Relationships are always tricky, no matter the nature or the size. Whether it’s a friendship, courtship, or marriage, there must be constant work put into them to make sure they are both healthy and stimulating. Each person in the relationship must remember that when it comes to love, in all forms, that it is a growing process. If you want the love to remain constant, everyone must be willing to put in the work. Now, I’m sure you’re thinking ‘blah, blah, blah, everyone knows that.’

Well, yes, that’s true. In this day and age where every piece of information is practically within fingertips reach, we all get it by now that love is a constant work in progress when it comes being in a monogamous relationship. However, we’re forgetting one little thing; this article is not about monogamy. It’s about being poly. For those of you who do not know the meaning of the word, let me break it down. Polyamory by definition is a relationship in which one person is in love with multiple partners. In a world where humans are taught to be monogamous creatures, those who openly take on more than one partner are constantly frowned upon. But one has to ask, why? Is it cheating? Is it lying? Is it selfish? The answer to all of these questions is no.

Just like in every relationship, there are rules. Simply bringing in multiple partners does not change that. So for those that are just getting into the poly game, or even those that are just considering it, listen up, because I’m about to give you some keys to pulling off the art of juggling your lovers.

Key number one: honesty. Because many people correlate being poly with being a cheater, we often slip into a cheater’s mindset and hide the facts about having multiple partners. DON’T DO THAT. I cannot stress that enough. In most poly relationships there is a start of two people: you, and your main lover. The one you hold slightly above the rest. That person, as well as yourself, deserves every bit of honesty about what you are feeling and thinking. Explain yourself in a non-defensive manner and above all things, stay quiet when it is their turn to speak. Truly take in everything that they are saying. Remember, this is the person that you love the most, and they deserve to be heard just like you do. The same goes for your second, third, or even fourth lover. They deserve to know how many people you are in a relationship with and how much time they will get with you. If that means sitting down as a group and working out a schedule; do it.

Which brings me to key number two: communication. Talk about everything. From schedules to limits, lay it all out on the table. If you want the pleasure of multiple people, then you need to accept the responsibility of multiple people. You don’t want to go in to Mike’s apartment calling him Jeremy do you? Of course not. That would not only be rude, but callous, and the last person you want to be that way with is your lover. Take time to really get to know each partner and understand what it is about them that makes them so unique and beautiful. Why were you drawn to them? Why were they drawn to you? What can you do to make the pleasure and love of the relationship last? Also, be extremely clear about your views on monogamy and make sure every partner understands that the relationship is not going to become a monogamous one. False hope can be a killer in any relationship.

The third key, which is also possibly the most important, is consent/safety. Whether you have one partner or three, everyone deserves to be in a safe and loving environment. Which means every now and then a group discussion is wise. Everyone involved in the relationship should be comfortable with the arrangement of said relationship and above all, should be safe within it. Which means, if one or more of your lovers are not exclusive and has sex with other partners, not only are condoms a must, but so are STD tests, birth control, and all other types of protection. Every three to six months all partners should get tested to promote a safe and healthy relationship not just for themselves, but all that are involved.

Poly relationships cannot only be fun but also intensely rewarding when orchestrated properly. However, it takes a group of vastly mature people for it to work smoothly. So in saying that, be careful about choosing your lovers and make sure they can thoroughly comprehend the difference between being poly and being a cheater. Be honest. Be open. Be safe. If you use these three keys, you’ll be surprised at how much fun being poly can be.

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Cassidy Pittman was born in McConnellsburg, Pennsylvania, and has lived in various parts of the United States and China. She graduated from Indiana University of Pennsylvania with a Bachelor’s in Literary Studies and Writing Skills in May of 2012. Cassidy has worked as a ghost writer and editor for international companies.