Polyamory can be a tricky subject and should be taken seriously when bringing up with a partner. This should not be talked about in unfamiliar environments when a partner is upset or anxious as this can alter their receptiveness to the topic at hand. Choose a time and place where you and your partner are comfortable/safe, in a calm and relaxed state of mind, and open to free discussion. Try not to assume how your partner will react or respond to the topic, but rather allow them time to process and ask questions. Introduce the concept to your partner over time rather than attempting to convince them overnight.
Tips for getting this conversation started
Allow for multiple conversations on the topic and work to identify common ground. Allowing this time will aide you and your partner though by reducing the possible perceived threats which can lead to resistance.
Spend time identifying what each of you value in relationships and strengths within your own. In every relationship, there is room for improvement. The importance here is to place more emphasis strengths rather than what is missing or the inadequacies of your partner. Affirming your desire to maintain your primary relationship with your partner but seek other relationships independent of this dynamic.
Be prepared with LOTS of resources for you and your partner to explore the intellectual side of polyamory through books, articles, as well as other people. Be cognizant of personally held values and belief systems, allow for deep exploration of these as it can take months, if not years.
Be sure you are ready for your partner to explore as well. If you are wanting to explore but not yet comfortable with seeing your partner do the same, you may need to put in some further individual work first. Making this request of a partner and not being prepared for them to explore can lead to shut down or hypothetical.
Setting timeframes for adjustment can reduce the lure for a reluctant partner to be difficult or procrastinate on putting in the individual internal work. Come together regularly to assess and reassess feelings and identified hang ups. Set expectations for allowances in next exploration timeline, boundaries for allowances and follow up discussions.
This brings us to setting rules. If rules are to be set, they are to apply to both partners, NO EXCEPTIONS. These rules are guidelines to aide in the transition and should be reassessed and renegotiated periodically. It should go without saying that rules regarding safe sex and general safety are common sense. Understanding that rules on touching, activities and time spent with another person are not realistic and bound to be broken, so it is best not to set these as expectations.
Listen! This lifestyle brings up some very strong emotions and can be difficult for a reluctant partner. Avoid pressing your partner with questions like, “Why are you so resistant to this?” or “Why are you so angry about me wanting this?. Try using questions to open appropriate discussion as exampled below.
- Are you concerned with the opinion of others?
- Are you worried I will love someone else or leave you?
- Are you fearful that being open and intimate with others will cause me to lose interest/attraction to you?
- Do you worry that you are not enough?
It can also help to seek the support from a trained professional through both individual and/or couples counseling. Other options are to seek support within the community from those who are experienced polyamorist.