Dispelling 5 Myths about Polyamory

Polyamory is not just about sex.

Polyamory is not just about love, although it is more about love than it is about sex.

Polyamory is not Swinging.

Polyamory is about being in an emotionally (and possibly sexually) open and honest relationship. It’s about knowing who you are. It’s about knowing who your spouse or significant other (SO) is. Completely. Intimately.

It’s about facing your fears and listening to your SO’s fears.

It’s about building true intimacy. And that in itself can be terrifying. To build true intimacy, you have to remove all masks, and we all wear masks to one degree or another out in the world. We are often many people. We play the role of employee or professional. We play the role of parent. We play the role of church or society member. We play the role of friend or acquaintance. But with our intimate relationship(s), we must find the courage to remove those masks and show our SO who we truly are. That’s terrifying.

Utterly and completely terrifying.

But the rewards are well worth the risk, and the alternative is living a lie in constant fear of your SO finding out who you truly are. That is no way to live, but it is most certainly a way to ensure you create, at best, a loveless marriage where you grow further and further apart over the years, and at worst, infidelity, divorce, abandonment, and loss.

Five Prevalent Myths about Polyamory:

1. Polyamory = Swinging: Casual sex with whomever, whenever.

Many people think of swinging when they hear the word polyamory or “open marriage,” and that is not necessarily true. Swinging, also a valid lifestyle choice, is about sex. It’s about a lot of sex with a lot of different people. Sometimes together as a couple, sometimes on your own. Normally, people who are swingers have a free pass from their spouse/SO to have sex with whomever/whenever they want, as long as it’s just sex. Swinging is like polyamory in the way that they both rely on openness and honesty in the primary relationship.

Polyamory, as I’ve stated in my first article, can mean many different things, depending on the couple. The foundation for it is an open and honest relationship. (In my next article, I’ll show you some techniques on how to open a discussion with your SO, so you can create open and honest intimacy.) Mostly, it’s about love in all forms. It’s about embracing love. It’s about acknowledging love and desire. It’s about loving yourself and loving your SO, and maybe loving others as well. It’s a firm belief that *love breeds more love* and *desire breeds more desire.* There is no such thing as loving too much. There is no such thing as loving one person less so you can love another more. Love breeds love.

Take the example from my first article: a special someone in the workplace enters your life and you find the courage to talk with your SO about it, building trust and intimacy for doing so. Just think how wonderful and *loved* you will feel when your SO accepts you for who you are. After the shock and jealousy and fear is worked through, there is love beneath. And you will love your SO more for accepting you. They will love you more for being honest and trusting them with your heart.

More about this in the next article.

2. Something must be wrong with your marriage to want to open it up.

Quite the contrary, actually. Something must be very *right* with your marriage to feel safe enough to explore other options. It means you both are mature enough to understand that one person cannot fulfill your every need, every day for the rest of your life…and you are secure enough in your relationship to own that and not to be threatened by it. It’s understanding that you do not own each other. You have chosen to build a life and family together. You do not have to jeopardize either to be true to yourself.

3. It’s only about sex, or it’s only about love.

Polyamory is about honesty and emotional openness. It is about knowing each other completely. Forget mystery. I once had a friend who thought the key to a successful relationship was maintaining mystery. Balderdash. Mystery is great for attraction and building initial desire, etc.; but that is only in the first stage of love. If you choose to, you can find a deeper love and understanding through truly knowing each other, deeply. Completely.

Trying to keep mystery in a primary, long term relationship is a perfect way to wake up to a stranger in another five years, if not sooner.

As far as the rules for sex and/or love with people outside your marriage (SO2, SO3, etc.), that is entirely up to each individual couple. It will come down to what each couple is comfortable with. Likely, you will start slow and experiment with desire. For instance, the “get your appetite worked up elsewhere but eat at home” idea. Go out. Flirt. Toy…perhaps even kiss. It’s up to you and your spouse to see just how far you want to play at first. Then come back home and devour each other with renewed fervor.

It might be where one spouse says “do what you want, but I don’t want to know the details.” It might be kissing only. It might be no sexual contact at all. It might be anything except intercourse. There are dozens and dozens of scenarios. It’s up to you and your spouse to decide what is okay and what is not.

This will all come down to how each couple defines sex (i.e. actual intercourse=sex, oral sex, sexual situations, kissing, etc. I’ll cover this in a future article). Whatever you decide in your primary relationship, then experiment. All the while checking in with your spouse often to ensure s/he does not feel threatened or jealous. If they do, address that. Reassure them again that you are not going to leave. Reassure them that they and your family mean more to you than anything and they always always always come first. Let them know how much you appreciate and love them for allowing you to satisfy your own needs without judgment. Find a safe place to be together. The love you find there will be unlike that you have ever known. And that is not scary. It’s beautiful.

