In the Western world, monogamy is the default setting. When people stray outside this traditional parameter to have an affair, a “love triangle” is created, with one corner blissfully unaware of what the other two corners are getting up to behind its back. To the uninitiated, polyamory often gets lumped in with affairs, the assumption being it’s all about greedy individuals who aren’t content with monogamy. But polyamory is nothing like affairs. There are no secrets. Everyone involved trusts everyone else implicitly. Nor is this setup all that out-of-the-ordinary these days. There are poly-friendly dating sites devoted to this activity, and chat rooms and forums where you can openly discuss your interest. So how about some wider knowledge about poly romance?

Here are five tips that will help you make the most of an open relationship.

1. Be clear about the definition of polyamory.

Like so many words or phrases, considering their origins paints an apt picture. Poly comes from the Ancient Greek word for “many,” while “amare” is the Latin word for “love.” Many lovers. As definitions go, you won’t get a more appropriate one this side of the explosive origin of the universe being termed “the big bang.” These relationships might involve more than two sexual partners, but it isn’t necessarily just about sex. That’s another preconception, that polyamory is something to do with people who enjoy orgies. It really isn’t.

2. Understand the boundaries.

Anyone embarking on this course must appreciate the needs of their various partners, as well as the boundaries that are necessary for this arrangement to work. An excellent starting point would be educating yourself about the polyamorous community, and ensuring you’re perfectly ok with the ethical side of things.

3. Appreciate variations of polyamory.

Love triangles were referred to earlier in the context of one partner in a  monogamous relationship involved in clandestine liaisons. Where affection is split three ways in the poly world, the shape is less of a triangle, and more like the classic “V.” The “pivot” of this V is involved romantically and/or sexually with the others, but they aren’t connected in the same way. It’s one option to consider. You might also go for a “triad,” again comprising an amorous trio, but unlike a V, the non-pivot partners start dating. Add one more to this equation and you’ve got a “quad,” where four people are intimately connected. There are also renegade individuals who flit from one poly set-up to the next, refusing to be tied down. This is known as “solo polyamory,” or “sopo” for short. If you’re ever introduced to someone who delights in the moniker “sopo,” this has nothing to do with enthusiasm for using soap. They are sexual nomads. Many monogamous individuals might secretly be in awe of them.

4. Learn all about trust and countering jealousy.

Monogamous relationships can end messily, leaving the respective parties having to deal with the fallout. There might be occasions when it’s considered acceptable to contact an ex, but in most cases, when that path diverges, it’s for good. Not so with polyamorous partnerships. These are team activities, a haven where the participants have come together in the spirit of mutual understanding. For the poly set up to work, the individuals must not only accept that their partners will have other partners, but they’ll also have to willingly embrace those other partners. Literally. And the embracing is merely the initiation of foreplay. The greatest spanner in the work of polyamorous dating would be if you were to develop feelings of jealousy. But this is why it is so important for ground rules to be agreed upon wholeheartedly at the outset.

5. Support from online communities.

As has also been stated, the explosion in interest in Internet dating has given rise to all sorts of diverse websites. If you’ve always been used to one-on-one get-togethers, but are tempted to explore the world of poly dating, you might well have wondered where you might get advice. It’s not the type of subject you could’ve broached with your original partner without raising an eyebrow. But in the modern world, a suitable online information source is only a couple of clicks away. Merely by popping “polyamory” into your search engine, you will gain access to a treasure trove of guidelines, and recommended websites where you can meet like-minded individuals.

As has been illustrated, there’s so much more to polyamory than a bunch of swingers getting together to practice open relationships, as if they’re erotic outlaws with scant regard for society’s conventions. Those who practice polyamory have their strict guidelines and standards while developing potent emotions. They might behave differently to what is considered “normal.” But in this complicated, ever-evolving world, where individual freedoms are respected, no one has the right to decide what is “normal” and what isn’t.