I was in a polyamorous relationship for about 10 years, a triad composed of two women and one man. We were mostly but not entirely polyfidelitious, meaning that we rarely dated or engaged sexually with anyone outside the relationship. I was dating him, he met her, he introduced her to me, and we all fell in love.
Polyamory forces you to think explicitly about how you want your relationships to work. There is no default set of rules, no one size fits all solution.
Nothing can be assumed, everything is up for discussion, and anything can be negotiated to suit the needs of the people involved.
A monogamous friend of mine told me once that at some level he considered his marriage to be a poly relationship of two people, precisely because he and his wife had very detailed talks about how they wanted their relationship to work. I suspect that a lot of monogamous pairings could benefit from this open-minded attitude towards relationship dynamics.
I think that to some extent, poly relationship networks form a proxy for the extended family and tribal groups that have largely faded out in Western culture.
Having a group of trusted adults means more people to contribute resources and share risk, more people to assist with rearing children, more people to help out around the house.
On a more personal level, having multiple partners means that you are not loading all of your hopes, desires, and expectations on to one person. Recognizing that no single person can or should be expected to fill all of your needs, you are free to develop other rewarding relationships with the full knowledge and consent of everyone involved.
I am not otherwise an alt-lifestyler (and am in fact fairly conservative in some ways). The mundane content of our relationship was in most respects quite conventional.
We went on dinner dates and out to the movies, took some vacations together, went grocery shopping, talked about work.
It irritates me when people focus exclusively on the sexual aspects of non-heterosexual and non-monogamous relationships, but I will touch on that part very briefly here.
Sex with my partners was wonderful. I loved being the focus of two people who loved me, I loved giving each of them pleasure, and I loved seeing them give pleasure to each other.
Cuddling together with my beloveds was blissful. We surrounded ourselves with love, and all felt safe and right with the world.
A lot of people think that polyamory is a little weird at best, and actively immoral at worst.
My parents were politely supportive of my relationship, but some members of my extended family were quite vocal in their distaste.
Some very popular religions place a heavy emphasis on sexual exclusivity (especially for women), and it’s discouraging to have your relationship held up as an example of social decline that must actively be guarded against (If we let gay people marry, then soon polygamists will want to get married, and then people will be marrying dogs and trees and who knows what else!).
If you have some problem or issue with your relationship, many people will jump to the conclusion that being polyamorous is the root of the problem.
I avoided discussing my relationship status with all but my closest coworkers, as I suspected that disclosing such a thing might constitute a distinctly career-limiting move.
I was on the receiving end of a lot of rudely prying questions about our sex life, and a lot of unsavory assumptions about poly relationships and about me as a woman in such an arrangement. That it is just about sex and getting to sleep around, that we must be hippies or religious nuts like the Mormon Fundamentalists that were in the news a lot a while back, that it is an excuse for men to exploit women, that I must be giving in just to please our male partner, or because I felt that I didn’t deserve anything better,
Issues of moral judgement aside, ours is a couple-oriented society and a family unit involving more than two adults does not fit in easily.
There is the obvious issue of marriage and family law, which supports pairwise bonds exclusively.
Married couples get a package of legal rights and responsibilities by default, but developing legal protection for a polyamorous family requires extended work with an attorney.
Then there were the more mundane conflicts. Yes, please invite both of my partners to your holiday party, Yes, us three adults really would prefer just one king-sized bed in the hotel room.
People had no idea how to refer to us. Are you married, or dating, or what? Should we call him your husband and her your wife, or what? Are you really serious about this? We turned heads when we displayed any kind of affection together in public.
I write this at a time when I am new to talking about our triad in the past tense.
My relationship with one of my partners has degraded to the point that it cannot be repaired, and I am not sure what this means for our family.
There is no template for me to go by here, nothing straightforward like a divorce. I am deeply saddened by the decline of this partnership, and also by the knowledge that I am losing part of the foundation of support that has been so important to me for the last decade.