Polyamory: A Semi-FAQ Page
Why a "semi-FAQ" page? Because most of what I'm about to tell you is from my
personal experience and is not from some "Book of Rules" on polyamory. There
are many resources out there on the net for polyamory and I'll include a list
of links at the bottom of this page. But for now, on to the semi-FAQ's.|
What is polyamory?
Polyandry (having more than one husband), polygamy (having more than one spouse) and polygyny (having more than one wife) are not always the same thing as polyamory, as they simply involve having multiple spouses, not necessarily loving each of them or even being married to each of them. Also, because there is the possibility that a polyamorous relationship involves a same sex relationship, a legal marriage is not always possible.
Polyamory itself is not illegal as no government can dictate who we love. However, there could be legal complications if one attempts to marry each of the people one loves or even if one is already married and finds oneself in divorce court. A polyamrous relationship could be considered adultery in a court of law, even if it was with the knowledge and consent of one's legal spouse. Polyamorous relationships can also be used against someone in a custody suit, especially if one of the partners is the same gender as the one being sued for custody. In states where sodomy laws and other anti-gay laws are still enforced, a polyamorous relationship involving two people of the same gender might land one in legal hot water, especially if one is a male. Although more and more courts are rendering sodomy laws unenforcable between consenting adults, there is still the threat of prosecution, even if the case is later thrown out. While much of this type of prosecution is rooted in anti-homosexual attitudes, it can and does pose a threat to polyamorous persons.
Polyamorous relationships do not necessarily involve same sex relationships but they can. One woman might love two men, one man might love two women, or either might love one of each gender. In a polyamorous "trio" involving, for example, one woman loving two men who do not love each other, all three might consider themselves heterosexual. If the relationship involves three women, one or more might consider themselves lesbian or bisexual. If a man loves both another man and a woman, the man who loves both is obviously bisexual, but the other man could be either homosexual or bisexual and the woman might consider herself either heterosexual or bisexual.
While it is possible to love more than two people at the same time, the practical aspects of such a relationship become very complex. There is only 24 hours in a day and the more people one loves, the less time one has to spend in each individual relationship. With any relationship, it is necessary to have quality time to spend on making the relationship work, and this is probably even truer in polyamorous relationships. If one were to have a dozen partners, the amount of quality time with each partner lessens and makes the chances of such relationships lasting slim.
Not always. Polyamorous relationships are as varied as the people involved in them, but there is one thing they all have in common. At least one of those involved is the "pivot". The "pivot" is the person who loves more than one person and each of those who are loved is an "arm". It is possible that everyone involved in a polyamorous relationship is a both a pivot and an arm. In this case each person in, for example, a three person polyamorous relationship would love the other two and their relationship could be "drawn" as a triangle. The possibilities are endless, although practical considerations tend to limit the number of people involved.
No, it's not. "Swinging" generally does not involve a commitment to a relationship between the various parties and is more concerned with freedom of sexual expression than with making a long-term commitment to a relationship. Swinging and polyamory do have something in common in that one does not get jealous (theoretically) because one's partner is physically intimate with another.
I can't speak for anyone but myself, and I have to answer "yes". Even the most secure person in the world has their moments of self-doubt and insecurity. But as long as one is aware that jealousy is based in fear and that fear can be conquered by facing it, these moments of jealousy do not last and don't really pose a threat to the relationship. However, that is not an easy realization to come to. Even given my belief in polyamory before I became involved with my first partner (my partner was the pivot, I was an arm) and my spiritual beliefs, it still took me close to a year to arrive at it. I kept comparing myself to the other partner and always found myself coming up short. (My partner never compared the two of us, and for that I am grateful.) I became afraid to voice my concerns about my relationship with my partner because I was afraid those concerns would be seen as an ultimatum or as forcing my partner to choose. And I didn't see how I could win if a choice was made. I was even afraid to explain this misconception to my partner. What I finally realized is that no one can be everything to someone else. If that were the case, once we found our partner, we would have no further need for friends, for our parents or siblings or anyone else but our partner. There would be no need for children so we would not intentionally procreate. But we do have the need for friends even after we find our partner. We still need our parents and our siblings and other family members. (Well, ideally of course.) And there is a very real need for many couples to have children. Not simply to procreate, but from a much more personal and/or spiritual desire. Once I accepted that it was okay for my partner to have needs that I could not fulfill and that that didn't mean I was loved any less, the fear went away and the jealousy with it. I never really sought to find out what those needs were, although some were fairly obvious. That they existed was enough for me.
As with every relationship, poly relationships need trust, honesty and communication to thrive. What poly relationships need that "normal" relationships don't, especially from the pivot, is the ability to detach or to separate one's different relationships. If one is having a bad day with partner A, it isn't fair to partner B to take it out on them. Inherent in this ability to separate is a non-comparison frame of mind. It is absolutely necessary to remember that each partner is a unique individual and may do the same task differently. Comparing the way partner A does something to the way partner B does it is the fastest way to destroy a polyamorous relationship. The individuality of each partner MUST be respected. The pivot has no right to attempt to change the habits of partner A to those of partner B or vice versa. Such attempts convey a desire to change one into the other or both into a combination of the "best" traits of each. In either case, the pivot is not respecting the individuality of each partner.
That's one question I cannot answer. Personally speaking, I could not tell you what needs my one partner fulfilled that my other did not. Any more than I could tell you what needs my one son fulfills that my other does not. All I know is that there would be a void in my life that the other could not fill if something were to happen to either one of them. The same was true of my relationships with my partners. However, when one partner both gave me an ultimatum to choose, and then chose to engage in behaviors I found unacceptable, the relationship with that partner ended. I am no longer in a poly relationship.
No, they do not. It can make it harder to make the relationships work if polyamory violates the beliefs of one of the "arms", but as long as the "arm" is willing to respect the beliefs of the pivot and vice versa, it can still work. Neither of my partners was polyamorous. They did not understand my need to love the other and that caused some very serious problems-- serious enough that one of my partners decided that it was no longer possible to continue in the relationship. However, that does not change the fact that I still loved that partner and wanted that partner in my life and that my other partner had to cope with that love and that desire. However, they both respect my beliefs and my "right" to be polyamorous. But in order to respect their own beliefs and needs, my one partner had to leave our relationship and I must show that partner the same respect that was given my beliefs.
If they do, chances are the relationship will not last long. It is not fair to the "less-loved" partner to continue it and the "less-loved" person should not tolerate having their needs always placed second. But even in saying that I loved my partners "equally", I'm comparing. It can't really be equal in the sense of exactly the same because they are two different people. I guess the closest I can come to explaining it is to paraphrase the words of a major pain medication manufacturer. I didn't love anyone more than I do each of them. Even this falls short because I don't believe you can actually quantify love. While I had been with one of my partners longer than the other, my love for the "second" (chronologically speaking) is not "less". Again, the closest I can come to an example is the love I have for my boys. I do not love the older one more because he has been with me longer. And while I don't believe we can quantify love, I know that's it's true to say that my love grew deeper with each day that passed.
If you have any questions that I have not answered here, please email me and I will answer it and post it here as soon as I can.