Written by Emily Nagoski, Ph.D.

How do you feel about polyamory?

To me personally, it seems like a lot of hard work. I appreciate the principle of open and honest communication around sex and love, I totally dig that people continue to be interested in sex and love with other people when they're in a committed relationship, and I sure as hell would rather a partner talked to me before they were intimate with someone else, than did it without my knowledge. At the same time, I have many of the insecurities that people tend to have, so granting my partner's freedom to have sex with someone else requires managing the pain of insecurity and jealousy.

Should students/other folks try it out? Sure if you like. I recommend The Ethical Slut as a beginner's guide to polyamory and other open relationship constructions.

Signs that polyamory might be especially hard for you: you incline toward an anxious attachment style; you don't believe it's possible to have sex with someone outside a committed dyad and still be "committed;" you don't believe it's possible to love more than one person at a time; you struggle with conflict in relationships, tending to capitulate or compromise on the truth rather than say something that might hurt your partner; you or your partner rarely succeed in staying calm while feeling criticized; you or your partner feel that the other person must be responsible for your own emotional pain; you or your partner resort to name-calling, force, or other forms of contempt/disrespect during conflict.

In general, polyamory can work given a great deal of commitment, time, skill, trust and communication. Many people lack adequate quantities of those commodities and thus the complexities inherent in open relationships (contrasted with the complexities inherent in relatively closed relationships) become sticky, uncool and sometimes no-win situations.

So what do I think of polyamory? I think it's hard to do well, but then again, I think monogamy is ALSO hard to do well. Polyamory is only harder because it involves more people. But the difficulty is not simply additive. It's not just 2 + 1 = 3. No.

Dyad = You, Me, and YouInteractingWithMe. When you're really working hard, there's also YouInteractingwithYouInteractingwithMe and MeInteractingwithYouInteractingwithMe. Dig? Meta.

Poly at its smallest number = You, Me, YouInteractingWithMe, Thirdperson, MeInteractingwithThirdperson, YouInteractingwithThirdperson, plus ThirdpersonDealingwithYouandMeInteracting, MeDealingwithYouInteractingwithThirdperson and YouDealingwithMeInteractingwithThirdperson. Then when you're working hard there's MeDealingwithThirdpersonDealingwithYouandMeInteracting, YouDealingwithThirdpersonDealingwithYouandMeInteracting, ThirdpersonDealingwithMeDealingwithThemandYouInteracting... you get the idea. It's exponentially more complex.

So it's hard, is what I think.

Haven’t installed it yet?