Nesting Relationship Agreement That Work: Six Questions to Ask Yourselves [Polyamory Conversation Cards #13]

Not everyone who is polyamorous wants a nesting relationship – one where you live together with your partner or partners. Some people prefer solo polyamory, or being their own primary partner. Others are highly introverted and prefer to live alone for this reason. Some live a nomadic lifestyle, travel a lot, or prefer to be able to change their living situation regularly.

For many of us, though, living with one or more partners is our current reality or a desired future state.

In case you missed it, this post is part of a series inspired by Odder Being’s Polyamory Conversation Cards. Once a week or as often as I can, I’ll pull a card at random and write a piece of content based on it. There will likely be some essays, advice pieces, personal experiences, rants, and more! You can read the whole series at the dedicated tag. And if you want to support my work and get occasional bonus content, head on over to my Patreon.

This week’s card asks:

“Is it important for you to share (or keep sharing) your home with one or multiple partners?”

So let’s talk about nesting relationships and the agreements that govern them. Here are six questions you and your partner(s) should be asking yourselves and each other, whether you’re thinking about moving in together, transitioning from monogamy to polyamory while in a nested relationship, or revising your agreements.

A quick reminder on terminology, as we are going to be talking about agreements, boundaries, and rules in this post.

Boundaries pertain to yourself and the things that belong to you, such as your body, mind, time, and possessions. An example of a boundary is “I will use barriers during sex to protect my sexual health.”

Agreements are made by, and followed by, both or all parties in a relationship, household, or other group. They should enhance the relationship, providing safety, stability or structure without being overly restrictive or onerous. One example is, “we will keep each other in the loop when we take on a new sexual or romantic partner.”

Rules are imposed on people from the outside and involve compelling or forbidding them to do certain things. Rules are generally seen as controlling and frowned upon by the polyamorous community. An example of a rule is “you’re not allowed to have sex without a condom with anyone but me.”

What are your individual and collective needs around shared vs. private space?

When I moved in with my nesting partner years ago, one of my requirements before agreeing to the move was that I would have my own office space. This was essential for me, but may not be for you. On the other hand, maybe you’d like your own bedroom? A shared living space where you can have your friends over for D&D night? A room where you can close the door and play video games in peace?

Negotiating your needs and wants around shared and private space is essential when you’re navigating nesting relationship agreements.

Under society’s monogamous paradigm, when a couple moves in together the assumption is usually that they will share a bedroom and bed. This works for many couples, but not others! I know many polyamorous couples or groups who live together in a setup where everyone has their own bedroom. They may bed-hop or stay over in each other’s rooms, occasionally or regularly, but everyone has a space that is ultimately their own.

If you prefer to sleep separately some or all of the time, or if you generally want to sleep together but also need your own room to retreat to, that’s something you will need to work out as you create your nesting agreements. (By the way: it’s also fine to have your own bedrooms if you’re monogamous!)

Will other partners be able to visit us at home, and under what circumstances?

Some people practice a strictly parallel form of polyamory in which metamours never meet or interact. This is a completely valid way to be polyamorous, but it can present challenges when one dyad is nesting together.

If you practice parallel polyam, one or both of you dislikes your metamour(s) for some reason, or you are just someone who dislikes hosting people in your space, this might mean that other partners cannot visit you at home.

In some circumstances, this will be totally navigable. Perhaps your non-nesting partners can host at their places. Maybe one of you travels a lot for work and the other can have their other sweeties over during those times. Perhaps you have the money to get a hotel room for regular date nights. Perhaps your other partners are long distance and you only see each other very occasionally. In other circumstances, though, it can present a major issue. These restrictions can even prevent non-nesting relationships from growing, developing, and thriving if they are not carefully managed. If this is your situation, employing creative solutions is called for.

You may decide that not being able to host other partners in a shared home is a dealbreaker for you. Conversely, you may decide that having your metamours in your living space is a dealbreaker. Both are valid choices but, if you and your nesting partner or potential nesting partner aren’t on the same page about this, it might be a sign that living together isn’t right for you.

If you do agree that it’s okay to host people at home, do you need any agreements around that? Are there any limitations, requests, or boundaries that will make it more comfortable for everyone involved? For example:

  • “Please give me a heads-up if your other partner is coming over so I’m not surprised by an unexpected guest”
  • “Please keep the noise down after 10pm as I have to get up early for work”
  • “We generally won’t have other people over on Thursdays as that’s our date night”
  • “Until our new partners have met our children, we’ll only invite them over after bedtime or when the kids are out”

Do we need any agreements or rules around use of beds, certain spaces, and so on?

I wrote about polyamory bed rules recently, and I touched on a common agreement that many nested polyamorous couples make: no other partners in our bed/bedroom. If you and your nesting partner have agreed that having other partners over at home is okay, then do you need to make any further agreements or provisions around use of beds or particular spaces? This will depend on a few factors, from emotional needs to the practicalities of available spaces.

I’ve seen all kinds of different variations on this theme – everything from “whoever has someone over gets the main bed, and the other nesting partner decamps to the guest room” to “other partners only in the guest room, never in our room.” If you each have your own rooms, this becomes somewhat simpler because each person can host in their own room and bed. If not, you will need to work out what feels most viable for everyone in your household as well as other partners.

Factors such as disability (does someone need close access to a bathroom? Can someone not manage stairs?) can also play a role in making these agreements, as can concerns relating to children, pets, sleep needs, work schedules, and so on.

Is there scope for other partners to live with us in the future? If so, under what circumstances?

This can be a difficult one, and people have strong feelings on both sides. Perhaps you feel as though all your relationships should have at least the potential for nesting down the line. On the other hand, perhaps you are perfectly happy to live with one person and never want to open up that possibility with any other partner.

Living preferences are deeply personal, so I won’t tell you that any one way is better than any other. What is important, though, is to ensure that you and your nesting partner are on a similar page. If one of you wants to keep nesting exclusive but the other wants the possibility of a big happy polyamorous family under one roof, this is a recipe for big problems down the line.

If living with other partners is potentially on the table, what circumstances would make that possible? Perhaps the relationship with the incoming partner would need to have been stable and healthy for several years. Perhaps this is only a possibility once your children have grown up and moved out. Presumably the metamours, as well as the partners, would need to have a strong and stable connection with one another.

Whatever you decide, it’s important to be honest with other partners. Don’t tell someone (or allow them to believe) that nesting is a possibility if it is not. Likewise, if you are looking for other potential future nesting partners, don’t downplay or obfuscate this desire to seem cool or “chill.” If you’re open to nesting after five years, don’t imply that it could happen in two.

It’s also important to remember that people’s wants, needs, and views can change. Perhaps you both genuinely feel that you never want to live with anyone else right now. That doesn’t necessarily mean you’ll feel the same way forever. You might, of course, but you also might not.

Talking about and accepting the possibility of changed minds – because relationships and connections can change us profoundly, and in ways we may not understand until we’re in them – can help to alleviate pain down the line. That’s not to say it will be easy if one of you changes your mind or wants to significantly overhaul your nesting agreements. But understanding that the possibility exists can reduce or eliminate a sense of betrayal if it does happen, opening up the door for more productive communication and problem solving.

What will happen to our relationship if one or both of us decides we no longer wish to be nesting partners?

Denesting means transitioning a nesting relationship to one where you don’t live together, but continuing the relationship in some form. Denesting is very rare in monogamy. It’s relatively uncommon in polyamory too, but I have seen it done and I have seen it work well. Polyamory makes it more possible, because continuing a romantic and/or relationship after denesting does not preclude the possibility of either or both of you finding other nesting partners down the road.

