How Do You Explain Your Interest In Polyamory To Someone Who’s Monogamous?

I’ve *never* been successful explaining poly using the parents/children analogy. Some poly folks seem to understand it, but others apparently don’t at all.


Marriage is a life partnership. Not all relationships are life partnerships. Does a Christian marriage allow one to have friends? If so, then I see no reason, using *that* argument, why a Christian marriage would not allow one to be poly — to love one’s friends, to have loving
non-marriage relationships with other people.

I’m not Christian, but I was raised as one, and I found myself thinking the other day about Jesus’ words “And the greatest of these is love” in a poly context. Poly has helped show me that underneath all the different names for love and the different ways it feels in different relationships, love is just love.

One of the thorniest arguments my partner and I had early on in our relationship concerned our different understandings of love. I urge you both to persist in sorting yours out, because when you can understand each other’s views of love, you have really gotten somewhere.

Bonus: How Do You Explain Polyamory To Someone Who’s Monogamous?

“You have more than one friend, right? You care about your friends, right?
Your friends all know that you have more than one friend, right? You
don’t have big trouble juggling several friends, right? You find time to
spend with each of them? OK, well, polyamory is like having several
friends that you love and have sex with.”

That’s a start, anyway. People can say “Well, *I* couldn’t do that with
lovers,” but at least they have an example from their own lives that they
can start from.


Is It Codependent If You Consider Another Person’s Wants/Needs Alongside Your Own?

“Codependency” implies mental illness to me. Do you really believe that people who choose to assign equal weight to another’s needs are ill?


I think that it is very important for parents to assign equal weight to their children’s needs, and I think it can be a legitimate choice to assign equal weight to other adults’ needs as long as it doe. I do not think it indicates mental illness.

One can assign equal weight to another person’s needs and still retain freedom of choice.

In the case of my primary partner, I make the decisions based on what I need/want, what zie needs/wants, and what our relationship needs/wants, weighing all those factors equally. In other relationships, my needs/wants get some extra priority points when I am weighing my choices.

Note that although I consider my partner’s needs/wants as equal to mine, I still assess the needs/wants and rank them. If I have a want I consider a high priority, and my partner has a want that seems to be a lower priority, my want gets priority. But it gets priority on its own merits, not just because it is mine.

What Do You Do If You’re Monogamous And Your Partner Is Pressuring You To Be Poly?

Pressure to be polyamorous, when making a transition, may not *really* come
from person A. It may come from person B, who feels one or more of:

–“I have to be poly too so I won’t be lonely”
–“I have to be poly too so I can understand this part of person A”

But person B may not realize where the feeling is coming from, and may
believe that person A is pressuring zir to be poly.

I suppose there are a few reasons why person A might want person B to be

–Person A might feel guilty for leaving person B alone.
–Person A might worry that unless person B is poly, zie is going to
demand more time/energy than A wants to give.
–Person A might believe that poly works best when all parties are poly.
–Person A might believe that poly only works when everybody is getting
something for zirself out of it.

These are not very well thought out reasons, but they are likely to occur
in the heat of the moment.

Is A Secondary Relationship Of Lesser Value Than A Primary Relationship?

I believe you implied that a secondary relationship had no spiritual aspects and was of lesser value than a primary relationship. I think secondary does not imply anything about the spiritual aspects of a relationship. I also think that secondary does not imply anything about the spiritual or emotional value of a relationship. It only implies something about how I will behave if the relationship conflicts with a primary relationship.


If your definition of “value” is behavior-based, then you might consider my secondary relationships to be of lesser value because I spend less time on them than on my primary relationship. However, if your definition of “value” is based in spiritual or emotional aspects, then my secondary relationships may be of equal or greater value than my primary relationship — they may teach me more things, or be more emotionally intense, or whatever else might be implied in a definition of spiritual or emotional value.



If you don’t think that secondary relationships are less important than primary relationships, how do you distinguish between your primary and your secondaries? Are there any ways that you treat your primary different from your secondaries? Or do you distinguish them simply ‘cos you’ve been with your primary for longer and live with zir?

I think that a primary relationship of many years’ duration that was de facto monogamous for most of those years can build a lot of solidity/strength through all the time spent solely with that partner. When you begin pursuing secondary relationships, they are  automatically secondary because there is so much history built up between you and your
primary partner.

However, a primary relationship of much shorter duration that has been actively polyamorous from the outset is in a more precarious position. There is not a lot of history built up; the partners don’t know a lot about each other’s tendencies and reactions to things. It’s therefore trickier to distinguish between the primary relationship and the secondary relationships.

