Some people may love more than one person at the same time, which is known as a polyamorous relationship (in Latin, “poly” means many and “amory” means love). Many LGBTQ+ individuals are exploring this relationship dynamic as it becomes more mainstream. For example, according to a 2016 YouGov poll, 50% of millennials (born between the early 1980s and the late 1990s) prefer non-monogomous relationships.
Hinge and other dating apps are seeing a surge in interest from couples who want to open up their relationship and pursue non-monogamy. Men looked for the keyword ‘non-monogamy’ and ‘polyamory’ 500% more than they did over the prior year, while women searched for the exact keywords 400% more this year.
The buzz around polyamory and broadening relationship views and definitions is undeniable. I’ll examine how various relationships compare and contrast. Perhaps one of these types is a suitable fit for you and your partner(s) to consider if your current arrangement is not meeting your needs.
According to recent research, gay men are the most likely group involved in polyamorous relationships. However, poly relationships present distinct challenges for LGBTQ+ couples, each with benefits and drawbacks.
There is no one method to be poly, and several structures exist, including the following varieties:
- There is a primary and secondary partner in “hierarchical polyamory.” Even if a person loves more than one partner, the primary or “nesting partner” is the one to whom they dedicate most of their time. Depending on the relationship, partners create different rules. For example, the primary partner may “veto” the secondary. If hierarchy is not wanted, this may or may not work for some relationship dynamics.
- A “non-hierarchical polyamory” loses distinctions between partners, so there is no ranking system regarding choices, time, and resource dedication.
- A third variety is known as “kitchen table polyamory,” in which partners interact and befriend each other. Each partner can have different sexual or platonic relationships with others around the “kitchen table.”
- “Parallel polyamory” is characterized by a structure in which partners agree to other partners without understanding who they are. Parallel polyamory is the polar opposite of the kitchen table type. All partners are conscious of each other even if they do not want to meet or hear about each other, so it is not a “don’t ask, don’t tell” version of an open relationship.
- If you prefer to be friendly and social with other partners but do not want to have a connection with each one, the “Garden Party polyamory” variety may be for you. For example, all partners could agree to attend a significant event, such as a birthday, with the understanding that it is within the scope of the relationship.
- The “throuple” relationship means “three-person” and “couple,” so all three people are dating each other. Each connection within the trio must be nurtured and sustained. Some couples form an “open throuple,” where each partner can see others outside the trio, while others create a “closed throuple,” where the throuple is monogamous.
- The “solo polyamory” dynamic is another trending variety where individuals can date whomever they want as an active choice. Under this term, solo polyamory may maintain several intimate relationships while maintaining the freedom to live a single life. Solos don’t have a primary partner or hierarchy in a partnership but see themselves as primary. Solo polyamory may be considered an even broader shift from heteronormative relationship dynamics, meaning partnerships can be defined outside traditional expectations.
Benefits of Gay Polyamory for Monogamous Couples
1. Increased Affection and Bonding
More opportunities for affection and connection are a significant perk of poly relationships. Focusing on one partner exclusively characterizes a monogamous partnership. However, if you’re in a poly relationship simultaneously, you can develop meaningful relationships with several partners. In addition, you can learn a lot about yourself and your companions while discovering and expressing your unique individuality through polyamory.
2. Easing Responsibility Burdeons
The partners in a polyamorous partnership can divide and conquer chores. For gay couples, who face discrimination in the law and may not enjoy the same benefits as their straight counterparts, this can be particularly helpful. In addition, each partner can be there for the other emotionally, financially, and physically by taking on shared duties. As a result, relationships lay down a more solid foundation for long-lasting connections.
Variety is an additional perk of poly partnerships. Having more than one partner can allow you to try new connections and activities. For LGBTQ+ couples who live in areas with a smaller pool of potential suitors (probably not New York City), this can be a desirable option—having more potential partners to choose from can increase the likelihood that you will discover someone who shares your interests and values and who can teach you something new.
