You may have heard the term “polyamory” or “polyamorous” and aren’t quite sure what that means.
I am not poly myself, so I drafted my wonderful friend, Audrey, to help me answer some of your burning questions.
What is polyamory? Is it the same as polygamy?
Audrey: Polyamory is the act of having multiple romantic and sexual partners. Usually (but not always), all parties have or are interested in having multiple relationships. Polygamy is when one man has multiple female partners (or wives) and often the women are subservient to the man.
Does it have to do with religion?
Audrey: No, it does not. Polygamy however is often associated with Mormonism (specifically fundamentalist Mormonism). This is when one man has multiple wives, but the wives do not have any other partners (and it would be cheating if they did).
Is it normal?
What is the difference between polyamory and open relationships?
Audrey: Polyamory is about multiplying love [and relationships] whereas non-monogamy (or open relationships) can be about that, but is more often about multiplying sexual encounters. For example, some people in long distance relationships are open sexually, but not romantically and if the two parties lived in the same place they would be monogamous.
Is there a hierarchy?
Audrey: People like to say there isn’t, but the amount of time you have to devote to each partner is limited, so for me, there is a hierarchy. I have a primary partner [person I spend the most time with] and my primary has a different partner that is married, so she is secondary to his wife. I am in two other relationships (one with a man and one with a woman) and they are both secondaries to my primary partner, simply because of time constraints and distance.
Can you cheat in a poly relationship?
Audrey: Yes. People often assume that poly equals promiscuous. It doesn’t. If I wanted to have casual sex that would be something I would have to discuss with my partners as part of the rules of our relationships. If I had casual sex without consulting them first, that would be cheating just as it would be in a monogamous setting.
Are all polyamorous people gay?
Audrey: No. Polyamory is separate from sexual orientation. You can be in multiple straight relationships and still be poly. However, many poly people identify as queer because they deviate from the social norm of straight monogamy.
What about jealousy?
Audrey: A lot of people think that to be poly means you don’t feel jealousy at all, which isn’t true because jealousy is part of being human. We also have these societal norms [that we should be monogamous] that are put on us and it is hard to move away from those. For me, it isn’t about having those jealous feelings, but rather how I address them.
The biggest part of dealing with jealousy is communication and I think poly people are really good at communicating about jealousy within their relationships. Monogamous people just aren’t forced to talk about jealousy the way that poly people are.
Does it last?
Audrey: Yes. I have been in two of my relationship for many years. If one of my partners decides to have children with a different partner that might change things, but it isn’t impossible to be married and poly (ie my male partner has a wife). Sometimes long-term relationships are limited by time or distance and so they end, but monogamy is not the end goal of polyamory. Circumstance affects poly relationships the same way it affects monogamous relationships.
And finally, how do I change my language to include poly people?
Audrey: When asking people about relationships say partner or partners, don’t assume they only have one. Don’t assume that every time someone talks about a partner that they are talking about the same person. Don’t assume the norms of society apply to everyone. Just be open to the idea that polyamory isn’t the same as promiscuity. Don’t assume that poly people don’t have rules or that they can’t cheat or that they’re all sluts. Basically, be open minded and considerate.
Have any other questions? Sound off in the comments below!
COVER IMAGE COURTESY OF SHUTTERSTOCK.