Polyamory Form Focus: Polyfidelitous Structures and Unicorn Hunting | Nonmonogamy Academy

Polyfidelity can be a contentious subject in the nonmonogamy community. Many people accuse it of just being monogamy with more steps. They might be right some of the time, but I’m not sure that it’s anyone’s business to judge those people. The important point is not whether the structure itself is problematic, it’s whether the people in the structure are behaving in problematic ways. Like I said at the end of the blog post on Relationship Anarchy and Solo Polyamory, it’s the wielder that tends to be the problem with most tools and ideologies.

Let’s dive into a few of these structures to get a better idea of where they can become challenging and how they often fall apart.

Common Issues When Opening a Relationship to a Third (or Fourth)

A common way  that people end up opening their relationship is that they meet someone or another couple that they decide they want to become a part of their relationship.  This can be really exciting when everyone is on board and feeling the energy!  When the sparks are flying and everyone is grooving, it feels quite magical.  However there are several reasons throuples and quads have a reputation for not lasting a long time:

  • There were problems present in a couple that’s been together for a while that’s never been addressed. The introduction of a new person shines a really bright light on this problem.
  • Someone gets jealous of someone else, and starts to see betrayal everywhere.
  • Someone gets closer to one person than another, and the balance of who is spending time with whom leaves someone feeling left out.
  • One couple burns things down trying to save a dying relationship because <see bullet point one>

Fidelity in Polyamorous Relationships

Polyfidelity is what you get when two or more people are dating each other – but aren’t allowed to date anyone else. Fidelity means that there is a commitment to maintaining exclusive sexual and/or romantic connections within the group.  Monogamy is the two-person version, while triads and quads cover three and four people respectively. There are likely larger groups, but we don’t have specific names for them.  And before anyone asks, no…a cult leader marrying twenty-three women doesn’t count as polyfidelitous. I’m just not going to allow that.

Polyfidelity has its advantages and disadvantages.  On the advantageous side, especially if you are all living in the same place, you can save a lot of time and money by sharing resources and collectively paying into a mortgage.  If you have children and set up agreements well, you can take turns with child care, and each person and couple gets time away to do adult things and have date nights.  If you are sick or need emotional support, there are more people for you to tap into for help making it through harder times.

On the disadvantage side, it can be really tough if someone decides they’d like to add another person to the mix, especially if it’s expected that person is going to be part of the polyfidelity group.  It’s also just harder to maintain equity and equality with three or more people when trying to handle competing needs and desires.  If anyone in the group has ever experienced something they feel is inequitable, it can be difficult to reestablish trust before things spin apart. 

The Elusive Unicorn

The unicorn has been a symbol of purity, innocence, and magic since ancient times. In medieval times, stories began circulating about a creature with a single horn growing from its forehead, capable of performing miracles or even granting wishes. In modern times, unicorn hunting has become synonymous with seeking out that special bisexual man or woman who is the perfect fit for a polyfidelitous relationship. This is often referred to as the “unicorn triad,” where a couple seeks out another person to join their relationship. It’s important to remember that ethical unicorn hunting isn’t just about finding someone who is perfect for the couple but also making sure that the person who joins the relationship is comfortable and respected.

When Unicorn Hunting Doesn’t Work

Finding a third partner for polyfidelitous relationships can be tough. It’s tough to find someone willing to commit to two people they might not know well. Unfortunately, in some cases, unicorn hunting can also lead to power dynamics that aren’t healthy. 

One of the main problems with unicorn hunting is that it limits the possibility of forming deep and meaningful connections, as the third party is often viewed as an expendable addition to the couple. Moreover, unicorn hunting creates an inherent power imbalance that can lead to jealousy, resentment, and even abuse.

When the couple sees the third person as replaceable, it means that they do not value the person’s unique qualities and contributions to the relationship. This lack of appreciation can cause the third person to feel like they are not valued, which can lead to resentment and emotional pain. Additionally, if the couple’s relationship is already on shaky ground or if they have issues with communication, jealousy can easily arise. The insecurity of one partner, or both, can cause them to feel threatened by the third person’s presence, leading to hostility, blame, and emotional turmoil.

Overall, it is important for couples to approach unicorn hunting with caution and empathy. A poly fidelitous relationship requires a commitment to valuing and respecting each person’s needs and input in the relationship. This approach can lead to a flourishing and fulfilling partnership, rather than one that is fraught with tension and heartache. By viewing the third person as an equal partner, rather than a replaceable commodity, couples can create a stronger, more resilient bond that can stand the test of time.

Ethical Unicorn Hunting

Ethical unicorn hunting is all about consent and respect! There are several ways you can find a hot bisexual/pansexual human to join in your escapades without objectifying them or treating them as less of a person.

The first way is to let a relationship form naturally between all the parties involved. What it might mean is joining a club or group in your area, attending a lot of events, meeting a lot of people, and generally making it known what you are looking for and letting people come to you.  This allows for people who want to join a couple to let themselves be known, and also to approach you when they have decided they like both of you.  Yeah, this may take a bit longer for things to pan out, but it’s also much less creepy and far more transparent. 

The other way is to use apps built for unicorn hunting. The problem with this is that you might have to go on a lot of dates before you find someone that is interested in dating both of you, especially if you are more interested in long-term relationships.  You also have to make sure you are open and transparent about what you are looking for.  Many bisexual people (especially women, and including both of us at Nonmonogamy Academy) have horror stories about going on dates with women only to have husbands show up unannounced with expectations that we would be down for a threesome.

A key thing to remember when engaging in a triad, is that there are four relationships that all need to be nurtured. Each person has a relationship with each other person, and then there’s the triadic relationship as well. If only the established dyadic relationship and the triad are nurtured it ends up leaving the third person feeling disconnected and used.  

In conclusion, while poly fidelity has the potential to be a positive and meaningful experience, it is essential to be mindful of the pitfalls of unicorn hunting. Maintaining honesty, communication, and mutual respect is essential to have healthy relationships within the community. At the end of the day, though it’s important to remember that good poly relationships are built on open communication and respect for everyone involved!