How has polyamory changed me?

5 ways that polyamory changed my approach to relationships

I have identified as polyamorous for more than 11 years. This period coincided with other major changes in my personal and professional life that can also be linked to the new way I started to relate. I can see a clear impact on my life in general, of learning how to relate openly and accept the non-linear and non-exclusive format of polyamory as a practice.

Here are some things I have learned through practicing polyamory, that are just plain good relationship advice I wish I followed when I was monogamous. By learning them, I have certainly changed (for the better, I hope):

1. Understanding that my anxiety over something I worry my partner might do, does not originate with my partner, but from my brain making up stories. These stories might come from experience in past relationships or from childhood, so it’s not their responsibility to make me not anxious, it’s mine.
Expecting them to fulfil that role is a repeat of the parent-child dynamic.

By learning to self-regulate more effectively, I have taken pressure off my partners and was able to be a more stable, consistent and calming influence in their lives. By examining the ways in which I was repeating parent-child dynamics in my adult relationships, I could build mature, mutually respectful and supportive relationships that are based on secure attachment.

This can happen, even when one I have insecure attachment, because of raised awareness and taking ownership of my feelings.

2. I understood that I don’t have ownership of, or entitlement to my partner’s body, time, thoughts or attention. They get to choose who they share that with. I’m grateful they share it with me when they want.
Removing this expectation means less disappointment and more genuine contentment, when my partner chooses, without any manipulation, to be with me. I value their freedom, autonomy and agency as I do mine. We come together when we both fully desire it, and can communicate when we don’t, without it becoming a story of rejection.

3. We are human and humans sometimes make mistakes. It’s much easier to recover from an argument when I assume my partner made a mistake, rather than if I think they deliberately wanted to harm me.
When we make agreements, I want to know they are agreeing to something they really want. It’s natural to misinterpret or misconstrue something that you didn’t wholeheartedly agree to in the first place.

It’s my responsibility to make it safe for them to tell me their truth, which means they are not scared to share with me something they suspect I will be hurt from.

4. When I feel strong discomfort sharing something with my partner, it’s a sure sign that I have to disclose it to them. If I can’t share all of me with them, we aren’t right for eachother.
I have to ask myself, why am I afraid to share it?

Am I not yet complete in my process and will disclosing burden my partner with undue emotional labour? Then perhaps I can wait until the process is done.

Do I fear my partner will change their behaviour towards me? Then by not disclosing, I’m effectively manipulating their behaviour.

Having a strong conviction that I want my partner to see me for who I am and choose that, helps guide me.

5. I won’t stay with a partner that repeatedly activates my nervous system, drains me of energy and that I feel emotionally unsafe around.
A romantic relationship is meant to help calm and regulate my nervous system. The excitement we generate in each other is part of that process. A healthy relationship will give me energy, not drain it.

If I constantly feel dis-regulated around a partner or when in communication with them, it’s a sign to examine what’s really going on. Perhaps they are going through something personal, and need space to process that, or perhaps we have an incompatibility.

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