3 Toxic Behaviors in Open Relationships

Sometimes, in defense of polyamory and open relationships, we forget that the poly path doesn’t automatically wipe away problems, or problematic people.

When people criticize polyamory, we might tense up and get defensive, feeling under attack. But polyamory is not a cure for the very real human frailties all people might bring to the table, whether it’s a table set for two or three or more!

Don’t forget that scrutiny and contemplation and open eyes are just as important as tolerance and an open mind when it comes to poly dating.

3 Types of Toxic Behaviour in Open Relationships

1. The player who uses polyamory as a cover.

Men or women who don’t like being called out on their deceptions and inability to commit or take ownership of their intimate relationships sometimes take cover under the words “open relationship.”

Instead of working to fix their behavior to match the expectations of their partner or the commitments they have made, they just call themselves polyamorous or point to the open relationship as an explanation.

But polyamory isn’t an excuse to lie or cheat. Polyamory means juggling multiple relationships, which requires more, not less of a person. Terms and boundaries and what’s allowed or encouraged are discussed in advance, not pulled out of a hat after the fact to justify wrongdoing.

2. The jealous lover.

Jealousy can be toxic, whether you’re in monogamous or polyamorous relationships. Some people seek polyamory as a way to overcome their propensity for excessive jealousy—they might mistakenly think polyamory can cure them.

They might be a-ok with the idea of an open relationship in theory, but when you go on dates with other women, they act out or have some kind of emergency every time. Sometimes they stalk you or get obsessive. They might withhold sex or affection whenever you exercise your poly rights to date another person, or break the terms between you to get busy with someone not on the approved list to punish you for an imaginary infraction.

The long and short of it: don’t mistakenly assume that no one in the polyamory lifestyle is jealous. We all are, and you want to have partners who have learned to keep their toxic emotions in check.

3. The jealous shamer.

This is different and seldom addressed—the polys who shame anyone who experiences normal, understandable jealousy.

If you have reasonable questions about your boundaries with a partner or her behavior, and she always shames you and condemns you as “jealous,” consider that you’re being played in a different way.

Jealousy unchecked is toxic, but some partners use our fear of an irrational emotion to get what they want and do what they want. Instead of examining whether their behavior is thoughtless or wrong, they shame a partner for “jealousy.”

If your emotion or response is actually concern, uncertainty, or legitimate upset over broken rules, that’s not toxic jealousy. That’s your soul’s way of waving a big red flag about something being wrong, and your partner manipulating you and turning things around.

Don’t be fooled by these behaviors in a poly lover. Acting with integrity includes integrity towards yourself too!

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