What Is Polyamory?
Put simply, polyamory is loving more than one person at a time. Polyamorous people believe that they can have loving, romantic relationships with multiple people, without diminishing the love that any of their partners receive.
I believe that our Western model of lifelong monogamy is not a natural way to be. Marriage, as we practice it in the United States, has a relatively recent history. For thousands of years, marriage had very little to do with love and romance and everything to do with property and politics.
But this is not an article about the "why" of polyamory, it's about the pros and cons of this lifestyle. So without further ado...
Pros of Polyamory
Having multiple partners means that you don't have to break someone's heart, or have your own heart broken, when that one person you were supposed to grow old with, the love of your life, loses their attraction. A poly lifestyle accepts that one person can't be everything to someone else. It allows you to love, without needing the object of your affection to meet all of your imagined expectations. It's a fact that we see our love interests differently in the early stages of attraction. The realization that our Prince Charming isn't quite the prince (although he may still be quite charming) can destroy a relationship. An open approach to relationships can encourage you to be real with your partners, and let them be real with you.
Multiple partners means that you have a stronger support network. If you get sick and need someone to take care of you, you have multiple people to call, and you don't have to lean on only one person who may have their own problems to deal with.
Polyamory doesn't mean "many sexual partners", it means "many loves." It doesn't have to be sexual. But having an open attitude can free you to become deeper friends with people of the opposite sex, something you might be scared to do if you are in a conventional monogamous relationship, because you fear that your friendship might become something deeper and threaten your romantic relationship.
Knowing that someone supports you and loves you no matter what might let encourage you to be more open and receptive to loving and caring for other people. Our society suffers from a "scarcity" mentality. We think that love can only be a certain way, and there's not much of it to go around. We save ourselves for the perfect person because we are afraid of squandering our love and our lives on someone who's not perfect. This means we might miss out on many very rewarding relationships. But if we abandon the expectation that our loves have to fit a fairy tale model we can open ourselves to the possibilities and become more supportive of other people in our lives who we might otherwise be afraid to love.
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Cons of Polyamory
Having multiple relationships takes up a lot of time and energy, and this can damage the quality of your relationships. It's probably not a good relationship style for someone with ADD, as you will find yourself pulled in multiple directions.
Different partners will all have different expectations of you and of the relationship, and they might not always respect or understand that you need to take care of someone else as well as them (and yourself!).
Jealousy can be very hard to deal with. Love is a powerful emotion, ingrained in us by our evolution. It is this way because our survival and our ability to raise viable offspring depended on it. It is a powerful thing, beyond our ability to control rationally.
There is no handbook for this lifestyle! All of our lives we have been told the story of the fairy tale romantic marriage, falling in love and living happily ever after. The fact that "happily ever after" works so rarely doesn't change the fact that we expect it to work for us. Our internalized stories (our cultural conditioning) work against a poly lifestyle.
Polyamory is not widely accepted in our society and is even stigmatized. Finding other people who might accept your lifestyle can be hard, and finding people who want to date you could be even harder.
What Do You Think?
So, those are a few of the things that I can think of. What do you think? Did I miss something?
This content is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and is not meant to substitute for formal and individualized advice from a qualified professional.