What is Polyamory?
The word means “many loves” – having more than one loving person in your life at the same time. It has also been called responsible non-monogamy. It is not about having affairs or cheating on the people you love; everything is in the open and mutually agreed on, there are no secrets or lies. Polyamory is about loving people in a committed, ethical and consensual way.
Isn’t that the same as swinging?
No. As a rule, swinging is friendly sex in a controlled environment where emotional attachment is discouraged. It used to be called “wife swapping”. In contrast, polyamorous relationships might or might not be sexual, but they are loving. Swinging is to polyamory as a one night stand is to falling in love. Polyamory is not primarily about sex, it’s about freedom of choice in loving relationships. Some swingers drift into polyamory over time.
What kinds of relationahips do polys have?
One common pattern is the open marriage where both partners date other people, sometimes the same people. Another common theme is the group marriage – like a typical monogamous marriage, but with more than two people. Triads (three people) are also fairly widespread. Many of these relationships become true families with long-term commitments, children, etc.
What about Jealousy?
Most polys experience some jealousy now and then, but they don’t let it control their lives. Jealousy is like fear or any other unwanted emotion: something to be dealt with and put behind you. When dealt with honestly and unflinchingly, jealousy loses much of its power. Many see jealousy as a signal that something needs investigation and care, much as they would regard depression or pain.
Are there disadvantages to being poly?
There are a few:
- you have to unlearn a lot of conditioning
- you may have to learn how to deal with jealousy
- you have to be very honest with yourself and other people
- you may have to work on your communication skills
- you become a social and sexual deviant in many people’s eyes
- more lovers mean longer good-byes (it can take you 15 minutes to get out the door)
Most of these disadvantages are also advantages.
What sort of people are polys?
People of different ages, backgrounds and from all walks of life are polyamorous. In general, there seems to be a higher than average representation of people with advanced degrees, science fiction fans, computer and health care professionals, pagans and bisexuals. Some people fall into none of these groups. Polys are a pretty diverse bunch, but there are a few common traits and beliefs.
- not terribly insecure or needy or possessive
- good communication skills
- a love of honesty
- an uncommon degree of self-knowledge
- a high priority on personal growth
- take responsibility for their own happiness
- darn good cooks, judging by our potlucks
- strict lifetime monogamy is a myth
- people are not property and can’t be owned
- people have a right to freedom in their choice of relationships and families
- relationships exist to serve us; not the other way around
- no one can meet all your needs for a lifetime
How do polys feel about monogamy?
Most polys have a “live and let live” attitude. They are happy for those people who have found happiness in monogamous relationships. However, most polys are impressed by the fact that the divorce and adultery statistics indicate that monogamy fails a good deal more than it succeeds.
60% of men and 40% of women have extra-marital affairs. More than 50% of marriages now end in divorce.
Polys tend to see the modern American nuclear family as an recent aberration in the course of human history and believe that larger, more complex extended families or tribes have been the natural human family structure. Polys frequently believe that children are better off when they have a broad range of adult role models to relate to, instead of a single, monogamously married couple. Polys do tend to object to our culture’s idealization of monogamy and suppression of alternative lifestyles.