When I think about polyamory, it brings me back to one of my old classes, three years ago, when I was taught about how the (post) modern family is ‘fluid, dynamic and unresolved’. I don’t know why, but those last three adjectives really stuck with me.
They seem to describe polyamory just as well as they do the modern family. The neo-relationsh1p. The biggest sexual revolution since the Stonewall Riots. The gen-Z (or millennial), polyam Twitter user of the 2020s. And I’m one of them. A nineties kid from the colonial west; wannabe full-time blogger; possibly polyamorous?
Polyamory as an entire subject is so broad. Personally, I have no idea what part of it I fit into. I’m in a poly-mono relationship, my partner being the monogamous-ish one, but both of us as ‘open’. I’m engaged to them, too. I love them. They are physically separate to my ongoing connection to other sexual partners, poly and mono alike. We’re no polycule or triad. I haven’t been in one of those in nearly a year. They do get complicated, after all.
It may be the safest time in human history to be polyamorous in the west, but it’s hardly under legal protection. Unlike being a woman, LGBTQ+ or a person of colour, there isn’t a sub-category on the modern Equality Act for polyamorous folk to be legally protected from discrimination in the workplace or child custody court. Not that people of ethnic minorities don’t experience discrimination anyway. Or queer folx. Or women. But legal protection is always nice.
Polyamory is as ‘pro-choice’ as most relationships get. Unlike monogamy, its definition explicitly centres around consent. Otherwise, it’s not polyamory. And that’s pretty beautiful. That doesn’t mean that it can’t have ethical issues, though.
Hierarchy-based polyamorous relationships are tricky to navigate, especially in the context of a pre-established couple and a ‘third’. Feelings get complicated. Attachments develop. People can be harmed. Egalitarian polyamory addresses this issue to an extent; but can the bond ever be equal? Measuring ‘closeness’ or ‘love’ is impossible. It’s incomparable but true egalitarianism is hard to come by.
Sexual jealousy is something to consider too. A feeling that, to some extent, is natural in all relationships. But it can definitely be awkward to navigate when more individuals with unique feelings are added into the mix. Ignoring the monogamy model is healthy for a lot of couples, but it isn’t easy when they have to face social disapproval, ignorance and assumptions from a world that, for the most part, doesn’t agree with ‘their way of life’. Also, it sucks that there is a lack of polyamorous role models beyond the ‘TV drama’ genre. It’s improving, but progress is slow.
A subject not really discussed beyond a niche circle of Gen-Z’ers and millennials, there’s the kink assumption held by anyone and everyone outside the group. Well, most people. That polyamory and open relationships are a sexual ‘cesspit’ for BDSM, chem parties, sexual jealousy and STIs.
Conveniently they forget that sexual jealousy at a base level is natural, with it existing in monogamous relationships too. That modern sexual health clinics and online resources allow the 2020 couple agency to make their own, well-informed decisions about their sex lives. That polyamorous people and open relationship-ers alike can be ‘cishet’ or asexual. That, alike monogamous and closed relationships, both love and lust can exist there.
What makes a relationship ‘healthy’ or ‘unhealthy’ isn’t whether or not its polyamorous. If anything, polyamory has the advantage of individual power-matching. Introducing more people to a relationship generally promotes egalitarian decision-making whilst reducing domestic violence risk.
At the end of the day, you are you, so you do you. Whether polyam or mono.