If you’re excited about moving in together, exploring polyamory, or making some other significant change to your nesting relationship, “what happens if it doesn’t work out?” is probably the last thing you want to think about. But it is really, really important to consider and to talk about.

Does your relationship have the potential to continue in a different format if you decide to denest? Does the reason behind the denesting matter? (For example, some people might feel that they could denest relatively happily if their partner received an amazing job opportunity in a different city, but not if their partner decided they’d prefer to nest with another lover instead.)

What discussions, agreements, and boundaries might be needed if you did choose to denest? How might your relationship look if nesting was no longer a part of it?

Of course, none of this is set in stone or constitutes a binding commitment. You might think you’ll feel one way, but feel completely differently – for better or worse – in reality. But having the conversations and imagining the possibilities can save you heartache and pain down the road.

How will we share finances, chores, and other responsibilities (e.g. childcare and pets?)

This isn’t really a polyamory question, of course, but it is a vital nesting relationship question. If you’re not on at least roughly the same page about these things, it’s a sign you are not ready to live together or not compatible as nesting partners.

How will finances work? (I wrote a long essay about polyamory and money recently.) Who will be responsible for which chores and tasks? How will care for children, pets, and other dependents work? How will you navigate it if one of you is much messier than the other?

It’s been said that the vast majority of domestic issues in relationships are actually roommate issues. I think there’s a lot of truth to this idea. Before you can work out how (or if) you can live together polyamorously, you need to work out how (or if) you can live together, period.

What agreements do you have in your nesting relationship? Any pearls of wisdom to share?

8 Polyamory Time Management Tips Beyond Google Calendar [Polyamory Conversation Cards #10]

Love is infinite, so the cliché goes. Love is infinite but time and energy are not, so the polyamorous version of the cliché goes. In polyamory, time management and scheduling are amongst the biggest sources of conflict that can damage relationships and polycules.

In case you missed it, this post is part of a series inspired by Odder Being’s Polyamory Conversation Cards. Once a week or as often as I can, I’ll pull a card at random and write a piece of content based on it. There will likely be some essays, advice pieces, personal experiences, rants, and more! You can read the whole series at the dedicated tag. And if you want to support my work and get occasional bonus content, head on over to my Patreon.

This week’s card asks:

“What is your preferred way of scheduling dates/tine with your partner(s)?”

Luckily, scheduling and polyamory time management challenges are much easier to mitigate and overcome than (for example) jealousy, metamours who don’t get along, or major disagreements about money. With some forward planning and some simple strategies, you can limit scheduling conflicts and make your time management relatively painless.

Here are eight of my tips for how to do it.

Get a Shareable Calendar

Okay, I know I said “beyond Google Calendar”, but we really do need to start with this. Polyamorous people and Google Calendar is one of those things that’s a stereotype because it’s sort of true. Most of us have busy lives, and more romantic relationships means more people’s needs and schedules to juggle. It can get overwhelming fast.

You absolutely need some sort of calendar that you can share with the relevant people (which probably includes your partners but may also include your metamours, children, other family members, close friends, or work colleagues, depending on your circumstances.)

If you and your partners all live together and are the old-fashioned sorts, this could be a literal physical calendar or a whiteboard on the fridge. Most of us, though, will need a digital solution. Google Calendar is probably still the most popular, but there are dozens if not hundreds of calendar-sharing and family scheduling apps. Try some out and find which ones work for you and your polycule.

You don’t need to share your calendar with everyone in your polycule unless you want to, but many polyamorous people find it useful to do so. At the very least, having your calendar on an app on your phone means you can pull it out and see your schedule at a glance whenever you’re trying to make plans with one of your sweeties.

If you and any of your partners have shared responsibilities such as caring for children, pets, and other dependants, you might want to consider a separate calendar just to coordinate how those responsibilities will be managed and divided up.

Aim for Equity, Not Equality

Equality is giving everyone the same things. Equity is ensuring everyone has what they need to thrive, which will be different for everyone. Keep this difference in mind when you’re scheduling time with your partners. Not every partner will want the same amount of time with you, and not every relationship will need the same amount of time to thrive.

A casual or primarily sexual comet relationship, for example, may operate best with one date night every few months when you happen to be in the same place. A committed and intense romantic relationship, on the other hand, may need much more time together in order to remain happy and healthy.

Talk to your partners about their time wants and needs in your relationship, and share your own. Be honest about what you want and what you can offer. And remember that each relationship will look different, and this is fine and normal.

If you and a partner are in wildly different places (they want to see you once a month but you want to sleep over three times a week, for example,) you may find that you’re not compatible as partners or need to renegotiate some aspects of your relationship. This isn’t a failure. It’s important information that can help you to communicate more honestly and build healthier, happier relationships.

Balance Routine with Space for Spontaneity

I remember once hearing a polyamorous person joke that the maximum number of partners any one individual should have is 27 (“because even in the shortest month of the year, you’ve still got one day to yourself!”)

This was obviously said for comic effect, but I think it speaks to a very real tendency some polyamorous people have: we overcommit to plans, overschedule ourselves, and end up with a diary that’s so packed there is no space for self-care, rest, or spontaneity.

For some polyamorous people, having an established routine with their partner(s) is one of the ways they feel loved and secure. For example, maybe every Thursday night is your standing date night. This doesn’t work for everyone (it doesn’t work for me – my schedule is too inherently unpredictable and changeable due to several factors) but it works beautifully for others. You might find it works well in one of your relationships and not in another, and that’s fine.

Whether you like to have standing dates or not, you likely have at least some routines you stick to. Work, childcare, and hobbies are just some things that can dictate people’s schedules. Make sure that you don’t schedule your time so tightly that you’re left with no downtime, though. It’s important to have time to yourself, time to do nothing in particular, and the opportunity to make or say “yes” to spontaneous plans if you want to.

Make Scheduling Chats a Part of Your Relationship

When I was with one of my exes, we’d have a 10-15 minute “scheduling chat” every so often (in practice, it tended to be every 3-4 weeks) where we’d look ahead a few weeks and put time in the diary to see each other and generally talk about what plans we had coming up. This worked well and I recommend it.

Scheduling doesn’t need to be onerous, stressful, or tremendously time-consuming. Just make a habit of sitting down with your calendars and mapping out your plans every so often. This might be as often as every week in the case of some nesting couples – particularly if you have children – or as infrequently as every few months if you’re comet or long-distance partners. If you have a very intertwined polycule or polyamorous family, you might want to do this all together.

Do Things All Together If You Can (But Don’t Mistake Group Time for Date Time)

If you practice kitchen table polyamory or another structure where metamours get along and enjoy spending time together, then doing things all together (or in smaller breakout groups from the entire polycule) can not only be fun, but allow everyone to get more time overall with their partners.

However, do not make the classic newbie polyamory time management error of turning every date into a group hang. Relationships all require one-on-one time to thrive. If you keep inviting all your partners over at the same time, you might be surprised to hear them all saying “when do I get to spend quality time with you?” after a while.

Group time and date time can both be valuable, but they are not the same thing and they are not interchangeable. And by the way, this applies even if you’re in a group romantic relationship such as a triad or quad.

Don’t Mistake Incidental Time for Quality Time

Ironically, many polyamory time management conflicts arise not in long-distance or comet relationships but in marriages and nesting partnerships. If you live with your partner, chances are you spend a lot of incidental time together – passing in the kitchen when you go to make a cup of coffee, doing household chores together, or sitting in the living room together in the evening while you both scroll on your phones or read your books.

