Welp, poly folks didn't hold anything back, and set the record straight about a thing or two. They clarified what really goes down in polyamorous relationships, and shut down all of the misconceptions folks in monogamous relationships have.
So here are some deeply frustrating stereotypes and misconceptions about polyamorous relationships:
Note: Not all stories below reflect every polyamorous relationship. Everyone's experience is different.
1."Many people think it’s all orgies and threesomes. It’s actually mostly scheduling and debriefing."
"As far as planning, it kind of depends on the type of relationship. Loosely, you can break polyamory down into 'hierarchical' and 'nonhierarchical.' 'Hierarchical' polyamory is where certain relationships are the main ones and others aren't. Like, if a married couple decided to start dating outside the marriage, this almost always ends up being 'hierarchical.' The marriage gets priority over everything else. In these cases, scheduling isn't as much of a headache because when something comes up for the main relationship, there's no question that it's the one going on the schedule.
"Conversely, in 'nonhierarchical' polyamory (which can include marriages, for the record), no relationship is supposed to be 'the main one.' This means you need to balance the needs of everyone involved with the schedules, and that definitely can get messy. It doesn't necessarily mean dividing the hours in the week up into equal portions, either, because different people need different amounts of time and different types of attention. So part of the complexity comes in everyone being honest about their needs.
"So skill at planning may or may not be essential, but communication is always essential. But then, that's true of any successful relationship, no matter how many people are involved."
2."A lot of people seem to think all polyamorous relationships are group relationships — that's actually the rarer configuration."
"This is honestly the most common misconception I see, that some kind of 'three-way marriage' is usually a guy and two bi women. That's not the most common kind at all. In my experience, the most common is committed couples who live together and have their own individual partners and dates on the side, followed by 'solo poly' folks who have multiple partners but no main live-in."
3."That the guy never gets laid, and the woman gets laid constantly (to be fair, this often happens in the first month or two). The outcome I've seen is female early success and male long-term success. It's not hard to find a guy who wants to have sex, but it is hard to find one who's good at it (and is available for a long-term relationship). I've actually known poly relationships where the woman struggles in the long run and the man finds a stable, happy relationship within a few months. Of course, this is just a tendency — doesn't always happen."
4."I think the main misconception, even when sometimes it's meant well, is about jealousy. The stereotype is in either direction. Charitably, it's that jealousy never happens and everyone in a poly relationship never experienced it because they're always fucking. Least charitably, it's that strong jealousy is always occurring in poly relationships and they inevitably break up into monogamous relationships (as those in it inherently get possessive and exclusive). The truth is that in solid ones, it still comes up on occasion but gets addressed and worked out. A big indicator of whether poly relationships (alongside relationships in general) work out is communication, and speaking honestly about boundaries and feelings."
5."That it means all of our relationships are casual and/or we’re always looking for casual relationships or hookups. I’ve had people try to ask me out, and when I mentioned I was poly, their response was along the lines of, 'Oh, that’s fine — I’m dating around too. I'm not looking for anything serious anyways.' I’m like, 'OK, well, I am not dating around at all. I’ve been with my current partners for years and am exclusively interested in pursuing long-term relationships, so this isn’t gonna work out."
6."There seems to be this attitude among some people that if you are in a monogamous relationship with mostly 'vanilla sex,' then you're not very sophisticated. That all the real experts in sex who really know what they're doing are into polyamory and BDSM and all sorts of 'weird' positions. As if the vanilla-sex havers are like the high school grads of sex, and the polyamorous BDSM people are the PhDs."
7."Any single poly relationship that ends will always be used by someone as 'proof' that poly doesn’t work."
8."What do people get wrong? That it’s fun — IMO, it's not that fun."
"It's a lot of work, like every other relationship dynamic. Honestly, even more so, because there are more people involved. So if one person is stressing, other partners might be affected too. At least that's my experience."
9."That polyamorous relationships inherently aren't as 'serious' as monogamous ones. I've had a lot more success dating in poly circles because I fall for people slowly and need time and patience from my partners. This is also due to having a lot of work and study commitments. When I'm not the only person my partner is dating, it allows them flexibility to have their needs met from others when I don't have the time to do so. I've found that a lot of poly people are bisexual as well and are able to explore that a lot more freely."
"I think the most true feeling of security comes from the concept that my partners can (and do) see other people and enjoy doing so, and that they also choose again and again to include me in their lives."
10."They assume that it's carte blanche to cheat, or that poly folks are incapable of being faithful. In truth, it's a lot of communication — more than a 'typical' relationship. It generally has a lot of rules as to what does or does not constitute cheating. It can mean that anything over the clothes is okay, that you don't date apart, or that everyone is equally involved (this is called a polycule)."
"A very common one is that the relationship is 'hierarchical,' with a primary partner they live with and 'playmates' they casually date. What constitutes a secondary partner likely probably has its own set of rules, but most commonly it's no strings attached or friends with benefits."
11."That it's a 'phase' someone goes through, and it simply isn't a 'normal' variation of a healthy approach to sexuality or romantic relationships."
12."That we ask people to try polyamory just because we are. No — it's not for everyone. You need to have the time, capacity, emotional availability, and EQ skills for a healthy polyamorous relationship. You need to do a lot of work to deprogram monogamous conditioning and learn the ethics of polyamory."
13."Men tend to think they'll be 'swimming in women.'"
14."That people can just 'try' polygamy and close back the relationship if they don't like it. Once the cat's out of the bag, at least one partner usually wants to stay polygamous."
15."That an open relationship is confused with a polygamous one...classic and annoying 🤔."
16."Not every marriage with a third has a 'unicorn.' Throuples exist, and they’re not any less valid than a monogamous couple. The third person isn’t less important within the relationship just because they don’t have the legal paperwork. I get so, so goddamn sick of talking about my exes and having to clarify that we were not just fucking."
17.And finally, "A lot of people have the misconception that polyamory is going to fix your relationship if it's falling apart. Your relationship will absolutely fall apart if you do that. You should only do it if you're 100% on the same page and just want a little more than each other. But it's not as easy as that. There can be lots of unknown feelings after opening the relationship, and if both of you respect each other, you will close the relationship immediately if either party isn't okay."
Note: Some submissions have been edited for length and/or clarity.