Pro Tip from a Polyamory Expert

By Kendra Holliday | August 29, 2013

The pool at Eden!

The pool at Eden!

I don’t know about you, but I can’t get over the outpouring of articles on polyamory going around lately! OMG it’s nonSTOP – Slate, Salon, NYTimes, BBC, every blogger. The articles used to trickle in, but now they are GUSHING and it’s making my head swim!

I’m all wet. Yay!

I consider myself an expert on the topic, but that doesn’t mean I’m perfect or know everything. Even with years of experience, I’m still learning about myself and all the ways one can navigate multiple intimate relationships.

A few months ago, we added another style to our list of experiences – incorporating someone into our lives on a regular, long term status. Matthew has a girlfriend he sees on a weekly basis. I join them every once in a while. It’s been three months, and I’m still adjusting to it.

So here’s my tip for getting the hang of non-monogamy: Check in often. Invest in personal continuing education.

Too often, life whizzes by and you don’t have the time to keep up with everything. So you have to MAKE time, and revisit your priorities.

The other day, my partner and I did a really helpful exercise as a way of checking in on our relationship and communicating. I printed out this article on Practical Nonmonogamy Tips (20 pages long!) by Pepper Mint and we read it together during a road trip. Each bullet point and section prompted great personal discussions and reflections.

Here are some highlights from the article:

– Nonmonogamy is not effortless. The culture has been indoctrinating everyone into monogamy in all kinds of subtle and sneaky ways. Just deciding that you are no longer monogamous does not get rid of this programming, and it will show up in surprising ways should you delve into nonmonogamy.

(My comments in italics) I was trained to be monogamous until the age of 30. I started exploring non-monogamy about a decade ago. I’m 40 now. It took me years to get to where I am now.

Some people prefer to date around or otherwise avoid primary-style relationships, either for a while or for most of their lives. It can be difficult to find people to date or play with when one is not willing to enter long-term or serious commitments, at least among monogamous people. Nonmonogamous communities provide plenty of people who are looking for less-involved relationships.

Often I hear people complain that they are looking for something casual, and everyone seems to want something more serious and long-term. Then I’ll hear others express the opposite. Don’t get discouraged – there are plenty of opportunities out there for play, love, experiences and special connections.

– Be gentle with yourself and others. There will be setbacks and things may move slowly. You will trip over obstacles that you did not foresee. Many people reach a sort of tipping point where they have worked through enough of these issues that things get pretty easy and comfortable, but this usually takes a couple years of seriously practicing nonmonogamy or polyamory.

There WILL be issues. It’s important to face them so you can deal with them quickly. Don’t bury “silly” feelings under the rug.

– Be flexible about what form your nonmonogamy takes. You may well have some specific nonmonogamous ideal in mind, or may have come up with a plan with a partner. Sometimes these work out, but other times these initial fantasies turn out to be impractical to achieve. Be willing to experiment or divert into other nonmonogamous styles.

When I first started exploring nonmonogamy, I was part of one of those couples who seek a woman to join them in the bedroom. I’m embarrassed to admit how many hours we spent fishing around on yahoo chat and Adult Friend Finder. I suggested swinging to my partner (now an ex), but he was very against me being with other men. Over time, he was able to process the idea and we tried that route. Once we opened up our options, we were able to make ALL KINDS of fantasies come true, not just that MFF (male-female-female) one.

– For the purpose of these tips, boundaries are limits obeyed by one partner in a relationship (in this case, around what said partner can do with other people) so that the other partner can continue the relationship without losing their shit.


– Boundaries are really hard stuff. There is often crying, advances and retreats, renegotiations, things that have to be revisited multiple times or over the course of years. Try to get good at (re)negotiating boundaries while keeping your cool.

Make it your goal to operate on mutual respect.

– Do not feel guilty about boundaries that you need, but at the same time only create boundaries when you need them. If there is a boundary that you need but that you do not want to need, then try to dismantle it slowly over time, while taking care of yourself.

Self growth is important. Relationships should be fluid, not set in stone.

– Boundaries are not the opposite of freedom. Well-negotiated boundaries make the relationship a safe space which can allow you to potentially be nonmonogamous without getting dumped. Do not think of boundaries in terms of “freedom from” restrictions but rather in terms of “freedom to” do things. Good boundary negotiation helps you get what you want while still retaining security in the relationship.

Glass full, not glass empty – got it? I’m so grateful for all the experiences I’m able to have, thanks to my partner and friends open-minded, mature attitudes.

Bring up hard subjects. It is unfortunately common for people in relationships to avoid hard subjects for months or years, making things much worse when they do come to a head. While there are more and less diplomatic times to bring something up, do not use the “it’s not a good time” excuse to put something off indefinitely. At the same time, do not browbeat your partner by repeatedly bringing up the same subject.

One of my partner’s rules is that I should mention any anxious twinge I may have, no matter how small or silly. I think this rule has kept things healthy for us – negative feelings aren’t lurking below the surface and growing into something ugly.


In addition, there are great sections on managing jealousy and tips for finding nonmonogamous partners!!!

This article is excellent. It could easily be broken up into 12 topics for discussion groups. Read it!


fuzzilla 2013-08-29 08:00:39

>While there are more and less diplomatic times to bring something up, do not use the “it’s not a good time” excuse to put something off indefinitely.<

I remember discussing a (now defunct) relationship with a therapist. "Oh, but I can't break up with him now, because Christmas, and then that family party…" She said, "Oh yeah, and then it's Arbor Day…" I was like, "Oh, fuck you!" (said in chuckling, "yeah, I know you're right" manner).


Mon-Mon 2013-08-29 09:47:43

I think the one aspect my partner and I have a hard time with the “Be gentle with yourself and others” even after 9 years. It’s too easy to take your partner’s discomfort over a new relationship personally – as if you are responsible for their fears and emotions – but it is NOT true. Compassion, instead of anger, is so important at these times and goes much further in overcoming those fears/emotions… at least in my experience.


Dan 2013-09-06 08:37:38

Yes. Lot’s of talk now of Poly,

Ran across this word last week: Polyfuckery. Maybe we forget that poly was originally about amour (French for “love”).

Having a fuckbuddy can be complicated. But add two more? 2x complicated! When I was dating for 5yrs I could only openly date three ladies for a max 3 months. I wanted just one and was trying out three for a while. (Honestly, openly, with full disclosure BTW.) I wanted time to pick. Two grew weary and fired me on one morning however! As we all four wanting/seeking a Long Term Committed relationship over sport fucking.

I learned a lot about myself during those 90 days. Like, well, I’m monogamous. But, I’m playful! At the root of me I can only get it on w/ one woman at a time and I prefer for a lifetime. Yes, I’m old fashioned I guess.

Married now, my hat’s off to poly people who can actually do it. It’s beyond me but not others evidently. I’d recommend the book Opening Up by Tristan Taormino.


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Brilliant! Proof that Randy is a VERY stable genius.


My front porch held space for a life changing event this morning. How cool is that??


"Hitting first has always been the mark of evil. I don't think any spiritual thinker has ever said otherwise." - Anne Lamott