None of this is the same as quality time. Mistaking it as such can easily lead to your nesting partner feeling ignored, abandoned, and resentful – especially if you are spending all sorts of quality date time with your other partners.

This incidental time can be great for a relationship. However, it’s important to build in quality time, too. Don’t forget to make date nights with your nesting partner or spouse and to set aside time to focus exclusively on being with each other and enjoying one another’s company.

Get Comfortable with the Fact That There Will Be Conflicts

Even in the monogamous world, there are going to be scheduling conflicts sometimes. For example, what happens when your partner has an important work event and wants you to be their +1 on the same night as your sister is having her birthday party? Scheduling conflicts are a fact of life and polyamory is no different.

Don’t make it a goal to avoid all scheduling conflicts. This is probably impossible. Instead, do what you can to minimise them (see the preceding tips!) and be prepared to roll with them when they do arise. Assuming good faith, giving each other grace when scheduling mistakes happen, and being prepared to get creative with solutions will all help you to navigate scheduling conflicts with minimal stress, pain, and drama.

Which brings me to the final tip…

Be Flexible

Flexibility is perhaps one of the most important and most underrated attributes that successful polyamorous people display. When there are multiple people in your romantic network, things are sometimes going to change. There are going to be emergencies, crises, and unforeseen circumstances popping up at least occasionally.

Flexibility allows you to roll with these changes and still feel safe, secure, and happy in your relationships. This includes flexibility in the way you deal with scheduling and time management.

Flexibility is not the same thing as being a doormat or always putting others first, by the way. You should be able to safely assume that when people make plans with you, they will keep them absent an emergency. When you give flexibility, you should expect to receive it in return, too. So if you’re happy to move your regular date night so your partner can attend your metamour’s birthday celebration, you should be able to expect that the same courtesy would be given to you if a similar conflict arose.

What are your favourite polyamory time-management hacks? Share them in the comments!

What is Couples’ Privilege and How Can It Impact Polyamorous Relationships? [Polyamory Conversation Cards #8]

Hardly anyone enjoys talking about privilege, and even fewer people enjoy facing and acknowledging the privileges that they benefit from. It’s deeply uncomfortable to recognise that we might be benefitting from unearned advantages, and particularly when those benefits come at the cost of harm to others.

However, if we want to create a more just and equal world, it’s vital that we are willing to look our privilege in the face and then begin to dismantle it. Today I want to talk about one of the most insidious and often overlooked aspects of inequality: couples’ privilege.

In case you missed it, this post is part of a series inspired by Odder Being’s Polyamory Conversation Cards. Once a week or as often as I can, I’ll pull a card at random and write a piece of content based on it. There will likely be some essays, advice pieces, personal experiences, rants, and more! You can read the whole series at the dedicated tag. And if you want to support my work and get occasional bonus content, head on over to my Patreon.

This week’s card asks:

“Do you prioritise any of your relationships over your other relationships and if so, in what way?”

I wrote a huge essay last year about hierarchy, priority, and power in polyamory. Executive summary: we all have different priorities in our lives and priorities can shift over time. This isn’t necessarily hierarchy. A hierarchy exists when one party has power over others, and/or when one party expects, demands, or is given priority at all times and in all situations.

Couples’ privilege is intimately linked with relationship hierarchy. But it is also a slightly separate thing and, in polyamory, manifests in specific and often harmful ways.

So what is couples’ privilege, exactly?

When we talk about “privilege” more broadly, we are talking about unearned benefits or advantages that are conferred on one group of people over others due to some aspect of their identity, background, or circumstances. White privilege, straight privilege, cisgender privilege, and male privilege are some common and pervasive examples you may be aware of.

Couples’ privilege, then, refers to the advantages and benefits conferred on those who are in (or appear to be in, or are assumed to be in) a socially-sanctioned monogamous couple.

There are layers to couples’ privilege: monogamous or mono-presenting couples who live apart have it, but nested couples have more of it and married couples have even more still. Some aspects of couples’ privilege are more readily afforded to those with children. And so on. Couples’ privilege intersects with LGBTQ+ oppression, but monogamous or mono-presenting queer couples can also have couples’ privilege.

How does couples’ privilege manifest in society as a whole?

As with other types of privilege, couples’ privilege is insidious because those who have it do not usually recognise that they have it. It becomes tremendously apparent, however, when you lack it. Before we get into any of the specific ways that couples’ privilege plays out in polyamory, let’s look at some of the ways it manifests in society as a whole.

Not all couples will necessarily benefit from all of these examples, but all couples will likely benefit from at least some (and often many) of them.

Examples of Couples’ Privilege in Society

  • Significant financial advantages, such as tax breaks, can come from marriage
  • Housing becomes much more accessible and affordable as a couple. Splitting the rent or mortgage with a partner is so much cheaper than getting a one-bedroom alone
  • Shopping and cooking for two is much more cost-effective than for one
  • If you want to have children, access to fertility treatments, fostering, or adoption is much easier if you are part of a couple in many parts of the world
  • Travelling alone is much more expensive (and, for some people, much less safe)
  • Everything from restaurant tables to hotel rooms to holiday packages are sold with the assumption that two people will be sharing them
  • In friendship groups where most people are coupled up, those who are not are often either left out of activities or made to feel like “the third wheel”
  • Invitations to events such as parties, weddings, and work socials that include a +1 come with the assumption that that person will be your romantic partner (and you’ll be pitied if you come alone or looked at weirdly if you bring a platonic friend or family member instead)…
  • …Or single people don’t get a +1 at all
  • The normative models of romance that society shoves down our throats – particularly around holidays such as Valentine’s Day and Christmas – can make anyone who isn’t living that ideal feel less-than
  • Our society views committed, monogamous, romantic love as a default that everyone should either have or be looking for, casting single people as incomplete and people who opt for other relationship models as deviant

How does couples’ privilege manifest in polyamory?

In polyamory, the closer a couple appears to be to the societal monogamous ideal, the more couples’ privilege they will have. This means that married and/or nested couples enjoy numerous advantages that solo polyamorists and those in non-nesting relationships cannot access. In addition, those who present as “socially monogamous” and hide their other relationships often enjoy more couples’ privilege than those who are more open about their polyamory.

In polyamorous relationships, couples’ privilege can often reinforce relationship hierarchies and power structures, causing serious harm to partners outside of the privileged dyad. Let’s look at some of the ways that this can manifest.

Again, not all of these examples will be relevant to all situations. But it is likely that all polyamorous people in a marital or nesting relationship will benefit from at least some of them. Again, this is far from an exhaustive list.

Examples of Couples’ Privilege in Polyamory

  • When an existing couple opens their relationship, they assume that they get to make the rules and incoming partners must abide by them
  • If unbarried sex is only available to certain partners, the marital/nesting partner will usually have access to it by default
  • Various relationship milestones such as living together, having children, or marriage may only be available to one partner
  • Financial and legal benefits, from inheritance rights to hospital visitation, may only be available to one partner
  • Permission dynamics in which couples have to ask one another before they can date a new person, escalate a relationship, or even see an existing partner
  • Rules that restrict certain activities, date locations, and sex acts to the original couple
  • If the couple is not “out” as polyamorous, other partners may not get to meet their partner’s friends and family, post about their relationship on social media, or appear as a couple in public
  • Conflict resolution is easier if you live together
  • If a couple has problems, they may close down the relationship again or end, restrict, or “backburner” other relationships in order to focus on their dyad regardless of the pain this causes to those other partners
  • “Not in our house”/”not in our bed” rules that put a significant logistical or financial burden on external relationships
  • Veto power, whether explicit or implicit. After all, it’s easy for a married or nested couple to say “we don’t have veto power”. But if one of them ever wants to close the relationship or puts an “it’s them or me” ultimatum on the table, other partners are not on equal footing and the more priviliged partner is far more likely to win
  • Unicorn hunting, which creates relationships with unequal power dynamics in which the original couple gets to make all the decisions

How does couples’ privilege impact other partners?