4. Your spouse isn’t enough for you, so you must look elsewhere.

There are countless reasons to open your marriage/primary relationship. Just a few off the top of my head: you have different appetites, you have different levels of need, you have different styles. One polycouple I know opened up because the wife had tendencies toward the BDSM spectrum, but the husband did not. She did not love him less because of it. He did not love her less because of it. They just have different needs. They recognized it. They loved each other despite it. They opened up and learned that not only did their love and desire for each other grow, but they were both getting their own needs met as well. Love breeds love. Desire breeds desire.

Compare it to something undeniably biological, like diabetes. A person with diabetes needs insulin injections for their body to work properly. Do they fault their SO for not needing insulin injections? No. Their biological needs are different.

The same is true with emotional issues, which unfortunately still carry too much of a stigma in our society. The truth is, most emotional/mental disorders are in fact *biological,* but instead of the need being elsewhere in the body, it’s in the brain. Say your spouse is clinically depressed. They have an imbalance of serotonin in their brain, and they must be medicated to correct the imbalance. Does your spouse fault you for not needing medication? No.

Biological difference.

Sexual need is extremely biological, and it also takes place in the brain, in the levels of hormones and other chemicals. (Again, Sex at Dawn is a brilliant resource for the biological ties to human sexuality.) Some men, especially, have unbelievably high amounts of testosterone. This can act like a drug. While they’re “high” on testosterone, all reason goes out the window. They are not themselves. Similarly in women, there can be hormonal fluctuations that cause them to behave differently as well. It’s biology. It’s not one’s fault. It’s not something they choose. It just is.

This brings us to libido. Perhaps you and your spouse have different libidinal needs. Perhaps your drive is much higher than theirs. Perhaps theirs is much higher than yours. Perhaps you need more variety or more adventure or are just *freakier* than your spouse. No blame. It just is. It’s biology.

Polyamory is understanding these differences and loving each other despite them. It’s about understanding that you don’t own each other, but rather you each have chosen to build a life and family together. Consider how much more love you would feel for your spouse if they understood this about you and allowed you to satisfy your needs, without jeopardizing your marriage and family. Because they are two very different things.

5. It doesn’t work.

It can work, at least as well as monogamy works if not better. It works when you can be honest with yourself and honest with your SO(s). It works for thousands of couples, triads, and quads. It is not easy, but then no relationship worth having is ever easy. Relationships are work. Your primary relationship is work, and if you decide to have a secondary or tertiary relationship, they are also work. But love and relationships with other people are what make this life worth living. Throughout this series, I’m going to be interviewing polyamorous couples, triads, and quads to see how they make it work for them.

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In my next article, I will talk about what to expect if you decide to bring the subject up with your SO, and how to handle their possible responses. Ultimately, all this is about being true to yourself and being true to your SO. If you live in denial and fear, you will end up resenting your SO and destroying your relationship. Isn’t it worth the risk to face your fears and build a marriage strong enough to withstand anything? Do yourself, your SO, and your marriage a favor and find the courage to build true intimacy.

Please don’t become another divorce statistic.

**read my first article: Polyamory as an Alternative to Infidelity**

-_Q

Update 11/5/12: This post was written nearly two years ago. Please consider reading some of my more recent work on polyamory, sex, and relationships.

~ by omgrey on January 9, 2011.

41 Responses to “Dispelling 5 Myths about Polyamory”

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  6. We as a developed species are living longer and longer lives. 100 years ago was about 40. Monogamy made sense. (More sense?) Now we are living longer lives. now we are living longer lives and growing as people at different rates. The person you married is probably not the person your married to today. And you have changed as well. Is “to death till you part” really make that much sense anymore?

    • I think it can make sense if you recognize that you can’t be all things to each other at all times. With love and understanding, a couple can stay together until death.

  7. I have a question for you. Do you “label” your lovers? Primary, Secondary etc? I recently re-connected with an old ex. (She’s love me calling her that! Lets say an ex GF from ages past.)
    She’s been really hardcore poly all her life. I often refereed to her as the “poster child” for poly. But she has a desperate need to put a label on everything. First, secondary, tertiary. Is this common in the poly world? I just had lovers. I never went to the trouble of assigning them numbers or an order of precedence.

    • Yes. I do label, and I think it makes sense. My husband is my primary. He always comes first. If another man comes into my life, I first check with my husband to see if he’s okay emotionally enough that evening to handle me with another man. And vice versatile. We put each other first.

      Any satellite lover, whether in passing or as an SO2 or SO3 know this. It saves hurt feelings and misunderstandings.

      For example, if I’m with a man who also has a primary, that relationship, he and his primary, are more important to me than our secondary relationship. Ultimately, the only way we can be together is if our primary relationships are stable and healthy, so it’s in our best interest as a secondary couple to ensure this.

    • However, if you don’t have a primary first and are just “playing the field,” that’s different.

