Whilst the concept of monogamy is often considered to be synonymous with love, there are different kinds of romantic relationships which do not subscribe to the traditional belief systems of heteronormativity. Monogamy is one of the pillars of heterosexual relationships and marriages, though it has only been the social norm for 1,000 years. In part the necessity for monogamous relationships originates back to the need to look after offspring. If the father of a child had substantial evidence he was the father he would be more inclined to protect and feed the child. Religion has also played a significant role in the western worlds journey to socially imposed monogamy. Polyamorous individuals part ways with heteronormative belief systems in favour of engaging in and experiencing multiple intimate and loving relationships.
As sexuality and love is fluid there is no set description for this type of relationship though as an intro to polyamory we’ve chosen four defining traits of polyamorous relationships:
The Oxford dictionary definition of Polyamory is ‘the the practice of engaging in multiple sexual relationships with the agreement of all the people involved.’ Consent is a prerequisite for polyamorous relationships, every individual involved in the scenario is aware of the dynamic and has given their consent to be involved in this way. A common misconception is that polyamory involves group sex, this is not necessarily the case, though of course if an individual would like to introduce this to the dynamic with their multiple partners, explicit enthusiastic consent must be given.
Taking part in an ethical polyamorous relationship means having respect for each person involved. This includes but is not exclusive to being mindful of their mental health, feelings and expectations for the relationship. Having open channels of communication will encourage people to voice their thoughts and needs, it can also help to maintain and support an environment of mutual trust. For some this means shared calendars or a group chat. Connections evolve and change over time, so it’s important to check in with people to see how they feel about the situation and if there’s anything they need to feel safe or comfortable.
As with any situation involving multiple sexual partners it is essential to practice safe and responsible sex; using condoms if a person with a penis is involved, cleaning sex toys and generally practicing good hygiene (no we’re not talking about intimate wash). Practicing good hygiene is important in any sexual relationship, if a finger or penis is going into a vagina, and then into the anus, it needs to be cleaned before re-entering the vagina. The same applies for condoms, if taking part in vaginal and anal penetration, apply a new clean condom before re-entering the vagina post anal penetration. It’s necessary to clean sex toys in between sexual encounters to prevent the spread of STDs from partner to partner. Before entering into a polyamorous relationship it may be a good idea for each individual to get tested to ensure everyone has a clean bill of sexual health.
Like most romantic relationships, people in polyamorous relationships experience an rollercoaster of emotions, they aren’t immune to jealousy or falling in love. The idea of sharing a partner can be scary, it goes against the traditional ideas of ownership and belonging to one singular person that we often associate with romantic relationships. A common myth about people in polyamorous relationships is that they can’t commit and they don’t form emotional attachments to their partners. In reality this isn’t the case, the concept of the abundance of love exists in many polyamorous relationships, love is not a finite emotional resource, people can love multiple partners at once and in different ways. More love means more possibility for feelings of rejection, hurt and heartbreak, though some relationships come to be and come to pass amicably without an explosive or volatile ending.