This Behavior Will Ruin Your Polyamorous Relationship

Be mindful of your behavior.

Relationship Advice For Polyamorous Couples For How To Deal With Jealousy Getty 

There is such a thing as "privilege" for a couple in a polyamorous relationship. And if you don't learn how to deal with jealousy in your relationship, this prvilege can get out of hand.

In today’s social climate, the word "privilege" is heavy, loaded, and at times, extremely dangerous. Yet, it is something that needs to be discussed until we are blue in the face.

We need to have a clear idea about what exactly "privilege" means in each arena and how we can use it for the bettering of ourselves, our relationships, our communities, and society as a whole.


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If you are part of the polyamorous community (like I am), you need to be aware of the Couple Privilege.

Couple Privilege is a touchy, delicate subject within the world of polyamory. In my humble, and (likely biased opinion), there is a very precarious balance here.


Couple Privilege can be defined as when the needs and desires of someone in the "primary" relationship take precedence over the other relationships outside of that central core. (I cringe at using the terms "primary" and "secondary" in this context.)

If you are married or nesting with someone (especially if there are children involved), the relationship between you and your nesting partner likely looks very different than your non-nesting relationships.

Therefore, what you need from your nesting partner looks very different than what you need from your non-nesting partners and vice versa.

On the one hand, you have the obligations that come with choosing to live with and possibly have children with this person. These obligations sometimes take away from the availability, for time with other partners.


For instance, if John was in a bad way — emotionally or physically — and needed me at home instead of going out with Tyler, I would.

However, if Tyler is in a bad way — emotionally or physically — and needed me there with him instead of being with John, I would absolutely be there.

There have been times when one of us had to stay home with the kids while the other went out so other plans had to be canceled, turned down, or rescheduled. That becomes a balancing act, like a "first come, first serve" when it comes to dating.

I also have strong feelings about John dating any current clients because I feel it is unethical.

At the same time, if one of his partners chose to start working with me, I wouldn’t make them end the relationship with John. We would just have to establish very clear boundaries.


This isn’t about using my status as his wife to manipulate his other relationships.

On the other hand, when someone uses their "status" of "spouse" or "primary" as a tool for manipulating their partner’s other relationships, we see the dark side of Couple’s Privilege.

This shows up in the form of relationship veto, where you use your insecurities as a weapon to keep your partner from going on a date with someone. You consciously use “family obligations” as a manipulation tool or restrict activities for your partner and their other partner.

For example, you choose not to go to a certain restaurant, stop calling them "baby", refuse to touch them in a certain way, or not doing certain things in bed.


This use of privilege stunts the growth of your partner’s other relationships. It may keep possible relationships from growing at all.

Couple Privilege doesn’t exactly fall in lines with the ideals of polyamory. This type of behavior is harmful to our partners, their other partners, and, ultimately, to us as individuals.

It keeps us from growing, forming healthy relationships, and pushing ourselves to step outside of our comfort zones. Thus, there is a strong chance it could harm your relationship with that particular partner.

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So, what can couples in polyamorous relationships do about this type of privilege?


I don’t think it’s cool or realistic to tell people that there should be absolutely no Couple Privilege because the line between privilege and obligations or commitments can get convoluted. And the privilege likely won’t disappear.

Being in a polyamorous relationship means that we need to acknowledge our own privilege. We, alone, are responsible for what we do with our privilege and how we handle it.

There will be times when we abuse that privilege because our gremlins get so noisy. We can’t find the stability we need to make a logical or ethical choice in the situation.

There will also be times when we are swimming in our own despair that it will make it difficult for us to check our privilege.


But, guess what?

That does not mean we are exempt from checking our privilege. We must do everything we can to alter our behavior and heal the damage our behavior causes.

It does not mean that we don’t have to figure out a way not to pull the same mistakes again, causing even more damage.


While we are entitled to feel what we want to feel, we are also solely responsible for what we do with those feelings.

The next time you find yourself in a situation that holds your "primary" relationship over your partner’s other relationship, take a close look at it.

Are you invoking your privilege rightly and justly or are you invoking it out of insecurities or selfishness?

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Sarah Neal is a Certified Professional Life, Spiritual and Relationship Coach. For more information, visit her website.