    • I see the numbers thing as problematic and an extension of monogamy. If someone does not want to choose favorites it does not mean they are “playing the field” or otherwise not fully committed to poly… On the contrary, I would consider them to be more poly then the “primary, secondary…” types. Personally, I would not do this because it has the potential to cause, basically the same jealousy as a mono relationship. Instead of all your attention, your primary relationship will expect the majority of it. Spend too much time with a secondary partner and the primary one will, by design feel threatened just like in a mono relationship… after that expect the same sneaking around, lying and jealousy. Poly is about unlimited love, and when you call a relationship “the primary relationship” you are saying you won’t allow yourself to love anyone more than you love your primary.

      • I can see that. Definitely.

        I think it depends on the agreement between the “primary” couple, and whether or not the relationship started as open or opened up after a number of months/years. I don’t think the “primary” necessarily has more love than the others, but then I can only speak to this in theory, never having had a true “secondary.” I think it’s more along the lines of time priorities, not love priorities.

        If a relationship is established with a house and responsibilities and children, than any satellite relationships would come after (in time priorities) than that established relationship, if for no other reason that the satellite relationship might not have the other living arrangements/responsibilities. This dynamic can change if one of the satellite moves in and you all become a triad.

        I think the possibilities are endless, really. And what works for one won’t work for another.

        I’ve run into the problem where I’ve found a pretty great guy, and even though he was my “secondary” potential, I could give much more time and love than he could give, even though he didn’t have a “primary” relationship. He was unable to think of me as a “primary” perhaps because he couldn’t think of himself as “secondary” to someone else. I don’t know, really. He doesn’t seem to know what he wants, and that’s always problematic.

        Maybe I’ll rethink the language, in fact, I just realized that I’ve already started. I’m no longer looking for a “secondary.” I’m just dating and meeting nice men and seeing what develops between us.

        I have yet to have the problem of my “secondary” feeling unfulfilled, and my “primary” never feels unfulfilled. I have so much love and attention to give, I don’t think it will ever be a problem. I hope that I one day find a loving man who will allow me to find out for sure.

  8. [...] Original blog post here. [...]

  9. Thank you for these posts on polyamory. I was living it (a MFM poly V is what I’ve heard our ‘label’ is, though I dislike labels) for over a year before I even knew there was a word for it. A decade later & our non-traditional family of myself, my legal husband (17yrs), & my very significant other (10yrs) is still going strong–yet so is the judgment of some. Your dispelling of the myths & attempting to remove the stigma of this lifestyle is very much appreciated.

    • How wonderful for all of you!

      The judgement is still there, but it’s brilliant that you’re living your lives doing what works for you, and doing so from a place of honesty and integrity. That’s amazing and brave and far too rare.

      It is my great pleasure to do what I can to help erase those stigmas. Your gratitude makes it all that much more pleasurable.

  10. I would like to point out that this is a lifestyle choice that doesn’t necessarily work for everyone. Several points in your post came across as somewhat condescending for a person who is in a happy, monogamous marriage, like myself. Specifically I had a hard time with –

    “It means you both are mature enough to understand that one person cannot fulfill your every need, every day for the rest of your life”

    I think maybe some people find one person cannot do that, but I don’t think it’s an end all be all, as if people who are in monogamous relationships just haven’t ‘woken up’ and become more mature. Perhaps part of the judgement comes from assuming people should all be poly and that those relationships are in some way superior to traditional, monogamous relationships, which is, ironically, probably what many tradionalists feel about their relationships versus yours. To each their own, please don’t try to minimize the relationships of others to put value in your own.

    • It certainly was not my intention to minimize monogamous relationships. They do work for some people. But true monogamy is almost nonexistent. At best, it’s serial monogamy. I’m sure your spouse isn’t your first lover. If s/he is, that’s wonderful, but it’s very, very rare. I’m speaking in generalities here. 50% of marriages end in divorce, primarily because of infidelity. More than that have cheating spouses where they either never find out or stay together and work things out.

      How many years have you been married?

      • True, I had a few one night stands in high school / first semester of college, but my wife has only been with me. We are approaching our first anniversary but have been together 6 years. I would wager a bigger part of the divorce rate is really that people get married to early, or maybe to quickly is the better word. I didn’t propose until nearly 3.5 years into our relationship and we were engaged for 15 months, during which we lived together. Most of my friends who’ve gotten married had dated their spouse for 6 months to 2 years before getting hitched. Not that it’s a surefire reason for a marriage failure, but maybe the infidelity is as much a result of a poor relationship as the divorce is. It also seems that people just don’t take their vows as seriously anymore, taught to do what feels right and think first of themselves. If you aren’t willing to fight 100% to keep your marriage together, don’t get married in the first place. Sorry if my first post came across a little aggressive, getting married at 23 right out of college drew quite a few raised eyebrows.

      • Congratulations on your first year of marriage! And together six years is something to celebrate as well! :)

        I agree, if people aren’t going to be committed to making a relationship work no matter what, then they most certainly shouldn’t get married. I do hope you and your wife are as happy as you are right now for the rest of your lives.