The problem with privilege, ultimately, is the harm it causes to those who do not have it. In polyamory, couples’ privilege primarily negatively impacts other partners who date one or both members of a couple.

Unfortunately, some couples choose – consciously or unconsciously – to wield couples’ privilege as a weapon. These couples are usually the ones who only date together, the ones with heaps of restrictive rules, the ones with heavily permission-based dynamics, and the ones who explicitly or implicitly use the threat of a veto to keep other partners in line.

In far more cases, though, couples’ privilege causes harm not through any malicious intent but through a lack of awareness and good intentions gone awry. Most of us are extraordinarily bad at truly recognising the extent and impact of our own privilege.

Falling in love with someone who is steeped in unexamined or unaddressed couples’ privilege is its own special kind of pain. At the extreme end of things, partners outside the privileged dyad may feel as though they can never truly be safe or secure, because an external party could restrict or take away their relationship at any moment.

They may also continually feel less-than, sidelined, or ignored. Having to hide your relationship while your metamour is openly acknowledged by your partner, for example, can be acutely painful. Similarly, it can be difficult to feel like an actual player in your own relationship if a third party is making the rules or has to be asked for permission before you can see one another, have sex, do a certain activity, or progress your relationship.

How can we mitigate the harm couples’ privilege causes in our other relationships?

In our current society it is, unfortunately, pretty much impossible to entirely eliminate couples’ privilege. The entire world, or so it seems, is built to uphold, promote, and support the monogamous dyadic relationship and the nuclear family.

Even so, there are actually lots of things you can do to limit the impact and mitigate the harm it can cause if you are a beneficiary of couples’ privilege.

When it comes to how to actually reduce the impact of couples’ privilege in polyamorous relationships, I’m going to come at this from two angles: reducing insidious and unintentional couples’ privilege, and how not to use couples’ privilege as a weapon. I think these are two slightly different issues.

How not to use couples’ privilege as a weapon

It’s really easy, especially when you’re new to polyamory, to use couples’ privilege as a weapon. Almost no-one who does this actually wants to hurt other people, though! In the vast majority of cases, people do it because it helps them to feel safer, more secure, or less threatened.

And I get that. I really do. Polyamory can be frightening and can drag up all kinds of fears, insecurities, and layers of pain.

Couples’ privilege can give the illusion of security, particularly when you’re new to non-monogamy. That illusion is incredibly seductive. After all, if things get too big and too scary you can just slam the lid back on and close the relationship. Or you can just add a few more restrictions and limitations until you and your original partner feel comfortable. Right? Well, not so fast.

Those other people who are dating you or your partner? They’re human beings with feelings and needs. And they have every bit as much right to be there as you do. (Yes, even if you’ve been there longer.)

What’s more, wielding couples’ privilege as a blunt tool to help you feel more secure won’t actually work. You don’t build security, trust, and safety in a relationship by restricting your partner or using other people’s hearts as collateral damage in assuaging your own fears and insecurities.

What you can do instead

Instead of using your couples’ privilege to keep yourself safe, work on building actual security in your relationships. Ask for what you want and need from your partners (and no, “I want more than my metamours get” doesn’t count.)

Work on your self-esteem and confidence, with the help of a therapist if possible. Seek out polyamorous communities, resources, and friends who can support you on this journey. When you feel difficult feelings, learn to sit with them. Interrogate them, ask yourself what they’re telling you, and learn how to communicate non-violently with your partners about them.

In the past, I’ve wielded couples’ privilege carelessly and harmfully in an effort to keep myself safe. It not only didn’t work, it harmed my partners, my metamours, my relationships, and myself. When I realised this, two things happened:

  1. I felt deep shame for my behaviours.
  2. I had to seriously question whether I was actually capable of being polyamorous.

Somewhere deep inside, I knew the answer to that second question was “yes.” However, it took years of deep personal work (with the love and support of my partners) to do the personal growth and build the skills toolkit I needed to actually do it well. Learn from my mistakes – do that growth and build those skills before you hurt yourself, someone else, or your relationships.

Reducing the unintentional impacts of couples’ privilege

In many ways, unintentional couples’ privilege is the hardest to mitigate. A lot of this stuff is societal and systemic, and that makes it almost impossible for individuals or couples to overcome. However, mitigating it as much as possible begins with awareness. You need to understand how couples’ privilege works and the ways in which you may not be able to see it.

I don’t have any easy answers to this. As with all forms of inequality, dismantling couples’ privilege and its harmful effects is an ongoing – probably lifelong – commitment. I do have a few thoughts on things that can help, though.

Question Yourself

Now that you’re aware of couples’ privilege and how insidious it can be, you can start to more consciously view your choices through that lens. When you make a relationship decision, ask yourself “does this protect or uphold the socially-sanctioned dyad at the expense of another person or relationship?” If so, chances are couples’ privilege is in play.

Question your motivations, too. Why do you feel the need to behave in a certain way? If it’s because That’s Just The Way Things Are Done, to assuage insecurities, to follow the social norm, or to reinforce the primacy of one partner or relationship… yup. Couples’ privilege.

Be Honest and Upfront

It’s absolutely vital to state any limitations that will apply to relationships upfront to new partners. If you already have a nesting partner and don’t want to live with anyone else, for example, that’s fine – but you need to be honest about it. This means that you are not leading anyone on with the hope of something you are unable or unwilling to offer them.

For plenty of prospective partners, this will work fine! Perhaps they’re solo, already have their own nesting partner, or are just happy to have a different type of relationship with you.

If you and your existing partner have a lot of rules, a veto agreement, or a permission dynamic, new partners also absolutely need and deserve to know these things upfront. Many people – including most experienced polyamorists – will opt out if your rules and restrictions are too extensive. But, if you are going to operate in this way, at least give people the information ahead of time and allow them to make an informed choice before their hearts get involved.

Come Out When and If You Can

This is a complex one, because there are all kinds of legitimate reasons not to be out as polyamorous or non-monogamous. Child custody, housing problems, and losing relationships with loved ones are just some of the common reasons I hear about.

I’m not going to judge your reasons and I’m certainly not going to tell you that you have to come out if it feels impossible, unsafe, or if the potential cost is too high. However, being open about one relationship and closeted about others can emphasise and perpetuate aspects of couples’ privilege.

I’m out to most people in my life, but not absolutely everyone. And I am very aware that, in those circumstances where I’m not out, this confers additional couples’ privilege on my nesting relationship.

If it’s safe and possible for you to do so, being out as polyamorous – even in a limited way and to select people – can help to reduce the impact of couples’ privilege and the pain of being “hidden” for your other partners.

Listen to Your Other Partners

If you’re not sure how partners outside of your married/nesting dyad are feeling about a choice you’ve made, ask them. And if they express that things feel unfair to them or that couples’ privilege is hurting them, listen. Do not get defensive, try to shut the conversation down, or tell them that they’re imagining things.

