One of the most important things I’ve learnt while exploring ethical non-monogamy is that support is out there. Weirdly, when I began this journey, I thought there wouldn’t be much in the way of resources, advice or even positive representation. Turns out, I was very wrong. So, whether you’re beginning your adventure or looking for more recommendations, here’s everything I wish I’d known about when I was new to polyamory.
It’s important to note that everything below (and in my linked posts) is my current understanding and interpretation of polyamory and non-monogamy. Not only is my knowledge of and language about such concepts constantly evolving, but everyone’s is. There are no experts when it comes to polyamory, and be wary of anyone who claims that they are. It’s really wonderful to receive advice and support from other people, but it’s important that you define what your relationships look like.
Types of polyamory
Anything that isn’t strictly monogamy fits somewhere under the ethical non-monogamy umbrella. (To be clear: cheating in a monogamous relationship isn’t consensual, so we aren’t talking about that). Ethical non-monogamy covers a wide range of relationship structures, approaches and practices, some of which are aligned with polyamory and others that aren’t.
So, exactly what is polyamory, then? In my Polyamory Vs Open Relationships post, I compare romantically exclusive but sexually open relationships (such as monogamish or swinger arrangements) with the different types of polyamory, which are romantically and sexually open. This is the essential element to a polyamory definition: recognising that love is abundant and we can choose to have multiple loving, supportive relationships at the same time.
The different types of polyamory are defined by their structure. There is hierarchical polyamory, which usually places a dyad (a couple) at the top or heart of this structure. These two people will see each other as their primary partner and therefore place more importance on their relationship with them in comparison to their secondary or ‘satellite’ partners.
Alternatively, egalitarian or non-hierarchical polyamory is a ‘flatter’ structure where no partners are considered more or less important than the others. Partners who live together will often see each other as their ‘nesting’ partner and not a primary, to signify equality in their relationship style.
Some people, like me, choose solo polyamory as their identity. For me, this means that I am open to having multiple committed romantic relationships while not engaging in cohabitation, marriage, babies, etc. I don’t need these social signifiers to show that my relationships have ‘value’. Instead, I’m holding space for myself as my primary partnership while appreciating the love and support that surrounds me.
There are also people who have multiple romantic partners that don’t identify as polyamorous but rather as generally non-monogamous or, for example, specifically as relationship anarchists. Lola Phoenix, who hosts the Non-Monogamy Help podcast, discusses on their blog the reasons why they take issue with polyamory and no longer identify as such.
There are also different styles of polyamory when it comes to your connection with your metamours (your partners’ partners). From kitchen table polyamory to parallel polyamory, you can read more about these different arrangements and what they mean with this guide.
When I first started out on my non-monogamy journey, I just assumed that there were no polyamory or open relationship resources out there. I figured everyone was just winging it on their own, so I didn’t bother looking for anything to support this new and confusing journey.
I was completely wrong, as there is an abundance of sources of help out there for anyone who is at the beginner stage in polyamory. Below I link to some great options for podcasts, books and media. However, if you are looking for specific help with an issue like opening up your relationship or jealousy, then I suggest heading over to my polyamory advice guide for specific resources for key problems.
My most valued resource for understanding what I want my relationships to look and function like has been these polyamory podcasts. I honestly don’t know where I would be without this incredible array of insight and advice. It seems like every time I hit a bump in the road with non-monogamy, there is a wonderful podcast episode to help me get some perspective on how to approach the situation.
While I find books are good for providing introductory guides or digging in deep on specific topics, to me, podcasts feel more comprehensive, up-to-date, and interesting. I really enjoy hearing the conversations that happen with the amazing range of guests and have learnt so much from listening to a variety of experiences and opinions.
There are so many episodes to explore on the podcasts I have mentioned above – some have a couple of hundred, which can seem pretty overwhelming when you first start out. I recommend looking for episodes on topics that feel relevant to you and working your way from there. If you’re new to polyamory, I recommend trying Multiamory’s episodes for beginners. They have a wealth of insight on topics such as rules, jealousy and communication.
Like a lot of people, The Ethical Slut was the first book I ever read about non-monogamy. First published in 1997 (with revised editions released in 2009 and 2017), it has become a bible of sorts for people looking to open up their relationships. I recall some parts of this book really resonating with me, while a few parts didn’t (which made me aware of what my boundaries are).
However, there are a number of more recent books out there which are more relevant to navigating polyamory in your day-to-day life. Self-confessed ‘relationship geek’ David Bombaça put together this comprehensive guide to polyamory books so you can find the right resource for your needs.
Polyamory social and support groups
Often when we think about meeting other polyamorous people, we think about dating. However, one of the biggest advantages of meeting other non-monogamous people has been the support network I’ve found. If you are new to polyamory, I can’t stress how helpful this is – both for now and in the future.
Finding both personal friends and a wider community has helped me enormously. In our mononormative world, being polyamorous can sometimes feel quite isolating. But you are not alone. Most major cities will have some form of social or support group, and there are plenty online. Have a Google, search Facebook or ask around for recommendations.
If you’re a Londoner (like me), then I’ve already done all the research for you. Check out my detailed guide to polyamorous London, with all the information about IRL and online social groups at the start and details about all the fun parties and events at the end.
Movies and TV shows about polyamory
While there aren’t any TV shows or movies that I think you should look to for polyamory guidance, it can feel good to see your life represented onscreen. So it’s completely natural to want to watch something that reaffirms your relationships and lifestyle.
That said, most films and TV shows that explore non-monogamous storylines are great examples of what not to do. Often, they’re written by people with little to no experience of open relationships, so they don’t really know what they’re portraying on-screen. So, don’t despair if all you can find are stories about MFF triads (or ‘throuples’ as mainstream media – and no one else – loves to call them) who constantly talk about raising babies.
If you’re looking for a series with non-monogamous characters to binge-watch, check out my guide to TV shows about polyamory. From the little-known BBC gem, Trigonometry, and the Netflix standard, You Me Her, you can find a bunch of shows with polyamorous relationship storylines.
One of my first tastes of non-monogamy on film was the 1999 Gregg Araki film Splendor, which is quite difficult to find these days (but thankfully, someone added it on YouTube). Trust this iconic queer filmmaker to blaze the trail with such a sweetly screwball comedy version of non-monogamy. It blissfully celebrates everything I miss about the 90s, from the colour-grading to the fashion to the soundtrack.
Professor Marston & The Wonder Women (2017) tells the true story of the married psychologists William and Elizabeth – who created the lie-detector test – and their life partner, Olive. William later rose to fame in the 1940s after he created the comic book Wonder Woman, but always had to keep the triad’s relationship a secret. It’s quite a fascinating story, even if the film is quite dull in parts.
Polyamorous dating apps
If you feel ready to dip your toe in the dating pool, then knowing where to look will help. After all, you could spend your time swiping through all the wrong people, not knowing that the right ones are elsewhere. Take a look at my guide to polyamorous dating sites and apps for my take on which ones are worth your time (and which ones you shouldn’t bother with).
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