Partner Abuse in Poly Communities

What is Polyamory?

Polyamory is a relationship practice where there are one or more partners at a time. Polyamory is a form of consensual non-monogamy (also referred to as ethical or responsible non-monogamy). In responsible polyamory, everyone knows that there are other partners and each person gets to negotiate their involvement in the relationships. Romantic, emotional, and/or sexual involvement may differ in each relationship. Polyamory literally means many loves (poly = many, amor = love). Polyamory is not cheating or polygamy. Aspects of healthy polyamorous relationships:

  • Partners communicate honestly and openly.
  • Partners take responsibility for their own feelings, decisions, and boundaries, and take into consideration the feelings and boundaries of others.
  • Partners respect each other’s privacy and need for space, as well as the privacy of other romantic or sexual partners.
  • Partners talk through feelings and insecurities that come up.
  • Partners treat all people involved with dignity, kindness and respect.

Consent is one factor which differentiates healthy polyamorous relationships from cheating and/or abuse. Consent is a process. Even if you have consented to something in the past, you can always change your mind and should be given the space to process and communicate it. Consent is informed (based on knowledge of all relevant information). Although consent is often linked to sexual activities, it is also necessary when deciding agreements within polyamorous relationships.

Some partners may not be able to come to relationship agreements that respect everyone’s needs and boundaries. Polyamory is not for everyone.

“My primary partner didn’t tell me before they had sex with someone new… like we agreed to. When I mentioned our agreement they called me crazy and told me get over my jealousy issues. I am new to the community and would like to connect with other poly folks. Whenever I express interest in a poly event or meet-up, my primary partner discourages me. They say that they will teach me everything I need to know.”
– Anonymous Survivor

Does your partner:

  • Insist that their way of practicing polyamory is the only way to practice polyamory?
  • Prevent you from joining a polyamory community or learn more about non-monogamy?
  • Threaten to “out” you to friends, family, or co-workers?
  • Violate your safer sex agreements?
  • Try to control your other relationships?
  • Isolate you from your friends and family?
  • Ridicule you when you try to express limits or emotions?
  • Force you to choose between partners or control your contact with other people?

An abusive partner might say:

  • “Why are you acting so jealous? You must not really be poly…”
  • “Everything you say to me will be reported to my other partners.”
  • “You need to impress my primary partner…”
  • “Group sex is the only way to build group intimacy.”
  • “You owe me for spending so much time with your other partners.”
  • “If you don’t do this… I will tell your family that you are poly.”

For additional resources, request our materials and/or call our 24-hour free and confidential hotline for support.

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