Is polyamory a way out for the cheating bastards or a trend for the oversexualized Millennials who just want to explore and have fun? One thing is for sure, polyamory still has a negative connotation, but what is polyamory, really?
First thing first, don’t confuse them with swingers! Swingers will sleep around, but may fall in love. Don’t mistake them either for the patriarchal, polygamous marriages. No, in a polyamorous relationship, everyone is quite equal, and might be emotionally and intimately involved. Yes, a one nightstand can happen, but there is always a possibility to connect deeply and a level of honesty that is not always existent in swingers’ behaviors.
“It’s an identity, says Celeste, a 30-year-old woman living in San Francisco, who’s been polyamorous since she started having sexual relationships in high school. It’s about my choice to make connections. I want to be open to all possibilities. We might have a passionate one night stand, become friends for life, or fall deeply in love.”
While this might sound like freedom for some, having multiple relationships to maintain with partners all leading different lifestyles and feelings can be fulfilling, exciting, fun, but also very exhausting. Think about it, if a monogamous relationship is a lot of work, what about having three or more partners?
“Between my three partners, spending time with friends and family, and maintaining a life, career, and hobbies, my life is pretty damn busy these days, says Paula, a 33-year-old woman from Baltimore who became polyamorous within the first year of her marriage. Google calendar is super helpful for keeping track of dates.”
Getting organized, planning dates and making everyone feel special, it makes us wonder: why would anyone put themselves in such a mess?
“The benefits are obvious, says Celeste. More love! Take the best relationship you’ve ever had and multiply it. Sometimes, the sheer amount of love I experience overwhelms me. It feels like it’s going to burst out my chest!”
More love. It sounds amazing. After all, all we need is love, don’t we? However, then again, for many people, love comes with jealousy. A natural feeling that is often hard to control. Suddenly, the multi-love affairs seem like a burden again.
“Jealousy is not easily dealt with, admits Alexander, a 24-year-old man living in Texas who has been polyamorous since going into university. It’s like many other emotions in that it can’t be controlled. You have to alleviate it through discussion.”
Discussion. How often have we heard that communication is key in a healthy relationship? Because of their lifestyles, those who are polyamorous have one clear advantageous over monogamous: they are the masters of communication. Why? They don’t have a choice. And each of our interviewees has different methods.
“I call these conversations war council, continues Alexander. We sit opposite one another at a table in absolute solitude, and discuss the current state of our affairs. This is the time to voice jealousy, potential lovers, changes of behavior, everything. From there, we can move forward with our healthy alliance.”
“Last year, I became interested in someone whom my husband worked with, who also happened to be polyamorous, recalls Paula. Instead of entering into a situation I knew would be painful and ethically dubious for everyone involved, I made my decision to be open with my husband about my feelings but not pursue a relationship with the person while the conflict of interest was present.”
One thing is for sure, jealousy is the least of the problems of polyamorous lovers. If one thing causes them quite a dilemma, it’s our society’s norms. While Celeste is fully open about her lifestyle, Paula (and her husband) and Alexander are still in the coming out process.
“These norms can cause anxiety about being found out, damage relationships, ruin careers, tear apart families and so on”, says Paula.
But no matter how many difficulties they can go through, Paula, Celeste, and Alexander won’t change their lifestyles. For them, being honest with themselves represents happiness and freedom.
*these names have been changed in order to preserve the privacy of the interviewees.