With the recent debut of Showtime’s new docu-series, POLYAMORY: MARRIED AND DATING, which explores alternative relationship structures such as consensual non-monogamy, we’ve been getting a lot of questions about the nature of polyamory. Polyamory is practiced by couples who believe that they can also have deep, committed, long-term and loving relationships with people other than their spouse or partner.
Our fear is that a lot of people will see the TV show — and much like the country’s reaction to the book 50 Shades of Grey — immediately dive into “trying out” poly in their own relationships.
Keep in mind that bringing new people into your currently monogamous relationship IS NOT the same as reading 50 Shades and deciding to try a few kinky games with your partner. Polyamory is not something people can try, like taking golf lessons. Poly partners are people, not golf clubs you can sell at a garage sale if you figure out you’re no good at it. Our advice for couples who watch the TV show and find themselves intrigued by the concept of consensual non-monogamy is to NOT try this at home — not until you’ve done a lot of reading and a lot of talking.
First, understand the basics. Polyamory is a relationship model in which one or both partners in a relationship are consensually non-monogamous, meaning they can date — and yes, even have sex — with others. Of course, this typically begs the question, “Well, isn’t that just like swinging or going to wife-swap sex parties?” No, not at all, actually. What we’ve discovered is that whenever people who are new to the idea of poly first encounter the topic, the first thing they focus on is the idea of having sex with new partners. The thing that blows their minds is when we tell them that poly doesn’t even have to involve sex. It can, but it does not have to, because poly is about love first and foremost. But the one thing that can be said without backpedaling is that poly is not for everyone. Determining if it’s for you is where things can get dicey, because there is no test you can take that will tell you if poly is right for you.
Polyamory, like any relationship model, has its success stories and its horror stories. In the world of monogamy, roughly 50 percent of all new marriages fail, according to recent studies. Gay marriages haven’t been well enough defined or documented for any kind of definitive study about their rate of longevity, either. So, our view is that people are what make a relationship — from any model — good or bad. But choosing which way you want to go has a lot to do with how certain elements of relationships make you feel.
So, short of being able to give you a guide to determining if poly is right for you, here are some things to think about before you put up a profile on an alternative lifestyle dating service.
Jealousy — Are you the jealous type? Does your blood boil when you see your partner paying attention to someone in a flirtatious manner? Does imagining your partner with someone else make you absent-mindedly wander the ammo aisle at Walmart? If so, poly may be a bit of a longshot for you.
Insecurity — Are you afraid that your partner will leave you for someone else “better” than you? Do you sometimes have feelings that you don’t deserve your partner, or that he or she could easily do better? When you are home alone, are you afraid that your partner is spending time with someone else behind your back? Chances are that you should not only leave the idea of poly on the backburner, but you and your partner should also seek help to deal with those feelings of insecurity. Insecurity is a threat to maintaining a stable monogamous relationship, but it is a nuclear bomb that can devastate a poly relationship.
Time — Are you busy? We mean, really busy? Three jobs, soccer parents, caregivers and Red Cross volunteers kind of busy? While you might have the right mindset and heart to open yourself and your relationship to poly, you may not have the time. Remember, poly is about new relationships, not just hook-ups, and any relationship worth pursuing is worth the time to properly dedicate to it. If you are a couple who barely have time for each other, then poly might not be the best bet for you until you can open up the calendar.
Please keep in mind that the TV camera can only focus on one thing at a time. Something as complex as polyamory needs a wider lens than TV can offer, and serious consideration before it can be engaged by serious adults.