“What is Polyamory?”
Question from Isis, 34, New york, NY
So I have this weird idea that a friend of mine has planted in my head and I’m not sure how I feel about it…
Before we begin, I want to give you my situation. I’ve been married to my husband for over five years. Our relationship that used to once be sexy and spontaneous and thrilling has grown into a nice and comfortable flavor of blah. Don’t get me wrong, he is my favorite person in the whole world. He’s my best friend and I love him so much, but our sex has become so predictable and BORING!
In the early days (even after we got married), we used to have so much fun. I think I had more sex in cars in those days than I ever had in high school! Lately, it’s almost mechanical. He strips. I strip. He climbs on…
I was actually considering a divorce and was complaining to my girlfriend about it. She got really quiet and started whispering to me about polyamory. It turns out her and her husband have been hooking up with a hot couple about once a month. They get together and have dinner and drinks and then go somewhere and “play together.”
My friend makes it sound like polyamory saved her marriage and I have to admit, it sounded so incredibly hot! But I’m scared of so many things. Will my husband get jealous? How will I react if I saw my husband having sex with another woman? Could this actually CAUSE a divorce? Will it turn me into a perv?
I’ve never been with another woman. Is it required? I’m not saying I wouldn’t. That sounds pretty hot too!
So here I am pretty much bursting with questions and I need to know–What is polyamory? Can getting into the polyamorous lifestyle save my boring marriage?
What is polyamory? Step one: an opened mind
EDITORIAL NOTE: We actually had a staff meeting here whether or not to answer the question of what is polyamory! It seems when you approach more advanced topics, especially when it comes to sexual freedom, it’s a way for the reader to automatically marginalize an entire website full of great advice and information. It’s entirely possible for you, the reader, to read this article armed with everything you know and have been told about sex and since this is outside your reality, you can simply think, “This must be a website for perverts!”
We are asking you to set aside your judgments and simply understand that there are so many incredible facets to human sexuality and our vast ability to love and be loved. It’s daunting to consider that no matter how dark and amazing your sexual fantasies are, you are still only slipping a toe into an ocean of what’s possible.
Opening your mind and re-examining your boundaries should be a lifelong goal. The only way to keep a relationship alive (and vivacious!) is to always look for new ways to engage your lover and prove to him that you would do whatever it takes to show him how much you love him.
Obviously, in the context of what is polyamory, this might be a little too far for many people’s tastes. So let this serve as an exploration to enlighten you that the world of relationships is as rich and different as you could ever imagine…
As with any lifestyle choice, there comes a new set of vocabulary and guidelines. This article is simply an introduction using as little terminology and nuances as possible. This is simply an introduction for those who are considering an open lifestyle. If you need more information, there will be some links at the bottom. Unfortunately, there aren’t a lot of great books on it, but there is one about swinging that will get you started with all of your questions about boundaries.How to Introduce Your Lover to Swinging covers all the how to get started in opening up your relationship and helps with all the safety issues and how to protect each of your hearts. This should be required reading whether you are exploring polyamory or simply getting into swinging.
So what is polyamory?
On the surface, it’s easy for an outsider to look in and think that polyamory is swinging with a prettier name. For those of you who don’t know what swinging is, it’s simply couples (and single people) getting together for shared sexual experiences. Basically, its group sex, swapping partners, threesomes, etc.
For many people in this lifestyle, the raw desire and disconnectedness of swinging wasn’t enough for them. It was sex without love; sex without a real connection to the person you are hooking up with. Couples discovered that this amazing gift of freedom they were giving each other made their relationships more dynamic, but something deeper was missing.
This disconnect brought on the polyamory movement which is essentially defined as “loving many people” or just “loving more than one.”
It’s a pretty cool concept when you think about it. If you have the ability to love your boyfriend/husband AND your kids AND your family, then it goes without saying that love is not a finite resource. We all have the ability to love many people throughout our lives. Why place an artificial distiction that romantic love can only be a one-at-a-time kind of love?
The essence of what is polyamory takes the casual out of casual sex and allows people to actually form real bonds with the people they sleep with. Simply put, it’s love and sex and freedom without the pangs of mistrust and jealousy and possession.
The anatomy of polyamory
Regardless of what you think about human nature and the nature of what is polyamory, infidelity, cheating, flirting, wandering eyes, and just the plain old desire for something else has defined our history as sexual beings. This goes all the way down to a genetic compulsion to not just create more babies, but for a man, to create babies with as many women as possible. This ensures that his genes will not only flourish, but will have as many chances to flourish through different genetic mixtures. For a woman, her genetic desire is to create babies with a superior male specimen regardless of him being either her primary partner or a saucy pool cleaner thus ensuring healthy and strong babies.
