Eight Common Misconceptions About Polyamorous Relationships
Eight Common Misconceptions About Polyamorous Relationships
When you hear the word polyamory, what do you think of? Some of you might imagine a polyamorous person as someone with dozens of lovers, who hops from one bed to another. Perhaps others think of polygamy, and a man having multiple wives like on the show Sister Wives. The media and literature have a big sway on how polyamory is viewed in the public eye.
One of the biggest problems with this is that polyamory is often misrepresented in these mediums. They tend to show the instances where polyamory goes wrong or is abused. But let me tell you something folks, polyamory is alive and strong. And I'm not speaking of religious polyamory. I'm talking about the current, growing, polyamory movement spreading across the globe.
For thousands of people, consensual non-monogamy is the way to go. But these misconceptions, often spread by misinformation, hurt the poly community and make individuals reluctant to come out about their lifestyle. In my quest to write real-life, respectful polyamorous relationships, I've come across eight big misconceptions I'd like to discuss.
Polyamorous people constantly sleep around with anyone and everyone.
This is vastly false. In my research and experience with people in the community, wildly having sex with everyone and anyone is not something that happens often. The poly community would agree, that people who are just out for sex and no deeper connection, are swingers and not considered polyamorous in their eyes. Polyamory includes a deeper connection, and some degree of love is often involved in these relationships.
Polyamorous individuals tend to have a set number of people they date and don't tend to haphazardly engage in sexual relationships without their being a connection outside of the bedroom. It isn't as many people believe, a free for all, in most cases.
This leads me into the next misconception:
There is no commitment in polyamory.
We only have to look at one form of polyamory to know that's false, and that would be polygamy. In either a polygyny relationship (multiple wives) or a polyandry relationship (multiple husbands) we can see that commitment is alive and strong. But commitment doesn't only exist in polygamy.
There are plenty of poly families formed with a variety of genders, who say, “Hey, we’re going to commit to being life partners and even raise children together.” And they do just that. They don’t feel their commitments to any of their permanent partners to be something easily thrown away or dismissed. This misconception, in my opinion, is probably one of the most insulting.
It insinuates that poly people are incapable of putting down roots and having deep connections with the people they want to spend the rest of their lives with. They commit to being with one another for life just like anyone else. The only difference is they don’t commit to only having sex with one partner. But plenty of monogamous people make the commitment to be sexually committed and go behind their partner’s back and cheat. Which do you think is morally more acceptable in your opinion?
On to the next misconception:
Polyamory is one-size fits all.
Polyamory is as diverse as the people involved in the relationships. They each have their own rules and guidelines that define everything from how many partners they can have at once, what constitutes cheating (if anything does), and even how committed the individuals are allowed to get with partners outside their core partners.
Some poly relationships don’t have core partners or what are referred to as primaries. It’s much more fluid and open for some practioners. They might have steady partners, but not any they consider primary.
This is something that people involved in polyamory, sit down and discuss right away. They must come together to decide and compromise on what rules they’ll abide by. How you practice polyamory will greatly determine the people you date. It’s ideal to date individuals that practice polyamory in a similar fashion or in a manner you’re comfortable with. But the idea here, is there is no right or wrong way to practice polyamory.
With all the partner swapping involved in polyamory, another common misconception is:
Polyamory increases your risks of STIs.
The opposite is true. Because polyamorous people are open with their partners about their other partners, they are more likely to practice safe sex and get tested more often. Many poly people will require documentation of a person’s last STI check before even considering having intercourse with them.
Research shows that polyamorous people have significantly lower rates of STIs than those who are practicing non-consensual monogamous relationships. You know, those people who are having affairs and cheating within a monogamous relationship.
Misconception number five:
Poly people are kinky sex addicts who have sex 24/7.
The reason polyamory is different from things like swinging and kinky sex play is that it isn’t solely about sex. Poly people are poly because they enjoy cultivating romantic relationships, and that includes doing things, and spending time together, outside of the bedroom.
Even if you’re living with multiple partners, you aren’t likely to be having sex all the time or having group/kinky sex all the time. Some poly people never engage in kinky sex play or swinging. But there is a big overlap in those communities. And many identify as members of multiple communities.
This next misconception is a big one:
Polyamory ruins relationships.
This misconception is highly portrayed in the media and is false. It often refers to monogamous couples who turn polyamorous after some time together. The truth is, poly relationships don’t end any more often than monogamous relationships do. They aren’t any less stable than people hoping from one monogamous relationship after another.
That doesn’t mean that poly relationships can’t end relationships already developed on a cracked foundation. For poly relationships to be successful, especially for people with primary partners (for example, legally married people who date), that primary relationship needs to be secure and stable. If you run into polyamory on an unstable foundation, it may accelerate the end already in progress. But the facts are, polyamory successfully works for many individuals and couples, and divorce rates between monogamous people is still 50/50.
Misconception number seven:
Jealousy doesn’t exist in polyamory.
Give me a moment while I stop laughing. Jealousy absolutely exists in poly relationships. The difference typically is, poly people communicate more openly and freely. Therefore, instances of jealousy are often addressed and worked through. There is always a root cause when it come to jealousy, and more often that not, it can be worked through. Just because a person is poly, doesn’t mean they’re immune to the very human emotion of jealousy.
Our final misconception is a big one:
Polyamory is detrimental and oppressive towards women.
This, again, is a misconception with big roots in the way polyamory is portrayed in the media. And yes, some forms of polyamory, especially in a religious context, can be entirely detrimental and oppressive. The one we most often see in the media is polygyny. This is where a man is allowed multiple wives and sexual partners, but especially in a religious setting, the women are not allowed to have any other sexual partner but the husband. In many of those cases, women are highly oppressed, sometimes even abused and taken advantage of.
That, however, is not the case in the modern polyamory movement. The modern poly movement is female led. Feminism has had a big role in women demanding the sexual freedom that most men have. It’s been championed by female writers, historians, and organizers. In today’s polyamory, households often consist of more men than women. So the very opposite of polygyny that we see highlighted on TV and in movies. Women are becoming the heads of their polycules and taking a leadership role. They are the driving force behind the poly movement quickly spreading across North America and even the world.
I hope you’ve learned something new here today. It’s through more articles like these, and people becoming open about their polyamory, that misconceptions are being dispelled and people are able to see that polyamory isn’t as crazy as they may have thought. It’s just one of many ways to love and be loved.
Please feel free to leave me your comments. I’d love to hear your thoughts.
Resources and more great articles on polyamory: