Guest blog: How not to do polyamory

Image by the fabulous Stuart F Taylor

I’ve been honoured to host some fab guest blogs on ethical nonmonogamy over the years – like this guide on how to cultivate compersion or this lovely piece about the realities of open relationships. Often, though, it’s as intriguing to learn from other people’s mistakes as their successes. So just as I’ve tried to write guides on how to be bad in bed before, this week’s guest blogger, Alex, is here to tell you how not to do polyamory. Or in his own words…

How to be polyamorous while being a right fucking prick about it

It’s finally sunny again, everyone is horny as all hell, and we’re not allowed to leave our houses on the pain of literal death. What better time to get involved in the wonderful world of polyamoury? Go outside! Put a sex on someone who isn’t your primary partner! Put your tongue into the mouths of actual strangers! Truly, there never has been a better time to get mad rutty and swap fluids with folks than right now.

[Note from GOTN, because sometimes people do not understand sarcasm and I get letters: do not actually do this]

But wait! Before you fling open your front door and start frotting against the postman, there are a few things you need to know about navigating the tricky waters of open relationships.


Good, clear communication is incredibly important when it comes to juggling multiple partners – after all, the “open” in “open relationships” doesn’t just mean shagging. To this end, it is incredibly important to remain open, honest, and communicative. I’ve found that the best way to do this is having one chat with your primary partner about it all, and then blindly stumbling through life operating on a series of vague assumptions and pub reckons of what is and isn’t appropriate. This leads nicely onto point two.


As with all relationships, trust is key. When your partner says that they are okay with you seeing other people, the best thing to do is absolutely not take that at face value, and instead whip yourself up into an anxious frenzy. Learn to become afraid of talking about prospective other partners. Convince yourself that, even though they said that they are fine with it, they secretly aren’t. This means that every time you want to bring up the possibility of going out for a snog on someone, you find yourself struck with terror, convinced that even mentioning it will lead your partner to thinking that they aren’t enough for you, and that you’d be happier elsewhere. By applying your own worries and insecurities to your partner – and not trusting that they mean what they say – you’ll find yourself springing things on them at the last minute. Who doesn’t love that?!


It is important to establish ground rules. While these may change over time, having a framework of boundaries and expectations can help your relationships grow. A bit like having a trellis for plants, but with bums and hand stuff. Make sure that these rules are as vague and nebulous as possible. If rules are open to interpretation, and you’re following the communication advice above, you’ll find yourself lying awake at three in the morning wondering whether that snog was actually allowed. From my experience, the best way of framing rules is in the style of a logic puzzle where the answer is derived from inference. If Lucy is allowed to kiss James, and James is allowed to do hand stuff with Michael but not with Lisa, who is Emma allowed to fuck? A good rule of thumb is that, if you’re in a situation where you’re thinking “should I check this with my partner, or should I let my junk do the thinking?”, always let your junk take charge.

Finally, the most salient advice of all…

Kid yourself!

Allow yourself to think that you’re behaving in an appropriate manner, and dismiss any nagging concerns with mental handwaving and a shrug of “it will be fine”. The only alternative is actually facing your fears and insecurities, and having open, frank dialogue with your partner, and any additional partners whose emotional wellbeing you find yourself partly responsible for. These talks are hard. Exhausting, even, and require an astonishing level of honesty and emotional maturity to ensure that no one gets hurt, and that everyone is acting on good faith.

Who’s got the time for that?


  • tk says:

    All solid advice!

    I’ll add two points from myself:

    * Good relationships allow the partners to grow!

    When you date both Alice and Bob, and tell Bob that doing hand stuff with him isn’t as hot as doing bum stuff with Alice, maybe he’ll finally allow you to do the bum stuff with him, even though he previously said that he finds it really uncomfortable. It’s an opportunity for growth for Bob when he’s being compared to Alice all the time.

    * Share Google calendars!

    Oh, this is such a staple of polyamorous relationships. :) If you share calendar with your new partner Charlie, he’ll get a convenient notification on his smartphone each time you decide to cancel your date night plans at the last minute when your spouse Diane has feelings of jealousy and makes you stay at home and watch a full season of a boring Netflix reality TV show about home decor. This helps distract Diane from the feelings and next time you’ll definitely make it to the date night with Charlie, which you can put in Google calendar right away!

  • Phillip says:

    When I was much younger I thought that my friends or acquaintances who dabbled in polyamory were dabbling with failure. When they broke up I thought that my contention that it couldn’t work was born out. Forty years latter I took a rough inventory of those who were still together and those who were not. This was both monogamous and polyamorist couples (no one I knew tried for three or more). It appears that it was about a wash. Almost everyone got divorced. I was surprised and my thoughts turned to memories of girls (girls they were and pretty too) that I might have been able to invite to help me eat my cake along with the help of my first in the triad. There might well have been enough cake for everyone. While I am not going to visit memory lane along with my wife, I am reasonably sure that I would have had to join those who became single again. It is cake for thought!

    Almost forgot… man and two women or two women and one man. Both polyamory. Now I am feeling much less confident of any chance for my success at all!

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