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Polyamory And Love Beyond The Relationship Binary

Multiple hands all interconnected in a circle
Canva
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Polyamorous relationships look as different as the people who get into them.

To anyone who thinks being in a relationship is easy: please share your secrets. Relationships take work, and we ask for trust, communication, commitment and fidelity from our partners. But we often understand those concepts based on a standard of monogamy — and that one-partner-fits-all model doesn’t work for everyone. 

"I am a big believer in being able to make your relationship unique to you." - Natalie Murray

Polyamorous relationships look as different as the people they involve. But they all take some learning and “unlearning” of our standard relationship structures.

Host Anita Rao talks with Rob, a co-organizer of Triangle Polyamory Meetup, and Crystal Byrd Farmer, the website editor for Black & Poly magazine, about how they approach communication and community-building in polyamorous relationships. 

And Natalie Murray, a licensed clinical mental health counselor, joins the conversation to talk about how she counsels people exploring polyamory.

Interview Highlights

Rob on balancing self-care with multiple relationships:

There's only so many hours in a week that you could fit into putting people in your life. I did stretch myself thin at one point trying to date too many people at the same time. And I don't recommend doing that. You have to keep yourself as your primary focus and try to keep, you know — maintain a safe pace before you're stretched too thin.

A Black woman wearing a blue sweater
Credit Natalie Murray
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Natalie Murray, licensed mental mental health counselor, works with couples in polyamorous relationships.

Murray on helping couples find the right relationship structure for them:

One of the things that I try to do is make sure that my couples know they have permission to do what is right for them. So sometimes — when people have done their research, they have decided that this is the right relationship structure for them — they have a hard time dealing with it not working. … And I tell people: You can always change your relationship structure at any time. I have some couples who are open at different times of the year and they're closed the rest, or they're open only to certain people. You are allowed to structure your relationship in a way that works just for you.

Byrd Farmer on understanding jealousy:

A Black woman wearing black-framed glasses and smiling
Credit Crystal Byrd Farmer
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Crystal Byrd Farmer works as an educator and activist in polyamorous communities.

Jealousy is a natural feeling. It's saying that there's something that you want that you don't have, and I think a misconception would be that polyamorous people never get jealous. We do get jealous. We just acknowledge it as a feeling, and it's not something that means we have to suddenly change our relationship or put new rules on it. It’s something that we have to talk through and possibly renegotiate.

Please note: This conversation originally aired February 12, 2021.

Kaia Findlay is a producer for Embodied, WUNC's weekly, live talk show on health, sex and relationships. Kaia first joined the WUNC team in 2020 as a producer for The State of Things.
Anita Rao is an award-winning journalist and the host and creator of "Embodied," a live, weekly radio show and seasonal podcast about sex, relationships & health. She's also the managing editor of WUNC's on-demand content.