Common Pitfalls of Polyamory

The most common issues I see when working with people exploring non-monogamy is how much of their historically monogamous relationship is based more on societal expectations rather than truth, vulnerability, and honesty. Expectations have mostly not been discussed and just assumed. Of course, most people go into monogamy with the expectation that the relationship fits into a nice little box… but, one person’s box may look a little bit different from the spouse’s box.

The lack of radical honesty with a partner is mainly based in fear of how their partner will react to their honest feelings, needs, and desires. Most people I encounter did not grow up witnessing parents or other relationship role-models creating a safe space to express themselves without judgment, shame, or rejection. Honest communication is the absolute most important aspect of ANY relationship to function well, which creates trust.

Self-awareness/self-reflection would come in at a close second. Being able to express things like jealousy – which arises out of fear of loss (anxious or codependent attachment), insecurity (physical or emotional), envy/FOMO (I wish we could do that) – in a way that is not reactive and verbally violent but proactive and honest, allowing your partner to offer you reassurance and support, even if you have to ask for it. People should not be expected to read your mind.

Western culture is wrought with competition. We learn to be the best, #1, the most important or prestigious. Especially here in the U.S. this indoctrination bleeds over into our interpersonal relationships. I want to be the most important person in my partner’s life. I want to be the #1 best friend. When your partner finds another partner, it’s incredibly difficult to work through not being the one and only love of their life. The idea that “we’ve been together 50 years,” is treated as a successful relationship, even if it’s abusive or toxic. The need to change this outlook of we’ve been together longer so our relationship is more important, needs to be looked at in a different way. Successful relationships are built on honesty, trust, and communication. Having the ability to discuss what works and what doesn’t, what you want your relationship to be like and how you need to change it, and being able to walk away compassionately and amicably when it doesn’t work out, being able to feel and express happiness or joy that someone you love is living in a manner that brings them happiness and fulfillment – that is what a successful relationship needs to look like. 

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