4. Better Communication
Having open lines of conversation and being completely honest with one another is essential in poly relationships. Being honest about your emotions, desires, and needs is especially important when you have more than one partner. Although this may be difficult, the payoff could be tremendous. Regular, open dialogue can strengthen your relationships with your other partners and make them more rewarding.
The Downsides of Gay Polyamory
1. Envy and Self-Doubt
Jealousy and insecurity are significant problems in polyamorous partnerships. It can be challenging to divide your time and focus equally among numerous partners, leading to feelings of neglect or alienation for some of your associations. Jealousy and insecurity are two emotions that can poison a partnership, so be careful. Emotional growth and self-awareness are prerequisites for successful poly relationships, and partners need to be able to talk to and support one another if they’re struggling to deal with their feelings.
2. Discrimination and the Fear of Being Judged
Many may not comprehend or embrace polyamory because it is still widely misunderstood and stigmatized. Gay couples may experience discrimination and prejudice, making this an additional difficulty. A poly relationship can strain the connection if the couple has trouble finding acceptance and support from their communities. It’s possible that poly couples need to be wary of who they let into their lives and have difficulty connecting with the tools they need.
3. Effort and Time Commitments
To maintain a poly partnership, one must devote much time and effort. Maintaining a healthy balance of time and focus can be challenging when you have numerous partners. You might have to rearrange your timetable or give up some of your favorite activities to maintain relationships with more than one person. Since gay partners often face additional obstacles, such as discrimination and a lack of support systems, this situation can be ng for them.
4. Legal and Financial Challenges
Even more so than with families, polyamorous couples may face complications in the law and the wallet. It can be challenging to handle legal and financial obligations in a poly relationship when gay couples do not have access to the same legal protections and benefits as heterosexual couples. If you want to keep your relationship safe and include your partner in significant decisions and benefits, you might want to talk to an attorney or financial adviser. There is potential for this to be a time-consuming and financially taxing endeavor.
Methods for Gay Couples to Succeed in Polyamorous Relationships
Many gay partners have overcome obstacles to enjoy happy, fulfilling poly relationships. However, here are some things to keep in mind if you’re thinking about entering into multiple relationships:
1. Be Transparent in Your Exchanges
Maintaining open lines of communication is essential in any relationship, but it is particularly crucial in a polyamorous one. Partners need you to be upfront and honest about your emotions, wants, and plans, and they need you to listen to them. So it’s crucial to lay out ground rules and standards from the get-go and check in on those a few times a year to ensure everyone is still on the same page.
2. Consider Developing a Greater Sense of Self-Awareness and Self-Care as a Second Step
Self-awareness and self-care are essential in poly relationships, which can be emotionally taxing and lead to burnout and emotional exhaustion if not appropriately handled. Spend time thinking about what you want from life, and ensure you give yourself what you need on all levels. As a result, you’ll be able to assist your partners more effectively and strengthen your relationships with them.
3. Treat Partners with Deference and Courtesy
Conserving and respecting your partners’ feelings is especially essential in a polyamorous relationship. In other words, consider the effects of your actions and choices on others and be flexible enough to work with others to find a solution that satisfies everyone. It also entails not pushing your partners to do anything they are not happy with and respecting their space and preferences.
4. Seek Out Resources
Finding community and resources to help you work through the difficulties of poly relationships is essential. Finding a group of people who share your values and can give guidance and support is one option, as is talking to a therapist or counselor or getting professional help with issues like finances and the law. Remember that some people and tools care and want to see you succeed.
A poly relationship can be an exciting and potentially rewarding alternative for gay partners to explore, but they also present their challenges and considerations. Careful consideration of the benefits and cons should precede entering into a poly relationship, as should an attitude of openness, self-awareness, and respect for one’s partners. However, when approached with the right frame of mind, a poly relationship can provide more love, connection, and satisfaction than a monogamous one.
