Opening up a discussion about polyamory and non-monogamy tends to lead to more questions than answers. Here are some common misconceptions people have brought up to me after I’ve identified as poly to hopefully shed some light:
“Poly people think monogamy is wrong.”
Being poly is not a condemnation of monogamy. Seriously. If you’re monogamous and are happy being monogamous, then go for it. In general, people who identify as poly are ambassadors for the concept of choice more than anything, so while it may not work for me, I fully recognize that some people are perfectly happy being monogamous.
Here’s the thing, though…. For a lot of people, monogamy DOESN’T work, yet it’s still their default. I have no idea what percentage of people cheat because it’s impossible to know (sorry, but polls on this topic can’t be entirely accurate), but here’s a shocker: It’s a lot. Even if you don’t cheat, there’s no denying that for most people, sexual desire extends beyond their partner, as does desire for romantic connection.
So while I don’t think monogamy is wrong, I DO think that we as a society should question whether monogamy should be put on a pedestal as the ultimate relationship structure. I’m also a big fan of people looking inwards to decide what kind of relationship or relationships they feel works for them, instead of defaulting to… well, the default!
“You’re just afraid of commitment”
Nope nope nope.
Look, poly people aren’t any more or any less afraid of commitment than others simply because they’re poly. Many people I know who identify as poly are in long term marriages or relationships, have children together, own homes together, and are deeply committed to their partnership with each other (or others).
Being poly doesn’t mean we don’t value commitment, connection, and faithfulness. Those words just mean different things to people in poly relationships. We’re taught from a young age that commitment MUST involve monogamy, but it’s possible to have one without the other.
“You must live in a constant state of jealousy!”
Actually, not really. Look, I won’t lie and say that all poly people are 100% immune to feelings of jealousy, and obviously, I can only speak for myself. But as someone who has experienced being in a relationship with someone who has other partners, I’m fortunate to be in tune with a much more powerful emotion: compersion.
Compersion is, to be blunt, a fucking great feeling to have. Basically, it means getting joy out of someone else’s happiness, pleasure, or enjoyment, even if you’re not directly involved in whatever they’re doing that makes them happy.
Have you ever been at a wedding and been genuinely happy for the bride and groom? Or been happy for one of your friends who got a job? Why? It doesn’t really affect your life that much. But the joy and happiness you feel is real, because someone who you care about is doing something that brings THEM joy.
Compersion is this same feeling, but applied to sex and/or romantic connection. Trust me, it’s wayyyy better than feeling jealous. Once you grasp this concept and explore it fully, jealousy becomes far less frequent.
“So It’s all just about sex and orgies then?”
I’ll be honest….Threesomes, foursomes, sex parties, etc. have happened a lot more frequently in my world ever since I came to grips with my sexuality and started identifying as poly. But this is a consequence of becoming authentic about my sexual outlook, namely that I would consider myself to be more sexually adventurous and open to experiences that may not be considered ‘traditional.’ It’s NOT a core component of being poly.
It’s probably true that a sexually progressive mindset is more common in people who identify as non-monogamous, but this doesn’t mean that poly people are necessarily more focused on adventurous sex. Some people who are poly may only have one-on-one, straightforward, ‘normal’ sex, and that doesn’t make them any less poly (if it were possible to grade someone’s polyness, which it isn’t).
Besides – if you think being poly is all about sex, it’s not. Sure, it’s part of it, like it is in any relationship, but it’s also about exploration, connection, freedom, independence, love, romance, fun, compassion, and being authentic with yourself and with others.
“If you’re in a relationship with two people, then don’t you have to split your love between them?”
No, because love is not a grapefruit.
If you have a child that you love, and then you have a second child, does your love for your first child has to diminish so that you can give some to your second? Hell no!
Sure you may have to divide your time up differently, and you won’t necessarily be able to spend as much time one-on-one with each, but it’s ludicrous to suggest that love is a finite resource that is diluted when spread across more than one person.
The idea of polyamory can be confusing, complex, and scary. But for me, my life has been thoroughly enriched by the authenticity, limitless love, and profoundly enjoyable connections I’ve made as a result of living the polyamorous lifestyle. I’ve grown as a person, a partner, a companion, and a friend…. and isn’t that what ALL relationships should be about?