Monogamy seems unnatural to many people in today’s high-divorce, disposable relationship society—especially to those with a roving eye. If you’re interested in having relationships with more than one person, polyamory might just be what you’re looking for.
If you aren’t familiar with the term, don’t worry, you’re not alone. Polyamory is simply the non-possessive, honest, and open philosophy of loving multiple people at the same time. The term polyamory comes from the root words Poly, meaning many, and Amour, meaning love—hence the definition, “many loves”. In this case love means a serious, intimate and romantic bond which usually, but not always, involves sex.
The key in defining polyamory is openness. That is, having multiple relationships with the knowledge and consent of your partners, rather than by deceit. Polyamory emphasizes the conscious decision to become involved with more than one person at the same time. This is different from cheating on a partner, as each person you are involved with knows the other or is involved with them too. Polyamorous people don’t lie and say that they are monogamous when they aren’t—they are honest and upfront to all of their partners or prospective lovers.
Most polyamorists have a casual “live and let live” philosophy toward others and don’t try to impress their beliefs on anybody. They believe in true freedom of choice and consider polyamory to be a viable alternative to the one man/one woman norm. However, living this kind of multiple-lover lifestyle is more than simply sleeping around with whoever you choose—all intimate love relationships require maturity and hard work. If you’re simply looking for a roll in the hay, polyamory is not for you.
Polyamorists often vary a great deal in their attitudes toward casual sex. Some don’t see anything wrong with it, while others are totally committed to the small number of loves in their group and don’t look for outside sex. In any case, polyamory is more about creating stable, loving relationships, rather than sport sex. For all the different definitions of what polyamory is, one thing is clear—polyamory is not “swinging”.
Swinging is a form of monogamy in which a married couple agrees to have casual sex with other couples or singles. However, a swinging couple sometimes moves on to polyamory through a desire to become more emotionally involved with their other partners.
Finding people who play the field or cheat on their spouses is pretty common in our society, but finding genuine polyamorists is more difficult. Who is living this lifestyle? It’s impossible to tell—maybe your next door neighbor, your kid’s teacher or your cleaning lady. Who knows? There are no hard and fast statistics on who has embraced the multiple-lover way of life.
If you investigate the polyamoric lifestyle, you will undoubtedly come across a few terms that aren’t familiar to you. One of the most popular styles of polyamory is called “polyfidelity”, otherwise known as a closed group marriage. In polyfidelity, groups of three or more partners consider themselves “married” to each other, living together in the same home and sharing their lives. This group can be made up of any combination of men, women and sexual orientation. These groups are usually sexually exclusive and don’t engage in sexual relations outside of the group.
A less structured arrangement is an “intimate network”. These are informal webs of people who share various levels of bonding and commitment to each other. People in an intimate network often refer to their relationships as “Primary”, “Secondary” or “Tertiary”, depending on the level of commitment involved.
Primary relationships are the closest relationship type, and this person is given the most time and attention. Secondary relationships are also very close but are given less time, energy and consideration than the primary relationship. Tertiary relationships are the most casual of all and may include emotional support or sexuality on a one-time or very sporadic schedule.
Deciding to adopt the polyamoric lifestyle is a matter of personal choice. Many people learn about it from friends or family or by reading books with polyamorous themes, such as Robert A. Heinlein’s Stranger in a Strange Land. Sometimes, upon learning about the lifestyle, a light will go on in a person’s head and they’ll finally have a name for the type of life that seems to be the right fit for them. Many people naturally gravitate to the lifestyle without ever knowing that there are many other people who feel exactly the same way.
If you tend to be the jealous type, this lifestyle could prove a bit difficult for you—you can’t expect to be able to sleep with other people and not let your partners do the same. An open mind is necessary at all times. Many polyamorous people are bisexual, so if this type of sexuality upsets you, you might need to reconsider this arrangement.
There are no hard and fast rules on how to live this kind of life. The best anyone can do is experiment with different living arrangements and find what works best for them. Some people divide up their week evenly between each partner, while others live together in one house or share one bed. Still others choose to live alone and keep their relationships separate from their home life.
The thing to remember is that sexuality is not the most important part of a polyamoric relationship—communication and consideration are. Being polyamoric is no guarantee that a relationship will be easier and not all polyamoric relationships last for the long term.
And being polyamoric doesn’t have to be a lifelong lifestyle change—you can decide to return to monogamy at any time. Whatever is right for your feelings or your relationship at that given time is the right path to choose. The important thing is do be open about your intentions and then do what’s best for your happiness.
Does polyamory feel right to you? Then it’s time to explore the possibility. This could be difficult if you’re already in a monogamous relationship—if your partner isn’t open to the idea, your whole relationship could explode fast. The important thing here is to discuss the possibility with your partner and then go from there. Even if you decide against living polyamorously, by sharing your feelings openly and honestly, you will automatically increase the level of intimacy in your relationship. And that will make any relationship better.