Pay attention to all partners’ wants and needs and, wherever possible, try to meet them. Never put one partner’s wants over another’s needs (and learn to tell the difference!) When you need to make a relationship decision, consult everyone who it impacts and seek compromise that honours everyone’s needs and the importance of all relationships as best you can.

Cultivate and Maintain Individuality

One of the most damaging societal narratives around relationships is that a couple is no longer two separate people, but a single unit. I find this creepy in monogamy, and outright harmful in polyamory. If a couple cannot operate in the world as two separate people, then they cannot build and maintain healthy and stable relationships with other people.

Seriously: individuality is one of the most powerful antidotes to couples’ privilege. Decoupling (not to be confused with breaking up!) is the process of stepping away from your joint identity as “a couple” and coming instead into identities as two separate people who are in relationship because you love each other and make each other happy. In other words, breaking out of the codependency and extreme enmeshment that modern relationship norms uphold and celebrate.

The Relationship Bill of Rights states “You have the right… to have relationships with people, not with relationships.” If you and your partner cannot decouple and function as individuals, you are absolutely doomed to mistreat and harm anyone who gets into an intimate relationship with either of you. Seriously. Being in a relationship with a highly codependent relationship, even (or especially) when you’re ostensibly only actually dating one of the people in it, is hell.

The article The Most Skipped Step When Opening a Relationship is an excellent primer on decoupling (unfortunately you’ll now need a Medium account to read it, but it’s worth it.)

Accept that Any Relationship May Change or End Someday

The final thing I’m going to say in this section is probably going to be the hardest for most people to swallow. To be successfully and ethically polyamorous, you have to be at peace with the possibility that any of your relationships may someday end.

If you view one particular relationship as essential and unendable, then you’re in a defacto hierarchy. That person (and that relationship) will always receive priority over others. This sounds nebulous, but I’ve found it to be one of the most important aspects of reducing unintentional couples’ privilege.

In my experience, it’s always people who believe they absolutely cannot live without one particular partner who display the most egregious and damaging levels of couples’ privilege. That’s because what this tells me is that – however much we love each other and however serious our relationship gets – I’m ultimately disposable and they’ll throw me under the bus to protect that other relationship if things get difficult.

Addressing couples’ privilege is a lifelong process

As I’ve said, there are no fast or easy answers to this. Our society affirms and entrenches couples’ privilege at every level and in countless ways. For those of us doing relationships differently, we have to accept that addressing and mitigating couples’ privilege is likely a battle we will always be fighting. That might sound daunting – and it is! – but I promise it’s worth it. When we challenge couples’ privilege and the social norms it upholds, we get to have richer, more fulfilling, and kinder relationships that can look a huge variety of different ways.

If we want to be ethically polyamorous, I believe that we have to be willing to face couples’ privilege and challenge it. I’ve seen too many times what happens when we don’t.

Let’s Talk About Money and Polyamory [Polyamory Conversation Cards #7]

Ahh, money. Is any subject – apart from sometimes sex – harder for people to talk about with their partners? Though I couldn’t find any reliable statistics to back this up, some experts say that arguments about money are the number one source of conflict in intimate relationships.

I hate to talk about money. It still feels so taboo, even though I know it’s important. It makes me cringe. And in polyamorous relationships, I’ve found I end up having more of these conversations because, well, there are more relationships and therefore more people to talk about money, financial limitations, and other such difficult subjects with.

In case you missed it, this post is part of a series inspired by Odder Being’s Polyamory Conversation Cards. Once a week or as often as I can, I’ll pull a card at random and write a piece of content based on it. There will likely be some essays, advice pieces, personal experiences, rants, and more! You can read the whole series at the dedicated tag. And if you want to support my work and get occasional bonus content, head on over to my Patreon.

This week’s card asks:

“What financial resources can you freely spend on your various relationships?”

So I thought it was time to do a deep dive into a relatively under-discussed reality of polyamorous living: the financial aspect. Let’s talk about money and polyamory.

“Monogamy? In This Economy!?”

This particular phrase has become something of a running joke and the subject of numerous memes within the polyamorous community. It’s obviously tongue-in-cheek but, like so many jokes, there’s also a grain of truth to it.

Now, I don’t know of anyone who has actually chosen to become polyamorous specifically to bring in a higher household income and offset the cost of living crisis. I have, however, seen more polyamorous networks and families choosing to live together, pool their resources, share expenses, or otherwise combine finances to make everyone’s money go further.

With the right people, this can be hugely beneficial. You can potentially get a bigger place to live. Economy of scale means that things like groceries will be cheaper when you’re shopping and cooking for more people. And, of course, more people means that the loss of one income – if there’s a sudden illness, accident, or redundancy, for example – is likely to be less disastrous.

There are also challenges alongside these benefits, of course. Sharing finances requires a tremendous level of trust. You may or may not have this trust with all your partners and metamours. You’ll need to talk about money and finances regularly not just with one person, but potentially with several. And if you move in together too early out of economic necessity, this can do more harm than good to relationships and your entire polycule.

How Do Polyamorous People, Networks and Families Handle Finances?

As with almost any question that begins “how do polyamorous people…?”, there is no single answer and virtually anyone you ask will tell you something slightly different. So let’s look at a few common ways that polyamorous networks and families handle their finances.

I can’t tell you which model is the best for you and your family or polycule. It’s a personal decision and will depend on an array of factors including your relationship structure, length of relationships, levels of trust and communication between metamours, geography, and more.

Totally Separate Finances

Even in some monogamous relationships, couples maintain totally separate finances. And in certain types of polyamory, this is a pretty common way to do things. In this setup, you do not blend finances with any of your partners. Your income, accounts, debts, and financial obligations are solely your own. You may or may not even talk about money and financial matters with your partners.

It’s not possible to completely separate your finances from a partner’s if you are legal spouses. It’s also difficult if you live together, since you may have a lease agreement or mortgage in both/all names (and if not, you have a massive power disparity in favour of the person whose name is on the lease or mortgage) as well as shared bills. But if you’re solo, unmarried or non-nesting, this is a popular choice as it allows you to maintain the most financial independence and autonomy.

Blended Finances with One Partner

This is what you’ll see most commonly for polyamorous people who are married or have a nesting partner. In these situations, one dyad blends their finances to whatever extent works for them. In other relationships outside of that dyad, finances are separate.

This can make sense in some circumstances. However, it can also create difficulties. If your finances are highly entangled with one partner, for example, how do you go about paying for dates with other partners? It’s navigable but it requires careful negotiation and clarity about agreements. You’ll need to learn to talk about money openly, non-judgementally, and non-emotionally with your partners to ensure that things feel fair and equitable for everyone.

Blended Finances as a Family or Polycule

In this setup, more than two people combine their finances. This might include things like living together, sharing bills and other expenses, buying property together, and having joint bank accounts.

It’s a common misconception that you can’t have more than two names on a bank account or mortgage. In many places – including the US and UK – at least some banks will allow more than two people to share an account. In the UK, some lenders will allow up to 4 people to be named on a mortgage. And in the US, there is no legal limit but most lenders won’t allow more than 4 or 5 people. So you will need to shop around but, depending on where you live, it may be possible to get a bank account and rent or buy a property with your polyamorous family.

Of course, this requires a lot of intimacy and trust with everyone who is included in the shared financial network. It’s not something I recommend entering into quickly or lightly. And, of course, you should seek professional advice to ensure everyone is properly protected if things go south or something unexpected happens.

Partially Blended, Partially Separate Finances

Anecdotally, this is the most common arrangement I’ve seen for polyamorous people who have at least one nesting partner. In this setup, some financial assets are shared and others are kept separate. One common way to do this is to have a joint account for bills and household expenses, and then separate accounts for disposable income or “fun” money.

You can also do this with more than one partner, by the way. Want to have a shared account with your nesting partner to save for redecorating the kitchen and another account with your long distance partner to save for a trip together? Have at it.

…And Other Arrangments?

If there’s one thing I’ve learned about polyamorous people, it’s that we are a creative bunch. We can come up with nearly endless ways to structure, define, and personalise our relationships. So why not do the same with our financial arrangements? As long as everything is legal and fair, there are endless possibilities here.

Instead of doing what you think you’re “supposed” to do, ask yourself what actually works for you, your partners, and your metamours. Talk about money, talk about your wants and needs, and craft something accordingly that is entirely your own.

Let’s Talk About Money, Legal Marriage, and Polyamorous Finances

I am not any kind of expert and nothing I say in this section should be taken as legal or financial advice in any way whatsoever. You should consult a financial planner and a family lawyer in your area to advise you on how to manage your and your family’s finances.

With a few very limited exceptions, polygamy is illegal pretty much everywhere. In other words, if you want to get legally married, you can only marry one person.

There’s nothing to stop you having a committment ceremony, religiously or spiritually marrying without the legal piece, exchanging rings or other tokens of love, or calling each other husband/wife/spouse with as many partners as you want. But these things do not confer any of the legal or financial benefits of a marriage your government recognises.

The choice to marry can be a complicated one when you’re polyamorous. It can feel like you’re declaring one of your partners as “real” or “most important“. And even if you don’t see it that way… well, wider society (and the government) definitely will.

If you come into polyamory already legally married, a certain amount of unavoidable couple’s privilege is baked in. Open Relating defines couple’s privilege as: “the largely unchallenged mainstream acceptance of the inherent importance and supremacy of a dyad relationship (mostly exclusive and primarily between a woman and a man).”

I’ve known some couples take the extreme step of getting a divorce (while remaining in a romantic relationship) in order to eliminate this couple’s privilege. If you want to take this step, go in with your eyes open. By removing legal marriage, you potentially lose literally hundreds of legal and financial protections. Make sure you have an alternative plan and don’t do something this drastic as a symbolic gesture without thinking it through.

So What Else Can We Do?

Whether or not it makes sense for you to marry is a highly personal choice. If you live with and share finances with one partner, you might decide it’s the smart choice for the two of you. Conversely, you might decide you never want to marry – because you disagree with the institution, because of the hierarchy it can imply, or for another reason. If you’re solo polyamorous, a relationship anarchist, or otherwise prefer high levels of independence and autonomy, you might also make the personal decision that legally entangling your financial life with another person is off limits.

There are no right or wrong answers here. What matters is that you think it through and make fully informed choices that make sense for you and your loved ones.

In some cases, there are steps you can take to replace some of the benefits of legal marriage (or extend them to more than one partner.) Wills, life insurance policies, and medical power of attorney are just some of the options that may be available to you. Other benefits of legal marriage are, unfortunately, pretty much impossible to entirely replicate in any other way.

If you’re not married and don’t intend to be, consult a lawyer and financial planner to ensure that you, your partners, and any children or other dependents are protected in the event that something happens to one of you. If you are married or intending to marry one partner and you also want to share financial benefits and protections with another partner or partners… yeah, consult a lawyer and financial planner.

This stuff is complex. It’s also different in every country or state. I cannot stress this enough: get professional advice.

Rules and Agreements About Money in Polyamorous Relationships

If you’ve been reading my work on polyamory recently, you’ll know that I have come to dislike relationships with lots of rules. In general, I believe that adults shouldn’t be imposing rules and restrictions on one another and that all parties in a relationship should have an equal voice in the issues and agreements that impact them.

With that said, I see a lot of polyamorous people – particularly married, nested, or hierarchical “primary” couples – making strict rules around finances. This might include rules like limiting how much can be spent on other partners, setting a spending limit on dating, or requiring one partner to ask the other for permission before spending money on another relationship.

I understand the implse here. Financial struggles can be terrifying and you want to make sure the person you’ve entangled your finances with is going to meet their obligations. Here’s the thing, though: if they’re going to, you don’t need the rule. And if they’re not going to, the rule won’t protect you anyway.

My general take on this is that you should only entangle finances with someone you trust. If you need a rule to compel someone not to spend hundreds of dollars on a date when they can’t afford their portion of the mortgage, then you probably shouldn’t have a joint mortgage with that person.

So How Can I Protect Myself Financially in a Relationship?

This is not to say, of course, that I think polyamory should be an irresponsible financial free-for-all. Quite the opposite. When we enter into relationships with other humans, those relationships come with some obligations. In some circumstances, this can include an obligation to be responsible with money and meet shared expenses. I just don’t think that placing rules and restrictions on each other is the way to achieve this interdependence and mutual sense of responsibility.

What you can and should do, instead of trying to restrict your partner(s) or place strict rules on them about how they manage their money, is make agreements about shared money and set boundaries around your own money and relationship to financial matters.

Agreements about shared money can look like:

  • “We will each put $x into the joint account when we get paid each month. This money is for bills, groceries and household expenses but not for fun or discretionary spending.”
  • “We will each contribute $x to a shared savings account and this money is not to be touched unless we both agree to do so.”
  • “Money from our shared account is not to be used for dates, gifts, or activities with other partners.”
  • “Money from our shared account can be used for dates, gifts, or activities with other partners up to a limit of $x assuming other financial obligations are taken care of. Anything above that amount must be discussed in advance.”
  • “Our individual money is our own and, as long as we each meet our financial obligations to the household each month, we have no say over how the other chooses to spend their money.”
  • “Since one of us earns much more than the other, we will split shared expenses proportionally to our income unless otherwise agreed.”
  • “We will check in about our shared finances and re-evaluate our budget every six months or more often if a significant change occurs (such as a new job, job loss, or serious illness.)”

Personal financial boundaries can look like:

  • “I prefer to keep my finances totally separate so I don’t want to have joint accounts, share a mortgage, or get legally married.”
  • “I’ve committed to paying half the rent and I will honour that but I can’t cover your portion too.”
  • “I will not live with someone who doesn’t have similar financial values and goals to me.”
  • “I can’t afford to do that expensive activity right now so, unless you’re offering to pay for both of us, can we plan a cheaper date night?”
  • “It makes me uncomfortable when you spend a lot of money on me. Please don’t buy me expensive gifts without discussing it with me first.”
  • “I am not comfortable getting into debt so I will not take out a credit card, loan, or finance agreement.”
  • “No, I cannot loan you money.”

Other Rules and Agreements That Have a Financial Impact

Sometimes, rules in polyamory can have nothing to do with money on the surface… but still have a financial impact. For example, let’s say you have a nesting partner and you’ve made a rule that says they cannot bring their other partner back to your shared home. Unless your metamour can host every single time, this means they will be paying for restaurants, hotels, and so on every time they want to spend time together. This can get very expensive very quickly.

Another common example I see is when sex toys, BDSM gear, and other items are designated as being for one relationship only. And that’s completely fair – not everyone is as blasé as me about sharing these things. But if you want to use these types of things with multiple partners, the cost of buying several of them can add up fast.

When you discuss and negotiate your relationship agreements with your partner(s), it’s also important to talk about money and how those agreements might have a financial impact on one or both of you – even an unintended one.

