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There are all kinds of myths about Polyamory. Here are some of the questions and concepts I am faced with when people are trying to grasp Polyamory but come at it from a position of stereotypical monogamous mindsets:
Alright! Group Sex! -
With so many partners, you must get laid a lot! (a.k.a. the "Playa" myth) -
It is common for a couple in the early stages of their relationship to have lots of sex at first, and maybe that tapers off as time passes. And since poly people have the ability to start new relationships while enjoying an ongoing relationship, then theoretically it's possible for poly people to engage in the New Relationship Excitement practice of shagging like bunnies more often or for longer periods than monogamous people who have long-term monogamous relationships where the initial NRE has worn off and they can't start a new one until the old one ends. But the reality is, in my experience and observation, that with so many emotional relationships going on at once, we tend to spend a lot of time processing about relationships and our emotions, and not nearly as much time shagging as some of us would like. A common poly joke is "More sex? Hell, I spend so much time talking, I hardly ever get laid!"
So you can take the best parts of 2 different guys and make 1 perfect man! -
For instance, maybe one of your partners enjoys dancing and another really likes quiet evenings at home and taking care of the house. But chances are that they probably have quite a few things in common with each other since they all share things in common with you. You might also find that some activity or interest you want to share with a partner is not present in any of your current partners. Another interesting phenomenon that also happens is that each relationship has different needs and you might find that you desire a particular quality, not in general, but with a specific partner only. For example, some people think they need massive amounts of "alone time" or "me-time" and personal space. They tend to feel closed in or claustrophobic if they don't have their own bedroom or office space or even their own house entirely. But then, they might get into a relationship where this partner does not threaten or confine their need for "alone time" and they find they can be happy with less space or less time apart than they thought. What happens is that they needed X amount of hours in "me-time" with a particular partner, but they don't have that same need with another partner. In addition, relationship "needs" are not transitive. If you desire Quality Time with one partner and aren't getting it, getting Quality Time with another doesn't solve that problem.
The trick here is to see yourself as a complete and whole individual, worthy of love. Once you see yourself like that, your partners cease to be puzzle pieces that you try to fit into your life to create "a whole" happiness. They instead become what they are ... people who enrich and add to your quality of life, rather than people who are responsible for your happiness. You can then enjoy them for the benefits they bring to you (and you to them) without expecting them to provide your happiness for you ... because we are each responsible for our own happiness and expecting someone else to provide it will undoubtedly lead to failure. For more on this subject, read Some Thoughts On Needs, Objectification, & The Magic Genital Effect where Tacit talks about people as need fulfillment machines.
So, polyamory is just cheating then? -
Oh, so polyamory is like swinging! -
One way to look at it is like this: Swinging is recreational sex; there may or may not be love. Polyamory is multiple loves; there may or may not be sex.
So you just have a bunch of friends then? -
Polyamory is for people who can't commit. -
All that screwing around sounds dangerous, there must be a problem with STDs. -
Polyamory is harmful for children. -
When it comes right down to it, proponents of this theory will usually get to the root issue, which is a fear that the kids will be exposed to all kinds of kinky sex orgies. Monogamous people are just as likely as poly people to engage in kinky sex. Which is to say there are people in both relationship styles who enjoy bizarre sex games and people who enjoy basic, missionary sex and everything in between. The big difference is that a poly family will tend to develop tools for open communication and be more comfortable discussing difficult topics like sex and health and emotional issues, and would therefore be potentially more capable of healthy conversations and education with their children about these same issues. Just as monogamous people are expected to use discretion when it comes to exposing their children to sexuality, poly people are capable of the same level of discretion. In other words, what happens in the bedroom is just as likely to stay in the bedroom. Don't overlook the fact that not all poly families have children. Some of us are Childfree By Choice and our families include adults but not children.
