Trailblazer Melissa Mitchell is used to academic challenges. She is graduating this month with an honours BA in psychology with an extended minor in criminology. She is entering new territory with her research in polyamorous relationships and has already co-presented new findings on the topic at a major conference. Mitchell and her thesis supervisor, psychology professor Kim Bartholomew, presented a qualitative study in April at the Western Psychological Association meeting in San Francisco on why people become polyamorous.
Mitchell’s research identified “polyamory as a relationship form in which individuals have simultaneous consensual romantic relationships with multiple partners.” Bartholomew and Mitchell analyzed 161 posts on an online polyamory forum and concluded that there are two main reasons why people enter into poly relationships:
1. “ They say, ‘this is who I am’ and feel their relationship style is similar to a sexual orientation.”
2. “They are adapting to relationship circumstances. In several cases, an individual who was originally in a monogamous relationship fell in love with someone outside the coupled relationship, and instead of dissolving the original coupling, negotiated a polyamorous solution.”
Mitchell is now lining up conferences around the world to present her honours thesis on polyamorous relationships. It looks at how getting needs met with a single partner relates to satisfaction and commitment to another partner. Her research into an area of psychology that is rarely investigated is commendable given her busy study and work schedule.