Polyamory (“poly” meaning many, and “amory” meaning “love” or “lovers”) is the practice of being open to multiple sexual or emotional relationships at once. There is a common misconception that polyamory is mainly about promiscuity. However, many polyamorous people engage in long-term relationships with multiple partners in which they are emotionally invested. Often, these people will have a primary partner that they are committed to and secondary partners on the side. There are many other variations, however, such as triads or quads (where three or four people are in a relationship together) and swinging, where multiple couples continuously trade sexual partners.
Polyamory and the Law:
Polyamorous relationships do not have marital rights by law. However, there have been some recent attempts to introduce legislature addressing this lack of representation. In California, a bill titled “SB1476” was introduced to allow legal guardianship of a child to be granted to more than two parents. The bill would have applied to both heterosexual and homosexual relationships, but was vetoed in September by Governor Jerry Brown. In August of 2012, a civil union between three people was approved in Sao Paulo, Brazil.
If you and your partner are thinking about expanding your relationship to include other people, there are a few things you should keep in mind. First and foremost, communication is highly important. Many polyamorous people set down initial ground rules. These rules oftentimes include things such as the power to veto who their partner is dating, what kind of sexual acts each person is comfortable doing with others, and complete, honest disclosure about all relationships. It is important to periodically schedule checkups with your partner to make sure you are still on the same page and comfortable with what is happening.
Not only is it important to communicate with your primary partner, but it is also crucial to be prepared for open communication with other sexual or romantic partners you take on. If you have a primary partner and are seeking someone out as a second, it is essential to provide ground. Ideally, polyamorous people look to other polyamorous people for their non-primary partners. However, this can be difficult to achieve in practice because many couples keep their polyamorous activities under wraps. For this reason, we would suggest to join a polyamorous community. There are many online forums that provide such resources.
Remember, try not to make finding a secondary partner a competition. For many heterosexual couples who are just getting into polyamory, there is often a disparity between the higher number of secondary partners the female finds and the number her male partner finds. There are several reasons for this, such as the fact that polyamorous communities are often dominated by males. If you begin to feel angry or jealous that your partner is more successful in the dating scene, talk about it openly with him or her and work on fixing it together. One option is to increase the time spent together so you do not feel alone in your relationship while your partner is out dating. Because the first time your partner has a date can be stressful for you, we suggest that you try to spend this time doing something fun and relaxing with a few friends.
Be safe, use contraception and remember to get regularly tested!
For a guide on how to deal with jealousy issues, communication and setting up ground rules, we recommend the following website:
Last Updated 14 November 2012.