"Wondering How Polyamorous Relationships Work? Start Here"
Wondering How Polyamorous Relationships Work? Start Here
We spoke to three women who are in polyamorous relationships to find out what polyamory looks like in real life.
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By Sian Ferguson
...I’m not talking about cheating here. I’m talking about consensual non-monogamy: when someone is romantically committed to multiple people with the full knowledge and consent of everyone involved.
This sort of relationship might seem rare, but according to a 2016 report in the Journal of Sex & Marital Therapy, one in five Americans have engaged in consensual non-monogamy. That’s surprisingly common — and it seems like public interest in consensual non-monogamy and polyamory are on the rise. A 2017 analysis using Google’s Trends tool showed that more and more people are looking for information about open and polyamorous relationships online.
...HealthyWay spoke to three polyamorous women about their personal experiences with polyamory....
Cameron Glover, 25, a writer and sex educator [known to many as BlkGirlManifest] ...was introduced to the concept when she dated someone who was polyamorous a few years ago. She became interested in the academic side of polyamory and checked out books, podcasts, and blogs about polyamorous relationships and non-monogamy.
...“I identify most strongly with solo polyamory — it’s the idea that I am my own primary partner and centers things that I really value, like self-autonomy, independence, having my own space.”
“Solo polyamory” is a broad term typically used to refer to polyamorous people who are committed to their own autonomy.
“As long as it’s consensual, positive, and ethical, I don’t think there’s a wrong way to practice polyamory. You can customize it to whatever works best for you, and it’s okay if that changes over time.”
As a black, queer, cis woman who is also polyamorous, Glover also notes that there’s a great deal of oppression in polyamory-friendly spaces. As in many different communities, polyamorous communities can face issues of fetishization, casual racism, misogyny, and abuse. “I think there’s work being done to change that, but it’s still there and it still keeps a lot of people excluded from spaces that are rightfully theirs,” Glover says.
As with many other polyamorous people, Glover views her experience with polyamory as an interesting and dynamic journey. “I’m still learning so much about myself and what shapes my polyamory will take, but that learning excites me,” she says. “I get really passionate about the potential to push away from social constructions of what love and relationships need to look like to create something that is very much on my own terms. There’s a real power in that.”
Page Turner, 36, a relationship coach, author, and the founder of Poly.Land, has been practicing polyamory for over a decade. ...“Currently, I’m seeing my husband and two girlfriends. One of my girlfriends I see separately; the other my husband also sees,” she tells HealthyWay. “My husband has someone of his own that he sees that I do not. One of my girlfriends is married. The other is married and has a boyfriend.”
When Turner first entered into polyamorous relationships, she struggled to deal with her feelings of jealousy. “A big part of my process was learning how to recognize those feelings when I was having them and figure out why. Was I feeling neglected? Overshadowed? Envious of something someone else had? Was I afraid of losing my partner?”
Now she tackles jealousy by letting the feelings wash over her, then processing why she’s jealous and how to address the cause of the jealousy.
Turner also struggled with feeling like she wasn’t giving each of her partners 100 percent of her effort and time. ... This challenge provided her with the opportunity to work on her relationship skills.
“I learned how to optimize,” she explains. “I became better at time management, communication, assertiveness, and setting boundaries. Because I had to. There wasn’t any room to slack off or be bad at any of this stuff.”
Diana, 30, has been in a polyamorous relationship with her partner for the past five years. “I have never felt comfortable in monogamy, and I always thought there was something wrong with me, that I was deviant in some way,” she says. “I would not only be attracted to, but have genuine romantic feelings for multiple people at once.”...
...[Diana and Martin] met another polyamorous couple, Elsa and Andrea, and Martin started dating Elsa. “The couple, who have two kids, invited us both to move in with them as they were buying a house,” Diana says. “We run the household as a community now, with four adults all working together to keep things going and to parent the kids.” Since moving in with Elsa and Andrea, Diana and Martin got married.
In times of crisis, Diana finds it helpful to have this small community to support her. If any of them are ill, for example, the others pitch in with cooking, cleaning, childcare, and chores.
Polyamorous relationships have posed a few challenges for Diana. She’s struggled with the stigma especially. “I am not out to my parents and many of my friends and none of my coworkers out of fear of judgement,” she says. “When my parents visit we have to pretend to be monogamous. I am constantly anxious a colleague will see me out with a partner, not my husband.”
She’s also struggled with managing her time. ... Diana is currently in five relationships. ... “They all require varying amounts of emotional intensity, none of them are just sexual or casual,” she says. She says she has to make time to see each of her partners and attend to their emotional needs. “Combine that with life admin, my job, running a house, helping look after kids, and trying to have alone time, and it gets very, very difficult,” she says. Much like Turner, she’s had to learn excellent time-management skills to help her maintain her relationships.
Can polyamorous relationships be successful and healthy?
...“There has been no research to suggest that polyamorous relationships are less successful,” Fisher says. “In fact, some practitioners would suggest that polyamory requires greater self-awareness, more sophisticated communication skills, and greater attachment security than monogamy. I would agree with that, based on my research.” ...
Interested in entering a polyamorous relationship? Here’s some advice.
There are many reasons why people consider polyamorous relationships. Like Diana, they might feel that monogamy doesn’t work for them. Alternatively, they might simply feel like they have a lot of love to give, and that they’d like to commit to multiple people. Whatever leads someone to a polyamorous relationship, it’s important to keep a few things in mind. ...
● Communication is key. It’s imperative to discuss your feelings, your expectations and desires, your needs, your time, boundaries, safe sex, and other issues. “It’s really important to have these discussions fairly early on to prevent miscommunication, mismatched expectations, and hurt,” Diana advises. “If you don’t know what you want, that’s okay, but explain that to your partners or potential partners so they have full knowledge of what they’re getting into.”
Turner agrees. “...Relationship agreements are helpful not for the rules themselves, but because by going through an explicit process of talking about those concerns when you set a relationship agreement, you create a mutual understanding of what’s important to you.”
● The challenges of communication and self-awareness can be easier to handle when you have a community behind you — one that offers support, advice, and perspective when needed. For this reason, both Diana and Turner recommend finding polyamorous friends. Turner notes that Facebook groups, the subreddit r/polyamory, and social media can be great for meeting people online. It’s also helpful to have polyamorous in-person friends, so consider looking for local polyamorous groups on meetup.org.
● ...Glover also warns against objectifying others while practicing polyamory. “Go into polyamory with the idea of seeing people as people first, rather than fulfillments for your own expectations,” she says.
Many couples, for example, might enter polyamory looking for a third person to fulfill their sexual fantasies. This could be done in an ethical way, but when the third person is seen as an object of desire — and not an autonomous person with their own feelings and desires — it can be unethical. “I think that we have to take responsibility individually to treat other people with the same compassion and respect that we would treat a romantic partner or loved one,” Glover says.
...What it comes down to is a willingness to learn, communicate, and introspect while practicing mutual respect and compassion.
Read the whole article (March 22, 2018).
Labels: Poly 101
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