Finding your one true love. It’s a story that dazzles most of us. It’s also a story that makes us feel like we’re running out of time, and out of candidates, who can successfully play the part. Nevertheless, it’s a story that most of us have bought into (yup, there’s capitalistic undertones to love as well), no questions asked.
But what if you find true love in not one person, but more?
While we’ve been making increased efforts to challenge the notions of heteronormativity, there’s also another social construct that deserves conversation, which is mononormativity. By establishing the practice of emotional and sexual commitment to one individual as the norm, mononormativity often perpetuates hegemonic constructions of masculinity and femininity, camouflaging gender inequalities through its promise of being the “ideal relationship”. Through its narrative of a perfect romance that revolves around finding “the one and only” and staking a claim to private ownership of another person, mononormativity is reflective of capitalistic ideology. Furthermore, through its inherent prescription of endogamy, it is exclusionary of cross-class and interracial relationships.
But this isn’t to cancel or hate on monoamory. On the contrary, many polyamorous individuals are fine with the idea of monoamory, since it has its share of benefits, and quite a number do eventually settle down in mono relationships. However, deconstructing and contextualising existing social institutions, which also happens to be in the true spirit of polyamory, can be a progressive step in understanding better, our ideas of love. Monoamory and polyamory may also be considered to be more of a continuum than a dichotomy.
This brings us to the main question –
What is Polyamory?
Polyamory “as a subculture and relationship form, emphasizes gender egalitarianism, non-dyadic bonds of sexual and emotional intimacy, interpersonal responsibility and accountability to partners regardless of gender.” Deborah Anapol, a psychologist and one of the pioneers of the polyamory movement, describes that polyamory “arises from an understanding that love cannot be forced to flow or prevented from flowing in any direction”. Although polyamory isn’t an invention of the 20th century, the term itself was coined just around then, by Morning Glory and Oberon Zell, a popular couple, who were known for their relationship, as well as their work in the Church of All Worlds.
Who Chooses Polyamory and Why
The polyamorous personality has often been observed to include traits like a talent for intimate relating, an appreciation for diversity, the ability to multitask, good communication skills, sex positivity, an independent streak, as well as a flair for creativity and spontaneity.
Polyamory has been more popular in queer than in heterogeneous populations because of our non-conformity with heteronormative definitions of relationships. Among the sexual minorities, bisexual women have been one of the earliest polyamorist activists.
While being polyamorous is an inherent quality, pursuing a poly relationship may attract different individuals, including those who are monoamorously inclined for uniquely different reasons, highlighting the DIY nature of such a relationship.
More on polyamory from gaysis themselves:
The Ethics of Polyamory
If you’ve watched Schitt’s Creek, then you know how important communication is in any relationship, particularly a polyamorous relationship. It takes a while for both David and Stevie to realize that Jake is insinuating for them to be a “throuple”, highlighting how essential it is for each partner to discuss what polyamory means to them, and what they’re comfortable and uncomfortable with.
Quite often, wanting to try out polyamory may bring about feelings of guilt. This is often because of how sexual sobriety is equated with morality and commitment is interpreted to mean exclusivity. It doesn’t help that there is a bleak representation of polyamory in the media.
Despite this lack of representation, poly folx have found ways to navigate the different areas of their relationships, which are often rooted in the virtues of honesty, commitment, integrity and equity.
Jealousy is often perceived to be a challenge that is unique to, or aggravated in polyamorous relationships. What do you think contributes to this misconception?
“Conversations. Jealousy and insecurity can easily creep in and become an issue. It is better to draw lines at the start and keep reevaluating them regularly. The lines change as the dynamics of relationship change.”
– Divesh Mehta
“So I do have a primary partner and we’re very open about our other relationships with each other. We tend to tell each other whenever we’re getting intimate with a new person. Being honest with each other and open conversations are important for building trust and sustaining relationships with all partners. I try to not shy away from conversations that can come off as confrontational, because all it does in the end is build a stronger bond. And of course, I’m careful enough to choose to be with people with high emotional maturity. Whenever I meet someone new and there’s a possibility of it turning into an intimate relationship, I straight up tell them that I’m polyamorous and try to have a conversation about their expectations from the relationship.”
– Angela Deka
“Toxic Monogamy. 100% toxic monogamy. Society has this view of love which says: “If you’re in love with someone, you’ll definitely have to be jealous if someone else has their attention, otherwise it’s not love. If you’re in love with someone, you’ll never fall in love with anyone else.” And when it moves away from this point of view, it immediately jumps to: “Jealousy is a bad, ugly, disgusting emotion. If you’re feeling envious about something, that means you’re a bad, selfish person.” No one has ever taught us that jealousy, like all the other human emotions, is normal and valid, and real, and is not an assessment of love.
Of course polyamorous relationships will have jealousy, just like monogamous relationships will. In fact, if you’re in a polyamorous relationship, you’re more likely to learn how to communicate better, both with wanting reassurance and giving it, and drawing clear boundaries! And you eventually learn that your value or place in one person’s life doesn’t get taken away by anyone else’s, because we’re all unique people with unique relationships and experiences!”
