Should polyamorous couples share everything?

Sometimes couples considering a poly relationship are told the only way to make non-monogamy work is to share every detail of every outside encounter with their original partner. In this way of thinking, not sharing everything inevitably leads to jealousy, deception, and resentment, threatening the relationship.

This advice, though well-meaning, can be misleading. The truth is, there’s no hard-and-fast rule for how to do poly right. What works for one couple won’t necessarily work for another. Every couple and group needs to negotiate their own boundaries, on their own terms, according to the reality of their own experiences and feelings, as things unfold.

In my practice, I’ve worked with many poly couples. There is tremendous diversity in what these couples are comfortable with. Some share absolutely everything, but many, perhaps even the majority, prefer not to know details of encounters with other partners. I’ve also worked with people who don’t want to know anything at all about their partner’s outside relationships, and that’s perfectly fine, too.

There’s a reason people give well-meaning but misleading advice like this. It’s much easier than exploring the complicated truth of relationships: that there’s no one template, no script, no guidebook to follow that will guarantee success. Every relationship has to be negotiated, and nothing is set in stone.

Moreover, it’s very likely that the boundaries of your relationship will change and evolve with time. In the transition to a polyamorous relationship, people are often surprised by what they discover about themselves and their partners. Maybe one partner was certain that she wanted to know everything about every encounter, but now she’s obsessing over the details and wishing she hadn’t heard. Maybe another partner thought that learning what happened would make him jealous, but now he’s curious about what his partner experienced, and wants to learn more. These partners will have to keep talking, keep negotiating, and keep learning. Just as what works for one couple may not work for another couple, what works for one partner may not work for another partner. A relationship is not a set of rules, but a continuous conversation.

There’s no such thing as a one-size-fits-all relationship. A relationship is something that people create. It is remade, in every moment, by the unique and complex individuals within it. Its rules are whatever you agree on. There is no one right way, only the way you discover together.