What Percentage of Gay Couples Engage in Polyamory, and How Stable are These Relationships?
We know little about the frequency or effectiveness of polyamorous relationships among gay couples. Polyamory is still socially frowned upon in many parts of the world, so individuals may feel uneasy coming out about their relationship preferences to academics or anyone else.
Contrary to popular belief, however, non-monogamous relationships may be more prevalent among members of the LGBTQ+ group. For instance, the Gay Couples Study showed that polyamory and other forms of consensual non-monogamy (CNM) were more prevalent among males (25%) than females (5%) (Gates & Ost, 2004).
There is no “right” way to characterize a poly relationship, as they can all be different. Individuals will place a variety of factors as their key to success and satisfaction. For example, while some polyamorous pairings may value mental closeness and intimacy over sex exploration and novelty, others may see the two as equally important. As a result, it may be challenging to evaluate a poly relationship’s success or generalize about it.
However, some research has examined how happy individuals are in non-monogamous relationships. A study published in the Journal of Sex Research, for instance, found that CNM partners reported greater relationship happiness, intimacy, and trust than their monogamous counterparts (Conley et al., 2013). There is a need for more study into the experiences of people in poly relationships because it is possible that these findings do not generalize to all non-monogamous pairings.
No conclusive evidence exists on the frequency or success of poly relationships among gay couples. However, research shows that they are more common in the LGBTQ+ community and that people in CNM relationships may experience higher levels of happiness and intimacy. In the context of the LGBTQ+ community, however, more study is required to comprehend the complexities of poly relationships and their experiences completely before couples can be more sure of their satisfaction and durability.
It’s also worth noting that several variables can influence whether or not a poly relationship succeeds, such as the openness and honesty of the partners, the degree to which they trust one another, and the overall level of chemistry between them.
Depending on the type of polyamorous relationship partners choose, as noted above, one polyamorous couple may have strict rules and regulations regarding their partners’ ability to seek other relationships. At the same time, another may be more open and accepting of a partner’s desire for independence. Furthermore, some poly relationships may emphasize an equal distribution of love and intimacy. In contrast, other pairings may involve a hierarchy of partners, with one primary partner getting more time, attention, and resources than the others.
Each partner’s needs, desires, and beliefs will ultimately determine success in a poly relationship. Polyamory can be a wonderful experience for some partners and a source of growth and intimacy for others. Still, it can also bring out feelings of jealousy, insecurity, and other difficulties.
Regarding LGBTQ+ partners, poly relationships can be a novel and rewarding way to broaden horizons regarding sexuality and intimacy. It can be difficult for any relationship, including gay couples, to negotiate the complexities of polyamorous relationships. However, for these partnerships to be fulfilling and long-lasting, both parties have to work on approaching them with open dialogue, honesty, and respect for their needs and limits, listening to one another, and being flexible in finding solutions that satisfy the needs of everyone involved. Partners need to feel comfortable setting boundaries when limits need to be set. An expert gay couples therapist in New York at gaycouplestherapy.com can provide helpful tools for you as you navigate the challenges of a poly relationship.
Gay couples can find a secure and accepting environment to discuss the challenges and triumphs of their poly relationship at gaycouplestherapy.com
How can Gay Couples Therapy be Helpful for Gay Partners Experiencing Challenges in a Polyamorous Arrangement?
1. Defining Roles and Expectations
Limits and agreements can be challenging to establish in polyamorous relationships. For example, how many partners one can have, how much time and energy one can dedicate to each partner, and how to deal with feelings of jealousy or insecurity are all issues that need to be discussed and settled during these negotiations. A skilled therapist in couples counseling can help gay couples address and resolve these concerns in an atmosphere of mutual respect and positive reinforcement.
The more openly partners share their thoughts and feelings, the better they can identify each other’s needs and develop collaborative solutions. Our therapist can be a mediator, guiding and supporting the partners as they tackle these challenging discussions and choices.
