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Is Polyamory More Common Than We Think?

Years ago, while in a monogamous relationship, I had this idea that my partner and I should consider a more open approach to our relationship.

This resulted in me suggesting we consider a polyamorous lifestyle. 

The request was driven by the belief that my sex drive was too much for him. I needed and wanted more of it than he was willing to give.

If could have sex with other people with his permission I could make the relationship last forever.

At the time I was reading The Ethical Slut and was positive I had figured out the solution to making relationships last. Or at least my current relationship. 

It was a giant fucking leap.

I will never forget the look on his face and the silence that followed for 72 hours. How hurt and emasculated he had felt that I could consider, let alone actually verbalize this request. It was inconceivable to him.

Our relationship, I thought, was everything I was looking for. What any other woman was conditioned to look for; a trustworthy, good man who wanted to provide for and would die for his family. He also embodied the qualities that I considered non-negotiable: smart, funny and driven. 

But below this ‘perfect on paper’ relationship and family life was a craving I couldn’t ignore. It was this feeling of wanting to be ‘more than a wife and mother’. I wanted to have a partner who wanted to play and explore with me sexually.

Almost a decade later and I can still see how this was one of my most “I didn’t think that all the way through” moments. What I wanted was not polyamory. I wanted could be defined as an open relationship… possibly swinging. 

What I failed to understand was the underlying structure that makes polyamory.

(Which I’m sure was made abundantly clear in The Ethical Slut, but I failed to miss. I was nowhere near mature enough at the time.)

Despite what society tends to believe about the lifestyle, (most) people participating in polyamory are actively- consciously- engaging in and processing the full bandwidth of emotions that come with multiple partners.

At the root of these relationships is communication, consent and the practicing of boundaries. 

I once listened to a podcast on Modern Love shared an essay called Talking to my fiancé about my girlfriend and the author shares this: {polyamory} “It’s something to celebrate and not push away,” she continues. “I don’t think the world would be better if everyone was polyamorous. I think the world would be better if everyone could be honest about what they wanted and felt safe expressing their needs. Polyamory is not much about sex at all … [it’s] about friendship, and spending time with different people, and letting different people fill your various needs and letting people be exactly who they are.”

What stuck out to me while listening were the conversations between the couples about their emotions. They were never shut down or told not to feel a certain way. Instead they were encouraged to share what they were experiencing.

There is an openness to each individuals experience.

An allowance for you to feel all of it.

To share and not be shut down.

Culturally speaking, we have been taught to keep our sexual desires a secret. To find one person to have sex with. Stay together forever.

But no one is teaching us how to experience the range of emotions that come with your partner possibly being attracted to other people. How to process the doubt or jealously you may feel. Let alone, how to communicate any of it.

When your wife comes home and tells you she’s attracted to another man, the last thing you think to say is, ‘tell me more about that.’

This is when I began to understand polyamory was way more nuanced than just having sex with other people. 

What I failed to see was that I didn’t want a polyamorous lifestyle. I wanted to be able to have the sexual freedom to explore and engage more openly while having my partners permission.

I also failed to see how my partner and I overcame a very difficult conversation and how that was a massive win. I didn’t have the capacity then to understand what a feat this moment actually was for us as a couple. 

If I had been more aware, I might have seen how simply having the conversation about polyamory gave us a little taste of what would be required of us if we were to engage in this lifestyle.

There was a moment where neither of us felt safe, but we rode the emotional waves. We fought our way back through silence, outbursts and tears.

That weekend we saw sides of ourselves we had never seen- nor felt. The overall experience created a channel that reconnected us on a deeper level. It brought us closer. 

We evolved.

You may be wondering where I stand on polyamory now.

Personally, I’m simply too lazy. The idea of it alone sounds exhausting.

Sexually I’m curious and like the idea of ‘playing’, but I have very little desire to spend my time engaging in making it happen. Again, I attribute this to being lazy.

I barely have the energy and bandwidth to maintain my everyday relationships with work and life. The way I show up in my relationships is very available. I’m very present and in them. What is required of me emotionally in my monogamous relationships and friendships is equally as nuanced, deep and evolutionary as those who practice polyamory. There is constant consciousness to everyones needs.

However, I don’t expect my partner to meet all my needs. I want my partner to be present with me, make love to me and listen. Everything after that is a bonus or outsourced. 

I’m not looking for my partner to run with me. I don’t need them to be my best friend and talk to me all day. I don’t need them to help me raise my kids. Is he here for all of that? Absolutely. But it’s not required.

I have workout partners. I have friends. I have a co-parent. I’m not interested in placing all my needs on one person. It’s a fuck ton of pressure.

Would I consider myself poly? 

By definition, no. 

But it might be argued that when I consider the people in my life and how we support one another emotionally, I am living a poly life.

It might be argued we all are in some ways. 

If you deconstruct the foundation polyamory is built upon (and remove the sexual component) you might find that most people operating in monogamous relationships aren’t far from the poly model. Meaning, you are getting your needs met by the communities you’ve created. 

The ‘it takes a village’ cliche may lend itself to low key polyamory.

The community you’ve built, your friendships and partnerships have all happened evolved from an initial spark, also known as chemistry. You formed a connection. You practice communicating and I imagine some level of boundaries. Notice how this language isn’t used to describe the other relationships in your life? That it’s been limited to romantic and sexual partnerships, but in essence it’s happening across the board with human interaction.

You are engaged with and practicing boundaries, communication, and supporting one another in emotional ways.

There was a recent survey done according to an article in The New Yorker: How Polyamorists and Polygamists Are Challenging Family Norms ‘ten million people already practice some form of consensual non-monogamy, and the true number, given people’s reticence is certainly higher.’

What we consider ‘non-traditional’ might be something that just isn’t talked about. 

This article is not only full of insight, but it’s an in-depth look at how our laws are structured to support monogamy. How language limits us. Questions the ethics around being telling people how to conduct themselves in their personal relationships.

Regardless of my opinion and lack of experience, this much is true: Open relationships, polyamory, consensual open marriage is becoming more mainstream. 

Even people on Bumble have it listed in their profiles. 

I wonder if we’ll see a drop in infidelity as we see more social acceptance and awareness around the lifestyle rise?

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