If you are married, you have taken a vow to love and cherish your partner ’till death do you part. Although you may have repeated these words lightly the day of your wedding, you are probably still with your spouse because you love, respect and share many things with her/him. However, there may come a day in your life when another person crosses your path. You may feel the urge to get to know this person and in the process, may experience a need to get a little closer than what the vow you took permits.
The truth is, you don’t really have to be married to get involved in this kind of situation. It happens to most people sometime in their lives and when it happens, it’s very possible they are in a relation already. So, if that occurs to you, what do you do? Do you turn your head the other way and act as if you never came across that person or do you let yourself go and dive head into a new relationship? And if you do the latter, how do you confront it? Do you cheat on your partner or do you honestly open your heart and confess your desires at the sake of a possible destruction of what you have with one of the two? Well, there is a possibility you may choose to consider: polyamory, the new love without limits.
Polyamory? Deriving from Greek and Latin roots, what it means is the ability to love more than one person simultaneously. That doesn’t sound too demanding at first glimpse but there are various factors that should be taken into account before you decide how to and if you want to plunge into it. The first thing that should be understood is its contextual relevance. Polyamory is not swinging! Where swinging is a sort of polysex or having sex as a couple or individual with a third person or couple respectively, polyamory is having another partner in your life to whom you offer love and affection as you do to the partner to whom you are with or married to.
The first thing this means is that there is a mutual agreement to this type of relationship, which may also be the first obstacle you meet. Just because you feel the need to involve yourself in another relationship at a certain point of time in your life, doesn’t mean your partner will feel the same way. As a matter of fact and very likely so, your companion may find the whole idea repulsive and who can blame her/him if that is what we have been taught all our lives in western societies?
Most countries excluding a few African and Asian nations, do not legally recognize the wedding of three people. On the other hand, having a special relationship of three is not illegal. While marrying more than one person is considered bigamy, which in our societies is scorned upon and most times is punishable, relationships in threesome are seen as a sexual diversion and the people involved are characterized as swingers. This creates misunderstanding and legal problems for the three people that are cohabitating in respect to child custody, inheritance, etc.
Yet, while bigamy is basically a term that derives from a legal point of view and is an offense in nations that practice monogamy, polygamy in itself is practiced for the most part in Africa and Muslim nations. There are three types of polygamy. The first and most common is polygyny which is the marriage of a man with various wives. The second and very scarce form is polyandry where one woman is married to various men and the third and closely tied to a polyamory form, group marriage where a group of men and women all marry together. Nevertheless, polygamy is outlawed in practically all of western societies resulting in what may have been polygamous families, living in a polyamorous state.
We have to be aware of the fact that most couples do not meet under polyamory conditions. We meet people all our lives. With some, we create special relationships. We date and marry within those special relationships. Polyamory involves love, loyalty, communication, trust, respect and dignity which are all traits of any special relationship in whichever form it may materialize itself, being hetero or homosexual.
There is however one big difference in polyamory: compersion! But what is “compersion”? If you Google the word you will immediately see that it is a term used by polyamorists and according to Wikipedia, it means the “state of happiness and joy experienced when another individual experiences happiness and joy”. Within polyamory, compersion or to be frubble, is the positive feelings one has when their partner/lover is enjoying another relationship. As you can understand, this kind of feeling leaves very little room for jealousy and that puts polyamory at quite a distance from other types of relationships.
The word compersion was first coined by the Kerista commune in the Haight Ashbury district of San Francisco in the 1960s. It was an epicenter for people in search of alternative and non-monogamous relationships. A pre-hippie group that also used the term polyintimacy and polyfidelity, similar to polyamory used later on, the Kerista commune formed families where opposite sex members slept with each other on a rotational schedule and where also allowed to have sex outside of the normal sleeping schedule.
Ok but the 60s was a long time ago. The hippie movement is long gone and we are now half a century ahead. What does polyamory really mean? How can it be understood? Well, many people think that polyamory is a license to go to bed with anyone you wish but that simply isn’t so. If you go with someone else without your partner knowing about it, then it is called what it has always been called: cheating. One of the fundamental aspects and binders of polyamory is that all partners are informed and that all have the consent of all.