2. Building Strong Communication Abilities
Good communication is essential for any partnership to thrive, but it is even more crucial in a polyamorous one. A couple’s ability to speak openly and honestly will go a long way toward smoothing over the waters of having more than one partner and the accompanying feelings of jealousy or insecurity that can be intense at times — this isn’t always easy.
Gay couples counseling can help LGBTQ+ couples learn how to talk to one another more openly and honestly about their feelings and experiences. Methods such as empathic listening, nonviolent dialogue, and conflict resolution could be helpful to partners. We use a framework that includes emotionally focused therapy, schema therapy, and Gottman Method Couples Therapy.
In addition, couples who work to improve their communication skills can lay a solid groundwork of confidence and understanding upon which to weather any storms that may come their way.
3. Dealing with Feelings of Envy and Inadequacy
While feelings of jealousy and insecurity are prevalent in any romantic relationship, they tend to be more pronounced in a polyamorous one. It’s normal for the other partner to feel neglected or left out when one partner has numerous partners. These emotions are difficult to handle and can lead to resentment and conflict.
Gay partners can learn healthy and effective ways to cope with jealousy and insecurity through couples therapy. Our therapist can help partners understand the feelings behind their conflict so that they can work together to find solutions that respect the limits of all partners.
4. Establishing Solid, Trusting Relationships
Trust plays a crucial role in any partnership, but in a polyamorous relationship, it is essential. When one partner has relationships with several others, trust can quickly erode if boundaries aren’t honored, or communication breaks down. Having open and honest communication, acting consistently, and being willing to work through conflicts as they occur are all essential elements in building and maintaining trust.
By providing a safe and accepting environment to discuss their concerns, wants, and desires, our LGBTQ+ couples therapy can help gay couples lay the groundwork for a trusting relationship. In addition, our therapist can help the partners pinpoint areas where trust may be missing and then help them work toward concrete goals for re-establishing trust in their relationship.
5. Dealing with the Fundamental Problems
Many factors can add complexity to polyamorous relationships, including but not limited to trauma, mental illness, and drug abuse. However, issues affecting a gay couple’s relationship can be identified and worked through in couples therapy.
The partners and our therapist can collaborate on these concerns. Partners may participate in individual, couple, or group therapy or receive referrals to other experts as needed. Through working through these problems, partners can fortify their bonds to weather the storms of a polyamorous relationship.
6. Handling Situations Involving Imbalances of Authority
The balance of authority in a polyamorous relationship may look different than in a monogamous one. For example, a hierarchy of partners may exist, with one partner acting as the “primary” partner, or one partner may have more power or impact than the others. These power imbalances can be difficult to negotiate and, if not handled, brew resentment and hostility.
Gay couples can benefit from our gay couples therapy by learning to negotiate power dynamics in a healthy and mutually respectful manner. Our therapist can help the partners identify potential areas of power imbalance and then help them develop strategies for addressing those areas while respecting each person’s rights and space.
7. Learn to Deal with Stress in Healthy Ways
Effective coping mechanisms are especially essential for partners in polyamorous relationships, which can be stressful. In LGBTQ+ couples counseling, our therapists can work with gay couples to help them create solutions that are unique to their situation.
Strategies for dealing with stressful or anxious situations include awareness exercises or relaxation methods. By learning to deal with the challenges of living a polyamorous lifestyle, couples can strengthen their bonds and create a happier, longer-lasting partnership.
LGBTQ+ couples therapy can significantly help gay partners in polyamorous relationships. Our couples therapy can be beneficial because it gives partners a safe place to talk about their problems and work through their issues together. It can also help develop effective communication skills, clarify boundaries and expectations, manage jealousy and insecurity, build trust, resolve underlying issues, negotiate power dynamics, and cultivate healthier coping strategies. LGBTQ+ couples can strengthen their relationships to handle the stresses of polyamory with the help of one of our experienced and empathetic LGBTQ+ therapists at gaycouplestherapy.com