        Issues of possible infidelity in marriages normally don’t start until the marriage is around 6 or 7 years, sometimes not until 10…but it can be as early as one or two. Ensure that your marriage will stay a happy and monogamous one by building a strong base of intimacy with your wife. Talk with her daily about your feelings and needs and such, and invite her to do the same. If there ever comes a time when one or the other feels the need to stray, you want to have that strong base of trust and communication and safety between you so that you can talk about it and not fall into the same pattern that over 90% of marriages fall into. It’s all about communication.

        Basically, I’m not saying that your situation isn’t special and wonderful because it is. Ensure it stays that way by building and maintaining true intimacy between you. I have written posts about how to build intimacy. Do the work now while it’s new and wondrous, so when it becomes so comfortable and routine and when you’re reaching middle age, you will have the foundation to turn to each other for support instead of outside the marriage.

        I hope you both have a long and happy and fulfilling relationship together.

  11. [...] than the “that doesn’t work” knee-jerk reaction to polyamory or open relationships, the other excuse that gets [...]

  12. “Polyamory is not Swinging.” “Swinging, also a valid lifestyle choice, is about sex. It’s about a lot of sex with a lot of different people. Sometimes together as a couple, sometimes on your own.”

    I have to challenge the “with a lot of different people” as a bit of a blanket generalisation. Plenty of people in that scene who are looking for a small group of regular playmates (and others have very notchy bedposts, admittedly). And while the focus is often on sex, that’s not *all* it’s about, certainly not universally. Seems to be a generational thing, but more and more profiles on supposedly swing sites talk about wanting to form friendships or connections primarily, and not being interested in anonymous sex with people they don’t actually *like*.

    Rather than entirely different beasts, I’ve found them to be… not even two sides of the same coin, more the labels at the extreme ends of a continuum of options. And someone can make choices consistent with quite disparate parts of that spectrum. No person who identifies as Poly ever has casual sex for its own sake? Sounds unlikely. Connections that start based on pure play never evolve to incorporate genuine affection which becomes the most valuable thing about them? I know that one’s not true. :-)

    “Polyamory, as I’ve stated in my first article, can mean many different things, depending on the couple.” “As far as the rules for sex and/or love with people outside your marriage (SO2, SO3, etc.), that is entirely up to each individual couple. It will come down to what each couple is comfortable with.”

    Agree completely with this. And actually, exactly the same thing can be said about swinging, almost word for word. And if poly can be open to interpretation and (though I accept you didn’t take this view) even more so if swing can too, it’s hard to identify where the line is drawn, or a non-fuzzy criterion that can be used to distinguish one from the other absolutely.

    I’m not sure I’d actually argue for it, but a case could be made that if poly can be about love in all its forms, and definitions are self-created, swinging could be argued to be a subtype of poly. ;-)

    There’s a phenomenon, again seems to be more with the younger generation, of finding that they are drawn towards the more poly end of the spectrum with experience of making unexpected connections with and coming to care for their swing playmates. The older-generation swing rule or assumption that if you start to care for a playmate that’s cheating, and you must stop seeing them – it still exists, but it’s growing old and passing away. It’s not reflective of the modern scene in any way.

    The ‘Life on the Swingset’ podcast, despite the hosts’ initial focus on swing, identifies itself as about all forms of non-monogamy. They cover (ep 50?) their “evolution” towards “polyamorous leanings”. They even split off a separate podcast purely to focus on poly matters. (I have no connection with the show(s) though I did meet the hosts one time).

    Explaining poly to someone with no relevant background knowledge, it can be tempting to differentiate your choice from what their assumptions or prejudice may throw up about non-monogamy generally or in other forms. But “No, it’s not like swingers, they’re all about the sex, clocking up big numbers of partners, and don’t care about each other.” just isn’t true of all the people in that scene. It’s a matter of priority, focus and degrees. And they don’t stay static, and shift over time. I grant, accepting that’s not much help if you’re trying to avoid the prejudice your conversation partner has about the non-monogamy he/she has a vague understanding of while explaining the life choice that you consider responsible and ethical.

    The only real distinction I can think of isn’t one that helps define or distinguish the two, it’s just something that only happens in one. Occasionally in swing you come across someone who is doing it without the informed consent of everyone who is involved. Cheating. It’s frowned upon and unwelcome in many situations if identified, but there are still people who do it. I think the informed consent of everyone involved is arguably part of the definition of poly, so if someone’s cheating, they’ve left poly behind? So you can have a cheating swinger. A poly person who’s cheating is just a cheat, a core element of poly is missing. Is that fair to say?

    Other than that, there’s an awful lot of similarity, overlap and fuzziness. I’ve heard poly people use “the S word” as an insult to someone in their community whose sexual choices they disapprove of (or who do indeed identify with both communities, and aren’t welcome for ‘contaminating’ the poly with their swinging). And some swingers, despite their acceptance of alternative sexual boundaries, can’t get a handle on alternative relationship structures, and can be dismissive of poly as somehow hippy, or requiring a philosophical stance they don’t get or is too utopian.

