It’s been over a year since I wrote my first article on polyamory for Cultured Vultures. Of course, I wasn’t the first in popular culture to talk about it: Buzzfeed had done a rather insightful video at the end of the previous year – even if it was a little tongue-in-cheek and dealt with it facetiously rather than seriously – and The Huffington Post ran a fantastic article on it. This year alone, the subject continues to be a hot conversation, with big names such as Cosmopolitan and even the BBC running stories on people who choose to live the alternative romantic option.
(I totally take credit for the recent mainstream surge. I’m expecting thank you letters. You’re welcome.)
But even after all of this, do people really understand polyamory? No. No they don’t. And how do I know that? Because I get asked about it. All. The fucking. Time. Especially after my last relationship, which was my first ever active polyamorous relationship. And as much as I love hearing the sound of my own voice – and believe me, I do – I can’t tell you how frustrating it is to constantly have to explain a significant part of my life to about twenty different people in one day.
So, here’s what I decided to do. I asked people to send me their questions regarding polyamory, no matter how gritty they were, no matter if they thought I would be offended by asking, and no matter how hard I may have found it to answer. I got some good ones, and I got some bad ones. But, they were all answered. This is for anyone who has a question about polyamory and doesn’t know where to turn to for it, and also, anyone who’s curious about entering the world of polyamory, but doesn’t know where to start looking. Well, buckle up your seatbelts children, because I think this ride might be long and bumpy.
So what is polyamory?
‘Poly’, meaning more than one, and ‘amorous’, meaning a sexual or romantic relationship. So, two people are in a relationship, but they can date, have sex with, and enter relationships with other people, should they choose to do so.
What are the rules?
Just like monogamy, there are no set rules for one couple. It all depends. Some polyamorous couples may only decide to have sex with other people, rather than date them, whereas others will choose to enter relationships with others. Above all, though, the main ‘rule’ about polyamory is honesty and consent. As long as couples are comfortable with what is going on within their relationship, that’s the important part. They don’t necessarily have to discuss what they’re doing if both parties are OK with that, as long as there is mutual understanding.
Isn’t it basically being given permission to cheat?
If I got paid a quid for the amount of times this gets brought up, I could probably put a deposit down for a flat. No, it’s not being given permission to cheat. Cheating is breaking a code in a relationship – it’s going behind someone’s back without them giving consent. Polyamory couldn’t be any further than that. You’re entering a relationship knowing that you can see other people, because that’s the idea. There are no restrictions when it comes to what you can do, as long as the trust and honesty stays within you and your partner.
Why can’t you just be with one person?
Another one I got asked lot. And I say, by that logic, I should only eat one food for the rest of my life. I should only drink water. I should only wear one pair of shoes with one shirt and one pair of pants. Do you see where I’m going? The only reason polyamory is frowned upon is because it’s not exposed to us, and we’re taught to fear what we don’t know. Variety is a beautiful thing, and look around us: there are roughly 65 million people in the UK alone. I want to taste more than one flavour when it comes to people, whether I’m with someone or not. But not just me! I want my partner to experience more than me. I don’t want to restrict them. The world is vast and vociferous. It’s there to be explored.
Don’t you ever get jealous?
Ah, the elephant in the room! Yes, I absolutely get jealous, extremely so. I honestly didn’t realise how much of a jealous person I was until my last relationship. The thing about jealousy is that it’s baseless, it’s irrational, and it’s groundless. But most importantly, everyone experiences it, and we treat it like it’s insurmountable, and it’s not. The best way to deal with it is embrace it: it proves to you that you’re a person. Don’t be ashamed of it, and don’t feel bad for feeling it, because we all do it, no matter how ‘together’ we are. Just combat it with the logical part of your brain that you know is still there – ‘OK, so he’s seeing someone else, but I know that doesn’t mean he doesn’t still like me, he’s just with someone else.’ It’s honestly as simple as that.
Do you have to answer endless questions about what you’ve been up to?
Not so much what I’ve been up to, but I find that I have to justify myself a lot, which can get grating. I don’t expect everyone to understand it, but I expect them to respect it, and walk away.
Do you think you will always be polyamorous?
I honestly don’t know! I only came out as polyamorous about two years ago and have had one relationship since then. The great thing about the practices of relationships is that it’s up to you how you do it – it’s a choice, as opposed to something you’re inherently born with (I know that some readers may take issue with that, and that’s OK, but that’s how I see it). A friend of mine told me that she was non-monogamous for most of her life, up until the point where she met someone she has since married, and at that point, she chose to be monogamous. But the point is, she did it for herself, and not for somebody else, and that’s the key.
Polyamory interests me but I wouldn’t know where to begin. Could you give me some advice?
I’d say the best thing to do is to reach out to different resources. Read up on it as much as you can, but start slowly. If you read too much at once it will probably blow your head off – I wouldn’t recommend Everyday Feminism for beginners. If you want to start dating someone polyamorous, try OKCupid and Plenty Of Fish – they’re the few mainstream dating sites to have a polyamorous filter.
The most important thing for anyone practising polyamory is to not pretend to be OK with something that you’re not OK with. Regardless of what kind of relationship you’re doing, that’s where the problem will lie. Relationships break down for a multitude of reasons, but honesty, communication and consent are the real destroyers. Any relationship can turn sour, whether it’s monogamous or not, and it’s always important to remember that polyamory isn’t immunity from heartache.
In summary, love isn’t a singular prospect. It’s always been something that attempts things beyond its strength. Polyamory is one of those beautiful things, and it shouldn’t be shunned from the world because it’s different to what we’ve been taught. It deserves it’s place in society. And no one, whether they’re monogamous, polyamorous, or otherwise, should be made to feel ashamed for practising their own unique act of love.
If you have any more questions for Joshua regarding polyamory, or if you’d simply like to proposition him for sex, you can contact him on his Facebook page.
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