ne of the great parts of living a polyamorous life is the opportunity to learn about yourself and, moreover, learn a different way of living, thinking, and interacting.

All too frequently, we see social media posts, clickbait articles, and news reports trying to sum up, label, or even pigeonhole what polyamory is.

Often, you will see people espousing just how to do poly and what not to do. As I write this, I am completely aware of the irony of that statement. I think there is a difference, though, between questing for your poly shape and being open to the possibilities of a healthy polyamorous life and ignoring the opportunity to think outside the box. To examine not just the beliefs we have, but also the aliefs that underlie our behaviors.

Some of the statements and responses all too often are things like, “That’s not poly” (sometimes accurate), “You aren’t doing poly right” (that’s my favorite!), and “Kill the Unicorn Hunters.” All these ignore the truth that at one point, you weren’t a 7-month veteran of a polyamorous life. You too journeyed and educated yourself.

So by now, reader, you are probably wondering, well, is he going to get to it, is he going to take a stand and tell us how to ‘understand Poly.’ The answer is no, not exactly, but in part, the answer is also yes.

When I had the idea for this article, I wanted to write something that would help new polyamorous people lay down some quality groundwork for working out how polyamory sits in their life. Specifically, taking what I have learned over the years living a polyamorous life and what I have learned from friends and clients that were the fundamentals of their successful relationships. So let’s quickly bullet point what polyamory is not:

Polyamory is not a label, a set of rules, or promises. Polyamory is not a fix for a struggling relationship. Polyamory is not a sexual identity (there, I said it!). It will not cure the sadness of a relationship ending or of breakups. It doesn’t make you instantly compatible. And it doesn’t make you immune to jealousy.

This is by no means an exhaustive list. A good way to summarize is that polyamory is about YOU determining how you connect with others and how well you hold that connection in esteem.

So let’s get to it. Show us the money.

The most common factor I have seen in successful polyamorous relationships is the realization that it is about the connection and how you treat the connection between you and your prospective partners. I can already see people rolling their eyes and tuning out – bear with me.

Many things attract people to choose a polyamorous life. The opportunity to share their love and not feel boxed into one relationship. The possibility of sexual variety (this is a BIG one! And it’s a trap). The realization that they truly do love more than one person. The ideal of not being trapped into one relationship and having the full weight of one person’s emotion safety and expectations riding on your shoulders (or is that just me?).

Whatever the reason, you might think the way to ‘understand’ polyamory so that it can be a successful and fulfilling aspect of your life is to focus on the ‘quality of the connection.’ Let the connection be organically nurtured by bringing all the necessary ingredients to the ‘seed’ of interest you have in someone. (‘Scuse the gardening metaphors).

So what are the ingredients then?

Integrity. Presenting an authentic presence to your partners. One that is loyal, can be relied on, and consistent. What you see is what you get.

Honesty. This doesn’t mean you have no secrets. It means that when it comes to nurturing the connection, you have to be honest about what you need, what you can give, and what your fears are.

Communication. All that honesty isn’t going to help unless you can communicate it. You need to be able to talk about your connection in a subjective, personal way. Raise your fears, or respond to hearing your partner’s in a way that holds the connection between you.

Fairness. Fairness also means you need to be selfish sometimes. You should have the expectation to meet your partners halfway. They should have an equal expectation.

Acceptance. Letting your connection grow organically means you also need to accept what it turns into, knowing that will be the most authentic way your relationships with your partner will be. It may turn out you have a passionate lover, but they might just turn out to be a great friendship.

Letting go of your desires and expectations for the connection and following where the connection goes is the most likely path for you to follow that will get the maximum out of whatever that connection holds.

It can be scary if you like to control things, but it’s a really good adventure if you can open yourself to it.