There are structural differences in polyamorous relationships. Polyfidelity relations follow pretty much the same rules as what monogamous couples follow except that they are three. There may be a central figure that has sex with each one of the other partners at different moments or they may even intermingle sexually as a trio. What they don’t do is have other partners outside of their relationship.
Other polyamorous groups may allow outside lovers but only under the acceptance of all the partners and only if the outsider is aware of the polyamorous relationship. Others may involve a primary couple where one or both of the partners take on outside lovers which are considered as secondary, not in how they are valued but rather in that they have different goals than the primary relationship.
It may sound like a strange world to those of us that ever since we were young, were taught that you fall in love with somebody because that person is the person for you, your soul-mate if you like. That however means that if you meet someone else tomorrow, your soul-mate has to be replaced by the new person that you just met. Not much love there, right? Or at least it’s very expandable. Today it’s yours, tomorrow someone else’s.
The belief that people can only love one person at a time is known as the “scarcity” model of love. Your love cannot be divided. There is a limit to it. If you share it with another person, then there isn’t enough to go around and somebody will be left with the short end of the stick. This is what we believe, not what really happens in a polyamorous relationship according to people who practice this lifestyle. They insist that the more you love, the more love there is to share. If you think that you will only meet one person out of the Earth’s population or that of your surroundings, then you are destined to fail because a big part of those in monogamous relationships simply cheat when they meet someone else that interest them. If their new relationship matures into the expression of the love one feels for the other, be it sexually or other ways, many times they will separate from their previous partner in search of new happiness.
Why does that happen? Monogamous couples are structured in a “you for me and I for you” assumption. I am for you as long as you also, are for me. When a new person enters into the life of one of the partners in the relationship, it immediately calls on jealousy. There are many reasons to feel jealous but the feeling of jealousy is for the most part, rooted in another, primordial feeling. You may feel that you will be replaced, that you will stay alone or simply don’t feel your relationship to be so steady.
However, jealousy can be cured but it requires that your mindset is changed. There are questions you have to ask yourself to which you must answer honestly. If you consider that your partner is with you just because you do something well, then you are exposing yourself to defeat when you discover that there may be other people that do this particular thing you’re so hot at, better. Jealousy is a big subject but very important to understanding the foundations of polyamory and a very good explanation and ways to confront it can be found in Franklin Veaux’s PDF, “Practical Jealousy Management”. If the concept of polyamory is difficult for you to comprehend or are experiencing jealousy, do yourself a favor and download it!
Polyamory relationships vary in the ways they are formed. They may be difficult to understand for those that practice a monogamous lifestyle. To many, it may sound like a paradise on Earth. A way to enjoy more than one partner in bed. If you think like that, think again because that’s not what it’s about and you most likely have to read this article again and seek more information to understand the concept.
One thing you have to be aware of in polyamory is its most important aspect: the sharing of love, respect and caring. That should immediately sound an alarm as it is pretty difficult to share your world with one person, let alone three or more. Polyamory is dedication and that should mean a lot if you think you may want to follow this way of life. It’s a difficult road where most people don’t understand you and where you also may sometimes find yourself confused. Most of us know that couples often have their bad moments. Those moments increase in frequency when there is another person involved and it should be seriously considered before committing yourself. Of course, you should also think that by having more people involved in the relationship, the good moments are also more but having a polyamorous relation most certainly deserves thinking out the details before you actually have to act them out. Think wisely, be honest with your partners and most of all, make sure it’s something you would like to get yourself involved in. It isn’t all fun and games. It’s serious! Treat it that way so that you and your partners can enjoy a polyamorous relation.
If you have experience in polyamory, then please comment below and add to the understanding of this lifestyle. If on the other hand you would like more clarification, please feel free to ask your questions in the comment area as well. Polyamory, the new love without limits, is all about sharing and caring!
*Cover photo attribute: By EBS DOCUPRIME – Captured from EBS DOCUPRIME- 부부는 무엇으로 사는가, CC BY-SA 4.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=53683081