Does polyamory ever work?
I received the following letter from a reader the other day.
“I’ve been struggling for the better part of several months dealing with leaving my ex for the second time (who came back early last year love bombing me for months, then completely shifting saying he wants to be polyamorous). Does poly even work? Or is that usually the beginning of the end?” – Alice
In order to answer the question of ‘Does polyamory work?’, one must first check-in on their definition of the word ‘work’.
Yes, polyamory works if your desire is to have access to multiple sexual partners throughout the course of your lifetime.
Yes, polyamory works if you want to get deeply in touch with (and process through) the theme and experience of jealousy in your life.
Polyamory can work for many things, depending on what it is you are looking to optimize for.
Ultimately, this comes down to your core values.
Every relationship contains lessons in it. So, what lessons are you wanting to learn in your precious years on this planet?
Overall, I don’t think that polyamory is healthy or ideal for the vast majority of people.
In my experience of working with thousands of people 1-on-1 and in groups for over a decade, most individuals tend to use polyamory as a way to escape their deeper work.
For example, instead of naming their most vulnerable sexual desires with their primary partner, they can avoid the tough conversations and get those needs met elsewhere. Or instead of having to fully face into a burdensome character defect, they can simply outsource that piece of the relationship to someone else. Simply put, polyamory gives our egos significantly more opportunities to hide.
Polyamory As A Mask For Intimacy Avoidance
As the saying goes, “The easiest relationship in the world is a relationship with a million people. The most difficult relationship is the relationship with one person.”
That is because when you are in a committed, monogamous relationship with one person, your ego has no wiggle room. Here this person is… this one, precious mirror, reflecting all of your stuff back to you, and there’s no escaping the truth of what they are showing you. Whereas many people who engage in polyamory do so from a place of avoidance. As in, it’s easier to avoid certain challenging aspects of your psyche/personality/ego when you have the option to just leave a sticky disagreement with your primary partner and go off on a date with someone else for some light reprieve.
Does this mean that poly can’t work or isn’t ever healthy? Of course not. There are literally hundreds of billions of relationships in the world, and there are absolutely people who make polyamory work from a healthy, integrated place.
In my experience, these couples are few and far between. It takes excellent self-awareness, communication skills, and maturity to make a polyamorous relationship dynamic work long-term. Are there emotionally mature people who are expertly self-aware and possess great communication skills? Yes, of course there are… but I would argue that they are the minority in any given population sample.
In summary, polyamory can ‘work’ if the themes that you’re looking to work on are specifically catered to a polyamorous lifestyle. But for the vast majority of people, doing deeper inner work with one partner will yield far better results than dating several people at a time.