“I can’t say that the thought of having multiple healthy, communicative, emotionally intelligent parents doesn’t make me unbearably happy.”
Coming Out as Poly
Coming out as polyamorous shares the benefits of coming out as queer. It can be liberating, a road to increased self acceptance and a chance to be an overtly more authentic version of ourselves. However, this isn’t to negate that in societies like ours, it does take a lot of courage and it may even prove safe to be selective with whom we’re open to.
Coming out to a partner if you’ve been monogamous, can be a challenging conversation to have, but it isn’t impossible and does not have to signify the end of the relationship. Being able to communicate desires and growing together in understanding polyamory can lead to a stronger, healthier and more fulfilling relationship. Much like in the case of coming out as queer, it may often be easier to come out to our peers, than to our families.
Have you come out to any of your friends and family, about your polyamorous identity? If yes, how did they respond?
“My mother thinks that this generation with its idea of dating multiple people is just extremely shameless. So that’s what she said when I told her. And with friends it’s generally been fine. Some were curious about how it works, rest were just like whatever, coz I’m like super queer and they aren’t shocked by anything new about me.”
– Kris Chudawala
“I’ve come out to all my friends because being polyamorous is a significant part of my identity, and is how I relate to people. I’ve had lots of different reactions, but all of them have been affirmative. Some said it wasn’t for them but they were glad it worked for me and some have even begun to consider it for themselves. My family is an entirely different story. They’re very conservative Catholics and still haven’t made peace with my queer identity, despite me coming out 7 years ago for the first time. I don’t think I will ever come out to them outright, simply because we have an unspoken “Don’t ask, don’t tell” policy. “
– Angelique Pinto
A key factor that complicates coming out as polyamorous, is the misunderstanding of what it stands for. More often than not, being polyamorous is equated with certain stereotypes, which need to be addressed so that the polyamorous identity can be recognised for what it is.
We hope this article has helped you understand polyamory a little bit better. And if you are someone who is figuring out your polyamorous identity, here’s some pointers that may provide you some more direction.
Do you have any advice for someone who is considering polyamory?
“Take it slow, ensure transparency and have regular conversations. Ensure you hear out all your partners and assess the change in dynamics. “
– Divesh Mehta
“My advice is that polyamory is truly nothing like what people have read about. Polyamory takes a lot of effort and brutal honesty. One is forced to introspect and constantly face demons like jealousy. And then work through it using trust. It’s difficult, but it’s worth it.”
– Kris Chudawala
“I’d say that don’t consider polyamory to be the ultimate or perfect solution as opposed to monogamy. Relationships of all kinds need a lot of work and polyamory is no different. Figure out what works for you, what feels natural to you and get to that place by starting with a process of unlearning everything we’ve been fed by pop-culture and society about relationships. Polyamory is not going to be easy for someone who has never challenged traditional notions of love and life. But if you’re considering it, you have to start confronting a lot of your own insecurities and assumptions.”
– Angela Deka
“Communicate. Whether it’s through text, phone calls or even exchanging google calendars. Communication is the key to all relationships but especially for polyamorous relationships. You need to multiply the amount of communication by the number of partners you plan to have relationships with, so don’t take it lightly. Remember that effective communication is not just speaking but also being heard and receiving a response.”
– Angelique Pinto
“Take your time. Take as much time as you need, because it’s difficult to recondition yourself from everything you’ve been taught about the idea of “One True Love”, or “One Soulmate.” Don’t listen to people when they judge you or your personal relationships. Join polyam communities, there are a lot more of us than you’d guess. You’re not a bad person. Communicate everything. It’s always better to be more open than necessary, than to accidentally hide things. Be honest and earnest and yourself, that’s more than enough. Monogamy is not a more (or less!) “correct” way of love. You’re valid, and so is the way you love.”
“I would suggest reading up on polyamory and connecting with out people instead of jumping in and denying challenges or the impact on existing partners. This is something I have been guilty of because I did not have access to out people or resources back then. There are many resources that are available which have been of great help to me in the long run. Following are just a few of them.
Books: The Ethical Slut, Redefining Our Relationship, Opening Up
Websites: morethantwo.com, modernpoly.com, polynotes.tumblr.com”
– Sonal Giani
- Polyamory in the Twenty-First Century: Love and Intimacy with Multiple Partners by Deborah Anapol
- Beyond Monogamy: Polyamory and the Future of Polyqueer Sexualities by Mimi Schippers
- The Ethical Slut by Janet W. Hardy and Dossie Easton
- Along Came Poly: A Polyamorous Person’s Guide to Coming Out to Your Monogamous Partner by Anna Bongiovanni
- A Beginner’s Guide to Polyamory by Jack Logan
- #NoBarForPyaar: Have More Than 1 Lover? Polyamorists Say That’s OK by Mansi Dua