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Teach Me How to Poly(am): I’m Polyamory-Curious But Unsure of the Rules

Teach Me How to Poly(am) (1)

Dear Mickey,

I’m not currently in a relationship but I have often thought about polygamy. I have contemplated being in a relationship where me and my partner have sex with each other but we also have sex with people outside of our relationship. The only compromise I would ask for is that we don’t talk with each other about every encounter we have. I don’t care to know the details of who my partner sleeps with, where they sleep with them and the quality of the sexual encounter. All I care about is that my partner is using protection. Is this a normal, mature way to handle a relationship like this?


Hey there! Thanks for reaching out.

First: polygamy =/= polyamory. Polyamory involves being able to love more than one person; polygamy means being able to marry more than one person. Are either of those things bad? No. But I did just want to clear that up.

What I do want to share is that what you’re asking is very common for a lot of folks I meet who navigate non-monogamy. I like to cheer on my partners in their sexual and romantic pursuits, but I understand that it is not always the case, and that’s OK! And the reasoning behind wanting to just know your partner is using protection is very valid.

Related: Poly Doesn’t Change How Partners Should Deal With Mental Illness

Here’s the thing you should ask yourself: why wouldn’t you care? Does it stem from jealousy? Are you just apathetic? What would be the reaction if they accidentally slipped up and told you? There are no right or wrong answers, but knowing your level of comfort and what you might need to work on is helpful when navigating this journey. This might mean having to think about if you’re really comfortable with this.

It is also important to think about the people you might be sleeping with and disclosing the fact that you’re in an open relationship where it’s just sex and nothing else. Trust me, it’s better to let them know before they pull the “I helped you cheat” card. Also, discuss boundaries of romance and sex with everyone involved, including your partner.

I can say that this is a common way folks do things. But there is no one normal and mature way to do something in non-monogamy. The most important thing is that boundaries and communication are discussed. And if you can’t see yourself in an open relationship, that’s fine, too.


“Teach Me How to Poly(am)” is an advice column led by Mickey Valentine. As a Black (first-generation Caribbean American), poor, nonbinary, disabled queer person, intersectionality is highly important for Mickey, especially when it comes to dating. Originally from New York City, they’re touching ground in Somerville, M.A. Other than talking about polyamory, they’re down to talk about animation, youth development, kink, gentrification, disability justice and reproductive justice-related things. For more information, visit mickeyvalentinetee.com. To submit questions, email mickeyvalentinetee@gmail.com. 


Mickey Valentine is an activist of Jamaican descent born and raised in the Bronx, NY and currently lives in Somerville, MA. Some things (besides angry) that can describe them : a polyamorous, nonbinary, queer disabled femme who promotes the importance of honesty and vulnerability. They’re down to talk about animation, youth development, kink, gentrification, disability justice and reproductive justice-related things.

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