I was committed to the same amazing woman, happily and monogamously, for 18 years. After an unsuccessful attempt at bringing polyamory into our marriage, we chose to consciously uncouple. That transition was over 7 years ago.
While my “ex” did not see the benefits of polyamory for herself, I was convinced this was my true path. Luckily we remain great friends and even live as next-door neighbors while co-parenting our two kids.
For me, life happiness looks like creating circumstances and experiences with others that support everyone’s growth (emotional, intellectual, spiritual, erotic, professional, etc.). This later leads to everyone contributing to even more people. For me, the main benefit of polyamory is that it leads to multiple committed and conscious relationships that are set up in the most ideal conditions for all of this to happen.
All that said, I was surprised at the unexpected delightful and challenging lessons and benefits of polyamory. I share them here in the hopes that they will bring you insight, if you’re considering this path for yourself.
15 Unexpected Lessons:
1. The first benefit of polyamory that I experienced was learning how to transition out of my romantic or sexual relationships with grace. I also learned how to keep my post-romantic friendships intact, a skill I would have never learned if I had not experienced the benefits of polyamory.With this skill, I was able to transition even the most painful breakups into long-lasting friendships.
This benefit of polyamory is rather common in polyamorous circles. With this skill I was able to keep someone I once loved romantically. Rather than a short lived love and bittersweet breakup, you now have the ability to be with them forever, regardless of monogamy.
In my experience, this benefit of polyamory even allowed me to transition from friendships back into romance. As of recent, my current polyamorous partner and ex-girlfriend have even shared their own romantic connection. The benefits of polyamory are vast and helpful. They promote healing to things you least expect it to heal.
I work to stay passionate and present with each relationship, while also remaining detached from specific outcomes. In doing so, I am emotionally freed and have lessened my suffering in relationship transitions. I’ve come to accept that everyone in my life is here for a reason, a season or a long time, and that they are perfect just the way they are.
2) Another benefit of polyamory is that I’ve learned how to handle romantic rejection with emotional intelligence and to honor when it’s simply not a match. Romantic rejection can often seem personal and can be very hurtful to a person. Through this benefit of polyamory, I learned to take it less personally. Through extensive dating, I was reminded that I also don’t match with everyone who wishes to match with me. You can’t force chemistry, it’s either there or it’s not.
Thanks to the benefits of polyamory, I also never felt that empty lonely feeling of romantic rejection. I always had someone special who loved me unconditionally, so “romantic rejection” was a much less bitter pill to swallow. It made me infinitely more confident in dating.
3) Through the benefits of polyamory, I’ve also learned how to share my lovers with others with more ease. I am able to fully support them if they desire to connect deeply with others. I’ve also come to believe that their freedom makes our relationship healthier, even with my own “fears of loss”. I learned to be in a relationship to authentically support my partner’s joy, even if it excludes me. It turns out that when I fully allow for that freedom, the right partner loves me even more!
For me, the definition of unconditional love means that my partners do not “belong to me” and that it’s unhealthy for me to expect to get ALL of my needs from just one person. I’ve learned to transmute the discomforts of jealousy or possessiveness into something called “compersion”.
For me, compersion means I love someone in a way where I can affirm to my love that, “your joy is my joy. All of it, even if it means your joy is loving someone else. Even if it means losing my time with you to someone else. That is where you belong if that is what brings you the most joy and I wholeheartedly accept that.”
As lovely as all that sounds, one of the hardest lessons I’ve also learned about compersion is that this is not possible for everyone in polyamory and in all situations. For many people, it is extremely difficult to conjure compersion for their partner due to childhood and relationship trauma, societal programming, and relationship breakdowns. For some, it’s just how they’re built. Compersion can feel almost impossible.
It became crucial for me to learn that not feeling compersion does not mean that someone doesn’t love their partner or that they can’t practice polyamory. This is where tools like attachment theory and getting informed on trauma and Complex PTSD were crucial in making major relationship breakthroughs instead of breakdowns.
4) Romantic variety and contrast have also been vital in stoking the flames of my long-term relationships. A benefit of polyamory is that it can enable healthy space and breathing room in a partnership that isn’t always consciously created in monogamous relationships.
5) Another benefit of polyamory that I have received is that I’ve learned how healing the relationship can be between my romantic partners. The polyamory term “metamour” means “the partner of my partner”. Dare I say that THIS is this kind of healing that can heal humanity!