There is not much in the way of research for polyamory, compared to other forms of relationships or other societies, but the body of research is growing. We know from several longitudinal studies that children of same-sex parents turn out to be just about as well-adjusted as children of opposite-sex parents - that is, whether they are well-adjusted or not depends on other factors like how stable the parents' relationship is and what kind of parents they are, rather than the sex of the parents. And we also now have the first longitudinal studies of children in in poly families. Dr. Elisabeth Sheff released a book in 2013 about her many-year study of children in poly families. And in her book, she found the same conclusions as the same-sex studies - that the mental and emotional health of the children has to do with how stable the parental figures' relationships are and what kinds of parents they are, and that gender and number of adults has very little influence over the children's well-being. Which, given the tribal nature of childrearing for the bulk of human history, shouldn't really be a big surprise. As long as the adults love the kids and provide them with a stable roof over their heads, decent food to eat, attention, and appropriate discipline, kids turn out just fine no matter how many of the adults are in the house or what they do with their private parts.
C'mon, seriously, how do the kids even know who their parents are if all the grown-ups are sleeping together? -
As an adopted child myself, I was raised in a monogamous, Christian home with adults who have been married since high school and are still married. And yet, I know who my parents are. My biological parents are the two teenagers who provided my genetic material, and my mom and dad are the man and woman who raised me, sacrified for me, and dedicated their lives to providing me with a firm foundation of love, discipline, and responsibility. I have four "parents", and I know which of them are which type of parent - the ones who created me and the ones who raised me. It wasn't rocket science. I was able to grasp the concept of multiple parents, and multiple parental roles, from a very early age. There has never been a time when I wasn't aware of my adopted status, and there are no memories of a time when I didn't understand who my parents were. I understood as much as my age allowed me to comprehend, and my understanding grew more nuanced as I aged.
When I was 3 years old, I knew that I was adopted and that my mommy did not grow me in her tummy like other mommies, but that I had another mother out there somewhere who did and who loved me enough to give me to someone who could take better care of me. I was not told, and could not have understood even if I had been told, about sex at that time. It was not explained to me who had sex with whom until it became relevant to know and I was the appropriate age. And even then, I wasn't given any details of any of my parents' sex lives. I was educated about sex and from there I extrapolated the likely relevant details, just as all kids intuitively understand that their parents have or had sex (once they learn what sex is) without anyone having to actually tell them about their parents' sex lives and without needing to know the details of what those sex lives look like. My nephew was similarly raised by his single mother (my sister) in the house where she lived with our adopted parents - so he had 4 parental figures, his mother, his grandparents, and me, his auntie. He never had any problem understanding which of those 4 people were whom and he was never privy to the sex lives of any of us.
Poly families are no different - children are told who the biological parents are, who the other parental figures are that they are to listen to as "parents", and who are the adults in their lives that they are to respect as adults but who are not parental figures, just as children in monogamous families are. We are taught to listen to mom and dad, or that dad has the final word even over mom, or that we have to obey grandma the same as if she was mom, or dad's new girlfriend is just some lady we have to be nice to because she's company but it's still only dad who can give us our marching orders. We know that our siblings are just our siblings, unless our parents put them "in charge" temporarily. "Adult" activities are kept behind closed doors and for the adults. Poly families are the exact same way.
Love is Limitless. -
Poly people don't feel jealous. -
Polyamory oppresses and objectifies women. -
Polyamory applies equally to everybody. It's not about collecting women for your harem. Each individual relationship decides its rules and structure to the agreement of everyone in it. Sometimes this means a full egalitarian structure. Occasionally this means the male(s) in the relationship have multiple relationships but not vice versa. And equally likely the female(s) in the relationship can have multiple partners and not vice versa. But more likely, each partner has however many partners they have the time and emotional capacity for, depending upon individual ability and orientation and not gender or sex. Whatever works for every single individual involved is acceptable. Polyamory is not about "owning" your partner(s), it's about sharing your life and your love with people.