    The most reliable and balanced views on the relationship between swing and poly may come from people who’ve lived (or still live) both choices. Even then the version of poly or swing they know and can speak to doesn’t tell the whole story of how it’s interpreted differently by others.

    Sometimes the two communities recognise each others value, if not similarity, and unite when attacked by the morality of others. People in both camps also sometimes express the feeling that, compared to those who’ve chosen monogamy (or worse, accepted it as the default without consideration!) they’re somehow at a higher level or making choices truer to human nature (which arguably does have some scientific support). As commented above, examples of monogamists who are actually strictly monogamous are rare! Monogamists who *choose* monogamy could be said to be the really brave ones though, choosing to live their lives in accordance with an ideal that is hard to live up to.

    Swingers (maybe understandably if they do have a more pleasure-oriented focus) often feel they having more fun and are just luckier than monogamists. Poly is sometimes presented by its advocates as a morally superior philosophy or outlook, or something that would improve society if wider spread. I’ve got sympathy for both those views, in honesty. :-)

    Despite (serial) monogamy (or social monogamy with many extra pair couplings) being the norm and majority and hence sometimes suggesting that any departure from their way needs to be justified or is flawed or immoral, some of the theory on how we were for the vast majority of human history while immediate-return societies turns that on its head. That’s something more appropriate to get into on another post, though.

    • Just read the Lucky Lucky Poly People blog post, and had to adjust my opinion on the above in the light of it.

      You identify that a poly relationship is loving, by definition. A swinging one is ‘definitely about casual sex.’ I think it’s more accurate to say that swinging is focussed on the sexual element, and that it includes a wide variety in exactly how casual or serious that sex is. But it’s certainly true to say casual sex is compatible with swinging (and arguably the norm).

      I think identifying those features gives an effective definition to distinguish the labels poly and swing – but not sure that isn’t compatible with them still being part of the same continuum. If a poly relationship ceased to be loving in any way, but stayed sexual, it’s likely it has strayed into swinging. But for a swing relationship based on informed consent of all involved, where feelings develop and grow between the people, it’s hard to say with any certainty at what point it can accurately be described as a poly one.

      Would anyone argue that it can never become poly because of its origins?

      • It’s all fluid, I think. Relationships grow and change, and that’s okay. We don’t even really have to put a label on it unless it’s necessary to help other’s (or each other) understand. A relationship is a relationship. I think of the words “polyamorous” and “swinging” as much more descriptions of entire lifestyles than a particular relationship.

    • Wow! Forgive me if I don’t get to all your points.

      Yes, both Polyamory and Swinging are on the open-lifestyle spectrum and can overlap. This post as well as the few before it is rather an introduction of open lifestyles and non-monogamy to the unhappily monogamous. “Swinging” has more negative connotations in society, unfortunately. And I think that Polyamory is *more* about relationships and Swinging is *more* about sex. Certainly not exclusive in either way. Of course there are variations as to the number of partners and level of casualness in swingers’ lifestyles and encounters. Everything has variables depending on the individual and/or couples involved.

      As a polyamorous woman, I’ve certainly had more casual encounters that were just about (or mostly about) sex, but my overall lifestyle doesn’t lean that way. I strive for a deeper connection with satellite relationships, but it doesn’t mean I find them. It’s extremely difficult to find. Alternatively, swingers might have recurring sexual partners with whom they develop feelings, but it is not the goal of their overall lifestyle. There are always exceptions.

      Informed consent is essential across the board of open lifestyles. If there are those claiming to be “polyamorous” who are not open and honest, who aren’t committed to clear communication, they are not in my opinion truly polyamorous. Cheaters are not polyamorous. They are non-consensual non-monogamists. They are liars. That is not to say that infidelity is always completely avoidable in realistic situations. Dan Savage in his Savage Love podcasts says that he things infidelity for sexual fulfillment is superior to divorce. I disagree in a general sense. Although there are those individual cases where it might be true, but I do believe there is a better way.

      As far as using the word “Swinger” to cast judgment, I disapprove. Judgment has no place in any relationship, but especially an open one. There is far too much judgment doing far too much damage in far too many relationships.

      I think most monogamists have fallen into it by default, never considering other options. Most not knowing other options exist.

  13. This is an excellent article. LIfe and love is way too precious to amble through without having walked all the paths available to us. And while getting to really know yourself can take much hard work and a long time, the benefits are enormous – especially when it comes to sharing unconditional love with another person.

  14. Wonderful article. We are a poly triad household and it’s refreshing to see an article with such perspectuve

  15. I’m going to try to be as respectful as possible in my comment. First of all, I am in a monogamous hetero marriage, pretty vanilla, I know. I was raised in a very loving, happy monogamous hetero family. The families to which I look for guidance in terms of happiness and familial security, trust, and respect, are monogamous relationships, both hetero and homo. That being said, I only know of 2 families that attempted poly lifestyles, both which ended horribly in nasty divorces/break-ups, both with children involved who were in broken homes and having broken bonds to 3-4 adults, not just 2. Years later, those children are now young adults and struggling a great deal with adult life, from maintaining/completing higher education and procuring/maintaining successful employment, and NONE are in a stable relationship.

