The Truth About Polyamory

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Poly Means Many: There are many aspects of polyamory. Each month, the PMM bloggers will write about their views on one of them. Links to all posts can be found at www.polymeansmany.com.

I tend to research new things. I like to have a sense of what I’m getting, whether it’s buying a new car, starting a new hobby, or changing my lifestyle. So when I first heard about polyamory I found some articles, read some blog posts, bought some books and generally tried to absorb what I could.

At this point I should mention that my approach to such research isn’t really all that deep, I’m more a skim reader than an in-depth researcher. So I’ll be the first to admit that even after doing some reading, a lot of what I’ve learned, I’ve learned through trial and error.

It’s safe to say I’ve read, and continue to read, a lot of articles about polyamory, and whilst it might just be Baader-Meinhof (frequency illusion) kicking in, there does seem to be a change in the frequency of hearing about poly more mainstream places – magazines and newspapers, rather than on personal or collaborative blogs (like this one) – or maybe I’m just more attuned to seeing those articles and find out about them because I have a few poly people on my Twitter timeline. Regardless, I’m glad that the general awareness of polyamory is being raised.

Now that I’m a couple of years into this lifestyle I find myself casting a different eye over the articles that I do read. I tend to shy away from the types of articles that only cover a very specific relationship structure, or come at things with a fixed view of the world. But, I know that’s me applying my own filters, so I read them anyway as there is always something to learn, right?

When the Guardian published an article called A tale of two lovers (or three, or four): the truth about polyamory I was intrigued; Would this be another article that I agreed with, or another article that stated things with authority about this lifestyle?

The author of the piece, Emer O’Toole, writes honestly and openly about her experiences and the journey she’s been through and, whilst it is different from mine, it was refreshing to read a piece that steered away from the ‘rules of poly’ style writings I so loathe.

The article is a good read, and there are a couple of thoughts I wanted to pick out:

“Like monogamy, poly needs work. But, perhaps unlike monogamy, it also helps to have some theory. You can’t just imitate the patterns you see around you.”

This, for me, was the most daunting thing when we first started ‘being poly’. How do you know if you are doing it right? I guess Kirsty and I were lucky in that we had some poly friends and knew a little bit about their background. But without any societal patterns to follow, it’s hard to know if things are going well, or not.

“And it certainly isn’t positioning monogamous people as more blindly traditional or less emotionally evolved than you.”

My pet peeve, in general, is this sort of thinking. I experience it in many places, the presumption that my statement of X automatically means I am opposed to Y. I don’t identify with, or understand, this way of thinking but I know it exists.

For the record, I want to live in a world where your relationships are yours to define, live and let live and all that.

“Instead of feeling as though I’m living within a restrictive set of rules, guiltily desiring secret things, I feel as though we’re writing the rules together.”

This, for me, is the takeaway thought from this article. For many people who are pondering a change to their relationship definition (be that an open relationship, polyamory or anything else that breaks away from the unwritten rules of monogamy) this is probably the driving factor. Somewhere, deep inside, you aren’t happy with your relationship but how do you change that?

The hardest part of becoming poly, for me, was being completely honest with myself about what I wanted from life and it continues to be something I find myself evaluating.

Like Emer, I find that being poly isn’t a fixed thing, there isn’t an ‘end state’ that is predetermined. I know that within my relationships we chat of being in a ‘big happy poly family’ and maybe one day all sharing a big poly house, but equally we are all aware that our relationships tomorrow might not be in the same form, or the same structure, as they are today.

That, for me is why poly works for me, it’s not a fixed state, there is no single definition of how it should work. You talk to your partners openly and honestly, set your own guidelines and rules, and as you all evolve, as the relationships morph in different ways you talk some more and adapt. Ultimately, life is happier because everyone is getting what they truly want from it.

If you’ve read this far, then please go and read the second half of Emer’s article where some of her friends describe their relationships. For me this is a better example of ‘being poly’ than anything I’ve written (or will write).