Polyamory: My Personal Q & A

There are people who are monogamous, and there are people for whom monogamy is absolutely the best relationship style, and there are people who might be inclined towards having multiple partners but who can be happy being involved with one. I am not, and have never been, in any of those categories - I've been involved in multiple relationships from the get-go.

So, I never had the experience of moving from monogamy to polyamory. Instead I read Heinlein as a kid, and my relationships were non-monogamous from the very beginning. "The more you love, the more you can love -- and the more intensely you love. Nor is there any limit on how many you can love. If a person had time enough, he could love all of that majority who are decent and just." - RAH

People ask me a lot of good questions about polyamory. Here are some of them, with my answers. (If you have a question I don't touch on, feel free to ask me.)

Q: Have you always had relationships like this?
A: Yes. I've been poly for as long as I have been involved with people romantically and sexually. (and yes, that's a long time, i started young)

Q: How have you done it? / What kind of poly do you do?
A: There are a number of different "styles", or "types" of polyamory (definitions). I've never been polyfidelitous, though I have chosen at times to not add partners for different reasons. I've never been in a DADT (Don't Ask Don't Tell) relationship. I've never been a swinger, though that's not a judgment on swingers (or on polyfi people, for that matter). I have been in a quad, I've been in a couple of triads (where all four/three people were involved with one another), but most often I've been in webs of Vees (where two people are involved with the same person but not involved with each other).

I've been in non-hierachical situations, and from that found that I am more comfortable when there is a hierarchy, as long as the hierarchical aspects are handled with gentleness and sensitivity along with honesty and clarity. (And yes, two people can be hierachically equal, in my world.)

Q: What about jealousy?
A: Jealousy is a tricky thing. One of the ways poly people think about jealousy is to treat it as a symptom rather than as a problem, the same way that you would treat anger or sadness. What is it that is making me sad or angry or jealous? What can I do to change that?

It’s often not as straightforward as you think! If I’m angry with my friend for being late, the solution may well be the obvious - for that person not to be late. But it might also be that my friend is just a late person! If the relationship with my friend is important to me, I need to learn a way to deal with her tardiness. I might tell her how much it upsets me, but I might also mentally add a half an hour to any time she says she’s going to be there. I might make a game out of it and always tell her to be someplace an hour before I need her. I might choose to meet her at a place where I won’t mind waiting, like a bookstore or a coffee shop.

It’s not a perfect analogy, of course.

Q: What if you catch something?
A: There's an interesting debate to be had about whether poly people (in multiple simultaneous relationships) are actually at any more risk of STDs and the like than monogamous people (in multiple sequential relationships). Regardless, yes, I pay a lot of attention to safer sex issues.

Q: Do your parents know?
A: Yes. (Since my mom lives with me these days, she better!) While I'm sure it's not necessarily the path that they would have chosen for me, they understand that this is how and who we are, and are not interested in trying to change that, and are happy for our happiness. Any of my partners are welcome at family events.

I came out to my parents when I was a teenager, before the term 'polyamory' was coined - it took as much if not more getting used to than my bisexuality, and I'm not sure at what point my mother admitted that it wasn't a phase.

Q: Who else knows?
A: In my life, most everyone knows, and that's super important to me. Someday I'll add the stories of coming out at my various workplaces, and the occasional ensuing HR battles.

Q: What are the rules? / Is anything ok?
A: In general, everyone needs to be honest and open, and everyone needs to abide by the agreements they have made. Each relationship, though, has different agreements.

I also have my own set of rules, for myself, about who I get involved with. They serve as much as reminders of life lessons as hard and fast rules. Here they are.

Q: Are all your friends poly?
A: No. Lots are, but I'm friends with, and related to, lots of people who are monogamous, too. I don't think that polyamory is the right choice for everyone, and I don't think that monogamy is the right choice for everyone.