    Now to my issues with your article. I find your tone incredibly hedonistic and self-serving….”imagine how loved YOU will feel when your partner recognizes your need?!” How about how your partner TRULY feels? How about a partner who loves you so desperately that he or she will endure painful infidelities to “keep” you? I literally got nauseous when I read that sentence. The poly relationships I knew were full of manipulation and subtle emotional control like that. “But don’t you love me? You know I “need” this. We talked about this! You know I’ll always love you!” Any decent therapist will let you know that those are tools of manipulation and control for your own selfish desires.

    To me, what is genuine dedication is telling someone, under the eyes of God, Allah, Yahweh, or the local city clerk, that even though you are aware that you will be attracted to others, even though you know your libidos won’t ALWAYS match up, that you have enough respect for that person to sacrifice temporary physical pleasure from another and that you dedicate yourself, BODY and soul, to that individual, until death do you part. No, it isn’t easy….that’s kind of the POINT. You are proving to yourself and your spouse that they are WORTH it. They aren’t a temporary or part-time physical fix.

    Yes, many people get married too young. Yes, many people get married without thinking through that commitment. Yes, many people get married to someone with whom they can’t possibly fulfill that promise. Yes, many people don’t even take that promise into consideration. Those relationships are usually doomed from the beginning because they don’t have communication, respect, trust, etc.

    Yes, I think you can have love for many people in your life. I think there are levels of relationships and that they will change throughout your life. I have many male friends with whom I am very close…I don’t have physical relationships with them and I don’t have as intimate emotional relationships with them as I do my husband. I can tell my husband anything, and he does the same. We don’t tell our friends of the opposite sex everything because the level of trust isn’t the same. We would never take another sexual partner. There are SO many reasons why….the physical dangers (STI’s, etc), the ruined trust, the effect on our children, the end of the life we’ve worked so hard to build together. That is one betrayal I personally could never recover from, and my husband knows this. If there were EVER an infidelity, there would be a divorce. Our children would have a broken home and probably have lifelong issues with love, trust, and relationships due to one person’s selfish actions.

    Perhaps there are children of a poly relationship that can go on to have healthy relationships. Perhaps there are poly relationships in which partners truly feel no jealousy… but I doubt both of those things. Why do we feel jealousy? Even if we come from a family with no history of cheating, we all feel jealousy….because it’s natural. Because we are protecting our partnership, our family, and our way of life. As a woman, I strongly feel it’s because I feel a biological desire to protect my children from such a betrayal.

    Like I said, if I hadn’t known people living in the poly lifestyle, I may be more inclined to say “to each his own”. But knowing the emotional damage it did to my friends, their children, and their entire families, I just can’t see how this is a positive influence for children or families. If you lived this lifestyle before having children and your kids never knew, that’s one thing, but subjecting children to the constant influx of emotional manipulation, jealousy, resentment….it’s not fair to them. This is what I feel is in large part wrong with our society now….adults only thinking of themselves, their physical needs, without considering the effects of their selfish actions on anyone else….their spouse/partner, their children, their childrens’ future relationships and trust…..is it REALLY worth it?

    • I found your comment very respectful. Thank you. I’m pretty vanilla, too, actually. No problem with that. :)

      Agreed. There are “poly” people and couples and relationships who still unfortunately use emotional and sexual manipulation. There are those who call themselves “poly” who are liars and cheaters, who still deceive. No doubt.

      You know two poly relationships that have ended in bitter divorce. No doubt. I know of two right now that are both going through a divorce, neither bitter (so far). That said, I’ve known dozens of “monogamous” marriages that have gone through bitter divorces, too. The children are no less hurt. There was still manipulation and deception.

      “How about how your partner TRULY feels?”

      It’s up to your partner to express how they truly feel. That’s the other side of that sentence that nauseated you. It’s about expressing your true needs to each other and accepting each other for who each of you are, not who each of you think the other is.

      “How about a partner who loves you so desperately that he or she will endure painful infidelities to “keep” you?”

      Do you want your partner to endure painful infidelities to “keep” you? This doesn’t sound like a healthy relationship. It sounds like a very addictive and dependent one. An abusive one.

      If you’re suggesting that these “painful infidelities” are what’s endured in a poly relationship, then there is some misunderstanding here. Polyamory is not infidelity.

      “The poly relationships I knew were full of manipulation and subtle emotional control like that. “But don’t you love me? You know I “need” this. We talked about this! You know I’ll always love you!” Any decent therapist will let you know that those are tools of manipulation and control for your own selfish desires.” AGREED!!!! Wholeheatedly agreed. This is abuse and manipulation, and by no means the norm in poly relationships! This is coercion.

      I know of two different men whose wives came home one day, after she was caught in infidelities, and announced that they were now “polyamorous.”

