Valentine’s Day is to relationships like relationships are to couples. Not related.
People both in and out of relationships participate in Valentine’s Day shenanigans; and people both participate in relationships that are exclusive to two partners and relationships that aren’t.
Most polyamorous people say when they express their relationship to those unfamiliar with the dynamic, it’s usually answered with thoughts like threesomes, commitment issues, and unhappiness. Then followed up with questioning which partner is following the will of the other or questioning the happiness and integrity of the relationship.
“Just because you’re poly doesn’t mean you have this constant revolving door of group sex with whoever,” said second-year King’s student Rebecca*, who is in a polyamorous relationship.
Her partner Andrew*, also a second-year King’s student, agrees. They aren’t interested in hooking up with any one and everyone – they are still committed to each other and want a serious relationship.
“We just want to include more people in that relationship,” said Andrew. “It’s generally thought that people in poly relationships are not serious about their relationships, but we’re quite serious about our relationship.”
In the paper Polyamorous Women, Sexual Subjectivity and Power, published by Georgia State University, sociologist Elisabeth Sheff writes: “It differs from swinging with its emphasis on long-term, emotionally intimate relationships, and from adultery with its focus on honesty and (ideally) full disclosure of the network of sexual relationships to all who participate in or are affected by them.”
A relationship where one or more partners are pursuing another person outside of the relationship to gratify sexual desires is what is called an open-relationship and is commonly misused interchangeably with a polyamorous relationship.
Mark*, a former Dal student is new to the concept of exploring non-monogamous relationships, said he struggled with the weirdness of it in the beginning.
“This was like a whole new thing for me, where two best friends are okay with sleeping with the same girl,” he said.
Usually, Mark will only be having sex with one person at a time. But a few months ago, his best friend and roommate was sleeping with their mutual friend, Jenna*, when he suggested Mark “go for it” after Jenna and him realized they clicked well together.
“The big thing that helped make this thing work was the honesty between everybody. Just knowing what everybody was thinking head on,” Mark said of his dynamic, which at one point, grew to him and his roommate sleeping with Jenna as well as Mark sleeping with Jenna’s roommate.
Many people in polyamorous relationships pride themselves on having stronger bonds with their partners because they have frank discussions with each other about their feelings, their personal ground rules to the relationship, and other dynamics that play into their relationship in order to make it work.
Google ‘how to make a polyamorous relationship work’ and I’ll bet every link that you click on will mention communication.
“Part of being poly is you have to make sure that everybody really understands the explicit arrangements,” said Rebecca. “If you don’t have good communication, it’s gonna fail.”
Mark also stressed the importance of good communication. He said that after opening up the conversation and understanding what Jenna wanted, he could understand how his own emotions affect the situation, and figure out how an open arrangement could best work for them.
Polyamory isn’t correlated to sexuality. Polyamory is a conscious choice you make with your partner(s). You aren’t born polyamorous like you’re born with your sexuality.
“There’s the thought that our sex lives are more deviant,” said Andrew.
Rebecca followed up, “Yeah, people think it’s easy to date when you’re in a polyamorous relationship.”
To which they shouted “NO!” simultaneously.
“I think polyamory is better for me because if we were in a monoamorous relationship and Andrew was dicking me-” Rebecca starts, “- we wouldn’t be happy,” said Andrew, finishing her sentence.
This isn’t because Andrew would only be having sex with Rebecca, but because Rebecca doesn’t enjoy sex and “no one wants to have miserable sex.”
“The part of the reason why I’m poly is because I want my partners to be able to be sexually satisfied, without me having to do that for them,” said Rebecca, who is asexual.
Andrew isn’t coercing Rebecca into anything, like they say people assume. They both exercise their polyamory within the partnership. It’s fun to flirt, to have that thrill of knowing someone is interested, and that human companionship – things that don’t require sexual desires to enjoy.
But despite not being sexually intimate, and sex normally being a fairly big factor in romantic relationships – in some it’s what defines the line in their relationship between very good friends and romantic partners – Jenna and Andrew know they “aren’t just best friends but partners.”
Rebecca gave a laugh and said, “I do a lot more naked sleeping over with Andrew than I would ever do with any of my best friends.”
Take a single person. They’re happy, they’re single, maybe they’re looking for someone maybe not, and they would be just as happy to share your life with another person as they are not sharing it. But, when they do share it, they’re choosing to commit and build a life with them.
“I would really only be married to [her],” said Andrew considering the idea of how their dynamic would work if they were to ever get married, but says it would probably play out to be a marriage plus long-term mistress joining them.
“Even when I get insecure I’ll just be like, ‘listen, it doesn’t matter who he sees’ because he always comes back to me in the end – which I think is a way that polyamory actually reassures your stability as a couple,” she said. “If you know that somebody you love could be having sex with anybody in the world and they choose you. Obviously it’s something more intrinsic and fundamental.”
“Man, you really have high expectations of my ability to find a mate – anyone in the world eh?” jokes Andrew.