- Responsible non-monogamy
- Having multiple relationships, including both romantic and/or sexual connections, with more than one person.
- relationships which don’t have rules against any partner pursuing other sexual or romantic relationships.
The basic idea is that a person who is polyamorous is not (get this) monogamous, at least not necessarily. A person who is in a polyamorous relationship may find themselves in a monogamous circumstance because neither person is currently involved with another person. Although one or both of them may find themselves interested in others at some later time. In that case honesty, openness, and a little courage can make both free to pursue what they want, when they want it.
To be polyamorous, your other relationships need to be consented to by all, and at least known about by all. Not everyone has to be friends, lovers, etc, but they should at least know that the other partners you have exist, and possibly some basic biographical details. Having another girlfriend that your wife does not know about, even if you think she wouldn’t mind, is not doing it right (for example).
“But, monogamy is natural and normal!”
It is normal in our western culture, at least in the statistical sense. But is it normal in terms of a larger perspective on human behavior? Does it match up with our inclinations, desires, and what would be healthy for us as a species? Perhaps for some, but not for many.
There are a number of books which address the issue of whether monogamy is natural, such as:
and probably many others. But without getting into the content of those books, the simple way to address the question is to point out the fact that most people don’t pair-bond with one person throughout their lives. That is, even if we are serially monogamous, we do have interest in different (types of) people throughout our lives. So why do we suppress this inclination and not date in parallel as well as serially?
Also, people cheat constantly. That goes against any argument that monogamy is normal, even in the statistical sense. If we didn’t want to be with other people besides our partner (whom we care about, ideally), cheating would not be such an issue. And there would be a lot less country music.
I’d bet that many people already have circumstances that would be on the edge of polyamory already, and just don’t think about it that way. Even if a person is in a committed and exclusive relationship, they often do have close friends whom we love, some of which we may be sexually attracted to. Why limit ourselves to one person sexually and/or romantically based upon cultural expectations, jealousies, and fears?
Why not love all the people we love, the way we love them, while simultaneously challenging our deep insecurities about ourselves, our partners’ desires, and our capability to maintain meaningful relationships with more than one person?
Are we swingers?
Yes, some poly people attend swinger parties, do some more casual partner swapping, and even have what might be called poly Zipcar situations. But many poly people are what is called polyfidelitous, which means that we are committed and exclusive with a set of people, and don’t venture outside of that.
The structure of polyamorous relationships are as varied as your imagination. Be committed to 100 people or marry one and have hot sex with 1000, with various levels of intimacy with each. As the Burger King says (and it’s good to be the king!) have it your way!
(make sure to get consent first)
Oh, also, allow your partners to have it their way, too. Don’t you want your partners to be happy?
Rules and negotiation
I don’t think that everyone should be, or even could be, polyamorous. Of course, I don’t think some people are mature enough to handle one relationship, let alone two or more.
I just think that monogamy should not be the default relationship structure in our culture (or any culture!), entered into without discussing what each person wants. I think if two people are happy with each other and feel no desire to be with others, either sexually or romantically (although if they have no other friends, I’d be concerned), then I’m happy for them and would not push them to be polyamorous. I would ask them to not ignore their needs and desires which may include other people, for the sake of their happiness, both individually and as a couple.
That is, monogamy should be agreed upon, not done automatically due to either social social expectation or in bowing to jealousy. Ideally, the agreement should not be forced or unnatural.
What negotiated monogamy should not look like:
- we will not pursue other romantic or sexual relationships in order not to challenge our jealousies and other insecurities or social convention
What negotiated monogamy should look like:
- neither of us feels the desire to be with others right now, and so we are not. And if this changes, we will re-evaluate without merely bowing to insecurity or social convention
In summary, negotiate your own rules for your relationship, rather than merely adopt social conventions which may or may not reflect your desires and needs.
Relationship skills (especially good for being polyamorous)
Communication, communication, communication!
That will be the most important words to keep in mind as a person in a relationship. Especially the last one, since it was bold-faced.
Oh yeah, (by the way), if you are going to maintain two or more separate relationships, if you don’t communicate what you fear, love, want, etc then you will have serious relationship problems. More so than not communicating when monogamous, although that’s bad too.
Be honest, starting with yourself, about what you want, what you need (to be happy, not merely to exist), and what boundaries you have for your partners.
For example, your partners need to know that you hate being tickled, love being tickled, that you are insecure about letting other people tickle your partner, or even if you want desperately to watch your partner get tickled by 7 well-muscled men and women…with a broom and some stork feathers.
(it’s your kink, don’t look at me that way!)
If you are around poly people long enough, you will run into some kinky people. You will not like all of what you see. Some of what you see may excite you in ways you didn’t think was possible for [insert kink here].
One strength of polyamory is that if you fall in love with someone who likes something you either don’t want to do or don’t get much (or any) pleasure from doing, they can find someone who loves that thing too. And everyone is happy!
So, explore your kinks and allow your partners to explore theirs. If you have none, you are not boring. Think of not having a kink as your kink.
You dirty, kinky, slut you!
Sex is a good thing. It’s fun, it’s exercise, and liking and wanting it is not a bad thing. Be as much (or as little) of a slut as you want to be with as many (or few) as you like. The poly people you meet will range from barely sexual to uber sexual. Manage your relationships however you like, and have what you want from whom you want it.
Life is too short to pass up fun, friendship, and love with all the wonderful people out there.
So go out and poly up the place! Who cares what the Religious Right thinks!
Want more information? Start by reading The Ethical Slut
Also, see Shaun’s history with polyamory