Q. Polyamory: myth, excuse, or saviour?
A. Maybe 2 out of 3… but it’s definitely not a myth!
First, some useful distinctions. Polyamory is when someone has multiple (romantic/sexual) relationships simultaneously - all with the consensual knowledge of those involved. This knowledge may have agreed upon terms unique to individuals/their relationships based on preferences. Such as: wanting to know how many partners, but not their names; or to be someone’s only fluid bonded partner, etc. Polyamory is different from open relationships - which is more commonly understood as people who have what’s considered their “primary” relationship, but with some romantic/sexual autonomy. Again, with mutually agreed upon terms unique to those involved.
Some open relationships could be polyamorous, I guess, but I think definitions are up to however folks understand or interpret their relationship, or if they even have labels… If someone is in a monogamous relationship and cheating, that’s a different thing. And, just because folks are poly or in open relationships doesn’t mean they can’t cheat! Cheating is when the mutually agreed conditions for romantic/sexual activity within a relationship - whether that is “never with anyone but me”, or “never with someone you work with” - are broken.
To address the question - I read the question to assume monogamy is the default setting or ideal for romance/sex. It’s not! I invite you to imagine monogamy and polyamory and open relationships and cheating and everything, all on a spectrum. Monogamy is just one approach to relationships - which happens to have a lot of mainstream popularity. (Not everywhere of course, but most places Western, patriarchal or capitalistic culture touches). And by popularity, I mean, in theory. It is the relationship style given primacy/most depicted as the norm/a lot of people aspire to it. But, like many concepts taught as truths in a heteronorm, monogamy is not any more “natural” or honourable than any other relationship style. *Please DM me if you would like to hear more about monogamy being political.
A lot of us grow up with monogamy as the relationship model we observe as being goals. We are also socialized to think of resources like love and sex as finite, because their affiliate resources - time and energy are finite. Not to mention money. This correlation is a perfect climate for jealousy, fear of lack/betrayal, and competition. Monogamy seems like a solution to that. Get all the needs in one place, done. But, monogamy is not the type of relationship everyone thrives in; it doesn’t mean they are making excuses, or are less mature.
That’s not to say monogamy isn’t someone’s default setting or genuine ideal. However, I do believe that is more determined by their personality, sexual/romantic preferences, and resources, than by nature. As well as lifestyle and life goals (and astrological chart lol).
Finding compatibility is paramount. Someone can adapt to a relationship model under the right circumstances - a poly in a monogamous relationship, a serial monogamist opening up, an open relationship closing and so on. It is far more empowering to think of the decisions about the relationships we are in as choices, not defaults - ones that are discussed and arrived at again and again. I actually think people would be far less likely to cheat, if they felt like they were choosing monogamy.
Regardless of which relationship approach someone espouses, it’s important to take responsibility for feelings and actions. All relationship models take work! Depending on the type you’re in, that work might look different. Communication might look different. Introspection might look different. Safer sex negotiation might look different. Family holidays or parenting might look different. And so on.
Relationships are journeys, not destinations. For some, polyamory being more widely accepted is a saviour, for others, monogamy is the grace. Anything can be an excuse without honesty with one’s self and others, but the only myth I can see, is that any one option is inherently better, or that we don’t have choice!
Have a question for bitty bits?! Holler at me here!