What is polyamory? What would it mean to become polyamorous? Polyamory is much more prevalent than you may think.
Earlier in its history, polyamory was often called non-monogamy. It was a reaction to the social norm of monogamous coupling, which to many seemed artificial and arbitrary. People began to notice that the underpinnings of so-called normal society, where people are supposed to get married and remain with only that person for the rest of their lives. This is what is expected by most, as anything else will threaten the very nature of relationships and possibly society.
Since that time, polyamory has had time to mature into a community that advocates more than just mere non-monogamy. We are a group of people that understand that relationships of all kinds already exist in our lives. When we are able to share our lives with many different people in many different ways, then we benefit greatly as a result. We have learned to share our lives in ways that eschew the assumed normality of sexual monogamy. That, and only that, is the difference between polyamory and what people think of as normal. In order to live a polyamorous lifestyle, all you have to do is to not accept the automatic assumption of monogamy as the goal of any romantic or sexual relationship.
Non-monogamy is already a part of the normal world. It’s just that the apparent distinct difference of this radical idea from what we are used to, because of its association with polygamist cults and other groups that genuinely manipulate people into non-monogamous situations, make us uncomfortable with the idea before we even know what it is. That is, we distance ourselves from non-monogamy because it seems radical and fringe. It isn’t.
The fact is that we already do this in society. We have friends who fulfill roles for us that our significant other cannot or does not. And over the years, in most relationships, there will be times when we act on our sexual desires in ways that eschew the monogamous lives that we try to pursue. I’m sure that you, my dear reader, can imagine a plethora of examples where this could happen and yet its occurrence does nothing to make you love your partner any less, but would only add to the depth of your life. If we as a society understood this, then we would not assume monogamy as the automatic value and goal of a relationship, and polyamory would feel as natural as it actually is.
Often, when faced with situations where we find ourselves drawn to someone else sexually, we may act on it in secret. And this, my friends, will almost always lead to problems in one or both of these relationships. The error is thinking that because this secretive situation is destructive, then therefore talking with your wife, husband, etc about the possibility to a sexual relationship with others will necessarily be destructive. If your relationship is built on trust, honesty, and and openness, this conversation may lead you to discover things about your relationship you didn’t know were possible.
We all have insecurities and jealousies, and these are some of the reasons why we remain monogamous. But if you and your partner are secure enough with yourselves and with the stability and strength of your relationship, you may be able to discard the assumed monogamy and discover that you are capable of a shared kind of love with others out there that can act as a boon to everyone involved. We are complex beings with various needs, and we cannot allow our insecurities to limit ourselves because of these unspoken fears. Finding one person to satisfy our every desire is exceptionally rare, I’d bet, and when it does happen I am happy to see it. But I don’t think that this ideal circumstance is most monogamous relationships look like. It seems that most couplings amount to a willingness to resign to the belief that there are certain things that we will not be able to have because our partner cannot fulfill it. We are social and sexual beings, and to impose the constraint of sexual monogamy must be explained; why do we assume this constraint in the first place?
Trying to limit ourselves to one sexual and romantic partner leads to cheating, repression, or to some form of serial monogamy. Why? Because in feeling a desire that our current partner cannot fulfill, we find someone who can in secret, we repress the desire, or we simply find someone new and dump the old. And then we often discover that there are things about our ex that we miss, and thus the cycle continues. Eventually, hopefully, we find someone who is close enough to what we really want, and we settle. We do this for the sake of the more long term goals of family, children, and a life of growing together. And with polyamory, you are able to have all of that, except that it can be shared with other people as well.
So, is a polyamorous lifestyle right for you? My guess is that there are many people out there who are already practicing some form of polyamory and don’t know it. You see, polyamory does not have to include sex to be polyamory (although it is often more fun when it does). Polyamory might mean having a very close friendship with someone besides your lover, someone who spends time with your and your lover. Perhaps they even live with you or spend their weekends with you because you love their company so much. It might mean it’s someone you would like to have a sexual relationship with, but don’t because you think that this would be damaging to your current relationship. Maybe that is true, but maybe it isn’t.
Polyamory is natural. Sharing ourselves in various ways is natural. Assuming monogamy is cultural. Repressing or secretly acting on our desires is only the result of accepting certain sexual and social mores that, upon reflection, seem unnatural. They are not unnatural (nothing is, in my opinion), but some cultural expressions make more sense when examined next to what we really desire and what we are actually capable of when we grow past our childish jealousies and insecurities.
Is polyamory right for you? I think it’s right for most people to some degree. The boundaries of any relationship will have to be discussed between all involved, and for some the result will look like monogamy and for others it will look like polyamory. Everyone has different needs, and I think that polyamory provides our world with a view of an expression of needs to many more people if they are open to the idea.