Taking as a premise that in the latter kind of relationship, only actions count (because there’s little history), I think the only way to meaningfully define the latter kind of relationship as primary is to limit the amount of time/energy spent on other relationships, either by making guidelines, or by simply behaving that way automatically.

A lot of people squick at the concept of trying to rank importance, because they think if they define one relationship as less important than another, they are actually defining one person as less important than another, and that goes against their democratic principles.

But I’m talking about actions. If you had to move in order to pursue your career, would you give your primary partner more of a say than you would give your secondary partners? If so your primary partner is, in a sense, more important to you.

How Do You Consider Someone Else’s Needs Alongside Your Own?

Considering someone else’s needs alongside my own is very different from muddling my needs and someone else’s, or considering someone else’s needs as more important. I do not see how one could turn into the other, even if habit were involved. My anecdotal evidence suggests that if one regularly practices considering another’s needs alongside one’s own, one becomes better at solving problems in ways that work for everyone (rather than becoming ever more self-sacrificing).


There is no shortcut of “Well, these needs are more important ‘cos they’re mine, so it’s not necessary to work to find a solution that works for everybody”; I think that shortcut can be employed in both codependent relationships (where one considers another’s needs more important) or relationships where one considers one’s own needs more important.


Why is it important to keep track of whose needs are whose? Are you worried
that if you don’t carefully assign this need to that person and that need to
this person, harmful fusion will set in? If you believed that fusion wouldn’t
happen, would it still be important to you to clarify whose needs are whose?

If you’re building a relationship with someone, then IMO it’s good to make
some guesses at or otherwise explore what their priorities might be. Even if
you are wrong, the act of exploring can be pleasing to the other person.

As for responsibility: Yes, it is zir responsibility to see that zir
priorities are addressed. If you address another’s possible
expectations/priorities, that doesn’t mean you’ve taken over
responsibility for zir needs. It’s expressing an interest, that’s all.
And possibly avoiding some problems.

When I talk about considering another’s needs alongside my own, I am
talking about what happens after the point where the needs are defined and
communicated (obviously not perfectly, but as well as can be expected at
the moment).

*Then* I look at the needs, wherever they have come from, and if they
conflict, I try to find a solution that addresses all of them, and if no
solution addresses all of them, I try to make a decision based on which
one I believe to be most important or strongest right now. (Sometimes I do
this with help from the other people involved; sometimes on my own.)

In some cases, following through on this shows me that my assessment or our
communication was off. If so I make adjustments.

What Do You Do If A Partner Won’t Follow Through On Plans With You Because Of The Discomfort Of Another Partner?

I think you may be losing out because you’re not successfully communicating how important some things are to you and standing up for what you want/need. You can do those things in a rational and non-dramatic way. But it works best if you do it firmly and show you mean it.


There are several approaches to solving a problem like this.

(1) Strengthen your relationship with her. If you get her on your side, she may be more willing to make room for your relationship with the man,
and you may come to understand and empathize with her better, and you may be able to talk about problems together.

If she keeps getting upset, then there may be a mismatch between what she really wants and what she feels she *should* do/want. Addressing this
issue may help improve the relationship(s).

(2) Avoid blaming her for his behavior. His behavior is his responsibility. You don’t have to get dramatic about it, but you do have to make it clear to him that you expect him to follow through, and that there will be consequences if he doesn’t (such as losing your trust).

You may need to be willing to give up the relationship if he doesn’t change his behavior. That might seem hard, and it’s up to you to decide if
it’s worth it. For me, it’s worth it to have lovers I can rely on.

What Do You Do If You Started Dating A Couple And Now You Only Like One Of Them?

The way I see it, you have several choices:


(1) Talk to her about how you feel about her husband. If she indicates a
desire to leave him, you might say exactly what you said here: you care
for her and would be willing to help her out temporarily if she wants to
leave him, but you could not offer a permanent “replacement” relationship.

(2) Decide that it’s none of your business and you don’t want to disrupt
their relationship further, and break off the relationship with both of
them now. I agree that if you proceed further you’ll continue to affect
their relationship. That would likely be messy for all of you, and you need
to decide if your relationship and your life is equipped to handle the

(3) Decide to break off the sexual aspect of your relationship with them,
because her husband disapproves, but offer her friendship and support if
she wants it. (This might also affect their relationship, because of the
feelings between you and her husband, but without the sexual aspect, it
might be less messy.)