in: Dating & Relationships

Navigating Polyamorous & Other Non-Traditional Relationships

Laurie Ellington simplifies the mystery surrounding polyamorous and open relationships. Like The Beatles say, “all you need is love, love is all you need.”

Have you ever considered what would it be like to live in a world where everyone could be in love with everyone else (including yourself) without jealousy, fear and insecurity?

Imagine a world, where every relationship you have, whether it be sexual, non-sexual, short-long term, whatever…. where every relationship you have feels just right, at home, full-on in alignment with your deepest desires and your longing for intimacy, connection, playfulness and love.

What would it take to cultivate relationships such as these? What changes, considerations, communications and practices might take place in order to have support and nourish relationships based on love?

Do they all have to be sexual? Can they be? What if they could be whatever you like? They could shift, morph, transform and grow and become even more than you could possibly imagine?

What would it take to have and experience this kind of life, this kind of love, this kind of connection with others?

These are questions that nudge me, taunt me and intrigue me. I find myself both curios, a little scared and incredibly excited in what I am discovering as I dive into this inquiry.

In my two years of practicing open relationships, polyamory and non-monogamy, I have discovered that regardless of what kind of label I want to put on my relationship, the relationship style I am choosing to live is a journey. I believe whether you practice monogamy or polyamory (or anything else), the practice is more about how we navigate through life and through our relationships. It’s about how we stay true and honoring of ourselves while staying in connection with those around us. And yes, there are things that help and things that hinder us. The following is brief summary of some of the key things I have found to be essential in sustaining healthy, poly/open/non-traditional relationships.

What Makes Poly Relationships Work: 3 Essential Ingredients For Happy Living and Loving

1) Those involved with poly/open/non-traditional relationships have a genuine sense of love, care and support for one another.

They choose to be together because they enjoy one another’s company. It’s true there are many ways people can “be together” (see  “What Does Polyamory Look Like?” by Mim Chapman). No matter what kind of poly/open relationship you are in, what you will find is that the healthiest relationships are those where people treat one another as people, not things.

Poly/open people find connection first and allow that connection to develop without necessarily attaching sex to the outcome (although sex certainly can happen and does for many). There is an emotional component to poly relationships. This is where poly might be different than swinging. Some people are drawn to poly for that reason. It really depends what you are looking for, and you need to ask yourself, “do I want emotional connections in relationships, or do I want open sexuality without the connection?” Anything is possible. Whatever you choose, it’s important to be clear with yourself and with your partners.

2)  Agreements/boundaries are clear, respected, and honored.

This is crucial for everyone involved in the relationship (primary partners, secondary partners and primaries w/secondaries, etc).  Communication is incredibly important here in order for everyone to know where they stand, what the agreements are, what they are saying “yes” to and what are their bottom lines. This is often where people get tripped up. Instead of communicating openly in the moment (and we all do it), people get caught in a story. The story creates drama, and yep, it gets muddy pretty quickly. 

Clarity is so important here, especially when there are secondary partners involved. The primary relationship must be recognized, acknowledged and held in the highest light. This seems like a given, and so often the waters can get confusing. Insecurities turn into fears and we lose touch with what’s important. Communication is key. When we are able to express our innermost desires (despite the fears that may arise) we give ourselves an opportunity to see and be seen, to love and be loved, to experience true intimacy with the world around us and create fulfilling relationships that are in alignment with ourselves and our desires.

3)  It is imperative that everyone supports each other in being the best at who they are (especially in the face of vulnerability and feelings that may come up), and strives to create positive and healthy experiences for everyone involved.

This is where connection and responsibility come into play. By choosing to show up authentically and in the moment, people are able to discern what is real for them and what is past-present-future baggage. I’m finding that the more present I am with my experiences and the more I share with others, the more awake and alive I feel in my connection to what is really true for me. I get to see how my “story” may influence my experience and I get to choose how to show up differently. I get to create new experiences which, more often than not, far surpass any “mind-made-up” scenario, allowing me to experience more joy, openness and love in my connections with others.

Moving forward, here’s something to consider….

Poly isn’t for everyone, and for some, it’s the only way to go. There is just as much guarantee in an open relationship as in a monogamous relationship. As I see it, open relationships allow for all participants to make choices in open and transparent ways—with consent of all involved, which for me seems like a pretty sweet guarantee for personal empowerment; we can experience expression, self-care and connection with others.

Monogamy certainly offers that too. It’s just that when one or more partners start to feel stifled, inauthentic or find themselves limiting or editing themselves, that’s when things can get hairy. I have a friend who said he wanted the kind of communication and relating that comes with polyamory without having to be poly/open. The bottom line? Anything is possible. Whether you choose to be monogamous or poly, each style will have it’s beauty and it’s challenges. There are no guarantees. What’s important is to get down to what is most true for you, and live from that place.

[image via Elisabeth D’Orcy on flickr]

About the Author

laurie ellington bioLaurie Ellington is a life-long coach of open living and loving. She is a dynamic catalyst for change, ready to take you to the next level in fulfilling your desires in life and in love. Her sessions will engage you in learning and practicing effective communication and authentic relating skills, giving you tools to break through negative patterns, step into what is true for you, and make choices that serve your highest integrity, with yourself and with others. Her teaching is deeply rooted in a polyamorous lifestyle. Through this open way of living, Laurie has discovered her true freedom of expression in all her relationships, most importantly with herself.  “Together we grow… with strength, confidence, compassion, joy, grace and love.” Laurie offers individual, couple, and group sessions, serving relationships of all styles and preferences.  For more information, see Laurie’s website,, or contact her directly to schedule a free consultation: [email protected]

About the Author:

Guest Contributor

MeetMindful is the first online dating site to serve the mindful lifestyle. As part of that service, we’re bringing you a library of content from some of the most knowledgeable contributors in the areas of love and mindful living. If you have a story to tell or a lesson to share and you’d like to contribute to our site as a guest, please email us at [email protected] If we’re a great match, we’d love to tell you more about joining our family of writers.


Join our Mindful Movement!


Sign up today, and we'll share bi-weekly Mindful Moments, full of helpful tips, tactics, and content to improve your life!


"Without a doubt, the most engaging written piece on mindfulness!"

- a Mindful Moment Subscriber


(We'll never sell or share your information, either.)

You have Successfully Subscribed!