relationships, respect and preservation of their own personal boundaries.
- The end of a polyamorous relationship. Polyamorous relationships end for a number of reasons. Most often they end for the same reasons that monogamous relationships end (Ramey, 1975; Rubin and Adams, 1986) - inconsistency or conflict of needs, fading feelings, disappointment. But partners in polyamorous relationships often need extra support, as they may experience feelings of shame and disgrace, experiences of not being able to work with the form of relationship that they have put so much effort into. Weitzman (2006) points out that often polyamorous people, by standing out in a monogamous environment, attract more attention to themselves, and their personal failure can be used as evidence that polyamory in general is not viable. That being said, when monogamous relationships end, they are generally not interpreted in this way (that monogamy is not a viable lifestyle). The therapist can help the client see this double standard, find the strength and confidence to defend themselves against possible attacks. In this case, the possibility of changing lifestyles can be subjects of discussion in psychotherapy. nine0250
- Public morality about monogamy and shame. At the beginning of this article, the issue of social loyalty and the possibility of accepting that monogamy is not the only form of relationship were discussed in detail. Inflexibility and condemnation from the outside, both by society as a whole and by specific acquaintances, contribute to the formation of a sense of fear of rejection, shame and guilt. The development of will, social courage, and the ability to make independent decisions are important tasks in psychotherapeutic work with polyamorous clients. nine0250
- Expressed internal conflict. Conflict with society, opposition to an imposed model, and the need for emotional inclusion in several relationships at once can provoke an internal conflict (which, in particular, can be described through the conflict between the id and the super-ego, the internal parent and child, the desired and the proper). Therefore, it is important for the therapist to be ready to work with deep inner conflict.
Revealing its advantages and carrying potential difficulties, the polyamorous lifestyle requires personal resources determined by characteristics. So K.T. Hatzler (cited in Moors, Matsick, Schechinger, 2017), who studied the qualities inherent in monogamous and polygamous people, determined that polyamorous people are usually characterized by sociability, extroversion, and physical attractiveness. In addition, based on the review of studies, it can be assumed that such qualities as the ability to negotiate, the ability to differentiate relationships, the willingness to resist public opinion, nonconformity, social courage, and emotional competence are of great importance for the implementation of polyamorous relationships. In his TED talk, Kel Walters talks about polyamory and emotional literacy as related phenomena. “It seems absurd to us if, with the advent of a new friend in life, we say “bye” to existing old friends or with the birth of a younger brother or sister we cut out our elders from our lives, but this does not apply to romantic relationships.” The idea of polyamory is reflected in the metaphor of a burning candle, from which you can light many other candles, while the fire will not decrease. Society agrees with this definition of love, but only as long as it is about platonic love. Are we ready to look at this issue with an open mind? Are we ready, as counselors and psychotherapists, to fully accept the otherness of the other? nine0003
Polyamory as a form of relationship.