Polyamorous relationships are finally receiving the research, patience, and attention that they deserve. It seems that the ‘wellness generation’ (a wellness-oriented faction within the Millennial and Gen Z generations), is reclaiming healthier dialogues around this alternative relationship structure. Whether you’re curious or ready to love within a polyamorous bond, there are a few things you’ll want to keep in mind.

What is a polyamorous relationship?

A polyamorous relationship is an ethical non-monogamous intimate relationship with more than one person. Polyamorous individuals believe that it is possible to have intimate, romantic desires and love for more than one person at the same time. In a polyamorous relationship, respect and transparency for all involved is key, arguably more than in a traditional monogamous relationship.

Polyamorous relationship rules

Some people won’t get into polyamorous relationships without establishing some ground rules. Useful rules to consider include: sexual relationships outside of the relationship, sleeping arrangements (do you all sleep together or do you rotate to give equal quality time?), and regular emotional check-ins for everyone in the relationship.

Other ideas include being clear on motivations for the budding relationship with multiple people. Do you feel limited by monogamy? Are you open to giving and receiving more love from more than one person? Do you feel that you and your partner’s love languages could be better honored in polyamory? Understanding this motivation will help make the transition healthier.

Other things to consider include jealousy especially if you or one of your partners are prone to jealousy. In an episode of Red Table Talk, Willow Smith discussed this issue with her mother, Jada Pinkett-Smith, and her grandmother. The singer revealed that she experiences ‘fits of jealousy’ in her polyamorous relationship. Jealousy isn’t unique to a polyamorous relationship but it may manifest in a more explosive manner.

What are the polyamorous relationship types?

There is no one way to nurture a polyamorous relationship. According to Choosing Therapy, these are various types of polyamorous relationships:

Triad: A relationship consisting of a trio

Quad: Four people in a relationship

Moresome: Five or more people in a relationship together

Solo polyamory: A person who typically lives alone and has multiple relationships without hierarchy

Vee: One person who dates people separately. They are the ‘pivot’ in the relationship. Their partners may never meet or may become close, non-romantic friends.

Polycule: A network of people in a relationship with each other

Hierarchical polyamorous: ‘Nesting partners’ who cohabitate and share household responsibilities. This may be considered the ‘primary’ couple in the wider picture of the polyamorous relationship.

Kitchen-table polyamory: This is a situation where everyone within a polycule is able to sit around a table and conduct open discussions about their relationships.

Polyfidelity: A polyamorous relationship where three or more people are committed to each other and don’t see people outside of the bond. This type of relationship is described as ‘closed’ when there is no longer time or emotional capacity to cater to any more people within the relationship.

Relationship anarchy: A type of relationship where there are no rules, hierarchies, or labels. In this type of relationship, partners are free to connect sexually or romantically with whoever they want outside of the relationship.

What about being the third in a polyamorous relationship?

Those who watched the many relationship highs and lows of the Gossip Girl reboot will know this well. The show’s rendition of a Gen Z polyamorous relationship is between Max, Aki, and Audrey. Maintaining the perfect balance and distributing emotional and physical support evenly, takes time.

You might’ve heard of the ‘unicorn’ in a polyamorous love. This is the third, additional person to an existing couple. According to therapist and social worker Jennifer Schneider, “a unicorn is an individual, very frequently a heteroflexible or bisexual/pansexual woman, who a couple seeks out to form a triad”. The ‘unicorn poly’ may often feel excluded from the couple or the dyad. Without intentionality in the polyamorous relationship, they may even feel as unreal as the unicorn itself.

Polyamory and society

When considering non-monogamous relationships, accept the current reality that society is still designed for couples. There will be hurdles with marriage and integrating into social life (such as weddings which typically provide a +1). Other challenges will come with vacations, couple getaways, and more. While it’s legal to be in a poly, states do not recognize throuples in marriage, for instance. There will be difficulties in experiencing the comforts of a traditional monogamous relationship in this sense.

‘Coming out’ in a polyamorous relationship also shows its challenges and in a society still unprepared for more than couples, it will take effort and lots of expectation management. This non-traditional relationship style isn’t for everyone, but if it aligns with your beliefs and desires, it can be worth it.

Related: 7 Questions To Ask Yourself Before Considering An Open Relationship