• Sarah M. Neal

Letting Polyamorous Relationships Take Their Natural Course

All too often, couples start out on a journey of polyamory with a clear vision of what their relationships will look like and anything that could be outside those lines just isn’t acceptable.

Photo by Honey Yanibel Minaya Cruz on Unsplash

When John and I started on this crazy journey of opening up our relationship, we had no idea it would lead us to where we are now.

We had this crazy idea that we could actually control the directions of our relationships.

We were convinced that we could date others and not grow feelings outside of a deep, loving friendship for those we dated.

Face meet Palm.

If you had told either of us 11 years ago that we would both be okay with each other falling in love with someone else, we would have laughed in your face and told you to pound sand.

John and I have both been in deep love with other partners. We have both had our hearts broken by other partners.

All too often, couples start out on a journey of polyamory with a clear vision of what their relationships will look like and anything that could be outside those lines just isn’t acceptable.

While we can “train” plants to grow in a certain direction, relationships are quite the opposite.

How many times have any of us gone into a relationship completely convinced that we were not going to fall in love and then we end up head-over-heels? I can’t begin to count the number of relationships, pre-polyamory where I did just that. What in the world made me think I would somehow be able to avoid emotions in my non-monogamous relationships?

How many of us have gone into a relationship hot and heavy only to find that the passion did not translate to being able to be emotionally romantic with that person? Yea… I’m guilty of that too.

Two of the biggest examples I have seen of people trying to “train” their polyamorous relationships are the “Looking for our third” couples and the “we can date others, but there are limits on how you can feel about other partners.”

There are other examples that deal with how you can show affections, emotions; how you can spend time with that person; and all sorts of other rule-based relationships. Those are for a different blog.

Let’s first address the “Looking for our third” couple. If you are new to the polyamory scene, you may be surprised by the hostile reactions couples receive when they advertise that they’re “looking for their third”. You may have the BEST of intentions to treat that third partner with all the love and respect you treat your current partner, and you may express that. There are plenty of people who date couples and do so happily and healthily. So, what’s the problem?

One of the biggest problems with the “Looking for our third” line of thinking is the expectation that the “third” to fall in love equally with you both and find you both sexually attractive. You are expecting that person to build their relationship with you within the confines that YOU have set.

What if that “third” isn’t attracted to you both? What if the “third” really connects on a deep, romantic level with one of you, but doesn’t feel much of any connection with the other?

Do you tell your partner that they can’t date that “third” because that person doesn’t want both of you? Do you risk breaking the heart of your partner and that “third” person because you feel left out?


Do you and your partner do some self-exploration, some learning, some growing and become brave enough to let the relationship grow naturally, organically into whatever form it takes?

Let’s go to the other example: “We can date others, but there are limits on how you can feel about other partners.”

I have often heard of couples saying that they are okay with their partners having sex and hanging out with other partners, but falling in love or developing deep feelings for that other partner is not okay; or, “I just didn’t think they would fall for that person so fast!”

Feelings of romantic love, of being in love and actually admitting to that love and not hiding that love can be terrifying for the “original” couple when it comes to feelings for another partner.

Our culture conditions us to deeply feel that you cannot be in love with more than one person at a time and maintain that love. Or, to believe that if our partners fall in love with someone else, they can’t be in love with us too.

When couples new to polyamory go through the experience of their “primary” partner developing strong, romantic feelings for someone else, shit can hit the fan hard and fast.

This sudden rush of all the feels that come with unlearning what we are taught about love and security as we watch our beloveds fall hard for someone else can cause all kinds of strife and grief for the partner watching it happen.

Do we hide our feelings for our new partner? Do we beg/insist that our partner stops dating this other person? Do we decide that we just aren’t cut out for polyamory and beg/insist our partners go back to being monogamous with us?


Do we start doing some self-exploration, some learning, and some growing and be brave enough to allow the relationship to grow naturally and organically however it will?

No matter the situation, self-exploration, learning, growing and being brave can definitely be the most difficult choice. We have to not only be honest with our partners, but we have to be completely honest with ourselves as well. We have to be willing to see what is lurking in the dark corners of our hearts and minds to figure out where the resistance is and what is causing it.

We have to lean into trusting not just our partners, but our relationships. We have to trust that our relationship is strong and solid enough that both partners are in the relationship because they WANT to be.

It’s scary. It’s terrifying.

However, when we try to force relationships into certain growth containers, it stunts that growth in all the relationships involved. When we try to dictate or restrict our partners’ other relationships, we could end up sowing seeds of resentment.

Not only do these confinements risk possible resentment, they can also stunt the potential growth of ourselves and of our relationships. When we don’t allow relationships to take their natural paths, we risk denying ourselves, our partners, our potential partners, our metamours, and potential metamours extraordinary and beautiful relationships. We end up denying ourselves and the people we care about the potential for extreme happiness and love.

I know from my own experiences and bearing witness to others’ experiences how difficult it can be to release that which we want to control. I know that the fear of what can come if we are not in full control can be debilitating. I also know that the fear of the unknown can be just as crippling. Unfortunately, no matter how much we try to control any given situation - especially situations where emotions rule, at the end of the day, we can only control our own actions, (unless you are in an EXTREMELY UNHEALTHY AND ABUSIVE relationship, but even then, there is only so much control the abuser has).

The good news though, is that while things may not go as we had planned or hoped, and there will definitely be growing pains along the way; the growth, evolution, and opportunities that can come will be well worth working through any fears and let relationships grow naturally and organically.


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