8 Common Misconceptions About Polyamory
Despite the continued growth in the popularity of consensual non-monogamy, there are still many misconceptions about why people enter the world of polyamory. I want to take this month’s blog entry to talk about SOME of the more common misconceptions.
Despite the continued growth in the popularity of consensual non-monogamy, there are still many misconceptions about why people enter the world of polyamory. I want to take this month’s blog entry to talk about SOME of the more common misconceptions. Some of these misconceptions come from those who are monogamous and cannot wrap their heads around polyamory and some from within polyamory communities. So, I want to break this article into two sections: For Monogamous Beloveds or Beloveds Who Are Thinking About Exploring Polyamory; and For Those New to Polyamory or Those Already Entrenched in the World of Polyamory but Still Harbor Misconceptions
Common Misconceptions about Polyamory Held by Monogamous Beloveds:
Polyamory is just a way to cheat on your partner. Cheating happens in both monogamous and polyamorous relationships. Just as relationships come in all shapes and sizes, cheating can also takea many forms. It isn’t just about having sex with someone who is not your partner. Cheating is the violation of agreed upon rules. If a couple agrees that they are okay with each other having sex with other people as long as they keep lines of communication open and practice safe sex, then there is no cheating. It is up to each partner to clearly communicate and define what they consider to be “rule breakers” within the relationship and come to a consensus of the “rules”. Just because you and your partner decide that having sex with anyone else is a form of cheating doesn’t make it a rule across the board for all other relationships. You can set parameters and rules for YOUR relationships, but not the relationships that do not include you. If you have struggled with cheating in your relationship, this may help.
Polyamorous people want to get into everyone’s pants/skirts. Um… No. I have actually had this conversation with one of my more conservative friends when I finally told her John and I are polyamorous. Because of her history with her ex-husband, I didn’t want her to worry that anytime John gave her a hug in greeting that he was trying to get in her pants. Nor did I want her to think that I had any desire to sleep with her husband. Yes, there are some people who use polyamory as an excuse to sleep with multiple partners, however the majority of polyamorous folx are just as picky about their sexual partners as anyone else.
Polyamorous people have big orgies all the time. Orgies can be fun, yes. And SOME polyamorous people participate in orgies from time to time. However, polyamory is NOT just about the sex. There is a big variety of sexual identification within the polyamorous community and there are many polyamorous folx who have no desire for casual sex, orgies, or any sex at all.
If your partner wants to explore polyamory, it means you aren’t enough for each other or your relationship is lacking in some way. In monogamy, we are conditioned to believe that we have to be our partner’s EVERYTHING. If our partners search outside of our relationship, then there is something lacking or broken within the relationship. In polyamory, we realize the magnitude of the weight it is to be someone’s EVERYTHING. We realize that to expect someone to fulfill ALL the needs and desires of their partner is unrealistic. John, Tyler, and I like to use movies as our analogy to help explain polyamory to our monogamous beloveds. I LOVE a good horror movie and I enjoy a good rom-com. John HATES horror movies but loves a good rom-com. Tyler is the exact opposite. Nothing is wrong with either of them. They just have different tastes and movie needs and desires. I don’t think any less of either of them. I just go to Tyler for my horror movie fix and John for my rom-com fix. I can’t expect either of them to change themselves to suit my needs and desires just as I wouldn’t change myself to suit their needs and desires. I’m not going to stop watching horror movies because my husband doesn’t like them and I’m not going to force him to start watching them with me. We are all individuals. We all have individual needs and desires. Just because our partner’s needs and desires don’t match all of ours and we don’t match all of theirs doesn’t mean any of us are lacking. I can tell you that Tyler is very happy he doesn’t have to watch rom-coms with me and John is equally happy he doesn’t have to watch horror movies with me.
Polyamorous people are afraid of commitment. Some polyamorous people may be afraid of commitment. Some monogamous people are afraid of commitment. Commitment also looks like different things to different people. Many polyamorous people are very committed to their individual relationships. Their commitment just doesn’t take the shape of exclusivity as it often does in the world of monogamy. For more on commitment in polyamorous relationships, read this.
Common Misconceptions About Polyamory from Polyamorous Folx
If You Get Jealous, You Shouldn’t be Polyamorous. This misconception tends to run a little rampant in polyamorous communities and has been used to manipulate people within the community. Here’s the thing. Jealousy is a natural emotion that most people deal with from time to time. Jealousy in relationships may be a symptom of a deeper problem either within the actual relationship, or with one’s own insecurities. If you find yourself feeling jealous within the relationship, it doesn’t mean you are doing polyamory wrong, it just means that there may be some deeper things to look into within the relationship or within yourself. Take some time to get it sorted out. I’ve written numerous times about compersion and jealousy within polyamorous relationships. You can find them here, here, and here.
Polyamorous Relationships Must Have the Same Dynamics or It Isn’t True Polyamory. This one can cover the span of ALL relationships within the polyamorous world from the type of romantic partners you have; if you have any romantic partners; to your relationships with your metamours (your partner’s other partners). Not all polyamorous relationships look the same way. ‘Romantic partners’ does not always mean sexual partners. Nesting partners (the partners with whom you live and maybe raise children with) are not always romantic or sexual partners. BDSM families do not equal abuse or a lack of ethics. You do not have to like or get along with your metamours. Your metamours do not have to like or get along with you. There are about as many relationship dynamics in the polyamory world as there are polyamorous people. Just because someone else’s relationships don’t look like everyone else’s doesn’t mean it is wrong or unethical. What matters is that everyone in the relationship is treated with respect and has informed consent. Metamours and Paramours alike. I go into some deeper detail about this topic here.
Those Who Practice Polyamory Are More Enlightened Than Those Who Are Monogamous. This one gets my goat a little bit. Just because you have opened yourself up to the possibility of loving more than one romantic partner at a time, does NOT make you more enlightened than those who are monogamous. Enlightenment is a process and it involves more than just one aspect of your life. I know monogamous people who put some polyamorous people to shame in terms of walking their spiritual path… which is what Enlightenment is about. Enlightenment is about not only walking your spiritual path, but also acknowledging, encouraging, and embracing growth within your life as a human and as a spiritual being. I know some Christians who behave in a manner that says they are more Enlightened than some Pagans I know; and vice versa. Enlightenment is personal and subjective.
While I know that I have only scratched the surface of the many misconceptions about polyamory from both outside the community and inside the community, these seem to be the most prominent. If you are new to polyamory or thinking about exploring polyamory, learn from as many resources as you possibly can. There are books, articles, on-line courses (I will be helping to launch several in 2020-stay tuned), polyamorous-friendly coaches and therapists, and a multitude of communities, take advantage of as many of them as you can. Learn. Ask. Learn some more. Know that there are likely multiple answers to single questions. Varying perspectives can do that. Follow your instincts and intuition. If someone’s answer doesn’t sit well with you, ask someone else.
If you have a loved one who has come out as polyamorous, maybe this has helped to ease some of your concerns. I encourage you to ask questions and have conversations with your loved one and also do some research of your own. However, I encourage your research to be through resources who are incredibly familiar and accepting of polyamory as opposed to biased resources who go on about how sinful it is. There have been numerous psychological studies done to show that polyamory can be an ethical option when it comes to relationship dynamics. It may not be for everyone, but that doesn’t make it unethical.
Knowledge is power, Beloveds. Our society has conditioned us for many generations to think that romantic relationships must look a certain way in order to be legitimate. Over recent years, some of those “traditional” paradigms have been disrupted, reshaped, and recreated to show society that romantic relationships can take other healthy forms. Polyamory is no different.