Yesterday I posted an article on Facebook that generated a heated debate about polyamory. Instead of responding to the comments individually, I decided it would be more worthwhile to express my thoughts in a blog post.
I was raised to believe that I would save myself for marriage and spend the rest of my life sharing intimacy with one person. After several years of philosophical exploration, deep introspection, and monogamous relationships, I’ve radically changed my perspective.
Even though I’ve been attracted to the concept of polyamory for almost 2 years, only recently have I begun to practice it actively. I’ve been afraid to discuss it in public because it’s so widely misunderstood, but I’m ready to change that.
I’ll start with a disclaimer that I’m only speaking for myself here. People practice polyamory in many different ways; I’m going to talk about the way I see it personally. The lifestyle doesn’t work for everyone, and I’m not trying to convince you to adopt it. I have huge respect for monogamous couples who stick together through hard times with a healthy relationship. I just want you to understand and respect my behavior, and to be aware that monogamy is not the only option for fulfilling relationships. I want to break the taboo and encourage acceptance for non-monogamous lifestyles.
Polyamory comes from the roots poly ‘many’ + amor ‘love.’ It’s about loving more than one person. For me, it means I’m open to maintaining romantic relationships with multiple people at any given time. It’s not about casual sex or threesomes or cheating or lack of commitment. I seek emotionally and physically intimate relationships with some level of commitment, where everyone involved consents to non-exclusivity. Sometimes my partners know each other, sometimes they don’t. Sometimes there’s sex, sometimes there isn’t. There is always an emotional connection, clear communication, and mutual respect.
Many poly people have a “primary” partner who takes priority over other relationships. They might get married or have kids, staying committed as partners and parents while simultaneously having other romantic relationships with full knowledge of everyone involved. I don’t have a primary partner at the moment, but I foresee this model of polyamory working best for me. I would eventually like to settle down with someone and have children, giving them as much attention as they need while maintaining my freedom to pursue other relationships.
For me, independence is the greatest benefit of this lifestyle. I don’t want anyone to own me or control my actions. I don’t need someone to complete me or be my “better half.” I’m a fully autonomous individual who can make my own decisions about whom I spend my time with. I can have friendships with all types of people without anyone worrying about what goes on.
Polyamory puts less pressure on my relationships because I don’t expect any one person to meet all my needs. When I was monogamous, I tried to find “the one” who would perfectly connect with all my passions—music, hiking, philosophy, languages, traveling, writing, entrepreneurship, nutrition, psychology—all while having unique interests of his own that he could teach me about. Not only is it unrealistic to expect one person to fulfill all my social, intellectual, emotional, and sexual needs, but it burdens the relationship with impossible expectations. I can appreciate the ways we do connect and accept our differences where we don’t. I can enjoy a strong intellectual connection with one partner and obsess about music with another. I have high standards for emotional awareness and intellectual compatibility in all my partners, but I never expect them to be perfect.
There are certainly plenty of downsides to polyamory. It takes incredible emotional maturity and communication to make it work. It’s not easy to manage my time, devoting enough attention to the people I care about while setting aside time for myself. Sometimes I feel jealousy. Just like other painful emotions, I embrace it, explore it, and use it to grow. There is still heartbreak, betrayal, and unrequited love—polyamory doesn’t solve all the problems. Neither does monogamy. It doesn’t work for everyone, but I’ve decided it’s the best path for me.
Pop culture leads us to believe that love is a zero-sum game. You have a fixed amount of love, and whatever you give to one person means that much less for anyone else. But when I actually gave it a chance, I realized that my heart doesn’t work like that. The more love I give, the more I have to give. I’ve expanded my capacity for empathy and connection, and I have a greater depth of feeling for myself and everyone I care about.
I hope this gives you insight into why I’ve chosen polyamory, and why monogamy doesn’t work for everyone. Please comment or reach out to me if you have questions.
You can check out these resources if you’re interested in learning more: