I am polyamorous. There. I said it. Safely under the guise of a pseudonym and a friend of a friend’s website. Not very courageous but a step towards voice and authenticity nonetheless (thanks, Get Woke Coven).
Navigating this lifestyle is newer to me – the how’s and why’s of getting here will be addressed via future posts. This piece intends, instead, to dispel some of the misconceptions associated with polyamory. I recognize that I am new to this and not an expert by any measure, so readers should explore other resources (books, podcasts, online communities, etc.) as well to round out their understanding.
What is polyamory?
- Poly = many, amor = love – essentially it is the desire and capacity for many loves.
- Polyamory falls under ethical non-monogamy, but it is its own entity. Rather than engaging in consensual no strings attached (“NSA”) or friends with benefits (“FWB”) hookups or even swinging, polyamory involves more in-depth relationships with multiple partners, even (hopefully) love.
- Our version and vision of polyamory differs from other couples/triads/practitioners. Based on what I’ve seen, there are as many versions as there are people practicing it. Ex. My husband and primary partner is not poly. He’s only in a relationship with me. But if he describes our relationship at poly meetings, he is asked about it, goaded even – is he for real?, doesn’t he want for us to have a threesome?, why doesn’t he want additional partners too??? Presumptuous to be sure, from companions in a movement intent on changing societal norms and allowing each person to be open and free to define the relationship configuration that works for them. Go figure.
- Worth repeating. My/our version of polyamory is different from yours. For me, polyamory does not include hookups, threesomes, swinging/swapping, etc. It’s about having committed and loving relationships with multiple (here, 2) partners. I hate assumptions. Please don’t make them. I’ll do the same for you.
Is poly kink?
- Maybe? Depends on your partners and you. Do you like kink? Do your partners like kink? Then absolutely it can and should be! In fact, a lot of people get into polyamory to explore sexual interests that their primary partner can’t or won’t engage in. From that perspective, it takes the burden of being and providing “everything” off the primary partner and allows one to be their whole self through relationships with multiple partners.
- By itself, inherent in the practice, I’d say no. Being poly doesn’t equate to being into swinging, or threesomes, or knock the roof off with whips and chains kink. Poly is multiple loves. The definition ends there. It is often labeled kink (see picture below, from an actual counseling website) because it is a fringe topic that clinicians and scientists what to label and categorize.
Is being poly selfish?
- By normative standards, yes. I’ve done self-work around this word. Selfish is what some friends have called me – I’m taking more than my “fair share” of partners in a world with limited worthy men.
- No. That’s scarcity mindset. That’s also projection. I am in consensual, meaningful and loving relationships with 2 adult men. They are both busy with work and life and, at the moment, I’m able to meet their relationship needs. And, together, they’re able to meet mine. The assumption that one person can meet all of your relationship/love needs doesn’t work for everyone (see podcast for an example on how we as a society get love wrong and expect too much from one person – https://onbeing.org/programs/alain-de-botton-the-true-hard-work-of-love-and-relationships-aug2018/). Polyamory is a creative, loving solution to relationship challenges and expectations, such as one partner making you a whole person and satisfying all of your needs (no one can do that for you – you have responsibility for your wholeness and your needs).
Related: if you are poly, are you emotionally needy?
- If you’re asking this of me, then probably yes, I would seem that way to you.
- But no, I am not needy. I’m intense with a big emotional, sensory life and capacity for loving. At least capacity enough for 2 wonderful men. I couldn’t add another depth partner and know my limits. If I was truly needy, I wouldn’t be satisfied here – insatiable, I’d still be seeking. I’m not seeking. I’m held and loved and satiated.
What about family, friends, neighbors, kids? Are you “out”? Are your partners out?
- Still navigating this. We have told a few people, each, in varied situations. The broad groups I’ll address are friends, family, and co-workers. I’ve shared the most with my close friends, only because not doing so felt inauthentic and like lying by omission. My partners have told fewer people – is this because men lack deep friendships, in general? Perhaps. Is this because of societal norms that suggest that it’s (more) normal for men to have multiple partners? What if their woman does? (Is this emasculating?). I don’t think so. It’s almost the opposite – them being comfortable with our relationship and confident that they are “enough” without having to be “everything” means something, and they should be proud of that.
- As for family, I am not close to my biological family, so I would address this in an as-needed basis.
- And to me, co-workers shouldn’t be concerned with my love life, as long as it is non-harming and consensual, so there is no need for me to “go there” with them.
- Neighbors: I live in the suburbs. Conformity appears to be the rule here, for most things – to step outside can be a risk. . I suspect most of the neighbors would not be supportive of my practice
- Kids: this doesn’t apply to me, yet. But, for the polyamorous, parenting topics and concerns fall under co-parenting. If parenting while polyamorous and the partners want to be involved with the “pollywogs” (the name for kids in this relationship set up) applies to you, start your research there (i.e. “co-parenting”).
From my perspective, critical components to practicing polyamory, and really any juicy, sustainable relationship, include communication, honesty, and trust. You need to be comfortable with the taboo (ex talking to partners about STI testing and managing potential jealousy or conflict between partners) or at least willingness to “go there” and put the topics on the table during conversation.
Another requirement: base-level emotional competency. If you can’t name your emotions, you probably can’t talk to your partner(s) about them, leaving you stuck to process on your own (likely ineffectually or inefficient without the context and more objective view of your partners). Trust in this relationship set up is foundational – beyond just the need-to-know for sexual safety and disease, you have to trust your partners to speak up if needs and desires arise (communication + honesty + emotional intelligence), you have to trust your partners to check in on you (more communication), you have to trust in the ability of a group to lovingly and ethically pave their own path in a society that labels poly as fringe (if it even labels poly at all; usually it is dismissed or ignored by the culture and its monogamy-or-nothing standard). Making your own way can feel lonely, scary, and unsupported. But done right, the journey can be incredibly liberating, flexible, loving, and authentic. The partners help make the path – choose wisely.
Polyamory isn’t for everyone. But it is a creative relationship solution that works for some (many even? Did you know there are conventions specific to polyamory? See https://polyevents.blogspot.com/ )
Thanks for being curious and open and for receiving these words. – LT
AM, editor, here. This topic, polyamory, has come up recently for several friends, and I am happy to have and share LT’s words. For questions, comments, or collaboration, please email us at firstname.lastname@example.org. All words are copyright protected. Main picture (trees) is from Pexels.