I have a blog post for you today that is a little more positive than a few of my other posts! I’m going to talk about one of my favourite things in the world: polyamory. So, I’m polyamorous and have been for a few years now. (Poly = many. Amorous = love). This means that I date multiple people at the same time, with everyone’s knowledge and consent, in committed and loving relationships. This post will address some common misconceptions and questions that I’ve gotten about being polyamorous, and hopefully it’ll be helpful. If you have any other questions (that aren’t posed maliciously), I’m willing to answer them this time around, so ask away!
#1. People who are polyamorous have commitment issues, which is why they can’t just “pick” one person to be with. I run into this type of thinking a lot (mostly from heterosexual cisgender monogamous people), and I’ll explain things a little here to hopefully lessen the confusion.
First off, I want to stress that I am only representing myself and cannot speak for the entire poly community, and most people that I’ve met each do polyamory a little bit differently. After all, we’re different people with different emotional and physical desires.
Secondly, the idea that monogamy = commitment isn’t accurate. Since monogamy is the dominant ideology in our society, people often assume the dynamics and expectational contract within a relationship are, or should be, the same for everyone. However, each relationship has unique dynamics, and each person has specific needs and expectations. This means that one person’s “committed” is another person’s “smothered” is another person’s “not trying hard enough,” etc.
This means that the question for me isn’t “are you committed?” The question is “what are you committing yourself to, and is this the same expectation that your partner has?”
I am committed to all of my partners in different ways, and we’ve explicitly discussed the expectations and boundaries within our relationships. For real, though, when I start dating someone new, I ask them the question “What are your expectations of this relationship?”
This question does a few things. It A. clarifies that the other person indeed would like to date me B. clarifies the level of physical/emotional/mental connection the other person would like to have with me C. clarifies whether or not the other person is polyamorous or wants to date someone who is and D. opens up dialogue for them to discuss any boundaries or preferences they might have for our interactions.
This means that I am equally as committed to my partner that I see a few times per week as I am to my parter I see twice a month as I am to my partner who I see once in a while, etc. I am committed to whatever expectations we’ve agreed on. Those expectations are just tailored to fit what’s best for each relationship.
#2. People who are polyamorous just want to have a lot of sex. Well, some people like to have a lot of sex, and some people….don’t. Some monogamous people like to have a lot of sex, and some don’t. Some polyamorous people enjoy having a lot of sex, and some don’t. There’s nothing wrong about having a lot of sex, nor is there anything wrong with never having sex. There are some of my partners with whom we’ve agreed it would be a good idea for us to open up a physical relationship, and some partners where that’s just not the case. One isn’t better than the other, and there are many varying shades in between: different types of physical intimacy feel better to different people than others. Some people don’t ever want to have sex, but they do like kissing or cuddling. Some people think a certain type of sex is just the best ever. It all just depends on personal preference and what is consensual and mutually desired in each relationship.
#3. But don’t you get jealous? Once again, I’m assuming this could be answered many ways by many different people, but honestly, I don’t really get jealous. I’m satisfied in all of my relationships, and I have pretty good communication with all of my partners. Many people assume that jealousy is an instinctual emotion, but that’s actually not the case. One of my partners explained it very well like this. So, we have primary emotions such as fear, frustration, dissatisfaction, happiness, shame, guilt, etc. Then we have secondary emotions such as jealousy, distrust, worry, insecurity, anger, disdain, etc. This means that we first feel one of the primary emotions, which is a direct response to something happening, and then we feel a secondary emotion, such as jealousy. For example, when a person sees someone they love kissing someone else, they first feel fear of being left, then they feel jealousy. Or they first feel dissatisfied emotionally or sexually, then they feel jealous. See how that works? The issue often isn’t that the partner broke some sacred rule by kissing someone else; the issue is that one partner feels inadequate, frustrated, or dissatisfied within the relationship, and jealousy/feeling betrayed is a result of those primary emotions.
Does this make everyone who gets jealous a bad person? No, definitely not. What it means for me in my relationships is that if one of my partners get jealous, we address the primary emotion. If one of my partners feels jealousy when I’m talking about another partner, I ask them if I’m paying enough attention to them. I ask them if they’re dissatisfied emotionally in some way, or if they’re frustrated about something else in their life. Then we fix that. This means that we actually address the root of the issue. Even if I never kissed another person in my life, that wouldn’t make the jealousy go away– the jealousy will only go away once the primary emotion is taken care of.
#4. But I mean, like, STIs? It’s just risky to be poly. Once again, this is contingent on the faulty assumption that all of us are banging like rabbits. Also, we are adults that are capable of negotiating boundaries and having safe sex. We can all only control our own actions. This is why I believe in boundary-based relationships instead of rule-based relationships (another idea that I learned from one of my partners). Here’s what I mean. Instead of saying “I forbid you to have unprotected sex with someone else,” which is ultimately a rule attempting to control someone else’s behaviour, I set a boundary: “If you choose to have unprotected sex with someone else, I am going to choose not to have sex with you.” In the second boundary-based statement, I am only controlling my own actions and protecting myself from the risk of STIs by responding appropriately to someone else’s actions. This type of boundary-based communication makes for much healthier and happier relationships, in my experience.
#5. How many people are you dating? Hmmmm that’s a tough one that I get a lot. Honestly, so many people define dating as so many different things. Some people consider it dating when they have sex with people, but some people just have sex and aren’t dating. Some people are dating and never have sex. Some people consider themselves dating even if they live halfway across the country, and some people don’t consider themselves dating even if they see each other every day, go on dates, and live next door. Basically, I ask someone if they think we’re dating and if they’d like me to introduce them as my partner. If they say yes, then I guess we’re dating, whatever that means. By that count, I’m gonna go with maybe three or four?
#6. That’s a lot of people. How do you have time for that? Well, I have a planner and excellent time management skills. If you’re not willing to be scheduled into my life, then you’re probably not going to enjoy dating me. Also, like, most people have more than one friend, and somehow that works out? It’s almost like we have time for more than one person in our lives. (Aaaand the snark comes out).
#7. ORGIES??? Not for me. Thanks, though. Maybe later.
Alright, I want to keep this blog post pretty short, but it might grow with more questions in the future. In closing, healthy relationships are based off of respect, communication, and honesty, regardless of what type or how many people you’re dating. Also, consent, consent, consent!