Can Polyamorous Relationships Really Work Out Long-Term?

Zendaya stars opposite Josh O'Connor and Art Donaldson in the new Challengers film, out in September.
Zendaya stars opposite Josh O'Connor and Art Donaldson in the new Challengers film, out in September.

Zendaya stars opposite Josh O'Connor and Art Donaldson in the new Challengers film, out in September.

In the trailer for new film Challengers, tennis star Tashi, played by Zendaya, becomes embroiled in a messy love triangle with Patrick (Josh O’Connor) and Mike (Art Donaldson). 

The situationship soon gets complicated though, with jealousies and secrets making things difficult for everyone involved.

Polyamory is the act of having intimate relationships with more than one person at the same time.

According to a survey by YouGov, only 2% of UK adults said they were in, or had been in, a consensual non-monogamous relationship at some point in their lives.

But how do these relationships work off the big screen? HuffPost UK chatted to relationships expert Jessica Alderson of So Synced, who discussed the pros, cons and everything in between.

What are the benefits of a polyamorous relationship?

Being many different things – friend, lover, emotional supporter, cheerleader – for your partner can get tiring, which is where polyamory could benefit you, says Alderson.

“Seeing as polyamory allows people to explore multiple romantic and emotional connections simultaneously, they can provide a broader range of emotional support, intimacy and companionship,” she explains. 

Basically, different partners can offer unique qualities, share fresh perspectives and meet a wider range of needs. 

She says that polyamorous relationships can also lead you on a journey of self-discovery and personal growth yourself, giving you the opportunity to understand your personal needs, boundaries, values and relationship skills. 

It can also really hone your communication skills. “Engaging in open and honest conversations about desires, boundaries and expectations can help people develop strong communication skills, which can benefit all areas of life, not just relationships,” she explains.

Not to mention help you broaden your sexual horizons. “People have more opportunities to explore new activities or sexual orientations, which can deepen connections, and enable people to express themselves sexually in new ways,” Alderson adds.

What are the pitfalls?

Polyamorous relationships aren’t historically the most successful, says relationships expert Neil Wilkie. 

He told Red magazine that 20% of couples have experimented with consensual non-monogamy, but open marriage has a 92% failure rate. What’s more, he suggested 80% of people in open marriages “experience jealousy of the other”.

Alderson agrees with this sentiment. “There is a higher chance of jealousy or insecurity arising in polyamorous relationships,” she says. 

“If feelings like this do come up, it’s important to learn how to manage them in a healthy way.”

Being respectful to each other is key, as is being open about what’s going on and being patient, she says.

“This might involve self-reflection, openly sharing your insecurities, listening to your partner’s perspectives, seeking support from partners or friends, or even professional counselling if needed,” she explains.

And as with monogamous relationships, it’s essential that you still put the work in to make sure everyone’s needs are met, everyone is listened to and boundaries are agreed upon.

Alderson says that relationships evolve over time – and polyamorous relationships are no exception: “As with all relationships, people should stay open to learning, adapting, and growing together.”

Can polyamorous relationships work in the long-run?

Alderson reckons so. “Like any relationship, their success depends on various factors such as effective communication, trust, respect, and mutual understanding among the individuals involved,” she says. 

“While polyamorous relationships differ in some ways from monogamous relationships in terms of dynamics, they can be equally fulfilling and sustainable when built on a solid foundation.”

Challengers is due to release in UK cinemas on September 15 2023.