I think my girlfriend is absolutely amazing. That comes as no surprise to anybody. What does surprise some folks is that I think my boyfriend is amazing too. I’m polyamorous, you see.
I started dating at 14 – it was the usual chaos of emotional turmoil of teenage years; but I always found it odd that I had to leave one relationship when I had feelings for someone else. I had to keep making difficult choices between two or more people I loved, and it didn’t make sense to me: I was allowed to love more than one parent, why so different outside the family?
The turning point came when I was 18, and discovered that there were other people who felt the same way I did, and who were engaging in more than one relationship in a responsible, ethical way. After stumbling upon this “polyamory” (“poly” for short – no parrot jokes please) I leapt upon all the resources I could find about it, and was soon an expert in all the theory.
There are almost as many ways of having polyamorous relationships as there are poly people – triads, quads, V’s and open marriages to name a few, but what we all share is the desire to have honest relationships with multiple people, in which everyone involved is fully aware of and agrees to it.
Often polyamory is used as a synonym for “ethical non-monogamy,” though it’s generally agreed that the latter can include swingers too. Poly differs from swinging as polyamorous people wish to have full emotional relationships with more than one person, not just non-monogamous sex. The two are confused so much that a key poly catchphrase is “it’s not all about the sex!”
I heard over and over that when my relationships didn’t work out this was a clear sign that poly itself was flawed. I can only describe the reasoning behind this claim as ‘absent.’ I’m yet to see someone respond to divorce as a failure of monogamy, and surely if the end of a relationship shows that the relationship form itself is wrong, then monogamy has been on its last legs for millennia. I came to the opinion that it doesn’t matter how you love, so long as everyone is happy and honest; because relationships inevitably end, or someone dies.
I am also often accused of being unable to commit. I find this quite amusing, as I’m currently in two long-term, committed relationships. The misunderstanding here, I think, is that people mistake exclusivity for commitment. Just because I love more than one person doesn’t mean I’m not committed to them.
The most often-asked question relating to polyamory is whether I get jealous. That isn’t the important thing about jealousy, though. What is important is how you deal with jealousy. Jealousy is, at its core, an expression of insecurity: you’re scared that your partner will leave you for someone else. It’s a symptom of a problem in a relationship, not the problem itself, and the only way anyone has ever found to solve problems between two people in love is to communicate.
This is just one of the reasons that you’ll find most questions about poly are answered with the three C’s: communication, communication, communication. In my experience it’s not just poly relationships that benefit from an emphasis on communication either. Everyone can benefit from talking things through with those you love.
Polyamory certainly isn’t for everyone, but I don’t believe monogamy is either. I don’t see any reason why people shouldn’t be just as free to choose how many people they love as they are free to choose who to love. Do you?
Picture credit to Gavin Rutherford.
This article first appeared in The Skinny in August 2011.