I’m Polyamorous, Not Promiscuous
Me, not having an orgy
I am poly, and as I’ve become more open about the fact that my partners and I practice consensual non-monogamy, I have been getting more and more questions about what that means. I welcome these questions as an opportunity to correct a lot of the misinformation out there about polyamory and other forms of non-monogamy.
“Polyamory” is a word which came to prominence in the early 90s blending Latin and Greek roots (which is a little silly) to mean many loves. People who are poly are open to forming multiple close romantic relationships simultaneously. There are other types of consensual non-monogamy like swinging, but they don’t describe me as well as polyamory.
When I tell people that I’m poly they tend to assume that I am having orgies, one night stands, and some crazy kinky sex all the time. Now, I have nothing against any of these things per se, and I won’t say I’ve never indulged, but these are not an essential part of my polyamory.
Jumping into the sack with someone is actually pretty complicated for me. The rules that I have established with my partners mean that impulsively sleeping with a new partner is not an option. I need to make sure my other partners are comfortable with them, we need to talk about testing, and we need to talk about their other partners. It’s kind of a pain, but well worth it to know that I am protecting both my partners and myself. It also isn’t what I’d call casual.
Frankly I’m too lazy to put that much energy into vetting a new partner I’m only going to see once. There are of course poly folks who manage to have tons of new partners all the time and I have enormous respect for their organizational abilities. There are as many different ways of being poly as there are poly people.
I’ve had three partners in the last two years. One of them is my husband of 6 years, one of them is my boyfriend of 3.5 years, and one is my bestie. I am incredibly close to all of these people and they all remain a part of my life. Although I remain close to them, I am only sexually active with two of them. My bestie and I are back to being clothes-on besties.
One of my favorite parts of being poly is that my friendships can be untainted by pent up desire. We can be best friends and cuddle buddies. Then we can stop being cuddle buddies, and can still be best friends.
Again, there’s nothing wrong with having lots of partners and “a lot” means different things to different people. Supposedly the average woman in the US has had 4 opposite sex partners in her lifetime. The whole opposite sex part of this number and the nature of self-reporting means that this number is not the end all and be all, but it gives you an idea. Let’s just say that I am well above average when it comes to this metric.
My husband and me at LA Pride
However, when I think about some of my friends who are monogamous, I realize that they are also well above that average. They only date one person at a time, they may date that person for a span of weeks, but they are still monogamous. In fact my monogamous friends frequently have many more partners than me, because they are out dating more than me.
I may be poly, but I am also a total homebody. I don’t like meeting people at bars, I’m kind of done with online dating, and I resist activities that mean I have to put on “grown up” clothes. I have two serious relationships, and I have no interested in finding more. I have fewer partners than my monogamous friends because I am too lazy to date and I am pretty content with my current relationships.
A monogamous person can easily have a dozen partners in a year while they’re “dating around” and still be monogamous. By contrast, my husband and I were each other’s only partners for two years. During that time, we still considered ourselves poly because we were open to the idea of new partners; we just hadn’t run across anyone yet.
Although it may seem counterintuitive, polyamory does not necessarily mean that a person has a lot of partners. It simply means that that person is open to multiple romantic relationships, it means that they don’t believe it is impossible to love two or more people at the same time. For me, it is rare to find someone with whom I really connect, which is probably why I actually date fewer people than many of my monogamous friends. If I find that person more than once, I am open to exploring that relationship. It seems a pity to limit myself to only one incredible, amazing, supportive person in my life.
So next time someone tells you that they are polyamorous, please don’t assume that they are promiscuous.