      This is not polyamory, even if that’s what they’re calling it, which is why I’m putting it in quotation marks. It’s abuse and coercion. It’s manipulation. This is not a healthy relationship.

      “Those relationships are usually doomed from the beginning because they don’t have communication, respect, trust, etc.”
      Any relationship is, whether poly or mono. I think that’s what so many people misunderstand about my posts. I’m not pushing a poly lifestyle here. I’m pushing communication and intimacy. If monogamy works for you. Great. Have at it! Good for you!

      It doesn’t work for some people. And that’s okay, too.

      As for those emotional manipulators and abusers, whether they call themselves “polyamorous” or “monogamous,” they are still assholes. Do you condemn the monogamous lifestyle because upwards of 80% of marriages one or both partners have cheated? Do you condemn Catholicism because a few priests are pedophiles? Then why condemn polyamory because of a few lying, manipulative assholes? So you’ve known two “poly” relationships that crashed and burned. How many “monogamous” relationships have you known that practice infidelity on some level? Deception? Divorce?

      “I can tell my husband anything, and he does the same.” <— and this is why your marriage works –and, if you were attracted to someone else, can you tell him that? If you feel love for someone else, no matter what level of love, can you tell him that? Can he tell you that? If so, then you are in a polyamorish relationship. :)

      You don’t have to have outside lovers to be poly. It’s the acceptance that love in infinite. It’s a level of intimacy with your primary. It’s being open and honest.

      As for your poly friends, they are not a good representation of polyamory.
      Just like I have friends who are “monogamous.” One of my “monogamous” friends, the husband has cheated on his wife 4x in the past year. With 80% of marriages participating in infidelity, this is unfortunately the norm.
      Still, not a good representation of monogamy.

      What makes both poly and mono (and any) relationship work is the honesty, the openness, and the ability to create and maintain intimacy. To love each other for who you are. To create and maintain a safe, sacred place to hold discussions about anything.

      I think children have just as much chance to be fucked up from being raised in a monogamous household, especially if it’s “monogamish” or they witness the parents fighting all the time, being distant and not affectionate, or if one or both are cheating. They have no more chance of growing up to have healthy relationships if coming from an unhealthy “monogamous” relationship than if they come from an unhealthy “polyamorous” relationship.

      Children have a great chance of having healthy relationships if they were raised in a healthy relationship, poly or mono. One that prioritized intimacy, openness, communication, and honesty.

      Jealousy is natural. It’s a response to a fear of loss or abandonment, but just because it’s a natural fear response doesn’t mean that it’s healthy. Please read Jealousy vs. Compersion.

      And, please, don’t think that every poly or open relationship got there from coercion and manipulation, because they didn’t. It’s just a different lifestyle.

      I totally agree with you about adults thinking only of themselves. I know several people who claim they’re “staying together for the children,” but they continue to cheat, lie, deceive, abuse, take abuse from their spouse. Is this what they want to teach their children? When people say they’re “staying together for the children,” I think they’re staying together out of fear or cowardice, not being able to face reality and free themselves and the other to find someone who will respect and cherish each of them. And what better can we teach our children…to not only respect themselves but to respect the people they love…even when the decisions before them are not easy ones.

      Respect. Communication. Honesty. Love.

      This is what we should be teaching our children.

  16. [...] There are some great examples of respectful comments from those who don’t agree >>here<< and you’ll see my respectful responses in [...]

  17. Just wanted to say that I have to agree with some of the other commenters that #4 rubbed me the wrong way a bit. Yes, I think that some people are “wired” for poly, so to speak, and that they will probably be very unhappy trying to force themselves to be monogamous. Just as a gay person would be unhappy forcing themselves to be straight or vice versa.

    However, I don’t believe that’s always the case. I don’t feel that I *need* other partners. Neither does my husband. It’s not like insulin or serotonin for us. It’s not a matter of requiring more than one SO to balance us out or keep us happy. We’ve both said at various points that we’d be happy just being with each other for the rest of our lives.

    For us, it’s not a matter of seeking out other partners. It’s just knowing that if we should happen to find that spark with someone else, we’re free to discuss and explore it. If we don’t, no problem, we’ve got each other and that’s enough for us.

    Like I said, I realize that not everyone practices poly the way we do. Not everyone feels the same way or sees eye-to-eye. But not every poly person feels the same as presented in #4 either.

    Still a good article overall though and I do agree with a lot of what’s said. I also think that the comments and conversation generated by this are at least as valuable as the article itself. Thanks for making this available and responding so thoughtfully to everyone’s remarks!

    Regards,
    – Helen Besoe

    • Hi Helen!

      Thank you for you comment. Just for clarity, the “your spouse isn’t enough for you” is one of the myths. That’s what I was trying to dispel. Certainly not all poly couples are alike, and I don’t feel that I implied that every poly person feels the examples given in #4. I merely gave some examples of why some people open up. Sexual appetite difference. Sexual kink differences. Emotional needs differences. Biological differences. Sometimes it’s a need, like these examples, sometimes it’s not a need but just a choice. Or it’s a choice to fulfill a need.

