Of everything I’ve tried to write this has taken the longest. I’m on attempt number three, at least. It’s not for a lack of things to talk about, it’s more that expressing them clearly is challenging. The emotions that surround this topic are intense and almost everyone has dealt with some absolutist asshole, claiming their stance is the only right one. I’d like to ask you to read this and try your best to remove your own biases, especially if it’s a knee-jerk anger due to one of those aforementioned assholes.
Quick definitions to get out of the way. I’m using polyamory (hereafter, just poly) to describe any relationship that is romantic and/or emotionally intimate and involving more than two people. How you define emotionally intimate is up to you, there is no universal line. More than two can mean simultaneously, as in 3 people all in love with each other; or distinct, one person in love with two people with the other two not having any defined relationship with each other. Monogamy is exactly what I just said, but exclusively between two people.
So why am I even getting into this topic? Love is important to me. How we define and restrict our love is important. It’s especially important if society is forcing us to pigeon holes ourselves into relationships we don’t actually fit. This will undoubtedly cause some serious emotional pain. It’s obvious why people get into mono relationships; society expects it, jealousy can be hard to manage, it’s simpler than poly (less people equals less variables to manage), codependency can be very comforting, etc. If you’ve never contemplated poly it may not be immediately obvious what it’s advantages are. Here’s some examples: not suppressing romantic urges with new people, having a larger support network of intimate partners, more personal autonomy, and a greater ability to explore your sexuality.
There’s good and bad points to both. I’ve often found myself arguing in favor of poly, not because I think it’s superior, but because people default to mono. You should never let society tell you how to structure your intimate relationships, that’s between you and your loved ones. Cheating is alarmingly common amongst mono people; it hurts their partners and themselves. Maybe they really want to have a relationship with a bit more freedom and sexual autonomy. Society rejects this as an option so people bottle those feelings up, they suppress them. Then they explode their relationship and ruin a good thing. Sometimes they’ll try opening up their relationship but because they were raised to see relationships in a stark binary, the only other option is having no rules. There’s a massive spectrum that you should experiment with. Certain things can be allowed with certain people or when things are allowed, it just must be communicated to the other partner(s). There’s way too many options for me to get into here (and it’d get boring), so I’ll just recommend a great book on it: Opening Up by Tristan Taomino. It’s well written and great at teaching you just how many options there really are. Then you can take that and ponder at what fits you best.
The point is to define your own relationships. Talk to your loved ones, figure out what you both need. Compromise is good but at the same time, don’t compromise who you are for your partners benefit. Unless it’s a change in yourself that you truly wish to make, you’ll only disappoint them in the long run, when you fail to maintain some boundary they wanted and you didn’t.
I included emotionally intimate despite many people seeing that as normal in a monogamy (when one partner feels it for a third person). Denying it completely would be abusive, everyone needs to be allowed to form emotional bonds with friends. At some point though, most couples I know would consider it a breach of the monogamous bonds. Some are okay with loving other people, assuming it’s platonic. Loving someone that matches your sexual orientation and that you find physically attractive? At some point most people will say it’s gone into an intimate place that is reserved for a romantic partner. And that’s okay. This half of monogamy can be much more dangerous because it’s very easy to fall into an emotionally controlling mindset; something damaging and possibly abusive. I’m not labeling all mono relationship that restricts emotional intimacy as abusive, just pointing out that it’s a slippery slope which you must be cautious of. Everyone needs some amount of emotional independence from their partner(s).
I’ll end this by owning up to my personal feelings on this in the name of openness. I can’t say I’m attached to either monogamy or polyamory. I’ve done both, I’ve enjoyed both and both have caused pain. Sometimes the endings were better, sometimes worse, but the difference wasn’t whether it was mono or poly, it was unique to the people involved. I’m not a fan of restricting what relationships I can form with people I may not have met yet, so I won’t label myself as one or the other. Finding mutual love, support, and happiness is what’s important.