The Person Who Has the Money Has the Power

Unfortunately, money is power in our current society. At a certain point, people who are wealthy enough can get away with pretty much anything they want. Now, it’s unlikely that you or any of your partners are billionaires or in the “untouchably wealthy” category, of course. However, financial disparities can still cause huge problems in relationships – both polyamorous and monogamous – and in some cases can become coercive or abusive.

Several times a week, I see people in polyamorous groups and forums asking a variation of this: “my spouse/partner is hugely controlling and imposes all these rules on me, but they’re also the breadwinner so I can’t leave.”

Of course, this isn’t a uniquely polyamorous problem. Financial abuse can and does occur all too frequently in monogamy, too. In fact, financial control and limiting a partner’s access to resources is on page one of the Abusers’ Playbook.

In polyamory, though, it does manifest in some unique and specific ways. Often, the person with the money (and therefore the power) will impose a double standard on their partner. For example, “I’m allowed to have sex with other people but you’re not” or “I’m allowed to bring partners home but you’re not because I pay for our housing.” It’s very, very hard – sometimes impossible – to stand up to someone and assert your autonomy when you rely on them for the roof over your head.

Explicit or covert vetoes and ultimatums are also massively complicated by financial disparities. If you live with one partner and are financially reliant on them, are you really going to say no if they put a “leave your other partner or I’m leaving you” choice on the table? Particularly if you don’t have an obvious backup plan, such as other partners, friends or family who are willing to support you financially? Exactly.

I don’t have any easy answers to this phenomenon, of course. Abusive and controlling people will likely always exist and, for as long as we live in a capitalist society, money will likely always be one of their first and most powerful weapons.

If you’re in a relationship with a person significantly less well-off than you, particularly if you’re married or live together, it is vital that you ensure they have access to money and resources without needing to ask you for them. You must also be incredibly careful not to impose unfair rules and double standards or to hold financial security over your partner’s head to make them do what you want. In other words, you need to make it possible for them to leave if they want to.

Because a person cannot meaningfully consent to a relationship if they can’t also reasonably and safely choose to leave it.

Honestly, this is why we need better social safety nets and community support. No-one should ever be forced to stay in a relationship that’s abusive, harmful, or just doesn’t make them happy because they don’t have access to the money they need to leave.

Jealousy, Insecurity, and Resentment When People Have Very Different Financial Circumstances

I’m far from wealthy but, prior to the cost of living crisis, I considered myself pretty financially comfortable. Now it’s more of a challenge as prices have skyrocketed and salaries have not kept up, but I’m still doing okay most of the time. Relative to many, I have a tonne of financial privilege and I try to pay this forward when I can.

I’ve been polyamorous for 15 years. In that time, I’ve dated people much richer than me and I’ve dated people much poorer than me. Both have come with their own challenges, but neither were insurmountable with good communication, empathy and honesty. I find that what matters far more than having a similar level of wealth is having similar values, goals, and the ability to talk about money in an open and supportive way.

Solutions to a wealth disparity in a relationship can include finding affordable date activities, splitting expenses in a way that is equitable according to our relative incomes rather than equal, and factoring in time, energy and skills as other forms of equally-valuable relationship currency (for example “you buy the ingredients and I’ll cook for us” or “I’ll pay for your ticket if you spend the time and energy travelling to me.”)

The most challenging aspect of a wealth disparity in relationships, in my experience, is not any of these practical matters. It’s the feelings that money issues can bring up. Here are a few of the most common I’ve encountered in my own relationships or witnessed in other relationships.

“My Partner Can Date More Often (or Go On More Expensive Dates) Because They Have More Disposable Income”

Imagine you and your partner are both trying to date outside your relationship. But they have vastly more money than you do, meaning that they can date more often and do more expensive activities with their other partner(s.) This can be tough to navigate and can bring up feelings of envy, jealousy, and resentment if you don’t navigate it carefully.

If you’re the person with significantly less money:

Is your partner willing to help you out financially so you can date more? Would you feel comfortable accepting that help? The answer to both these questions might be “no”, but it’s fair to ask.

If not, it’s time to get creative with your own dating life. You might not be able to afford expensive dates, but there are plenty of equally nnice and meaningful things you can do without spending a fortune. If you don’t have another regular partner or are actively dating new people, you might also need to be more choosy about which dates you go on. Screen more thoroughly to ensure you’re spending your limited resources on the most promising potential dates, and seek out people who place little value on material wealth.

Don’t forget to ask your partner for what you want, too. Are you feeling sidelined or neglected? Do you wish they’d take you on one of those fancy dates that they’re always going on with other people? Then tell them! And if you don’t want to hear so much about their activities with other people, you get to draw that boundary, too.

If you’re the person with significantly more money:

Consider whether you’d be comfortable financially supporting your partner’s dating activities outside your relationship. Perhaps you could have a shared “dating pot” that you contribute to proportionally and can draw on for external dates. This can allow things to feel more balanced without your partner having to feel like they’re asking you for money (which can have uncomfortable “parental” implications for many people.)

If you’re not willing to help, or they won’t accept your help, that’s fair. In that case, it might be wise not to share so much information with your less-wealthy partner about the pricey things you’re doing with other people. Don’t hide things from them, of course, but they probably don’t want to hear about your $500 restaurant bill if they’re struggling to find the money to meet a potential date for a coffee.

You can also help to mitigate this issue by making sure you’re not taking your existing partner for granted. It’s easy for resentment to set in if you’re taking new dates to expensive restaurants while all you do with your spouse is sit on the couch and watch reruns on Netflix. Make sure that you’re also taking them out on nice dates, setting aside money for experiences or trips together, and giving them nice gifts if they’re comfortable with receiving them.

“My Partner Wants to Do All These Expensive Activities But I Can’t Afford It!”

People who have plenty of money can be extraordinarily oblivious about the experiences of people who have less of it. This can lead to resentment as they suggest pricey date activities and the less well-off partner has to keep saying no. Or, worse, if the less-wealthy person stretches their finances in an effort to keep up.

This is a situation where honesty is critical. Practice saying “I can’t afford to do that” and remember that there is absolutely no shame in doing so. Someone who loves you will understand. A partner who pressures you to spend money you can’t afford, or judges you for not doing so, is a bad partner for you.

If your partner offers to cover the cost for both of you, it’s okay to accept this offer. It’s also okay to say no if this makes you uncomfortable and propose an alternative, cheaper activity.

If you’re the person with more money and your partner discloses that they can’t afford something, it’s important to be sympathetic and non-judgemental. Don’t say things like “but it’s only $50!”. That $50 might be pocket change to you but it might be a week’s worth of groceries to them. Don’t pressure them to stretch their finances more than they are comfortable, and never shame them for having less money than you do.

What you can do, if you sincerely want to, is offer to cover the cost for both of you. And if you want to invite a partner or date to an expensive activity, be upfront about whether you’ll be covering the cost or not. Simply saying “do you want to check out that new restaurant on Friday? My treat!” or “would you like to see this show with me? Tickets are $35 if so” takes away so much of the guesswork and anxiety.

“My Metamour is Richer Than Me and it Makes Me Insecure”

In researching this post, I remembered this classic Polyamory Weekly episode, “Help, I’m rich and I have a big penis!” In it, the caller is concerned he makes his metamours jealous and insecure because he has money to throw around and likes to spoil his partners. And, self-involved though this might seem, he’s probably got a fair point.

If your metamour is significantly wealthier than you, this might cause some understandable feelings of envy, jealousy, insecurity, or competitiveness to come up.

What’s most important here is to remember that your partner isn’t with you for your money or for the things you can provide. They’re with you because they love you! Ask your partner for reassurance and reminders of what they love about you if you need it.

