Many people I have spoken with picture polyamory as a hyper-masculine man who has multiple female partners and utilizes each of them to achieve his patriarchal image of the perfect family.
However, polyamory is any relationship that supersedes emotional and sexual exclusion.
For me, polyamory is about open, honest communication throughout a relationship, including an honesty regarding the emotions one may feel toward another person as a potential partner. One does not need to have many partners to experience polyamorous relationships. These relationships simply provide the space for any member of the commitment to sincerely explore emotionally, sexually or physically with another person or persons.
Since many monogamous couples prioritize sexual exclusiveness over all else, the notion of emotional intimacy often receives little attention. However, numerous modern day affairs begin with an emotional fantasy that turns into sexual relations. As a person who has engaged in both monogamous and polyamorous relations, I have always wondered why emotional intimacy is not considered cheating in an exclusive relationship.
While I would be more offended if my partner were emotionally intimate, sharing his or her stories and secrets with another person behind my back, popular media and our current culture does not emphasize this form of betrayal.
Polyamory has pushed me to express my emotions in a way monogamy never created space for.
I have explained to my polyamorous partners that I want to share an intimate moment, either sexual or emotional, with another person. And in turn, my partners have told me the same. It is hard, at times, to remain open and expansive because polyamory has urged me to face parts of myself monogamy never challenged. And I have found myself in places and spaces that I never thought possible.
For those interested in polyamorous relationships, it’s important that they understand how they work and the internal growth they enable:
1. Recognize that each partner, as each person, is different and provides us with a specific, unique benefit as a lover, friend and partner.
Polyamory is as open and expansive as the sea. It enables oceans of emotions to flow through each partner. The individuals who engage in the relationships have space to grow alone as well as with their partner(s). We are all multifaceted and it is hard to honestly admit that one person is able to meet all of the characteristics we seek in a partner.
Polyamory allows an individual to assess different parts of themselves that each person brings out. With polyamorous relationships, it is completely acceptable to acknowledge that one partner may stay home and watch movies with us while another may dare us to sky dive. That’s life.
We are complicated creatures with layers and layers of potential to step into our higher selves. That is why polyamorous relationships create more space for each of us to delve into the specific and unique benefits each partner provides us and engage in relations without any life-long commitments or contract.
Polyamory necessitates that each partner be secure in themselves and their intentions with each other. Otherwise, each member of the relationship will feel as though they are competing and in conflict with one another. At times, this sharing of sexual and emotional fluidity may hurt.
To be honest, when my partner(s) first tell me about their experiences with other people, I am hit an overwhelming sensation of jealousy. After the initial reaction, I am able to ground myself and remember the reasons I love the sexual and emotional openness that is polyamory. It simply provides space for each person to explore the limitless potential that multiple people may offer.
We must strive to stay open to all experiences and opportunities. Life is expansive and we should stay grounded in the full potential of our highest self.
2. We must maintain honesty about our emotions and check in with our partners more often when we are in a polyamorous relationship because there are many more factors that necessitate honest, open communication.
It was only when I entered a polyamorous relationship that I realized how often I lie.
I was constantly lying to myself, to my friends and to my partner. I told lies that aided my own hurt as I tried to fit together puzzle pieces that never quite matched up. I couldn’t cope with the notion that we were not meant to be, that there was no fairytale ending or happily ever after. I lied to conceal the truth. Polyamory creates more space for our partner(s) to be open and honest with one another because it does not mirror the traditional relationship where boy meets girl and they fall in love eternally.
Polyamory grows with the individuals because each partner is urged to check in with the relationship, enabling a level of honesty that monogamy doesn’t allow space for. More importantly, in polyamorous relations, we are pushed to check in with ourselves.
If we end up meeting someone we take interest in, we tell our partner(s). Because I truly believe cheating comes in all forms, most of us have engaged in physical, spiritual, mental or emotional dishonesty. While this may occur in a polyamorous relationship, there is no incentive to keep these emotions secretive because our partner(s) will (or should) be willing to embrace our new partners and experiences. Because of this, polyamory does push each partner to a level of vulnerability and honesty that may exceed the individual’s comfort zone.
3. When partner(s) engage in relations with other people, we cannot take it personally.
I was in a monogamous relationship for a year. After I was released from the partnership, I began to honestly check in with my reasons for craving the exclusion. I discovered that I loved the verification I received. With him, I was always the smartest, the prettiest, the funniest. With him, I was the best.
As I shifted toward a polyamorous mentality, I realized that people do not engage in multiple relations because they are bored or because they cannot handle the commitment. Polyamory is about embodying the limitlessness that is love.
As the world continues expanding, there are more and more people out there that one may find absolutely fascinating. The truth is, monogamy limits individuals to the notion that there can only be one person, one soul mate, one true love. But in a world of seven billion people, this is quite hard to believe.
When partner(s) engages in relations with other people, it is not about our own merit. It never was. We are so socialized to view exclusion as a necessity for a healthy relationship. Yet, we are all so different that our gifts can aid each other instead of conflict with one another.
As one ventures into a dark, unknown world of polyamorous love, it is important to remember that other people only magnify our own gifts.
Together, we are so much greater than we ever thought possible!
Author: Cheyane Reisner
Editor: Catherine Monkman