Conversations you need to have in Polyamorous Relationships

Polyamorous couple sitting on a couch discussing their relationship

People...I’m a talker. I love having deep, detailed conversations. This means that I have a bit of an advantage when it comes to practicing ethical non-monogamy. Because polyamory (like all relationships) is only as good as the communication you give.

Not everyone loves talking about their feelings. Or being transparent about what they want. And that’s okay. But if you want to have a healthy non-monogamous relationship, you’re gonna need to get good at that shit. Because communication is what helps us build trust, and trust in polyam spaces is absolutely crucial.

Polyamorous relationships require more communication than a monogamous relationship, because there’s so much more going on. For each relationship that you’re in, you’ll need to have a version of the following conversations so that everyone is on the same page.

Relationship expectations

This means discussing the things you expect from a relationship you’re in to make sure you and your partner are able to meet each other’s needs.

In a monogamous relationship this means talking about things like whether or not you want children, how you feel about things like marriage, shared finances, living together, and what your long term goals are for life. These kinds of things can also be discussed in polyamorous relationships, but it also needs to cover the stuff that’s specific to non-monogamy.

How much time do you expect to be able to spend with someone you’re dating?

Do either of you have children - if so, what should interactions with them be like?

Do you expect to meet your metamours (other people your partner is dating) or do you expect your partner not to tell you anything about their other relationships.

If you don’t talk about these things you risk stumbling into conversations that hurt people, or cut people off from information they need in order to feel safe.

It’s okay if you have the conversation and you and your partner have different expectations. It just means one or both of you might need to reconsider your expectations based on the other person’s capacity to meet them. For instance if you expect to be able to spend a certain amount of time together, but your partner is already stretched thin from work or other relationships, you’ll need to think about whether your relationship could survive on less.

You need to discuss expectations around each and every relationship you’re in. This is especially important if you’re in an existing relationship that you’re planning on opening up. The expectations for your existing relationship might need to be more comprehensive, so that you both feel secure before seeing other people.

Relationship boundaries

As we’ve discussed before, boundaries are not the same as rules. And it’s very important to know the difference.

Boundaries are about expressing what you are and aren’t comfortable with. They’re different from expectations; because they’re less about what you need to make a relationship work and more about what you need in order to feel safe.

Boundaries can include topics like safe sex practices, what you consider to be cheating, what personal information you’re comfortable having shared with metamours, sacred spaces (special places you wouldn’t want a partner taking other dates), how you feel about your partner dating your friends, family or colleagues, and anything else that is important to you that you need a partner to understand.

If you’re opening an existing relationship for the first time it’s likely you’ll want to set a lot of boundaries. Many people who are new to non-monogamy instinctually do this to try and protect themselves at a very vulnerable time. Having lots of boundaries is okay, but always examine the reasons behind your boundaries. Make sure you’re not just re-wording rules in an attempt to control your partner’s behaviour. Clarify with yourself or your partner what need is being met with boundaries you’re uncertain about.

If you’re new to the concept of setting boundaries that’s totally okay! The whole idea of setting and enforcing boundaries is pretty new to most of us. Don’t be afraid to grab a book or do some light googling to learn more about healthy boundary setting.

Coming out

This is definitely one I’ve learned the hard way. You see, I’m very loud and proud about my identity. However not everyone has the same privilege as me. I didn’t realise this and accidentally outed a partner at their own house party. I will never make that mistake again. Ideally though, it’s a mistake no one should make.

Some people you date will be ‘out’ with their polyamory, others won’t be and will have boundaries around what they’re comfortable with you sharing, either with your other partners, or with friends, on social media, etc.

Not communicating about this can literally ruin lives, resulting in people being fired or disowned by family members and friends. So whenever you start a new relationship have a conversation about whether they’re ‘out’ about being polyamorous or not.

If you’re not comfortable dating someone who is or isn’t ‘out’ then that’s a boundary you need to set upfront.

Sexual health

You need to be able to talk openly and honestly about sexual health and safe sex practices. You need to be able to talk to each sexual partner about when you were last tested, who you’ve been with and what your risk factors are.

If you’re in opposite sex relationships you need to be able to discuss what your expectations are in the event of an unplanned pregnancy with each partner that it’s a risk factor for.

Talk lots, talk often

The more people we date, the more capacity there is for people to get hurt. Communication is the way we mitigate that risk. This is just the tip of the polyam communication iceberg, but it should give you an idea of the kinds of conversations you need to be having with each person you date. If you’re not interested in doing the open and honest talking thing (a lot), you might want to consider a different form of consensual non-monogamy.


Have your say! Login to comment.


    More than a month ago

    There is a massive misunderstanding about polyamorous relationships. This doesnt mean a sex orgy at the house every Saturday night! It doesnt mean even threesomes or foursomes necessarily.
    I am friends with a straight couple where the male has a second female lover (both women are fully aware of the three person relationship). They DO NOT have threesomes. He is romantically involved with both women seperately. Yet - the immediate response if he tells anyone (especially a guy) is that he has threesome sex romps with both partners.

  • Trythishard1


    More than a month ago

    Seems like obvious information to me... communication is the key!

  • Glamnic


    More than a month ago

    Please put in bold print somewhere that polyamory doesn't mean group sex, or multiple sex partners only. Im so frustrated by the guys thinking this is what polyamory is.

    • AMM.Editor


      More than a month ago

      Exactly the reason that we broached Miss Smutt Buttons to write for us. To explain what it is and what it isn't.

    • Glamnic

      Account Closed

      More than a month ago

      Hopefully it will be read by more guys but I doubt it. Speaking from experience in the lack of profile reading.

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