It’s also important to remember they’re probably not with your metamour for their money, either! What else does your metamour bring to the table? They’re a human being with their own wonderful qualities and also their own quirks and flaws. Try to learn more about what your partner loves about them. Chances are it’s little or nothing to do with their wealth. This will help to humanise them and make them feel like less of a threat.

Get creative and find ways to connect with your partner and have meaningful experiences together without spending a lot of money. They might enjoy those fancy dates with your metamour, but I bet they’d enjoy a picnic in the park or a night of stargazing with you just as much.

The Bottom Line on Polyamory and Money: Get Educated and Get Prepared

Financial matters are complex. This is true even if you’re in a traditional, monogamous relationship, and this complexity can increase tenfold if you’re polyamorous.

The most important things you can do are educate yourself, plan, and prepare. This means taking the time to talk about money with all your partners. It means understanding what your options are, understanding the limitations you’re under due to our current couple-centric society and legal system, and understanding what you and your partners all want and need.

It also means educating yourself and getting appropriate advice. Things like Wills, estate planning, inheritance, and medical decisionmaking can be more complex when you have more partners. It’s vital to understand what the law says in your area, what you can and can’t do, and how you can protect yourselves. Communicate, share your wishes and fears, and make decisions together with your partners, polycule, or family.

The golden rule? Think about what would happen in the worst case scenario long before you’re ever actually in it. If you died tomorrow, would your partners and loved ones have the financial protection you’d want them to have? If not, it’s time to take steps to ensure they do.

How do finances work in your romantic network or polycule? How do you talk about money with your partners? Tell me about it in the comments!

Sleeping in Separate Beds, Polyamory Bed Rules, and Redefining What Beds Mean to You

I’ve noticed that beds can carry a lot of emotional weight in a relationship, whether monogamous or polyamorous or anywhere in between. This is pretty understandable. For many of us, our bed is one of our safe and sacred spaces, a place where we can shut the door and let our guards down and be our complete and unfiltered selves.

Society also has a lot of expectations and assumptions around what beds mean in a relationship and how they should be treated. However, a lot of these are predicated on beliefs that may or may not actually be accurate and, in some cases, can even be harmful.

Today I wanted to address two bed and sleep-related conundrums that I see a lot, and that have played a role in my own intimate life: sleeping separately, and creating rules/agreements about beds and sleeping in a polyamorous relationship.

It probably won’t surprise you to know that I think we should throw away the rulebook and redesign things in ways that actually work for individual relationships and the people in them.

Is Sleeping in Separate Beds Okay in a Relationship?

There was a time when “we’re sleeping in separate beds” was synonymous with “our relationship is doomed and we’re basically already broken up in all but name.” Observationally at least, I don’t think this is really true any more. More and more, people are throwing out commonly understood “rules” about relationships – from “always go to sleep together” to “never go to bed on a fight” – in favour of creating the customised, design-your-own-adventure relationship dynamics that work for them.

So no, I don’t think sleeping in separate beds is inherently a problem. Sometimes I think it’s even good and necessary.

I love snuggling and sleeping with a partner. Given the choice, my preference would almost always be to sleep beside someone I love rather than to sleep alone. You know what else I love, though? Actually sleeping. So there have been times where, for whatever reason – one of us snores, one of us has a bad back, one of us is going through a massive insomniac phase and will likely be scrolling their phone until 3am – a partner and I have chosen to sleep separately.

Far from damaging those relationships, making this choice when necessary has actually helped them. After all, who can show up as their best self in a relationship when they’ve had no sleep?

Managing Different Sleep Schedules

There’s also the issue of having different schedules or sleeping patterns, which can crop up in any relationship. My nesting partner, Mr C&K, is semi-nocturnal. I tend to get tired and want to go to bed sometime between 11pm and 1am on a typical night. That’s just reality – we have wildly different sleeping patterns and needs.

And sure, I could force myself to stay up hours longer than I want to. He could force himself to go to bed when he’s wide awake. But what would be the point? Any benefit gained from going to bed at the same time would be quickly outweighed by the annoyance, resentment, and heavily reduced sleep quality that this would cause.

Rules About Beds and Sleeping in Polyamory

To make polyamory work, we have to throw out many of what society commonly understands as the rules of relationships. We, the consensually non-monogamous, are redefining what love and commitment and faithfulness and community and sex are and mean. This means having to rewrite a lot of those scripts and throw others out entirely. Amongst those are the “rules” about beds and sleeping.

“Not in Our Bed”

In non-monogamous relationships, rules and agreements about the use of beds vary wildly. This question is mostly relevant for married or nesting couples who have a “marital bed.” I’ve seen everything from “no other partners in our bed, ever” to “anything goes.”

I’m not precious about my bed. I absolutely do not care if my nesting partner has sex with or sleeps with someone else in our bed. The only thing I ask is that, if things get messy, he changes the sheets before I sleep there again. Of course, the same applies to me when I have a partner over. That’s not to say this is the right way to do it, of course. But it has worked for us.

I have noticed that people occasionally weaponise polyamory bed rules as a means of controlling or intentionally limiting another relationship. Perhaps your partner’s other partner cannot host and hotels are too expensive. If so, not allowing them to use a shared bed (or home) can become pretty limiting on that relationship.

I’m not going to tell you you shouldn’t have a “not in our bed” rule, because you ultimately get to make whatever rules you want around access to your space and possessions. However, I am going to invite you to think about why you feel the need to have that rule. There are certainly valid reasons some people choose to do so. But if it’s based on some kind of insecurity, you might want to unpack that. And if it’s significantly curtailing another relationship, it’s a good idea to work together to find a suitable solution. (Blow-up bed in the living room? Sofa bed? One night a week where each of you goes out so the other can have a date over? There are always solutions if you’re willing to get creative and collaborative.)

“You Must Sleep with Me Every Night”

“No overnights with anyone else” is a really common rule that newly open or polyamorous couples make. This rule almost ways comes from a place of insecurity, and it is almost always a bad rule.

Your non-nesting relationships, and your partner’s non-nesting relationships, deserve to thrive and be nurtured just as much as yours. Sometimes this will mean an overnight stay, or perhaps even several overnights (such as in the case of a break, weekend away, or holiday.) I’ve been a secondary partner to someone with a “no overnights” rule. It sucked. The relationship didn’t last long.

I understand that it can be scary to have your partner away overnight and that sleeping alone might not be your preference. But unless you exclusively date people who don’t ever want to have sleepovers (they exist, but are rare) this rule is going to cause problems in your other relationships. It will also limit your dating options because most experienced polyamorous people won’t go near couples with rules like this.

Getting comfortable with spending time alone is a vital component of healthy polyamory. If you can’t be in your own company, you will inevitably be driven to either: A) attempt to curtail your partner’s other relationships, B) get into or stay in relationships that are bad for you out of fear of being alone, C) both.

If your partner being away overnight brings up difficult feelings, that’s totally normal. You can ask for support and reassurance, strategise before they go to help you feel okay, make your own plans for the night, engage in self-care, and reconnect afterwards. As time goes on and you grow in security in your relationship and in polyamory, you’ll probably find that it gets easier and easier. I felt totally freaked out the first few times my nesting partner went away overnight. Now I quite enjoy having the house to myself for a day or two!

What rules or agreements about beds do you have in your relationships? How have they impacted you?

Thanks to Simba Sleep who very kindly sent me a fabulous memory foam mattress topper from their range. All writing and views in this post are my own and in no way affected.