Obviously, we are all thinking beings and have varying degrees of control over these compulsions. But human history is fraught with examples of our inabilities to truly control these desires. Think of it this way, if we were all so in control of our desires, why would the world need so many laws condemning them ranging from public humiliation all the way to being put to death in some cultures? If this affair equals a violent death, you’d think the violation would never happen.
There is a brilliant book called Sex at Dawn: How We Mate, Why We Stray, and What It Means for Modern Relationships that does an in depth exploration of humanity’s non-monogamist roots that you should definitely get your hands on if you are at all considering getting into the polyamorous lifestyle. It will help explain a lot of things you have struggled with in your sexual lifetime. And although it doesn’t address the feelings part in what is polyamory, it definitely will help you come to terms with your own desires and make them feel natural instead of dirty or sleazy.
What’s so great about polyamory?
This is where I must reitterate that having more than one person in your life to love takes a lot of work! It also can be incredibly fulfilling and fun provided you bring the right people into your life to love. There is an excellent term coined by polyamorists called COMPERSION. It’s defined as “the ability to experience pleasure from your partner’s experience when it doesn’t directly involve you.”
Think about loving someone so much that you can watch them doing something that brings them great joy and feel even more in love with them. Parents do this with their kids all the time as they watch them at plays and rehearsals and sporting events yet there is no equivalent for watching your lover doing something that brings great joy to themselves. Don’t you think it’s weird that there never was a word for it before?
The society-imposed way of managing a relationship usually involves burying your lover’s sexuality and claiming them as yours and only yours for the rest of their lives. By being with you, they agree that they can’t have sex, can’t make deep emotional connections, and can’t even flirt with another girl. What if instead, you drop all of the rules that go directly against human nature and celebrate every part of him? Every one of his whims and desires get brought out in the open honestly and specifically.
Hold on a second! Think about that…
Polyamorous couples become so honest and open with each other that many describe this kind of amazement in never having to lie about anything ever again with their partner. It’s an amazing part of what is polyamory! Imagine a relationship where the whole concept of lying and deception vanishes the moment you both decide that you that you are happy that both of you are getting something you crave…
What is polyamory? It’s not for the emotionally weak!
There is no way to candy coat it: if you or your partner have ever even struggled with minor jealousy, then this will not work for you! If either one of you have felt compelled to read each others emails or look through cell phones, do not consider polyamory. If the thought of your man having sex with another woman in front of you makes you shudder, please do not explore polyamory!
Now having said that, there are degrees to any agreement. You might agree with something like “no fun below the waist with other people.” You might try, “You can be with other women, but we have a don’t ask, don’t tell policy.” Or maybe you agree to only have fun with other people when you are both together. Some say this defeats the whole process of discovering other lovers and still stay connected with your partner. Obviously, it has to be done in a way that both people feel completely safe and comfortable. The trick here is to keep communication waaaaay open. Don’t hide anything and be completely honest about your feelings especially when you aren’t feeling good about what’s happening!
Most couples need to work their way up to polyamorous relationships. It all starts with a simple suggestion made by either one of you and then exploring what you both feel comfortable with. There is no doubt that this can be a huge step especially for a couple that has been together for a long time under the standard “ownership rules.” It might take a few tries and you might need to meet a few different couples (or singles) before you find the right fit.
One thing is for certain, for the people who can make this work, they leave a polyamorous interlude feeling more powerful and more in love than they have ever experienced in their lifetimes with another lover. What better gift for the man you love than to allow him to do something so “naughty” and completely forbidden with your adoring blessing. You better bet he will see you with completely different eyes and with a new-found respect after letting the both of you explore what is polyamory.
- The Ethical Slut: A Practical Guide to Polyamory, Open Relationships and Other Adventures.
- Polyamory Forums Want to talk to others about the ins and out of polyamory? This forum is a great place to start… or just to read through what others have said.
- Love More Magazine A magazine with all the poly-related news and events you want to know.
- World Polyamory Association Non-monogamy events and articles.
Of course there are tons of websites all over the internet with more in depth articles on how to discover what is polyamory. Take a look around and read up and make an informed decision on whether this is a lifestyle for you. Be safe and have fun exploring your love and making your own definition for what is polyamory!