(Everything is taken from the wikipedia page concerning this subject, but it's worth reading, none the less.)
Separate from polyamory as a philosophical basis for relationship, are the practical ways in which people who live polyamorously arrange their lives and handle certain issues, as compared to those of a generally more socially acceptable monogamous arrangement.
· Fidelity and loyalty: Many polyamorists define fidelity not as sexual exclusivity, but as faithfulness to the promises and agreements made about a relationship. As a relational practice, polyamory sustains a vast variety of open relationship or multi-partner constellations, which can differ in definition and grades of intensity, closeness and commitment. For some, polyamory functions as an umbrella term for the multiple approaches of ‘responsible non-monogamy.’ A secret sexual relationship that violates those accords would be seen as a breach of fidelity. Polyamorists generally base definitions of commitment on considerations other than sexual exclusivity, e.g. "trust and honesty" or "growing old together".
· Communication and negotiation: Because there is no "standard model" for polyamorous relationships, and reliance upon common expectations may not be realistic, polyamorists often advocate explicitly negotiating with all involved to establish the terms of their relationships, and often emphasize that this should be an ongoing process of honest communication and respect. Polyamorists will usually take a pragmatic approach to their relationships; many accept that sometimes they and their partners will make mistakes and fail to live up to these ideals, and that communication is important for repairing any breaches.
· Trust, honesty, dignity, and respect: Most polyamorists emphasize respect, trust, and honesty for all partners. Ideally, a partner's partners are accepted as part of that person's life rather than merely tolerated, and usually a relationship that requires deception or a "don't ask don't tell" policy is seen as a less than ideal model.
· Boundaries and agreements: Poly relationships often involve negotiating agreements, and establishing specific boundaries, or "ground rules"; such agreements vary widely and may change over time, but could include, for example: consultation about new relationships; devising schedules that work for everyone; limits on physical displays of affection in public or among mixed company; and budgeting the amount of money a partner can spend on additional partners.
· Gender equality: Some polyamorists do not believe in different relationship "rules" based on gender (this is arguably in contrast to some forms of religious non-monogamy, which are often patriarchically based). Sometimes, couples first expanding an existing monogamous relationship into a polyamorous one, may adhere to gender-specific boundaries, such as when a wife agrees not to engage sexually with another male at her husband's request, but may be allowed to have romantic and sexual relationships with women. Such terms and boundaries are negotiable, and such asymmetric degrees of freedom among the partners (who need not be of different genders) are often due to individual differences and needs, and may be understood to be temporary within a negotiated time frame, until further opening up of the relationship becomes practicable or easier for the parties to handle emotionally.
· Non-possessiveness: Many polyamorists view excessive restrictions on other deep relationships as less than desirable, as such restrictions can be used to replace trust with a framework of ownership and control. It is usually preferred or encouraged that a polyamorist strive to view their partners' other significant others (often referred to as OSOs) in terms of the gain to their partners' lives rather than a threat to their own (see compersion). Therefore, jealousy and possessiveness are generally viewed not so much as something to avoid or structure the relationships around, but as responses that should be explored, understood, and resolved within each individual, with compersion as a goal.
Effects upon domesticity
Benefits of a polyamorous relationship might include:
· The ability of individuals to discuss issues with multiple partners, potentially mediating and thus stabilizing a relationship, and reducing polarization of viewpoints.
· Emotional support and structure from other committed adults within the familial unit.
· A wider range of adult experience, skills, resources, and perspective.
· Support for companionate marriages, which can be satisfying even if no longer sexually vital, since romantic needs are met elsewhere. This acts to preserve existing relationships.
· More emotional, intellectual and sexual needs met as part of the understanding that one person cannot be expected provide all. Conversely, polyamory offers release from the monogamist expectation that one person must meet all of an individual's needs (sex, emotional support, primary friendship, intellectual stimulation, companionship, social presentation).
Specific issues affecting relationships
The skills and attitudes needed to manage polyamorous relationships add challenges that are not often found in the traditional "dating-and-marriage" model of long-term relationships. Polyamory may require a more fluid and flexible approach to love relationship, and yet operate on a complex system of boundaries or rules. Additionally, participants in a polyamorous relationship may not have, nor expect their partners to have, preconceptions as to the duration of the relationship, in contrast to monogamous marriages where a lifelong union is generally the goal. However, polyamorous relationships can and do last many years.
Polyamorists cite the human tendency towards jealousy and possessiveness as major hurdles in polyamory, and also as personal limitations to overcome:
Posessiveness can be a major stumbling block, and often it prevents what could be a successful polyamourous relationship from forming. When people are viewed, even inadvertently, as posessions, they become a commodity, a valuable one at that. Just as most people are reluctant to let go of what little money that they have, people are also reluctant to "share" their beloved. After all, what if zie finds someone else who is more attractive/intelligent/well-liked/successful/etc.. than zie, and decides to abandon the relationship in favor of the new lover? These sorts of inferiority complexes must be resolved, completely, before a polyamourous relationship can be truly successful.
Compersion (or, in Britain, frubble) is an empathetic state of happiness and joy experienced when another individual experiences happiness and joy, and the term is regularly used by members of the polyamory community in the context of polyamorous relationships. It is used to describe when a person experiences positive feelings when a lover is enjoying another relationship.
Polyamorous views on jealousy and compersion
The concept of compersive behavior is commonly known within the so-called polyamorous community, and was originally coined by the Kerista Commune in San Francisco, who also coined polyfidelity to describe their relational ideal.
In romantic relationships, thoughts and feelings of insecurity, fear, and anxiety over the anticipated loss of a partner or of that partner's attention, affection, or time elicit both compersion and jealousy as natural reactions to perceived complexities of non-monogamy and are quite extensively covered in polyamorous literature.
Some polyamorous people state belief that jealousy will inherently occur in open romantic relationships. Compersion has often been referred to as "the opposite of jealousy".
Formal definitions of compersion
· PolyOz — "the positive feelings one gets when a lover is enjoying another relationship. Sometimes called the opposite or flip side of jealousy." They comment that compersion can coexist with jealous feelings.
· The Polyamory society — "the feeling of taking joy in the joy that others you love share among themselves, especially taking joy in the knowledge that your beloveds are expressing their love for one another".
· The InnKeeper — "A feeling of joy when a loved one invests in and takes pleasure from another romantic or sexual relationship. ... Compersion does not specifically refer to joy regarding the sexual activity of one's partner, but refers instead to joy at the relationship with another romantic or sexual partner. It's analogous to the joy parents feel when their children get married, or to the happiness felt between best friends when they find a partner."
· From Opening Up, Serena Anderlini-D'Onofrio writes that compersion is, in part, "the ability to turn jealousy's negative feelings into acceptance of, and vicarious enjoyment for, a lover's joy". (p. 175)