*photo from Wikipedia
“Can you write about polyamory, non-monogamy, progressive sexuality, and maybe even a bit about orgies?”
Best. Assignment. Ever.
Hi. I’m Andrew, and welcome to my series on Polyamory! Over the coming weeks it will be my pleasure to impart some of the wisdom I’ve acquired through my own experiences, in the hopes of enlightening and opening the minds of, I hope at least some of you out there!
Oh, and orgies? We’ll get there too.
In case you haven’t noticed, there’s a cultural shift in the ways that relationships, sexuality, and love are being approached these days. The topic of non-monogamous relationships and polyamory, which used to only be discussed in the dark corners of the internet, is now being covered in major media outlets.
There are a lot of misconceptions about non-monogamous relationships, but as someone who identifies as poly, the question I’m most often asked is simply, “What the fuck does that mean?” …. along with about a thousand other questions about jealousy and commitment, of course. So let’s dive in.
Technically speaking, the word ‘polyamory’ translates to ‘many loves,’ and so in a purist sense, being polyamorous simply means being romantically involved with more than one person. However, to add to the confusion (and to the chagrin of many people within the polyamory community), the term ‘poly’ has come to be used almost as a short form slang or a catch-all term to represent a wide variety of ethically non-monogamous romantic and sexual relationship styles.
As an example, someone who identifies as ‘poly’ might be romantically exclusive (or ‘in love’) with just one partner, but sexually non-exclusive. While this may not technically make them polyamorous (this is technically an open relationship), it still tends to get lumped into the broader ‘poly’ umbrella, as it challenges and rejects the idea of monogamous relationships.
Still other relationships might involve two people, one of whom is monogamous and one of whom is poly, which is typically referred to as ‘mono/poly’ (not to be confused with Monopoly, an infuriatingly long game which I am quite good at losing). Mono / poly relationships might seem ‘unfair’ to someone on the outside…. if one person is ‘allowed’ to be with other people, then so, too, should the other. However, like ALL relationships in the poly realm, the structure and terms are highly negotiated and agreed upon.
For those who are polyamorous in the classic sense, meaning they are in love with more than one person, their relationships can be set up in a variety of different ways. Two people may have a ‘primary’ relationship with each other (a term which many people find problematic) such as a marriage or long-term partnership, and then have outside loving relationships as well. Others may be involved in several relationships that overlap each other, or a group of people (aka a ‘pack’) may all be in a singular relationship.
Confused by all the ‘structures’? Consider this…
You know how we’re taught by society that relationships should be sexually exclusive, and we can only truly be in love with one person at a time, and that person is our ‘one true soul mate,’ and that if we want to be with someone else either sexually or romantically then we must not truly be in love?
Poly is basically….. well…. Not. This.
While the variations may be overwhelming, what it means in a practical sense is that there’s no ‘right way’ to be non-monogamous, which affords people the freedom to define their relationships on their own terms…. Which, to be honest, is pretty much the point.
Finally, the general public is starting to question whether monogamy should be the default setting for all relationships, or if another, more progressive way of setting up our relationships can be equally as acceptable. I say ‘finally’ because for me, monogamy never made much sense. I’ll share my personal path to polyamory in part 2 of this post, coming soon.