      Every couple is as unique an entity as every individual. It would be impossible to list every possibility within poly couples, as the choices made within a couple or triad or quad, plus their satellite relationships, as the possibilities are as limitless as the love shared between them.

      Also, things change over time. My husband and I originally opened up under those same circumstances…if someone came along we’d be free to explore. Now, six years later, I’m actively dating and hoping to find a true secondary. Relationships and needs sometimes evolve. I’m just so thrilled that we’re open enough and close enough to evolve with those changes.

  18. Lovely post, thank you. It seems like everyone has their one anecdotal story of an open relationship ending badly, but few people realize that they probably know folks who keep their *successful* open relationships prudently quiet. Thirty years ago (or less), you heard people say the same things about gay relationships, if they were willing to talk about them at all — “I’ve never known one that worked,” “it’s all hedonistic promiscuity,” etc. I’ve found that when my partners and I come out to friends or acquaintances, it tends to shift their views dramatically (if sometimes very gradually).

    • Indeed. That always gets me, really. Their one story about a poly relationship ending badly. What about all the monogamous bad-ending stories? Countless, I’m sure. The facts are that sometimes relationships end badly, no matter what kind they are. Sometimes people don’t handle things as well as they could. Sometimes abuse is involved. And you’re right to bring up the comparison with gay relationships, quite true. Whereas homosexual relationships are now more accepted, non-monagamous relationships/people are experiencing similar prejudices.

      I’m so pleased to hear you are teaching by example. Best way to do so. Thank you for your comment.

  19. [...] Through non-monogamy and the concept that we don’t own each other… Through respecting the other’s freedom… Through being aware and sympathetic to our respective fears… Through courage and honesty… Through discovering each other for who we are instead of who we want the other to be… Through the understanding that the only thing either of us ever wants to hear is the truth… Through embracing compersion and rejecting jealousy Through the knowledge that love breeds more love, desire more desire… [...]

  20. An interesting approach to introducing polyamory. Over all one of the better ones I’ve seen, but the biological approach was a bit off putting. It was like you were saying marriages open mainly because one spouse has needs that aren’t fulfilled, which is a perfectly valid reason to open up a relationship, but I know just as many open marriages for whom it was a mutual thing – what they both wanted, or for whom there was no sense of unmet needs, just a desire to explore a different relationship style.

    • Absolutely. So do I, but arguably, that’s a need that’s not being met: the need for exploration or variety or to try something new. Need/desire, it’s really all a matter of semantics. I mean, what do we really *need* to survive?

      I don’t think marriages or relationships mainly open for any one reason. They open for a variety of reasons. These introductory articles were aimed at couples who were raised to be monogamous and feel that there is something inherently “wrong” with non-monogamy. There are biological “needs” that are sometimes not met or are imbalanced. There are desires, like certain kinks, one partner may have and the other has no interest in. There might just be the desire (or “need”) to love more. Which is where I fall.

      I love to love. I have a lot of love to give. And I love to be loved. And love just breeds more love.
      I love to feel desired and I love to express desire. And desire just breeds more desire.

      But I also know couples who have opened up because of unexplored kinks. Because of unmet needs. Because of mutual desire. Because of a gazillion reasons.

      My biggest problem with people who identify as poly is that so many of them (and I’m rather shocked at just how many of them) think it’s all about casual sex or *easy* relationships or fulfilling selfish “needs” and using others for that purpose without investment in a relationship. I’ve met people who absolve themselves from all responsibility in the relationship and from their own actions, and they all call themselves “poly.” See my recent post on “People Who Hide Behind Poly.”

      I’ve had the traumatic eye-opening experience that this lifestyle attracts players and narcissists and psychopaths and sociopaths. Dangerous people who prey on those who are open and loving. It’s horrifying, really. In my local community, there is a big cross-over between the polyamorous community and the kink community, which is another valid lifestyle, but they are two separate things. I think that’s why many people I’ve met in my local community put more emphasis on casual encounters/relationships. That said, there is a core group of truly polyamorous people who develop, nurture, and maintain several loving, committed relationships. Hopefully certain narcissistic predators and players who have tried to infiltrate the community will be seen for who they are by the core group before they get a chance to do more damage.

      As I’ve said countless times, there is nothing wrong with casual encounters or casual relationships, as long as the integrity to be honest about intentions is in place and the relationship dynamic is consensual.

  21. [...] 50 Shades of Grey – A changing attitude to fetish or a double standard? – Loula Cherry Dispelling 5 Myths about Polyamory « Caught in the Cogs Case Study: Stages of Submissive “Sorry” » Dumb Domme Ask The Dom: Aging and BDSM  Dirk [...]

  22. Have you ever read the book Ethical Slut by Dossie Easton and Janet Hardy? The book discusses some of the points in your article (among other things) , just in greater detail.

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