Guest columnists and contributors are generously sharing their talents and insights while I’m taking some time to care for my new baby. Today’s post comes from Coleen, who maintains a personal blog at Reverse Retrograde.
Polyamory, the practice of having a relationship with more than one person, is enjoying a bit of a coming-out party. Though there’s some debate about how polyamory should be practiced, it’s generally seen in multiple partnerships, group relationships, and occasionally even group marriage. If you’ve been toying with the idea of trying polyamory, check out these six reasons for taking the plunge and see if you’re ready to jump in and test the waters!
1. You could find an incredibly supportive community.
Many cities have poly meetup groups that meet on a regular basis for discussion and support. Newbies and people who are simply curious about how these relationships work (How does one decide how to split the groceries? Do poly people all shower together to save water?) are usually welcomed with open arms. This is a great place to get started and dispel some of the mystique that polyamory holds for many people. You might even run into your neighbors somewhere other than the PTA!
2. You want to push yourself to find new limits.
How far is too far for you in a relationship? What really bothers you? What do you really like? Where do you see your relationships going? Polyamory is a pressure cooker for relationship exploration. Situations that might not come up in a monogamous relationship are daily occurrences in the poly world, and they will force you and your partners to confront boundaries and limits. You will have to think about why some things are OK for you and why others cross the line, and you might find that your boundaries move around and settle into different patterns as you and your partners evolve. While exploration can always happen in a monogamous relationship, it’s happens harder, faster, and stronger in a polyamorous one.
3. You want to learn how to communicate really really REALLY well.
Like any relationship, polyamory can’t work without open honest communication from all parties involved. Being open and willing to be vulnerable is really scary, because the potential to get hurt or rejected is high. Those with backgrounds in nonviolent communication thrive in polyamorous relationships, and those without it improve their skills drastically.
4. You question the wisdom of “traditional” coupledom.
Throughout history, humans have struggled to maintain monogamous relationships for a variety of reasons. Some people find a monogamous mentality can be unhealthy (this is The One and s/he have to be everything for me forever!). If you find yourself chafing under the expectations or regulations of monogamous relationships, maybe it’s time to try another way of relating. You might find that monogamy is right for you, but wouldn’t you rather know what else is possible?
5. You’re bisexual.
This is a controversial one. Some people categorically dismiss bisexuals as incapable of fidelity, or indecisive wafflers who are too afraid to admit what they really want in a partner. Maybe you are truly attracted to both men and women. Maybe your sexuality doesn’t fit into a sterile little label. Being able to have more than one partner automatically opens the door to triads, quads, and groups that allow a bisexual person the opportunity to love all genders at the same time and live a life that fulfills all parts of them.
6. You’re into BDSM.
If you’re serious about exploring kink, you might run into problems in a strictly monogamous relationship. Everyone has different strengths and limitations, and a big part of BDSM comes from learning from those with more experience how to be safe, sane, and consensual (as all kink must be). Being able to explore sexuality with more than one person is somewhat kinky already, and polyamory or other kinds of non-monogamy can open up situations that are otherwise impossible.
Despite all these fantastic reasons to try polyamory, it may not be the right lifestyle choice for you. Don’t try polyamory (right now) if:
1. You think it will fix your infidelity problems.
Surprise! Cheating exists within polyamorous relationships, too. Most of the time it involves breaking a rule that all involved have established for themselves. People in polyamorous relationships put a high value on consenting to sharing a partner, and going behind your lovers’ backs takes away their ability to give that consent.
2. Your partner is pressuring you.
This is a huge transition for some people, and it has to come from inside. No one should be making the decisions for you, and pleasing your partner is not a good reason to make such a change. Would you change your favorite food from Italian eggplant parmesan to Thai eggplant curry just because your partner liked it better? If your answer is yes, you need to take a time out and consider how your relationship is affecting your own identity. It’s one thing to talk about it and make a decision together and it’s fantastic to support each other through the potential confusion, but don’t give up control to another person because you’re afraid of losing them.
3. You just want to sleep around.
Sleeping around can destroy a poly relationship as fast as it would a monogamous one, putting all of your lovers at risk for STDs, pregnancies, and other complications that come from irresponsible sex. Besides that, polyamory is often more about the emotional connections with each partner than it is about sex. Some polyamorous relationships have no physical component and are solely emotional.
Remember that polyamory is just like any other form of relationship, but multiplied! You need to be aware of and respectful to partners’ feelings, and know that you will make mistakes. A big part of learning to love others is learning to love yourself, just as you are. So try it! Or don’t. Hate it. Love it. Just make sure that you’ve truly considered your true thoughts and feelings on the subject and aren’t jumping to conclusions from a position of fear. And have fun!
* Coleen grew up in Colorado and spends her life seeking wide open spaces, excellent food, and the next adventure. Her constant wandering has granted her superhuman adaptive powers, and whet her appetite for throwing herself into the unknown. She maintains a personal blog at Reverse Retrograde.