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.
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.
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**
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~ by omgrey on January 9, 2011.
Posted in Romance & Relationships
Tags: author, fear, honesty, infidelity, intimacy, love, non-monogamy, o.m. grey, olivia grey, open, open marriage, passion, polyamory, relationship advice, relationships, romance, sex