There are a lot of interesting opinions about polyamory and how it does or should work. Today I’m going to address my Big Five.
1. Poly people have all the answers.
I get asked for a lot of relationship advice, and while I am always happy to listen and offer my perspective I do not possess any personal gnosis or insider information. I’m not poly because I’m better at relationships, and being poly doesn’t make me better at relationships. This is not a “practice makes perfect” scenario. While I may have more opportunity to make and learn from mistakes I continue to encounter new complexities and issues in each relationship I have. No two people are the same, no two couples are the same, and no two issues are the same. Poly does not mean we’ve memorized some magic key or mastered some kind of high level skill. We’re just willing to work at it on multiple levels with multiple people. Usually lumped into this belief are the ideas that poly couples never experience jealousy or dishonesty, but believe me we do. Jealousy is a pretty normal emotion, and in itself is not destructive. What becomes a problem is how we process and express this emotion and how we identify and fix its root cause. As far as dishonesty, lying is always lying. You can cheat in poly, and it does still hurt when partners hide things. Polyamory doesn’t make everyone perfect nor does it make everyone an honest saint. Polyamory has the same concentration of assholes and snakes as monogamy, and it really bothers me when those jerks ruin someone’s experience and turn them off to the lifestyle. To everyone who has “had a bad experience” I recommend trying it a few more times before you write it off.
2. All problems in a poly relationship are caused by the poly.
I get it a lot, the look. Hubby and I have a disagreement, whether or not it has anything to do with me of his partners, and somehow it’s root cause is our lifestyle. Some people believe that if we would just focus on each other and our marriage we would never fight or have differing opinions on things. Our life is obviously clouded and complicated by our other partners. Believe me, it’s caused trouble in the past. The truth, however, is that our other partners sometimes give us a little perspective. They give us a place to vent and cool down so that we can resolve our issues calmly. They tell us when we might, in fact, have been out of line or outright wrong. Looking at these other relationships even show us patterns in our own behaviour and possibly give us a look at how each one operates, even if they do so very differently. Hubby’s girlfriend has given me a lot of help when it comes to the “am I the crazy one here, or is this actually an issue?” internal debate. Sometimes, yes, I’ve been a little irrational. Other times I am justified in being upset and having that friend to talk to is a great aid in fixing the situation. The fact remains, marriage is a very complex recipe, and we don’t always get it right. While poly may add a new flavour to the mix it does not sour the pot on its own. Unfortunately sometimes things just don’t blend well and things don’t work out. Even in extreme cases just because the relationship failed doesn’t mean the poly failed.
3. Poly is easy!
This part has a lot of smaller issues wrapped up in it. I cannot count how many times Hubby and I have heard “wow, you’re so lucky! You can be with as many people as you want and no one cares!” Hold on a minute, what? Really? This is a ludicrous as the “you’re bi so you have twice as many options” idea. While it’s true that I have the freedom to explore and experience a variety when it comes to who I date or even see casually, “as many as I want” seems a little drastic. I guess it could be true if I had the time and energy to just date and never have a job or a life, but I’d be exhausted and boring. I’m also not really that much of a social butterfly. Just because I love more than one doesn’t mean I love everyone. In fact, I’m fairly guarded when it comes to real trust and love, and it takes a lot for me to really open up and accept someone as family. The result has been a handful of very close relationships that I wouldn’t trade for the world. Hubby gets the “every man’s fantasy” cliche a lot, which is hilarious. While many men want to sleep with more than one woman, not many could handle the responsibility and organization required to carry on relationships with more than one woman. See the difference? I’ve said it before, and I will repeat as necessary; Poly is worth it, but poly is work. It involves a lot of unselfish compromise, flexible time management, and seemingly endless communication. That part where we all sit around and have sex all day? Just for Showtime. Which brings me to…
4. Poly is all about the sex.
Again, I hate to sounds like a broken record, but “just because I can doesn’t mean I will.” As soon as people hear I’m poly it is assumed I will have sex with anything that isn’t nailed down, and if it’s nailed down at least it won’t move while I’m having sex with it. No. People, I do have standards, and I do exercise them. Even the relationships I have are not centered around sex. It’s a nice perk, yes, but I don’t feel like I have any more sex with multiple people as I did with one. We do not have naked time during important conversations and planning sessions like they show on TV. Our life isn’t one group session after another. I guess maybe some poly family somewhere might, but that’s not us. While I enjoy the occasional threesome or so, I tend to prefer to focus on one person at a time. I really enjoy close intimacy and he ability to express and experience that intimacy differently with each partner. When it comes down to it, though, even if the relationship is asexual it can still be powerful. Polyamory is about love not sex.
5. Poly is just for men who don’t want commitment and women with low self esteem…and a kicker.
I saved this one for last because not only is it ludicrous but one I’ve encountered a lot lately, especially that second bit, which I had never heard until recently. The first half implies that poly men, or anyone for that matter, can’t commit to more than one person at a time. Again I’ll use my children as an example. If I have a second child does it mean I am less committed than the first or that the first is in any way less important to me? No! I agree that some poly people open to casual encounters and “friends with benefits”, but not all of them and not as a rule. I am actually not a fan of casual encounters on a regular basis. It does nothing for me. The second part of that is also pretty shaky logic. My husband doesn’t have other partners because he find me unsexy or boring, and I love the fact that he still desires me no matter who he can get. He’s not stuck with me, he chooses me. I do not view my decision to be poly based on the opinion that no one would be monogamous with me. Hubby and I have been monogamous, and our switch to poly has nothing to do with what I “put up with” to keep him. Besides, he’s not the only one benefitting from this. I’m going to add “Poly couples are poly because they’re unsatisfied or unhappy” to this one. I have had a lot of men tell me they can “give me whatever I’m missing” or make me monogamous with their pure sexual talent. Sorry, boys, but I am plenty satisfied with and by my husband. I’m not poly to supplement him, and you are not going to win me away from him with your prowess. My message to couple who consider polyamory because they’re unhappy or having problems is to reconsider and work on fixing your foundation before you build on it. If you’re poly because you’re trying to escape your marriage or avoid your spouse you’re asking for a full collapse.
In the end, polyamory is a very complex puzzle, and not one that has the same solution or rules for every relationship. I cannot tell you how frustrated I get with negativity within the community about “how to be poly” or what it should look like for my family. It’s really a matter of education and acceptance, and that means of each other as well. I’m not an expert or an archetype, and I’m not here to tell people my way is the only way or even that polyamory is the only way, I am just a woman who has found a way that feels right and doesn’t mind sharing what has worked for me. If it doesn’t work for you at least you’ve had something to read for a few minutes.