Polyamory is on the rise. One in five Americans are or have been in a non-monogamous relationship or a polyamorous one.
Poly relationships can be structured a number of different ways, but the classic example is that of a committed couple who are allowed to date other people on the side.
Other polyamorous relationships can involve having three or more people all committed to each other, or having one or two (or three or four…) serious partners at a time individually, perhaps with one primary partner.
There's a lot of misinformation about polyamory that exists today. As an openly poly person in a committed relationship, I frequently get approached by well-meaning acquaintances who have burning but presumptuous questions about how my relationship works.
They can get repetitive, and they definitely get annoying. Here are five questions poly people are sick of hearing.
1. Don't you get jealous?
No, I'm not jealous. Most poly people in general take the stance that their partner loving or being with someone else does not diminish from their own relationships.
We understand that some people have the capacity to feel strongly about or be interested in multiple people without diminishing the way we feel about any individual in particular.
Communication is also crucial for a poly relationship. If something feels wrong, we are encouraged to honestly approach our partners and discuss it.
In many ways, polyamorous couples may be better equipped to deal with natural feelings of jealousy. Intentionally choosing polyamory can involve more conscious efforts to deal with jealous feelings than a monogamous relationship that fails to emphasize communication.
If my primary partner thinks I'm spending too much time with a new date, she'll tell me she's feeling neglected. If she starts talking to someone that really rubs me the wrong way, I'll tell her about my misgivings.
We know we want to prioritize each other, so talking about these feelings helps us forge a stronger relationship.
2. What about STDs?
Everyone knows the facts: The more people you have sex with, the greater your risk of STDs. But polyamory doesn't mean we're all having risky sex. Outside of sex with my primary partner, I always use barrier protection, and so does my partner.
That's an agreement we made together and it's one of the most important questions to ask a guy when getting into this type of relationship. Additionally, as recommended by the American Sexual Health Association for people with multiple partners, we are both routinely tested.
In fact, statistics show that monogamous couples, who may experience secret infidelity, tend to practice less safe sex than openly polyamorous couples who are aware of what risks they are presented with. By being aware of our risks, we can take steps to minimize them.
3. Was your relationship in trouble?
There's a common assumption that every polyamorous relationship began as a monogamous relationship that opened up because one party (or both) was unhappy with the way things were going.
That is certainly the beginning of the story for some poly couples, but it's by no means universal. Plenty of us have made the conscious decision to live poly lives, and entered relationships that were poly to begin with.
My partner and I have been poly since we met. We just never made the commitment to stop seeing other people, even as we celebrated anniversaries together, moved in together, signed bank accounts together and started our lives together.
Polyamory is not a sign of a broken relationship. It can often be the sign of a very comfortable and self-assured relationship.
4. So, is it not that serious?
My partner and I are fully committed to each other. What this means is that on all legal documents we list each other as our primary partners, we live in a home together, we contribute to shared finances and a shared future.
We plan on getting married and are strongly considering raising a family. We are fully committed to each other, as are many polyamorous couples. And this isn't only true of poly couples that have one primary partner.
Poly people can be committed to two or more people fully. Poly households, in which children are raised by three, four or more parents who are in some combination of relationships with one another (or all committed to each other), can be excellent and loving families. They provide partners with multiple sources of love and support without worry or jealousy.
5. Aren't you cheating on each other?
Absolutely not. Cheating involves lying, breaking promises and violating the relationship.
Poly people are doing none of those things by openly engaging in mutual polyamory. We are open with our partners, respectful of the rules of our relationships and committed to each other in whatever way feels best to us.
The point is, polyamory is pretty flexible compared to monogamy. Couples and individuals exploring polyamory have room to establish rules based on what they personally are and are not comfortable with.
No one should feel pressured to agree to a set-up they don't like. It's not for everyone certainly, but it's not the sign of a bad relationship and it's not a sexual free-for-all. Poly people have meaningful and loving relationships, and we aren't afraid to violate convention for our happiness.