Whether or not a couple finds joy in polyamory is dependent on the existing foundations of their relationship. A new structure might work best for someone who is already in a stable and loving partnership. Opening up your relationship simply for excitement — for instance, you’re afraid that you two are lacking spice, losing interest in each other, or are growing bored — might not be the best impetus to explore polyamory.

This brings me to an important point: Polyamory cannot fix a relationship. If a partnership is no longer working for an unrelated reason, the choice to explore polyamory is unlikely to provide the Band-Aid one or both partners are looking for. For instance, while Neféli is no longer with her partner, she does not cite opening up her relationship as the cause of their separation.

“Polyamory is not a solution to a boring [or] dying relationship, nor a way to spice things up,” Neféli cautions. “I don’t know what I could have done differently, because I feel my marriage was already ending anyway, so I can’t see what was a ‘mistake’ in approaching polyamory and what was the natural path of this particular relationship.”

If you are contemplating opening your own relationship up or exploring ethical nonmonogamy, consider the following tips.

1. Establish a relationship framework.

If you are someone who feels like you might get jealous or insecure with external partners, it might be essential to establish a relationship “framework.” How do you two want to structure your relationship? Couples who open their relationship can choose to structure their relationships in two ways: hierarchically or non-hierarchically. This can go beyond sex, developing into something romantic or emotional.

In a hierarchical polyamorous relationship, one relationship serves as the primary with an “anchor,” while all other relationships outside of it are considered secondary. Some people might find solace in a hierarchical relationship, while others, like Ashwathi, prefer to give all their partners equal attention. This includes prioritizing yourself and your needs, as it relates to different partners.  

In non-hierarchical polyamory, there are no primary partners nor anchors. Everyone in the relationship is prioritized the same and big decisions are made together as a group.

2. Communicate effectively and set clear boundaries.

As obvious as it sounds, this is where many couples’ efforts fall short, which may lead to confusion, hurt feelings, and resentment. Strong communication and clearly laid-out boundaries are the best way to approach that initial entry into the polyamory world. If you’re not already accustomed to dialoguing together, consider going to therapy together, where you can work through your feelings in a safe setting.

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