In the course of coming out as poly, I’ve been asked pretty much every question you can imagine about what my relationships involve. These questions come from the minds of inquisitive people who want to really understand what it’s all about. In contrast I’ve also been faced with the occasional closed-minded person who just can’t understand how it could possibly work out. Often these people present to me an example of something they’ve heard about a failed poly relationship, or they argue a point that proves to me that the poly lifestyle is still widely misunderstood. Here are just a few of the misconceptions I’ve come across.
1. It’s All about Sex
Lots of people seem to think that being poly is all about having as much sex as you want, with as many partners as you can handle. While this may be true for some poly people, it isn’t for everybody. My relationships are based more on emotional intimacy, with sex playing a much smaller role. There are many different ways of being polyamorous. It’s up to the people involved in each relationship to define the boundaries that work for them.
2. Someone Has to Be a Secondary Partner
This attitude stems from the monogamous assumption that we are only capable of devoting ourselves to one person at a time. I think it’s insulting to those of us who consider ourselves to be in egalitarian relationships, but at the same time I can see that it’s an attempt to fit the poly lifestyle into a framework of pre-existing thought. While it’s true that some people do structure their poly relationships in a hierarchical way, not everyone does.
3. Jealousy Must Spell the End of Things
I’ve come across questions of jealousy a lot. Some people think that those of us who are poly somehow don’t feel jealous because if we did, there’s no way we could maintain our free-loving lifestyle. The truth is, jealousy does creep in sometimes. It feels awful, yes, but it can usually be overcome by way of self-reflection and communication. It’s about respecting everyone enough to express your needs and to receive theirs, while at the same time doing the things you need to do to feel fulfilled. I know I tend to feel less jealous when I’m happy in other areas of my life.
4. Engaging in the Poly Lifestyle Means You Have Intimacy Problems
Therapists love this one. Again, this belief comes from the monogamous assumption that true commitment and intimacy can only be shared between two people. I would argue that being in a poly relationship requires just as much if not more commitment. It takes a lot of time and understanding to make multiple relationships work. It also takes a great deal of opening up and a willingness to be intimate with several people at once. I’ve been in monogamous relationships, and I really feel it takes more emotional courage, commitment and intimacy to open things up to the poly dynamic.