Polyamorous? Does That Mean You Like Parrots?
Hi everybody! I'm seventeen, and I'm totally head over heels for two different people.
According to this society's values, that's a problem. Most people in a similar situation would be thinking about choosing between two options: this partner, or that partner--because if you're not monogamous, you're either cheating or you're a slut. I'm here to tell you, It ain't necessarily so!
A Bit Of History:
I met one of my romantic partners, who I'll refer to as A for convenience, for the first time in person at a summer camp about a year ago (though we'd been talking on the internet for a few months already, and developed a tentative crush on each other.) She lives over a thousand miles away, so I wasn't really expecting to have an enduring commitment, especially since I don't tend to stay in contact with people unless I see them in person on a regular basis. But as the week went on, I found myself more and more drawn to her, and the feeling was mutual. We managed to stay in contact through sheer force of will (although the internet definitely helped).
She's actually the person I learned about polyamory from in the first place; she is, and since I fell for her I was naturally curious about that aspect of her life. So I talked to her about it a little, and did heaps of Google searches, and I decided that while I felt fine about her having other partners, I didn't think I could sustain multiple romantic relationships (though as you can see, that changed pretty fast.)
My other current partner, referred to as D, is someone I've known for about five years now, and I've always thought he was a really nifty human being. About six months ago I realized I had a ginormous crush on him, and trying to ignore it wasn't working. After struggling with it for a while (I was also going through some major re-re-re-questioning of my sexual orientation at the time, which didn't help) I decided that I would tell him--and proceeded to do so in the most confused, garbled way I could have, to the point that he didn't even know I was trying to tell him I liked him. Fortunately, we're a lot better at communication now.
Both of my partners met a few months ago when A came to visit me. Neither of them was at all sure what to expect, and D was so nervous he ran away when he unexpectedly saw us together for the first time, but--to make a long story short--they ended up falling in love with each other as well, which I thought was totally cool (and kind of hilarious.) We call each other girlfriend and boyfriend for convenience, although D and I have talked about not really liking many of the societal connotations of those words. When all of us are together, we're most often found in a giggling cuddle puddle on any comfortable horizontal surface, and the question "Who gets to be middle this time?" is often heard. The technical term in the poly world for three people all committed to each other is "triad"; we half-jokingly call ourselves "the hive", short for hive mind.
A Brief FAQ (Kind Of)
Probably the question I get asked most frequently by my peers, which I find amusing, is:
"But you can't make out with more than one person at once, right? How does that work?"
While it's true that, yes, people only have one mouth each, making out can involve more than just mouth-on-mouth. For example, I really like ear-biting, both giving and receiving. Additionally, as long as there's no jealousy issues on anyone's part, watching two people you love kiss each other can be just as much of a turn-on as kissing one of them yourself! We're all good about taking turns and not letting anyone feel left out.
As well, not everyone who is polyamorous has sex with more than one partner at the same time. Many poly people will never have -- and some many never want to have -- simultaneous sex with both or all of their partners.
A recent experience I had was a conversation with an anonymous person, excerpts from which I'm going to share here. Upon me trying to explain polyamory, Anonymous replied:
"They also call that being a swinger..."
There's actually a difference between being polyamorous and being a swinger, although different people draw the line in slightly different places. Being a swinger is generally having one romantic partner, and then you and your partner go off and have sex with other individuals/couples. Polyamory, at least for most of the people I know, is more along the lines of multiple committed romantic relationships, although some may have primary and secondary partners, which means having to be SUPER AWESOME at communication even more than in monogamous relationships.
"Oh Okay I see the difference, well that's cool [...] I'm fine with sharing other sex partners, I just like to have a special emotional connection with my one sweetie you know?"
That last statement really bothers me because of the underlying assumptions that if you don't just have "one sweetie" the emotional connection isn't "special" anymore, which unfortunately I think is an attitude a lot of people in this culture share. I feel like my emotional connection to both of my current partners is as strong or stronger than it has been with my monogamous partners; the communication is definitely clearer and more open!
Another thing I've seen people get confused about is the distinction between an open relationship and polyamory. The way I've seen open relationships commonly construed as is both/all parties getting to kiss or have other sexual activities with whomever they please (with varying limits and varying degrees of communication), which isn't always the case in polyamorous relationships--a poly relationship that's not "open" is sometimes referred to as polyfidelity. The stance that The Hive has on it is basically, "If it makes you happy and the other person happy and the other person's partner (if applicable) is okay with it, go ahead."
When I have the opportunity, I still like to talk to my partners about making out with other people beforehand, though. D and I were hanging out at my house the other day, and I brought up the subject of how we would deal with attractions to other people while we were at camp this year, and whether we should talk about limitations beforehand or discuss things as they came up (to which my fourteen-year-old sister, overhearing, interjected "You guys are awesome.")
While non-monogamy definitely isn't the best relationship model for everyone, it's certainly working out well for me and mine so. That might change in the future, or I might not; but as long as I live and love, I will know that the possibilities are close to infinite.
Want to learn more about polyamory? Check out our guide to your first polyamorous relationship!