I was recently asked what my opinion was on polyamory, the new buzz word in relationships. My initial reaction was – who on earth has the energy to nurture and maintain more than one romantic relationship and judging from a notorious website – many more than you can imagine!
The more I thought about it however the more I realised that I am probably polyamorous but before you call me slut shaming names let me explain what I mean.
The word polyamory is derived from Greek and Latin, meaning love and several or many. It is the practice, desire or acceptance of intimate relationships that are not exclusive with respect to other sexual or intimate relationships, with the knowledge and consent of everyone involved.
I have battled with this definition and despite having several poly friends have never quite understood the concept but then again I am old and was weaned on monogamy. The way I understand it is that polyamory is different to having an open marriage and/or swinging.
In an open marriage partners have consent to play and have sex outside their marriage. The other partner has nothing to do with it and doesn't even have to know about it. These relationships are usually casual.
Polyamory seems to me to be more structured and serious. It is about having a committed, intimate relationship with more than one partner. It is governed by rules agreed to by everyone involved. It has been defined as consensual, ethical, responsible, non monogamy.
There are a couple of myths about polyamory that have to be unpacked.
Sex may be involved but this is not always the case. In many instances the parties will only have one sexual partner.
The first is that poly people are unsatisfied, that they look for companionship, intimacy or sex outside their relationship because something is missing from their original relationship. This may very well be the case but not always. The desire for an additional relationship may have nothing to do with dissatisfaction. You very rarely have a second child because you are dissatisfied with the first! These relationships are usually completely independent of each other and are had in ways that don't harm the other parties involved.
The next misconception is that it is all about sex. Sex may be involved but this is not always the case. In many instances the parties will only have one sexual partner.
Many poly relationships are paired around a committed couple but it is not a requirement. Many resist the hierarchy of primary or secondary partners and prefer to live as triads or quads. There are absolutely no hard and fast rules about how these relationships look. There are however hard and fast rules about how the relationships and managed and maintained.
Do people form these relationships because they fear commitment, because they cannot be monogamous? The couples I know share and talk about everything. They communicate in ways that I wish we could all learn. Nothing is hidden, it's all out in the open. They even go as far as to agree on who will be allowed into the relationship and who not. They talk so much that sometimes I want to cringe, but what is the alternative?
The alternative is all too prevalent. Many, many of us would rather sneak around, have inappropriate relationships outside the marriage and lie about it.
Poly couples are very open and honest about the status of their relationships. It's the only way to ensure that everyone's needs are met and no one is feeling jealous or left out in the relationship. Imagine being able to talk open and honestly about your insecurity in the relationship and actually being heard and accommodated!
My partner and I have been together for many years. We have a very different relationship to most couples but it works for us.
I have battled with this concept because it is so outside my comfort zone. I've wanted to judge and point fingers and find a reason for why people choose to be different. Are they damaged in some way? And the truth is we all carry a bit of damage. I want to say that it cannot work and whilst that may be true for me that does not mean it is true for you. And then I sat down and evaluated my relationships.
My partner and I have been together for many years. We have a very different relationship to most couples but it works for us. I also have very close relationships with two or three other people. I meet with them often and speak to them daily. We do lunch, weekends away and my life would be significantly poorer without them. They do not fill a void that my partner cannot fill. They just add additional flavor. Not better or worse, just different.
I am committed to these relationships. I would fight to keep them and I would not give them up. They do not in any way threaten my primary relationship except if I was asked to relinquish them. I am honest about them and then I realised that maybe there is more to this polyamory thing than I can understand and maybe I should get off my high horse and try to learn a few things from those I so badly want to judge.
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