A lot of people I talk to think that polyamory is all about sex. Kinky sex, with lots of people, and orgies every weekend. While I sincerely hope that someone, somewhere is living that dream, sex is not why I practice polyamory. I love to have sex (and I do have sex with multiple partners) but sex isn’t the reason I choose to have multiple partners.
Everyone has their own reasons and methods for being polyamorous, and there is no “right” way to do it. I do it for three simple reasons: support, change, and love.
Support: I love the extended emotional, physical, and financial support of having an extended polyamorous family and community.
I envision people in a relationship as vines that twine around each other, offering support for individual growth – sometimes more together, sometimes more apart – but always commingled, always headed in roughly the same direction. Adding more strands strengthens the combined vine and makes it easier to get to where you are going, assuming that everyone has a similar goal.
I practice polyamory because the road of life can be long and hard to go alone. I want the support of many hands. Not everyone in my support system is a lover, but the intimacy of a sexual relationship tends to open me to deeper trust. I am blessed by the love and support of many people, something I do not think I would allow myself if I were in a monogamous relationship.
Some people worry that polyamory with be harmful for children. Practically speaking, all families with children could use more support than one or two parents can offer. Children are my top priority and they are a massive investment of time, energy, and money. Polyamory offers the extended support for childrearing that traditionally has been filled by extended family, small villages, or church communities. I am always vigilant for my children’s welfare and safety. Nothing replaces the stability of parents, but who says you can only have two? My kids have access to all manner of cool people who care about them.
Change: Being able to explore my connections with many different people helps me grow and change, letting me more fully become my whole self.
I have a lust for new experiences. I have never been content to sit still. My goal is always to continue learning and growing. No artificial limits! I conquer my fears one at a time because I want to live life to the fullest. Every poetic turn of phrase, sacred ritual, brilliant piece of art, heart wrenching performance, deep philosophical conversation, and wildly intuitive lover I experience influences my growth as an evolving person.
Not only do I want these catalysts for myself, I want the people I care about to also be expanding and thriving. I like to excite potential. I am intensely curious about the individuals I am drawn to. Peeling away the layers of interests, adventures, and emotion to get to the gooey center is delicious to me, and I can’t help but change the people I get that close to.
When people tell me that they could never be poly because they get too jealous, what I hear is that they are too afraid of change in the relationship. And they are right, it can be extremely difficult to watch your partner move in a direction that is away from you. Harder still to do the work necessary to keep up with their growth, whether to follow them or let them go.
Love: Genuine love for myself and others fills my life with ineffable sweetness that helps to balance the inevitable pain that comes with being alive.
Some people say that they are poly because it’s ridiculous to expect to get your needs met by one person. I disagree. I can absolutely get my needs met by one person – me. I practice polyamory because I am full of love. The more I love, the more it spills out onto everyone around me. Time, money, and energy are limited, but love is infinite.
I am so curious about people. I want to learn about the individuals I am drawn to, find out what they are passionate about, get down into their core. Sometimes I find a sexual connection and sometimes I don’t. Being poly means that I can let each relationship be just what it is, not just what I would like it to be. I am not trying to persuade myself to be in love where I am not and I am not trying to deny love when it is evident.
I am opening myself up to being inspired, even changed, by these people I love. Sex creates a deeper conduit, so I am careful about who I expose my soul to. Careful, but not fearful. I give my heart easily, knowing that pain will also be my teacher. When I fall in love, I let my curiosity drive.
I like to think that in practice, my form of polyamory has a lot in common with the best of monogamous marriage: I meet someone and fall in love, we find that we share common dreams for the future, and we commit to help support each other in being the best people we can be. The only difference is that I maintain several relationships like that.
The down side is that I am maintaining several marriage-level relationships. That’s a lot of communication. Mostly it’s not a problem, but sometimes I feel my limitations. I’m not always great at communicating. Some days I don’t feel very expansive and it’s hard to offer support, be open to change, or feel the love around me. Days like that I’m lucky that I’m not the only person in this system.