Wikipedia defines Polyamory as the practice of, or desire for, intimate relationships involving more than two people, with the knowledge and consent of everyone involved. It has been described as "consensual, ethical, and responsible non-monogamy"
There are essentially 5 rules to a poly-amorous relationship.
1. All partners consent to it and choose to be in it.
2. Take responsibility for your own emotions, instead of projecting them on your partner.
3. You can practice polyamory whether you are single/in a relationship or married.
4. You can have different kinds of relationships with different people. You can have deep emotional relationships that are not sexual. Or a sexual relationship with someone you share something with. The essence is commitment to your partners.
5. Open, radically honest communication with all parties.
Many people confuse Polyamory with Polygamy, the practice of having multiple wives, and that is associated with traditional, patriarchal cultures, where the women may be repressed and where they do not have the same rights to take other partners themselves.
In Polyamory, women and men have the same rights and freedom to have multiple relationships. The same rules apply to both.
Polyamory is also sometimes seen as being synonymous with open relationships. But there is a deep diference between the two. Open relationships are where a couple decide to open up their relationship and marriage to sexual adventures outside the relationship. But it is purely sexual. Generally, no emotional bonds are encouraged or allowed.
In polyamory, the basis is the emotional bond. People who choose polyamory, do so because they believe in the ability to love multiple people, and want to be in multiple committed relationships.
Reema (name changed) has been in a poly amorous relationship for about five years now. It means that while she’s married, she’s been in relationships with two men over the last few years with the full knowledge of her husband. One of them has not been sexual in nature. Her husband too has two other relationships as well with the womenn coming over to meet Reema.
Are relationships having a paradigm shift?
A lot of relationships run into trouble because we expect our partners to be everything to us.
There are a lot of expectations, disappointments, resentment and cheating is rife. With polyamory, there is the recognition that you can give and get different things to and from various people. So the pressure on your one partner to be your best friend, lover, husband, therapist, who will also love theatre as much as you, who will get as excited and watch every football match together, who will share your love of poetry and obscure music, is removed. This allows a relationship the breathing space it needs.
For outsiders, their most common refrain against polyamory is that the people who practice it do not really love their partner, otherwise why would they go looking for something else? This is the biggest fallacy. Polyamory is not intended to be the refuge for the committment-phobes or the ones that are trying to escape an unhappy relationship. In fact, if it a relationship is suffering, the true poly person would be working on it instead of running away from it.
Another reason that polyamory is on the rise globally is because many people are seeing monogamy is an option not a rule. While cheating has always existed within relationships and marriages, many today find the idea of lying to and betraying their partners distasteful, and prefer to openly talk to each other about their desires instead. Emotional intelligence plays a large role and this is why, by and large the people who practice polyamory tend to be highly educated and self-aware. A certain exposure to the world and being well traveled, having the time and opportunity to work on themselves, questioning ideas that are no longer relevant to oneself and making their own rules are some of the characteristics of polyamorists.
As the seminal book, Sex at Dawn points out human beings are not built to be monogamous. It was conditioning. With the arrival of the agricultural age, men needed to know who their heirs were in order to deal with land rights, legacy etc, and that is when monogamy became the norm.
Meghna has been in a poly amorous relationship for over ten years. She has a steady boyfriend and is deeply in love with a man, Karan. Her boyfriend knows about Karan and is okay about him in her life. They all have had dinner together on most nights. And Karan’s wife is close friends with Meghna.
As an independent woman one can choose who one wants to spend time with instead of hoping to spend all your time with just one man. And waiting for that man to be free or understand everything about you can get lonely or frustrating. In a poly amorous relationship no such pressure exists on partners though there is still an expectation to be loving, thoughtful and just be yourself! It takes the edge off a relationship that can actually bond it better.
Hence the relationship is defined by intention and commitment. A poly amorous relationship is different from serial monogamy, where you go from one partner to another being faithfully loyal to one at a time. This can be exhausting because you’re trying to find the perfect partner to fit into your life and it can be heart breaking when you move on rapidly from one to another.
A poly amorous relationship allows you to have both and still be honest with all of them.
In this complex interaction lies a simplicity of being needed, of being alive, of feeling excited about the prospect of something new and still having something stable always. It’s like having your cake and eating it too.
But most couples are not ready for this in modern India. It is a huge blow to the ego to realise that your partner also loves and desires someone else. Doubt, suspicion and jealousy creep into relationships when you know that the person may not come home to you that night. And the concept of fidelity and honesty is held as the highest virtue in marriages all across the world.
So how do poly amorous relationships survive? Through radically open, and sometimes painfull honest conversations. You have to be able to talk about the most uncomfortable, difficult things while managing your emotions at the same time. You take responsibility for your jealousy and insecurities instead of blaming it on your partner. You support each other in their process, understanding that everyone is in a different stage.
Some people find that sharing your partner can have unexpected advantages. Dhruv has a wife whom he loves intensely. She and he have a lot of values in common, love going on holidays together and enjoying growing with their kids. At the same time, he found himself falling in love with a friend who shares his love of business and he can talk shop with. Dhruv spoke to his wife about opening their relationship to polyamory. She was initially hesitant and had doubts but once she observed how his relationship with other woman added a spark to their own marriage, she began to open up to the idea. Dhruv also made sure she was secure and felt loved. Later, she herself fell in love with a man who loved art and brought out a side of her she had forgotten.
But a poly amorous relationship has its downsides and it’s not for the large majority of people.
1. Jealousy can ruin all the relationships.
2. Initial love and trust can fade away.
3. It can be exhausting to go from one to another.
So isn’t it easier to cheat?!
Samaira who is a poly amorous relationship says she doesn’t want to cheat on her husband or boyfriend because it’s dishonest to herself. She chooses to give trust to both. And when people understand that sex is not the main element of a relationship, they can let the ownership of the person go. In a poly amorous relationship you don’t need to lie to anyone. You don’t need to hide, sneak around, and be afraid of getting caught and having confrontational arguments. There is no betrayal! You have made your stance clear and both of you have realised that your relationship is about love, companionship, communication, and being there for each other when you need each other. That’s far beyond a sexual act! An honest relationship actually makes sex hotter!
So how do you find people who are willing to be in one once you and your partner have decided to take this step? When you travel alone or together you find like-minded people, or through dating sites, and speaking to friends of friends.
All relationships are evolving. What you needed five years or ten years ago is not something you need now. Sometimes you grow apart. And even sexuality is not in the same continuum as it was a decade ago. Our minds, our hearts and our souls make space for more people, more conversations, more experimentation, and more adventure. Isn’t it better to be honest about it rather than being deceitful to your partner and insincere to your heart?