Think of the word “Polyamory”.   What images does it conjure?  What emotions does it bring forth?  What questions or assumptions does it bring to mind?  Are any of these things inherently negative or positive, or are they born of sheer curiosity?  Do you accept or understand polyamory, or is it a foreign and confusing concept?  Have you ever considered it?  If not, would you?

To me the word Polyamory means honesty, love, and communication.  It means family, and a lot of fun.  It means helping hands and moral support.  It mean patience at times, and possibly a little consideration of things that make me uncomfortable or frustrated because I am not the only one in this relationship.  Basically, it means most of the same things the words girlfriend, or husband should evoke, only with a slightly larger cast of characters.
Now, casually throw the word Polyamory out in conversation and see what kind of response you get.  The reactions around you may be surprising, or not, considering what kind of company you keep.  My family is open and free with our poly lifestyle.  We believe it’s only fair to all of us.  Why have a family we’re ashamed to admit exists?  Because of this we have gotten some pretty interesting questions and opinions.  I will always answer questions, and opinions I will listen to as long as I’m not being insulted and respond to if I see fit.  Opinions are like children.  Some are perfectly fine, even noteworthy or intelligent.  Others are loud or crazy, and if they are full of crap I don’t need to be near them unless they are mine.
The question I get most often when people find out I’m poly is, “then why bother get married?”  I have two answers for that.  Poly does not mean lack of commitment, and lawful marriage is not the be all end all of commitment, but it does have legal protections pertaining to property and children.  It seems to escape people that I may have found someone with whom I want to live my life and raise my family and have connections with others as well.  I got married because I believed wholeheartedly that Hubby is going to be in my life until it ends.  I may or may not find others about whom I feel that way, and I can make the same commitment to them should that happen, but I have made a declaration to Hubby that I am committed to him for life.  The law says I can only legally marry one person at a time.  It says nothing about commitment.  I can commit myself in the long run to as many people as I can hold in my heart. No one can govern that.
Another common reaction I get is the assumption that I have no standards or morals.  I have lost friends who were like family to me because it was assumed we were having sex or that I would try to steal them from a monogamous partner.  I have often wondered what kind of monster people think I am to even put someone I care about in that kind of predicament, but it has been a repeated issue.  I have been called a slut, a home-wrecker, and on the other hand a tease and a prude.  It seems that because I may share intimacy with more than one person I need to sleep with ever man who offers.  When I politely decline it is sometimes taken very personally.  Men of the world, listen up.  I have standards, I have opinions, I have tastes, and I have a life outside of sex.  If I don’t have an attraction, the desire, or simply the time for what you think I should be falling over myself to accept, I apologize in advance.  I am pretty selective and conservative in who I have relationships with, and this includes those relationships that might be purely sexual.  While we’re at it, I will not help you cheat on your significant other, I will not hide my relationships, and I will not pretend to be your friend or roommate in front of your friends or other women.  This is unacceptable.
For the most part, other reactions and concerns I get are pretty common.  No, my life is not one long sexual adventure.  Yes, we are extremely safe and healthy, and our whole family gets checked often, as any sexual responsible adult should.  The fact that my actions affect my entire family might make me a little more conscious of my decisions.  Poly is not all unicorns an rainbows, but it can be at times.  While every man’s dream is two women, every man’s dream may not be the effort and dedication it takes to have two girlfriends with different needs and personalities.  We are just like any family.  We have fights, jealousy and miscommunication arises and is dealt with, and people have bad moods.  We get through it all and move on as a unit.  That’s what family does.
In closing, I will say that while I have focused on negative perceptions of polyamory, there are many who really do understand even if they do not live the lifestyle.  Our families have been indescribably open and supportive.  My coworkers barely bat an eyelash these days when I mention Hubby’s girlfriend or a date I’m going on.  People have heard the term “open marriage”, and for the  most part will live and let live as long as I’m not obnoxious about it or shoving it down their throats.  This is probably a very naive view of the world, and I’ve chosen to hold that view apart from the one where I am judged solely based on my family structure, let alone my sexuality or spirituality, because it’s the one I choose to embrace.  People will disagree with me, they may even be cruel and petty because of it, but if I focus on those people there is no joy in this.  If there is no joy, what’s the point?  I’m not poly to make a statement; I’m poly to make a life and a family.  I’m poly because it fits me and it makes my heart happy.