Equity vs. Equality in poloyamorous relationships

Open, polyamorous or future couples consult me ​​more and more in my office. We accept this style of romantic relationship more openly today, despite the fact that there is still a lot of polyamourophobia (a word I just invented). Mainly, these couples consult me ​​to negotiate their agreement or contract with regard to the rules to be followed in this relational mode. Every couple has a contract that is either clearly discussed or implied in the definition of a couple. Monogamous couples tend to discuss this understanding very little and it is more often implied. This often leads to other difficulties such as jealousy and different perceptions of infidelity.

Sign here with your blood, please!

Agreements can be simple or even very complex depending on the needs and desires of each partner and couple. In general, the more exclusive we are in our agreement, the simpler the discussions can be and require fewer clauses. Others will have a policy “Don’t ask, don’t tell” which facilitates the negotiation, but which can cause other difficulties eventually.

One of the dilemmas that emerges most often between partners is the question of equity vs. equality in the agreement. Sometimes everyone’s needs are not the same or everyone’s reality is different. For example, one of the members of the couple needs to know the person well and to feel a trust before committing more intimately or sexually with him. Others will rather seek quick and more ephemeral or short-term meetings. Our circumstances may also be different where a partner has an easier time finding new partners being more attractive or having more opportunity to meet new people due to his / her lifestyle or work. There are also differences between men and women when we present our situation of opening as a couple.

I’m comfortable … but a moment

We can open our couple sexually (let’s name polysexuals) and / or affectively (polyamorous). A partner may be comfortable with sexual openness, but not emotionally. When openness needs differ, it often creates conflict over contract negotiation. This is where we can talk about equity vs. equality. What’s the difference, you say?


The notion that each partner must follow the same list of rules such as the number of partners, the number of dates with the same person, the gender of the other partners, the duration of the relationship, the accepted sexual practices vs. exclusive to the couple, etc. Whatever the distinctive needs of each, for the sake of equality, each partner must adhere to the same contract. It makes the relationship and exploration outside of the couple feel like they are right for everyone. It can give a feeling of justice between lovers. On the other hand, the individuality of each is not taken into account, which generates that one partner can benefit more more than the other from the openness.

Poly-I removed

The notion where individual and sometimes contradictory needs between partners are taken into account. If the need of one is to have as many sexual partners as possible and the other is to develop a deeper relationship with another partner in parallel with his spouse, this is still possible. Everyone meets their needs and wants to benefit from openness to their full potential for themselves, without adhering to similar rules. However, this sometimes leads to concerns or fears of injustice, because we do not have the same agreement. We can be comfortable that our partner is sleeping with another person, but not that they develop emotions for the other. On the other hand, it is necessary for their partner to have satisfactory sexual relations. We are therefore caught in the dilemma of meeting a need of one or reassuring the jealousy or insecurity of the other. Poly-equity requires you to further develop your differentiation and compersion (the opposite of jealousy) in order to reach an agreement that suits everyone.

So, poly-equality or poly-equality

Well! You choose. One model is not necessarily better than the other. Each can give the impression of a sense of justice and injustice at the same time in various aspects. We must question our motivations to be fair or egalitarian in our poly-amorous / sexual understanding. We must question our insecurities and our jealousy that we may experience as well as the feelings of competitiveness with his partner with regard to their experience of opening a couple.

Francois Renaud MA

Montreal psychotherapist sexologist

Specializes in couples therapy

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Equity vs. Equality in poloyamorous relationships

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