The Late Bloomer’s Guide to Polyamory

Category: Advice

Author: Jaimee Bell

People change. We grow, adapt, and learn from our experiences. Ultimately, it’s inevitable. Change will always happen and they can happen in all parts of our life, from our favorite foods to who we like to date – and sometimes, how we like to date.

Unfortunately, society shapes a lot of what we think and feel about relationships, whether we realize it or not. This has led to a lot of people not really realizing who they are, how they love, or what they want in life until they are already adults with jobs, marriages and maybe even kids of their own. But let me tell you this: it’s never too late to figure out (and love yourself) for exactly who you are.

Society Likes Monogamy, But You Don’t Have To

The societal norm is monogamous relationships that have a rough trajectory that goes something like this:

Two people meet and get to know each other…They date and fall in love…Eventually, they move in together…Either before or after they move in together, they get married…They have children (or pets) and ‘live happily ever after’.

Not only is this view of relationships often unattainable but it doesn’t account for other (valid) relationships. For a long time, the participants involved in this scenario were only seen as a man and a woman. Then, the collective mind of society expanded a bit and it became more normal for same-sex couples to also follow this trajectory too.

While I understand there are still a lot of people who think that specific trajectory is only for straight couples (we call those people homophobes, by the way), it wasn’t until my late 20s that I realized something else in this picture could also change: the actual trajectory itself.

from Giphy

The linear progression of relationships is something that collective society’s mind hasn’t quite expanded on a lot… yet. Most people are under the assumption that if your romantic relationship doesn’t follow that trajectory, it has less value. Or, if you have multiple romantic relationships, this is also less valuable. Those things are simply not true.

Because of the pressure and expectations society put on us, it’s common for people in their 20s and 30s to wake up one day and realize they are gay or bisexual or, in the case where you realize that you want to be able to explore romantic relationships with multiple people, polyamorous. Exploring something within yourself that is so off the spectrum for what society considers a normal relationship structure can be really overwhelming. There can be a lot of big feelings when figuring out if polyamory is for you: guilt, shame, and fear are the biggest. These big feelings often lead to us pushing the idea of polyamory out of our minds, which can lead to even worse situations like infidelity or other relationship struggles.

What Is Polyamory?

One of the first things to understand is what polyamory is. Researching it, you will see a lot of different terms during your search – the most common ones are polyamory, ‘open relationships’ and ‘ethical non-monogamy’.

While specific definitions can be important in narrowing down exactly what you’re looking for, the important thing to know if you’re new to polyamory is that people can experience polyamory differently. One person’s polyamorous relationship may look entirely different than yours.

An open relationship, for example, is sometimes used interchangeably with polyamory but may not always be polyamorous in nature. Polyamory, broken down, refers to ‘many loves’ or ‘multiple loves’ – and not all open relationships have an intimate (love) connection. Sometimes open relationships are only about sex and emotions are left out of it. Not all open relationships are polyamorous ones, but some can be.

One of the biggest questions you need to focus on if you’re a late-bloomer polyamorous person is this: what does my polyamory look like?

One of the biggest questions you need to focus on if you’re a late-bloomer polyamorous person is this: what does my polyamory look like?

Common Polyamorous Relationship Types

The Triad: this relationship is what is most commonly portrayed in media – also called a throuple, it’s where all three individuals interact romantically or erotically with each other.The Quad: this relationship can be two couples who swap partners or four people who are dating each other.The Vee: this relationship looks like the letter ‘V’; one person has two partners who do not have an intimate connection to each other.

Aside from understanding what type of polyamorous relationship you desire, it’s also important to ask yourself what relationship structures appeal to you.

Common Polyamorous Relationship Structures

Hierarchical relationship structures are where one partner is placed above the other(s). The person you share a house with, have responsibilities and/or children with is most often considered the ‘primary’ partner in this scenario, and other partners would be ‘secondary’ or ‘tertiary’. Non-hierarchical relationship structures are where no partner is placed ‘above’ any other. Instead of using terms like primary and secondary, people who prefer this structure will use terms like ‘nesting partner’ and ‘long-distance partner’.

If you’re new to polyamory, it’s very important that you know for yourself which relationship type and which relationship structure you want, and effectively communicate those things to partners in your life.


from Giphy

How Do I Know If I’m Polyamorous?

Relationships are difficult, including the one you have with yourself. As I said in the beginning: people change, and you’re no exception to that. Maybe you feel you’ve always been polyamorous (or it’s something you’ve always wanted) but you never knew how to express that. Or maybe your polyamorous identity snuck up on you and surprised you when you were already married with kids. Figuring this out is incredibly personal and may take some self-exploration – I would suggest reading other people’s stories and getting involved in your local or online kink/polyamory communities. Mentors and other people in open relationships can be incredibly helpful during this time.

However you came to read this article, it’s important to remind yourself that there’s nothing wrong with you. There’s no reason to be ashamed or feel guilty. There’s no reason to hide who you are. Moving forward into your polyamorous identity can have a happy ending if you move through it with honesty and good intentions.

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