Our patriarchal society has inflicted so much self-esteem wounding and created a global culture of humans relentlessly competing with each other for the prize lover, such is the culture of a monogamous relationship. The natural sisterhood that emerges between my partners, and the brotherhood between my metamours and I, is truly a sight to behold! It no longer needs to be a zero-sum game of winners and losers in the game of love. Everyone CAN win!
6) I’ve learned that I can successfully hold more than one big committed relationship. I have learned that these partnerships can be deep and sacred at the same time and in their own way. In a monogamous relationship you experience the same kind of deep and sacred time with your partner, but with polyamory you have the benefit of having many deep and sacred relationships.
Polyamorous relationships can actually feel even deeper for me compared to monogamous relationships. This is likely because the freedom to connect and love others keeps you much more mindful and grateful for your relationships each and every day.
For me, conscious open love is unconditional. The condition of “I can only love you IF you promise to NEVER love anyone else for the rest of our lives together” is a conditional and often unrealistic form of love and something I can no longer promise anyone.
7) I’ve also learned to respect that some partners may prefer to not be shared with others and only desire my attention. This is very similar to a monogamous relationship and is called a Mono/Poly relationship. While this can feel more comforting for the poly person, I’ve also learned this could change suddenly and really hurt. Ebbing & flowing and being ready for change is yet another opportunity for beautiful growth work.
8) Another great benefit of polyamory is the tremendous amount of work in compassionate communication, meeting my lovers where they are at and learning when it’s smart to test boundaries and when it’s not. I’ve also learned to communicate my own hurts and fears much more effectively.
9) I’ve learned that in conscious polyamory it is difficult to be as complacent as you can be in monogamous relationships. The ongoing communication work and natural “fear of loss” motivate partners to continue working on showing up as their best selves. Polyamory in many ways is the antidote for complacency in many monogomous relationships.
10) I’ve learned to watch for unconscious patterns of control, dominance, or using a partner’s fear to reaffirm self-worth. Intentionally making each other jealous by using other people, is a dangerous and slippery slope in open relating.
11) I’ve learned that conscious polyamory, at least for me, makes more biological sense than lifelong pair-bonded monogamous relationships. Sexual variety can be the spice of relationship life, but it’s also about so much more than sexual variety. I’ve never been safer, more seen, more connected, and freer to explore the experiences that have led me to grow and contribute to others in such big ways.
12) I’ve learned through the benefits of polyamory, that conscious polyamory is a love-style movement with many women leading it because it actually empowers women. It scares men (and even women) because most are not ready for such a radical paradigm shift in control, where women are finally in the driver’s seat of their own sexual lives.
13) I learned that it’s possible to share our private parts with more than one person without them falling off and without accidental pregnancies.
In some ways, conscious polyamory can be even safer sexually because of the openness and honesty required to navigate multiple sexual connections. People in ethical open relationships are no more likely to acquire an STD than in monogamous relationships..
14) Polyamory can be amazing for families and kids. People often ask me how my love style affects my children, and I share that my kids are not only fine around this love style but also thrive in it.
My own children have seen the benefits of polyamory and thrived in it. They have benefited from having honest communication and personal growth modeled for them. They have also learned to embrace the inherent impermanence of relationships and how to emotionally transition in and out of relationships with more grace, as I have.
Lastly, if partners are more carefully curated, children are influenced and molded by diverse philosophies and skills shared by a variety of healthy adult role models. The adult to child ratio is also a huge unexpected benefit of polyamory, as more adult caretakers mean more additional layers of parental, financial and emotional support all around.
It’s important to note that kids do need a secure base and lots of predictability from their parents/caregivers. From there learning to adapt to the impermanence of relationships is a great life tool worth sharing.
Psychology Today further discusses the benefits to children in polyamorous families.
15) It is possible that polyamorous relationships can be more “committed” and last LONGER than the average relationship, which lasts around 2 years and 9 months!
In conclusion, let’s shift the conversation from monogamous relationships vs. polyamorous relationships, to conscious relating vs unconscious relating. This means being conscious (aware) of and honest about each partner’s sense of happiness from having their needs met (or not) within the structure of your relationship. Based on a conscious approach you can choose from a myriad of relationship styles that may or may not work better for you and yours. I’ve chosen my style for now, and I am always open to that changing, as I have before.
With love & service,