Polyamory: A Primer

Polyamory is a word you may have heard a lot of in recent years, but what is it?

The word root “Poly” means “many” and Amory means “love”. The term in it’s most literal sense means “many loves”. Polyamory is the notion that we can love more than one person romantically at once. A simple definition, but one that is often confused with several other non traditional lifestyles (mostly having to do with sex).

Polyamory is not an Open relationship, and it is not swinging. Swinging is when a couple has sex with other people. An open relationship is when you’re in a relationship and one or both partners has permission to have sex with other people. Polyamory is about love, and sex is just one part of it. Someone who is polyamorous can indeed also be these two other things, but that is largely a stereotype.

Polyamory is, of course, a choice on some level. A person could be polyamorous and very introverted-therefore only having one partner for that reason. Another could fall in love with someone completely monogamous and never act on their feelings about Polyamory. Sometimes two polyamorous people will never act on it for reasons like having no time or medical issues.

Needless to say, for those who don’t understand or don’t want to understand, the assumption is that polyamorous people/couples have some hyper sexuality and are just looking for orgies and “new meat”. They’re people who have threesomes nightly and insatiable appetites. This is not what polyamory is about. But even if it was, there is nothing wrong with those people either, and there probably are polyamorous people who meet that criteria…but it’s certainly not the norm.

Polyamory is based on some simple but radical notions: We don’t own our lovers like property. When you love someone, they shouldn’t be seen as an object to hoard, but a gift to share if they so desire. We don’t believe romantic love is a finite resource. We believe in total honesty and communication.

In our minds, It all comes down to the notion of jealousy. In virtually all areas of our lives, Jealousy is a trait that we do our absolute best to not display, because it’s a clearly negative trait. Jealousy makes us look petty. Why then, do we make an exception in our Romantic relationships? The answer is usually sex, and is largely beaten into us by socialization rather than biology. When a person has no sexual jealousy, they are well suited for polyamory.

When a parent has a second child, does that mean their love for the first is somehow lessened? When someone gets a new pet, do they dispose of the old one because their love was finite? Making new friends doesn’t mean we love our old ones any less. In fact, our friendships aren’t monogamous. Imagine one person you may have met at church or a political event and is a friend based mostly on discussion of big ideas. Another friend could be the one you like to party with, and is fun to be with when you feel like letting loose. Another friendship could be entirely internet based. One friendship could be mostly just based around sex. All of these friendships are valid. Some people don’t really need many friends, others have many in their lives, it’s simply based on the person’s personal preferences.

Polyamory is that same principle, but with a sexual component. If a person’s needs are not being met at home, they’ll seek it elsewhere. Those are words uttered by marriage counselors everywhere. Perhaps this is the wrong way to look at it. If a person’s needs aren’t being met and the other partner can’t/simply Doesn’t want to, finding a second partner is entirely reasonable if both parties have agreed ahead of time. Sometimes people can be deeply in love, but one wants something that can’t be given by their partner. (a child, sex,financial stability, etc) Finding a second partner doesn’t automatically diminish the first. It is extremely important to note this does not necessarily mean sex. A person can be polyamorous without it involving sex, although such arrangements are rare.

So why are so many people opposed to polyamory? The answers are an old and familiar set of grievances. They tend to be:

1)That’s just morally wrong.

2)Children will think this is okay.

3)A polyamorous group of adults is bad for children.

4)It’s not natural.

5)I support it, but am worried about others.

6)Sounds like cheating to me.

All of these charges were leveled at the LGBT community, and were laughable. They are with polyamory as well:

1)Is it more morally wrong than cheating? The Kinsey studies found about 50% of men cheat and about 30% of women do. The subsequent studies have found numbers as high as 70% for men and up to 40% for women. How many of those cheaters would have just been better off in a polyamorous relationship?

2)Children should think such a lifestyle is okay. What’s not okay is demonizing people for a lifestyle that varies from the norm. Being Monogamous is not for everyone, and on a purely biological level goes against the biological nature.

3)Polyamory is ideally suited for child rearing. If a child’s parents have 3 incomes, it’d be a much easier financial burden. 3 parents means more people to watch children, take over housework, help with homework, entertain and to listen to their troubles. It’s like the Russian proverb, “It takes a Village”.

4)In Mammals, only 9% are monogamous. In Primates, that number is 29%. Now, research has shown that before Western imperialism largely destroyed such cultures, indigenous peoples were monogamous in only 16% of communities. 83% of all societies on Earth are open to polyamory in some form.

5)Millennials and Gen Z have shattered the typical morays regarding sex and marriage. Compared to their parents/grandparents they’re losing their virginity much later, are 5 times more likely to identify as Transgender than in the 2000’s. The % who identify as LGBT is the highest ever recorded, with about 50% of the group identifying as bisexual. Cohabitation is at an all time high. The average age a person loses their virginity has gone up by 4 years. The age of motherhood is at an all time high, the age people are getting married at is at an all time high. The birth rate is at a historic low. The amount of people under 35 who are single and never married is at an all time high. A whopping 1 in 3 men under 30 are virgins in the US. Divorce rates were the lowest in 50 years before COVID. 5% of US adults are currently in a non-traditional relationship (Polyamory, Open Relationship). 20% have attempted a non traditional relationship at some point in their lives and both statistics are growing. The point is this: there is no normal anymore.

6)It can be. Polyamory requires total honesty. Rules must be set up between a couple meaning to try it. Both must be in agreement on these rules and adhere to the. Their reasons must be clear too. The rules need to apply equally to both parties, and any other person that one or both of the couple want to be polyamorous with must know the rules at some point. Everything should be communicated. Not doing so could lead to actual cheating, and then there are some who use Polyamory as an excuse to cheat.

The amount of people who consider themselves Polyamorous will only grow as time goes on, hopefully this has proved to be a good overview of what you need to know.

Libertarian Socialist who writes about politics, economics, philosophy religion & history. Former Newspaper Columnist.

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