As a matter of fact, polyamory is actually seen somewhat as a feminist movement. Certainly there are polyamorists who are not feminist, but the vast majority of our leaders, community organizers, and spokespeople are women. It's that egalitarian thing that makes the movement or the philosophy "feminist", regardless of whether or not any particular individual identifies as a feminist. When women are given equal status to men, and equal opportunity to make their own choices for their lives, then even when those choices superficially resemble patriarchal or oppressive roles, the choice is actually a feminist choice ... or, at least, it's not oppressive. Women can choose to be stay-at-home parents, or they can choose to be sexually submissive in a BDSM sense, or they can choose monogamy, or they can choose any number of things like traditional gender roles that are forced onto other people, and as long as it's a free choice, with no individual or cultural pressure to conform to some standard or norm that doesn't really fit the woman, it is not oppressive.
However, within polyamory, there is actually a lot of deviation from those "traditional" roles. Women are equal contributors to their own relationships. Women set their own rules and boundaries. Wome choose their own lives based on what works for them, and sometimes that's a male-headed household with several co-wives but most of the time it's the women having multiple partners of their own in roughly equal numbers to their male partners. And let's not forget the lesbians in our community, who may form families made up entirely of female-identified people, or the transgender members of the poly community! Because of the freedom that women feel to make their own choices and to explore their own wants and desires, many of our most outspoken proponents are women, female-identified persons, and biologically female-gendered people. It's not really all that surprising that, when you give a group of people the freedom to be who they want to be and explore what they want to explore, especially when that group is traditionally oppressed, those people tend to embrace the culture that offers them those freedoms and to publicly espouse its benefits.
I must not be adequate if my lover wants someone else - or - If you love someone, you shouldn't want anyone else - or - my partner shouldn't want anyone else if I am "enough". -
What a bizarre concept! Biologically speaking, we both have two parents, right? For those who know both their parents and have healthy relationships with them, do you take love from your mother to have enough love for your father? What about kids? When your second kid comes along, do you take love away from the first kid? How do you answer the first kid when he says "why are you having a baby, mommy? Aren't I enough?" The answer is that there is enough love in our hearts for more than one person. It's not about being "enough". When we fall in love with someone, the part of our brain that makes us attracted to other people does not magically shut off. Ever hear "I may be married, but I'm not dead"? Most monogamous people aren't really monogamous either, they're just sexually intimate with one person at a time ... at least in principle. And with statistics showing that as many as 34% of men between the ages of 50 to 64 admitting to have cheated at least once, evidence suggests that the principle isn't too widely practiced.
People are unique and individual human beings, and our relationships with them are as unique and individual as the people themselves. How many people profess to still love their "first love"? How many people have fulfilling and satisfying marriages only to be widowed and later fall in love with someone new without ever ceasing to love their deceased spouse? Even if you have a relationship with two identical twins, go to the same places, do the same things, spend exactly the same amount of time with each, you will have two distinctly different relationships with each twin. Every person is capable of having "love" for more than one person because each person, and each relationship with each person, are completely unique.
It's not about being "enough" or "adequate". People everywhere are better than someone else at *something*. No matter what you do, there is someone out there who is better at it than you. Not many people fear going to restaurants on the off chance their spouse will fall in love with the chef who cooks better than they do. So why is so much emphasis put on sex, or kissing, or same sex partners vs. opposite sex partners? These are activities ... and someone, somewhere, will be better at it than you. Everyone is unique and every experience is unique. People are not replaceable and interchangeable.
It's true that some people do exist who are willing to dump their current partners if someone better comes along. But really, I don't want to be involved with someone who doesn't love me for who I am, but is only temporarily interested in what I can do. I know I am a person worthy of love and happiness. My relationships are not built around what we can do for each other, but on who we are. If my partner loves me for who I am, then it doesn't matter if someone else can provide the same activity that I can, or even if they're better at it than I am. My partner loves me for me and enjoying an activity with someone else does not change that he loves me for me. Relationships are not a contest to be the "best" at something. Relationships are about opening yourself up to an intimate connection and allowing someone to open themself up to you. Besides, what if you or your partner learns something wonderful and new from your outside relationships and brings it into your relationship so that you can also enjoy it together?
I've seen lots of non-monogamous relationships fail, therefore non-monogamy is flawed and monogamy is the solution. -
The Inn Between © 2002