BY SARAH Z.
When I started dating my partner, we were both dating other people. And no, we weren’t cheating. We were, and still are, polyamorous.
Over the last several years, I’ve had to answer a lot of questions about polyamory. To us, polyamory is the fundamental belief that it is possible to be in love with more than one person. A polyamorous relationship (that is, a romantic relationship between multiple consenting adults) is an expression of that belief.
I look at movies, books, pretty much every type of media out there, and I see countless love triangles. It’s always the same: X has to choose between Y and Z, but X can’t. It’s so hard. There’s so much anguish! X loves them both, but must ultimately pick one. Personally, I find a certain dark humor in that, in a culture where polyamory is generally looked upon with disbelief and disgust, we base such a large portion of our entertainment on the idea that choosing between two people you are in love with is pure torture. With polyamory, we don’t have to make that choice. That source of anguish that fuels every love triangle out there? It doesn’t exist. Poof! Gone! The tension in polyamorous relationships does not come from choosing which relationships to break, but from the work needed to keep current relationships strong.
Being poly takes a lot of work: a lot of talking, and a truckload of brutal honesty. If you’re trying to decide if a polyamorous relationship is right for you, that honesty begins with these questions: Is a poly relationship what you actually want, or are you simply hoping that someone you love will eventually change and realize that you are "the one?" Can you truly be happy when someone you love shares their heart and body with other people? It’s amazing how hard it can be to answer these questions, but you must do so honestly, and without judging yourself. Polyamorous relationships aren’t for everyone, and that’s okay.
There’s a fabulous word in the poly community: compersion. Compersion is the emotion of feeling joy for your loved one’s joy, especially when it is caused by them loving someone else. When my partner comes home and tells me about a great date he just had, I’m not jealous. I feel compersion, and am so glad he had a fabulous night. So, perhaps the most necessary question a person considering polyamory has to ask themselves is: Do I honestly have the capacity for compersion when it comes those I love loving other people?
Assuming that the answer is yes, and that you’ve found other people who share your romantic beliefs, your relationships are going to feature a lot of talking. You have to figure out what boundaries to set, what safe sex rules your partners will adhere to, and how to divide your time. In these, every relationship is different, and every group of partners finds their own way.
Being poly is hard work, but the fruits of that labor are so rewarding. It is an incredible feeling, to know that you love and are loved by multiple people. It is pure joy to feel compersion every time your partner smiles goofily about someone else they love. Ultimately, polyamorous relationships are rooted in the idea that love is strengthened, not diminished, when it is shared. No, polyamory isn't right for everyone. But, it is certainly right for me.
Sarah is a pagan, pansexual, polyamorous woman. In other words, she has a lot of opinions and likes to alphabetize her adjectives.