Love, Sex

What You Need To Know About Polyamory And Intimacy Before Entering A Polyamorous Relationship

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The Difference In Intimacy Between Polyamory & Open Relationships And Monogamy

Polyamory is often viewed as a new controversial alternative to the monogamous relationship typology. However, it is a mistake to consider it a new movement in sexuality and intimacy.  

In fact, the ‘monogamous’ relationship is very much culturally and historically situated. Our hunter-gatherer ancestors had no such leanings with marriage and monogamy evolved later as a means to protect wealth and class status in affluent families. 

In other periods of history, monogamy was considered the ideal state in conforming to religious and moral principles. However, most cultures worldwide have long embraced polyamorous relationships or open relationships, which puts the model of monogamous relationships in the minority. 

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A further misconception is that poly dating is another term for casual sex, but it actually comes from the Greek root "poly" and the Latin root "amor", which means "many loves". 

Far from depicting the "hookup culture", being in a poly relationship is about having numerous relationships which are supported and understood by the other partners involved.

Despite the historical and cultural extent of polyamory, it is only recently that it has grown in the public consciousness. There is greater awareness and exploration of polyamory in Western society today, which is part of a wider trend to explore sexuality. 

This emerges from broader changes in society where great life-expectancy, freedom in lifestyle choices and extensive access to the internet and social media create a new back-drop from which to explore sexuality.  

This is also linked to a shift in the dating world towards the use of apps — the variety and number of which are ever-increasing. This in itself promotes the idea of embracing broader views on how we seek and conduct relationships.

However, although polyamory can seem like an idealized alternative to marriage or serial monogamy, especially because the emphasis is on openness and trust, it's actually a complex arrangement of relationships which demand consultation, compromise, and understanding.  

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The complexity lies in the fact that relationships are not static — they are like shifting sands. 

Polyamorous dating is similar to a system where changes to any one-part impact the rest of the system. Therefore, if greater intimacy and intensity is gained in one relationship, it is likely to produce changes in the rest, so fulfillment for the various partners will depend on how the relationships are negotiated and managed — an ongoing challenge.

Differing sexual identities and orientations are now widely accepted in today’s world, but despite this polyamory challenges our views on traditional relationships, and it is difficult to resist the societal and familial pressure of pursuing the perceived norm of monogamy. 

Monogamy is still privileged in society, and anyone falling outside this type of relationship, whether because they are for example single or poly are susceptible to being viewed more negatively or even stigmatized. 

We are conditioned from a young age to believe that monogamy is the "natural" state and there is a pressure to pursue this relationship typology. Despite diverse relational experiences being explored in films and literature now, there is still a bias towards the monogamous love story.

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Dr. Georgina Barnett is a psychologist who has worked for fifteen years in the fields of therapy, coaching and group facilitation. Over the past five years, she has dedicated herself to the area of relationships and matchmaking at Seventy Thirty, and continues to coach and write on these subjects.