How does a Polyamorous relationship work? We asked people in them to explain
‘It’s relaxing not to have to worry about cheating’
In an era of society where gender and sexuality are becoming increasingly more ‘fluid’, there has been a steady rise in popularity of less traditional relationship models, specifically Polyamory. Polyamory is, basically consensual non-monogamy, where people in a relationship have more than one partner, but everybody involved is aware of the other partners. Unfortunately, due to multiple partners being involved, some people see Polyamory as intrinsically linked to sexual promiscuity, which can in turn lead to slut shaming. So I got in contact with some Polyamorous-identifying people, and here’s what they had to say.
What are the main things you need in order to make having relationships with multiple people work?
I think it’s really important to talk about boundaries and what is and what isn’t OK to do because I suppose it’s not the same as being completely single. I’ve had these conversations with my partner and also we agree to be honest about anything we do with other people. I think transparency is important with everyone you are with so that no one gets hurt. It’s different for different people or couples though, I reckon some people wouldn’t wanna be so honest about everything and that’s OK. Literally people are so confused when I say that I love my boyfriend but get with other people.
I wouldn’t say that it needs anything special, anything that isn’t required for a relationship anyway. Time management is perhaps more important than in a monogamous relationship. But the other things that you need – trust, communication affection – should be there in whatever style of relationship you have. Similarly, the things that make a poly relationship unhealthy would do so for a monogamous couple as well – secrecy, possessiveness, being controlling. I would say that having multiple relationships tends to be a kick up the backside in getting communication skills/etc to the fore, and I think that shows even in poly people who are currently single, or in a monogamous relationship.
How did you ‘discover’ that you wanted to be in an open or poly relationship?
He (my boyfriend) suggested it, but I’d always been open to the idea. I was previously in a relationship with someone really obsessive who thought I was cheating for about two years when I never had so if I was to be in another relationship I kinda needed the complete opposite. At first I was kind of scared but it’s actually been better. It’s not like I do a lot but it’s quite relaxing to not feel anxious about “cheating” and stuff.
So after a four year relationship where I was broken up with unexpectedly, I went into my next relationship very much saying it was casual and taking it slow, which my partner at the time was OK with. We got closer but I still defined it as an open relationship and had a few other romantic/sexual encounters during that relationship. During this time I read more about polyamory, and one of my sexual relationships turned into a romantic one, seperately me and my partner at the time broke up and me and my current partner of two years have had full relationships outside of each other, and we would describe ourselves as poly.
Well, it was a bit of a journey to be honest. I knew what polyamory was from relatively young, around 15-17, when I like so many of my generation turned to the internet to provide the sex & relationship education so desperately lacking from our schools. It then sat in some corner of my memory as the years went by, and I began to take an ‘interest’ in the people around me. There was never really a time, even when I was (briefly) dating, when I settled on one person and thought “yes, you! I want to be with you to the exclusion of everyone else!” – and perhaps that’s not uncommon among young adults, but with hindsight I think it was at least somewhat symptomatic of my identity.
Having an open relationship has helped me come to better understand myself and my sexuality. Me and my boyfriend talked thoroughly and decided he would be comfortable with me experimenting sexually with women, for that very purpose. He wasn’t comfortable with me being with men however and so I simply didn’t do anything with any men. After this experience I’ve realised I’m not polyamorous as I found myself uncomfortable returning to my boyfriend after any sexually encounters with other people. However I am so grateful for this experience as it’s helped me learn that I wasn’t polyamorous, but that I am bisexual.
What kind of reactions do you usually get from people who find out you’re polyamorous?
Slut-shaming. From boys, one thing I heard so much, and what everyone would say to my boyfriend too which upset him so much, was “why would you let other guys bang your girlfriend.” I used to like scream down the phone at him “this is a feminist fucking issue!” when he told me people said that. I think it’s just so offensive. The idea that he’s “letting” me be fucked by people, as if I’m a completely passive object that he can rent out to other people, is ridiculous. They always said “fucked” or “banged” aswell which made it sound so seedy and “banged” is so violent as well. It’s really interesting as well that the reverse of that should have been “I can’t believe you let other girls bang your boyfriend,” but instead people would say “you let him bang other girls?” which is again so skewed.
I never had anyone directly call me a slut or say anything too outright, and I think lots of girls envied the kind of “have you cake and eat it too,” thing I had going on, but I think because I had the boyfriend bit sorted, it was very obvious to people that I was looking purely for sex not love. I think lots of people judged that, especially some people I knew who were quite conservative in their ideas about sex, and they seemed kind of horrified by how brazen I was about having casual sex.
Actually most of the time there’s the very basic questions ‘How long have you been together with your partner, Is it serious?’ and ‘How many times have you had sex with someone else’, that sort of thing, but most people get it fairly quickly and just accept it.We are getting to the point where most left-leaning people under 30 have at least heard of it and are broadly OK with it. It’s broadly similar to coming out as not-straight in the 90s.
I am a bit more keen to bring up poly in conversations, mostly as a head-shaking “has no-one considered healthy polyamory” when discussing relationship woes, either real or fictional. I’ve yet to have a bad response to this, mostly it’s just a bit of idle curiosity. I think most people dismiss it as a choice for themselves just out-of-hand, which is a shame.”
Finally – What would you say to somebody who doesn’t understand the concept of Polyamory?
Open relationships definitely aren’t for everyone. They can push you to your most insecure and jealous side, and I would be lying if I said it was perfect with my boyfriend we had so many fights and tears during it.
But what I would say is, if you commit to it, it can be such a fun time of discovery about your sexuality.