I’ve been in a non-monogamous relationship with my husband for about three years now. Before that, I was involved in other non-monogamous relationships, going back for quite a few years. In that time, I’ve found that people unfamiliar with polyamory tend to have some common misconceptions about what it means. This list in its original form is on my OkCupid page, and so it mostly reflects the misconceptions I’ve encountered there.
This is not meant to be a definitive list, hence the title “What Polyamory Isn’t To Me.” I’ve only been a poly blogger for a short time, and I’m only just getting familiar with what’s already been done so forgive me if I’m flogging a dead horse.
This list includes some common misconceptions, but also particular stereotypes I personally take exception to. I don’t claim to speak for all polyamorous people, but mainly myself. Rather than calling them ‘myths’ I’ve decided to instead call them ‘assumptions.’
Assumption #1.) Polyamory = Polygamy
I think this is probably on every one of these lists. I’m guessing most people who’ve been to a polyamory blog before know this one, but if you’ve never heard of polyamory before, then maybe you should go to wikipedia first.
Finished? Great. We can move on.
Assumption #2.) Polyamorous women are sexually available/indiscriminate.
I am actually quite picky. It’s not just about random sex for me. I choose to build intimacy with a partner before sex. This wasn’t always true for me, but it is now. Polyamory isn’t an excuse for me to go around shagging whomever I please, it’s about building relationships. In fact, I am more picky than I would otherwise be because it’s not enough to be cute, you have to be mature, respectful and have a great deal of emotional intelligence before I will even consider shagging you, and it takes at least three dates to determine whether that’s true. 😉
Assumption #3.) A relationship with a polyamorous person doesn’t count as a “real” relationship.
Basically, this is the scenario that I (and other poly people I know) have experienced several times :
I’m in a relationship with someone (poly or mono), I’ve told them from the beginning that I’m polyamorous and things go well. We spend a lot of time together and build a nice, honest relationship. Then suddenly, (usually in the springtime) they disappear for a week and when they contact me again, it’s “Hey, so I met this girl and I want to pursue a real relationship with her, so we can’t see each other anymore.” After all the time we’d spent together, having gotten close and talking about how awesome it is to be open and honest, he breaks up with me like it never happened. Instead of explaining to the other girl, “Look, I really like you, but I’m in a relationship with someone. It’s a polyamorous relationship, but I just need to be honest with you and with her before pursuing anything with you.” They just assume from the outset that not only will the other (presumably mono) person not be OK with it, but that I will understand, after all, I’ve still got my husband to go back to. When I was poly and unmarried it was more like, “Well, we were just fooling around, right?” as if the lack of exclusivity somehow invalidated the depth of the attachment.
I’ve found this is mostly something that happens with someone who is either new to polyamory or who is usually monogamous but is ‘ok with’ dating someone who is poly. However I know of at least one person who was a bit of a polyactivist amongst his friends who turned on a dime when he met a mono woman he really liked, and completely abandoned my friend and their relationship.
Assumption #4.) All polyamorous couples are “swingers” just looking for a sex hookup.
I always feel the need to reassure people about this. I think it’s because when I come out to someone for the first time, I really don’t want them to immediately think “Oh dear god, now they’re going to want to seduce me/steal my man/steal my woman/invite us to some weird sex party!”
This myth has already been covered a lot by other people, but here’s my personal take.
My husband and I are happy with our relationship. If we pursue a relationship, sexual or otherwise, outside of our relationship, we do so individually. It’s not something we do as a couple. We don’t “swing,” though we’re not opposed to the idea if we met a couple that we were really into. We do have relationships with each others partners, but they are usually nonsexual. We’re also not looking for orgies or group sex either. It’s not just about sex. If either of us meets someone, and we like them, it means it doesn’t have to end with “Look, I’m married. So we can only just be friends.” It means we can pursue it further, and even have a committed, long term secondary relationship. My husband has been with his secondary partner for two years! That’s longer than most monogamous relationships he’s had!
In other words. “Yes, we’re poly. No this does not necessarily mean either or both of us want to have sex with you.”
Assumption #5.) All polyamorous couples are looking for a threesome.
Threesomes can be fun. But for me, they are not the Holy Grail of sex. I’ve been there, done that, watched the video. They’re fine. But, I’ve found that for me, they are difficult to orchestrate and sometimes can be more trouble than they’re worth. If it should happen to come along, great. If not, I’m not going to cry about it.
A triad, or a relationship where three people are all romantically involved with each other is something I have limited experience with. Unfortunately for me it didn’t work out, but for others it can be a lasting valid relationship style.
My point is that not everyone is into polyamory for HOT THREEWAY SEX. In fact, some of us prefer sex between two people when it comes right down to it.
Myth #6.) All polyamorous couples are unhappy with their current partner, otherwise they’d be monogamous.
This is just insulting. It implies that the more relationships you have, the less intimate those relationships must be. I’m guessing it’s also probably due to the myth that if you truly love someone with that mythical fairytale romantic love, that everything will always be good all the time and you’ll never look at another person again. I’m very happy with my husband. He is my partner in life and I can’t imagine any reason I would ever leave him. But we are realistic about what we like and what we want. If I had to settle for monogamy, I’d always wonder if there was “something better out there” and then when I met some new cute person, and all those happy brain chemicals started flowing, I’d think I found the real one and I’d be unhappy with my existing relationship as it would be a barrier to this Great New Person. In my current relationship, I can pursue that new person as long as my partner is aware of it and consenting. It means every new relationship strengthens and deepens my existing relationship because we are open and honest about our feelings. When I see my partner loving another woman, it means I see another side of him I might not have otherwise seen. The irony is, if I was monogamous, I would be unhappy in my relationship, but the fact that we’re both polyamorous means I’m happy.