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Wednesday, October 30, 2013

Quick Basic Explanation of Polyamory

With polyamory and polyamorists increasingly becoming topics in media and culture in general, journalists and commentators would do well to know what polyamory is and what it is not.

Polyamory IS loving or having a relationship* with more than one person with the agreement of all. This can be one-on-one at a time, or in a grouping. Having this agreement doesn’t necessarily mean everyone will know everything about all involved and what they do, but it means that nobody involved has falsely promised anyone monogamy.

Since polyamory can manifest in many different ways, it can be helpful to keep in mind what polyamory is NOT…

  • Just about sex, any more than monogamous relationships are just about sex.
  • Cheating. Cheating is interacting with someone in a way that violates a prior, existing commitment to, or condition with, another. For example, it is not cheating for a wife to take on another lover alone if her spouse has agreed to it, even if she doesn’t tell her spouse when it happens, as long as that was the agreement between the spouses. It would be cheating if all three people in a polyamorous triad agreed not to have sex with anyone outside of the triad, and then one of them does.
  • Synonymous with swinging. Swinging is when an established couple, triad, quad, etc. participates as a couple or group in encounters with other couples or groups. It can be a form of polyamory but not all polyamory involves swinging. Some polyamorists swing, some don’t.
  • Synonymous with spouse swapping. Swapping usually means when one couple swaps partners with another couple, whether for one time or on an ongoing basis. It can be a form of polyamory, but not all polyamory involves swapping. Some polyamorists swap, some don’t. For example, there are polyamorous couples in which each individual has one other lover, but those lovers do not know each other. That is NOT swapping.
  • Synonymous with “open relationship.” An open relationship or marriage is one that is not closed to new participants, whether they are short term or long term participants. Some polyamorists are in closed relationships, some are in open relationships. Some are not in relationships at all at the moment.
  • Synonymous with communal living. Some polyamorists live communally, some don’t.Some live with people they do not have sex or a romantic relationship with and have sex or a romantic relationship with people they do not live with.
  • Synonymous with threesomes (whether one night stands or ongoing) or group sex. While some polyamorists enjoy threesomes or group sex, many polyamorists have one-on-one sex only.
  • Synonymous with promiscuity. Some polyamorists have fewer total sexual partners than some professing monogamists.
  • Another way of saying someone is unable to commit, avoiding commitment, or a lack of commitment. Polyamory often involves multiple commitments.
  • Another word for polygamy. Polygamy is marriage to more than one person. I consider polygamy to be a subset of polyamory. Most polyamorists would not describe their relationships as polygamy.
  • For men who “can’t keep it in their pants.” Polyamorists exercise restraint, too.
  • For “weak” people to appease their partner by “letting” their partner have sex with others.
  • Abusive to women. Abusive people abuse people. Polyamorists would not consider it polyamory if a man cheats on a woman, beats her into “agreeing” to “polyamory”, or coerces her into sexual situations. Polyamorous women, like polyamorous men, enjoy polyamory and feel empowered, fulfilled, loved, and that they are loving and meetings the needs of others.
  • An indication that someone is immature. There are people who try polyamory and find it isn’t for them, but polyamory involves maturity as it requires being aware of oneself and being honest and effective in communicating needs and negotiating boundaries, and meeting the needs of others.
  • A fad or something new. The word may be new, but polyamory has existed throughout history, and will continue to exist.
  • An STD superhighway. Polyamorists have a lower rate of STIs than the general population.
  • For amoral or immoral people. Most polyamorists are moral people, often profoundly so. Some people consider polyamory as automatically immoral because it is not monogamy, but most people who say that can’t explain why someone should accept monogamy as the only moral relationship, or they cite a religious tradition that they probably aren’t living by themselves.
  • Harmful to society. A good argument can be made that it is beneficial beyond just the fulfillment of the individuals.
  • Something only strangers or “other” people, do. You probably know polyamorists or interact with them in your daily or weekly life and don't even know it.
  • Associated exclusively with any one political movement or group or any one religious tradition or spiritual philosophy. For example, there are polyamorists who are Atheist, others who are Wiccan, and others who are Christian. In the US, there are polyamorists who are Greens, polyamorists who are Democrats, polyamorists who are Libertarians, and polyamorists who are Republicans.
About the only thing polyamorists have in common is that they are polyamorous.

Polyamory can be expressed in unattached individuals who have ongoing open relationships that consist of casual dates. It can be expressed in closed “V” relationships, or triads/triangles, or quads. There are many, many ways to live a polyamorous life. Relationships that appear to be very different from each other can all be polyamorous.

See here for more.

*a social or personal relationship, no matter how brief, that is not “just” platonic friendship. It could be called one or more of the following: loving, romantic, erotic, physical, sexual, dating, courting, spousal, or marital.
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