Polyamory

The Norfolk Polyamory Meetup group held a roundtable discussion on May 7.  The event was held afterhours at a local restaurant and the topic of the discussion was “Why are we Poly?”  Sunday’s discussion drew about 20 people. 

Polyamory is a form of consensual non-monogamy where those involved have relationships with two or more people.  These relationships can take many forms including open relationships, closed relationships among a small group of people, and various combinations of open and closed relationships.  Polyamory requires a great deal of communication and honesty, and those in polyamorous relationships generally set their own agreements and terms for their relationships.  Some consider polyamory a lifestyle choice, while others consider it an orientation.

Those involved in polyamory believe that individuals can love more than one person.  No one questions or judges when you say that a parent or grandparent can love more than one child or grandchild.  No one questions or judges when you say that a person can care about more than one friend.  Yet society has these hang-ups that you can only love one person romantically and sexually, and that this one person has to meet all your needs.  Poly people feel that is unrealistic and selfish to expect one person to be your everything. 

The roundtable format gave participants the opportunity to share their experiences about how they came to be Poly.  Many folks were introduced by a boyfriend or girlfriend they dated who was Poly.  In other cases, a friend or family member was Poly.  In many cases, folks did not even know this was an option before they met someone in this type or relationship - the idea we can only have monogamous relationships is so ingrained and indoctrinated in our culture, religion, and life expectations.  Some Poly folks had been in one or more monogamous marriages before discovering polyamory.  Sometimes folks found polyamory when they were trying to spice up a relationship and sex life that had gotten dull.  Exploring fetishes such as swinging or BDSM, and dating / social sites like OkCupid and FetLife were common ways folks discovered polyamory or found polyamorous partners.  A number of folks indicated their bisexuality, sexual identity, or gender identity as a factor in their discovery of and practice in polyamory.  Discovering their sexuality allowed them to break out of the social conditioning and indoctrination biased toward exclusive monogamy.

Some communities, such as the LGBTQ+ community and the Pagan community, are generally more open and accepting of polyamory than society at large.

Everyone’s experience of polyamory is different and unique to themselves and their situation.  Folks at the roundtable shared the benefits of polyamorous relationships and their challenges.

Benefits and reasons for being polyamorous were given by a number of participants.

One person likened polyamorous relationships to putting together a puzzle.  Puzzle pieces fit together in unique ways.  When you put two pieces together sometimes they fit and sometimes they don’t.  When it’s only two puzzle pieces, there are sides missing.  When you put enough pieces together, you get a bigger, fuller picture of life and love.  Building on this, many folks suggested having relationships with more than one person allows more opportunities to form complemental bonds, and folks can complement each other’s personalities and skills. You may have two people in a relationship who like sports, and one who doesn’t.  You might have someone who is good in the kitchen and another that is a good organizer. You might have a combination of introverts and extroverts, masculine and feminine, and so forth.  One partner may not be able to give you what you need in some area of your life.  Bringing someone else in can meet such a need. Sometimes the puzzle pieces don’t fit perfectly, but sometimes that’s acceptable if there’s someone else who meets that need.  You also have more people to do things with. 

Another person explained that polyamorous relationships allow one to keep growing and learning in ways that you can’t experience in an exclusive monogamous relationship.  Some folks felt that monogamous relationships were stifling and restrictive, and also that such relationships can be boring and vanilla.  Also, not all people are wired for monogamy.

Someone else explained that polyamory allows them to explore deep and meaningful connections with all kinds of people and also to experience new relationships and the energy that comes with them.

Being involved in polyamorous relationships also brings with it many challenges.

In general, polyamorous relationships require more communication and greater relationship skills than monogamous relationships.  Polyamorous relationships are inherently more complex because they involve more people.  Those involved have to set their own agreements, rules, boundaries, and expectations, as these aren’t passed down from the greater society.  Sometimes folks don’t know their boundaries until a boundary is crossed.  You also have to ask for what you want and need, and likewise you don’t always know what you want. 

Jealousy and envy must also be confronted, though some people are happy to see their partner happy, even with another person.  This concept is known as “compersion” and is considered the opposite of jealousy.

Relationships and relationship dynamics can change more often than in monogamous relationships.  Someone new might come into the relationship, or someone who has been there awhile might leave.  You might grieve a departure, or even the changes a new person brings to the relationship dynamic.

For those interested in learning more about polyamory, a handful of books were recommended on the topic. [The Alternatives HR website welcomes book reviews… hint… hint…]

Books on polyamory include:

  • More than Two: A Practical Guide to Ethical Polyamory by Franklin Veaux and Eve Rickert
  • The Ethical Slut: A Practical Guide to Polyamory, Open Relationships, & Other Adventures by Janet W. Hardy
  • Power Circuits: Polyamory in a Power Dynamic by Raven Kaldera
  • When Someone You Love is Polyamorous: Understanding Poly People and Relationships by Dr. Elisabeth Sheff

The Norfolk Polyamory Meetup group hosts regular events including dinners out (generally referred to as “munches”), a monthly breakfast, and game nights.  In the past, the group has held workshops on communication skills.  The Meetup group hopes to continue hosting roundtable discussions every couple of months on varying topics.

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