Poly relationships are not free-for-alls. There is freedom built-in to pursue a new love interest perhaps but with that freedom comes responsibility. Poly relationships are not so different from monogamous relationships in this realm. In poly relationships there are also agreements explicit and implicit among the people involved. Being a person that loves freedom, why do agreements even need to happen?
A perfect example would be a polyamorous group that is “fluid bonded.” Fluid bonding is the agreement in the group that all members have been tested for sexually-transmitted diseases and are disease-free. They also commit to only being sexual without condoms with members of the group. This kind of agreement is based on honesty and trust. Often as part of this agreement, if somebody chooses to be sexual with someone outside the group and not use a condom, they would let the group know and then would not be sexual with members until that relationship is over and the person is retested. If one of the members decides to go outside the group and not use protection but not reveal it, this would very much be seen as cheating and the feelings this might trigger are huge. The safety of the group has been compromised as well as the trust factor. Would the group ever be able to trust this person again? Cheating within a monogamous relationship while terribly detrimental is also understandable. The “cheater” sees no other way to include another partner and maintain the one he or she has. In poly relationships, there are usually choices. Use “protection” when being sexual outside the group. If one person places the whole group at risk, it would have to be looked at very seriously – does this person have the right values for the group.
People in relationships of any sort have certain basic needs. They want to feel safe and they want to feel cherished. I like the expression “I’ve got your back.” You are not alone in this world. Someone else cares enough to be watching out for your well-being. In poly relationships, it may be many people. This is your family, your tribe, your lovers. These are the people that know you, understand you and regard you as important in their lives.
Words like “integrity,” “honesty,” and “communication” keep popping up in poly discussions. They play such an important role in the foundation of trust that is necessary for this type of relationship to even exist.
People in poly relationships can feel all the things other people feel. They can feel disregarded, unloved, left out and wounds run deep. It can take only one moment to destroy a trust but years or a lifetime to recreate it.