What I wish my friends understood about my polyamorous life

Earlier this year, our contributor Lizzie Leis wrote a story about being in a committed relationship with two people—and then finding out she was pregnant. It touched so many thousands of our readers that we asked Lizzie to write a follow-up about what it’s like living as a happy polyamorous trio. 

Coming out as polyamorous in today’s society can raise a lot of questions. For those who don’t know about it, polyamory is a form of non-monogamy that has been practiced all throughout the world for years. As someone who openly identifies as queer and polyamorous, I’ve come face to face with a lot of questions in regards to the way I choose to live my life. People tend to take the opportunity to ask a slew of questions, and even make their own assumptions about the answers. I’d like to clear some of those burning questions you may have up so that your polyamorous friends can get their answers across without feeling put on the spot.

Before I get started, I’d like to note that a lot of people have their own forms of polyamory, whether it be a primary couple with secondary relationships, equal relationships where all partners share a home together, or choose to keep their relationships separately; for the purpose of this article however, I will be speaking on my own personal experience of having a husband and a fiancée, more or less focused on the questions/comments we have encountered.

What is Polyamory?

Polyamory, to put it simply, is the belief that you can love and be romantically involved with more than one person at a time. Most people within the polyamorous community feel that they are able to openly love multiple people, in my case this would be my husband and my fiancée. I feel more complete sharing my life with two partners than I ever have with one. It just my preference. Some people are happy with one partner, some with two, some with three, some with four; whatever floats your love boat.

So, do you think polyamory is better than monogamy?

Of course not! I think people who feel complete sharing their life with one person is beautiful. It just is not for me. It doesn’t make it wrong nor right. Most people in the polyamorous community do not feel as though their way of life is better than yours—it’s just different.

Aren’t you just cheating?

This is one of the biggest comments that gets me. If all partners are informed, all partners are consensual, and you all have an open and honest understanding then no, it is not cheating. Cheating would involve lying, hiding things from your partner(s), sneaking around, and all of the guilt that comes with it but in a relationship like mine, we discuss everything as a family. We all understand the needs and wants of others. We are all open and honest about every single aspect of our lives. It is not a matter of cheating solely because you have two partners. It would be cheating if you didn’t talk to those partners and keep them informed of what you were doing, or if you were doing something that you had not agreed upon.

Do you ever get jealous?

Personally, we do not have jealousy in our household but a lot of people within the polyamorous community do have instances where they feel their jealousy begin to come about. They’re human! It’s only natural to have those feelings of envy and jealousy. The biggest thing within a polyamorous relationship (or any relationship for that matter) is communication. I cannot stress that enough. Communicate, Communicate, COMMUNICATE. A lot of times that jealousy crops up it’s because of lack of honest and open communication between partners. If there are times where you are too nervous to talk about your feelings with your partner, those tend to be the times you SHOULD talk to someone about your feelings. You should never feel as though you need to hide them. It is always best to face jealousy head on when and if it does happen, and tackle it together.

So, is it a weird sex thing?

Sex is always a factor in any relationship, but no, it’s not all about sex. It is all about love. You love someone enough to want them to be a part of your life. You love someone enough to want to make them your partner. Some polyamorous identified individuals choose not to make sex a part of their relationships, there are so many different ways to express your love other than it being strictly sexual.

What will your child think?!

My child will grow up with two mothers and a father who love her very much. She will grow up in a household filled with love. I don’t really see anything wrong about that. Children who grow up in families with a parent and stepparents, or a single parent, or two moms, or two dads…that is the family they know. That is their normal. In such a diverse country, there are so many ways to define a family, ours just has three parents.

So, you’re polygamists, right?

Nope. Polyamory and Polygamy are two different concepts. Polygamy is heavily based around the gender of the partners, most commonly a male identified partner, having multiple female identified wives. The wives sole partner is the husband. This is the type of relationship that’s in shows like Sister Wives and Big Love. Oftentimes this practice is more religious-based than polyamory. While some people may practice a type of polyamory where they agree they will only be sexually involved with their preconceived partners, more commonly called polyfidelity, the term polygamy is a big no-no amongst polyamorous identified individuals. Polyamory is the belief that all partners can have relationships with anyone, regardless of their identified gender.

Would you ever date a monogamous person?

I know quite a few people who feel more comfortable being in a monogamous relationship but have a polyamorous partner. It may not be their preference to be romantically involved with more than one person, and that is where that open communication will come into play. If both partners are comfortable with their romantic preferences, the more power to them. I’ve dated quite a few monogamous individuals, who knew I was polyamorous. You’ve just got to keep your mind and lines of communication open.

Who do you take to family events?

Usually we attend things all together as a trio, but we are open with our families. A lot of people choose to keep the fact that they are polyamorous hidden from their families and friends due to the fear of rejection or the stigma attached to being polyamorous. It is one of those things where if you haven’t been exposed to it before, it can be a bit of a culture shock, especially to family members who are older and only used to monogamous relationships. Some people are open and take whomever is free that day. It all depends on their situation really.

When I’m inviting my friend to something, do I also invite both partners?

Talk to them about it. Every situation is different, but nine times out of ten it’ll be easier if you speak respectfully to them. Think about it this way, how would you feel if you were told you couldn’t bring your significant other to a function because it made people uncomfortable? It is best to approach things with a ‘what if I were in their shoes’ mentality. It is okay to feel uncomfortable, and to be unfamiliar with the situation. It is not okay to be insensitive. Just talk to them like you would any other friend.

So, what IS your sex life like?

I always get a kick out of a question like this. The biggest rule to remember when you’re asking your polyamorous friend something is “would I ask my monogamous friends this too?” People vary on their openness to speak about their private life. It is best to leave what happens in their bedroom alone. If it does not directly affect you, you don’t need to know.

Are your partners involved with one another?

This varies with all different relationships. Some relationships all partners are dating one another. Some relationships one person is dating the other two (or three or four). It really depends on the relationships and the partners involved. A lot of people have partners who have partners, and they are just friends with their partners partner. This is more often referred to as a “metamour”—for example, if my husband were to have a girlfriend that I was not romantically involved with, she would be my metamour. The beauty of polyamory is that there are so many different ways to express different types of relationships.

You have a husband and a fiancée, how can you marry more than one person?

Legally, we cannot marry but that does not stop us from having a ceremony of our own. It is a way to express that I want to be with her for the rest of my life, just as I did with my husband. Maybe one day it could be legally recognized, but for now it doesn’t matter. I want her to be my wife, and I am not about to let a law dictate that I cannot do so. The best part? My husband is going to be a part of our wedding, as is our daughter.

There are so many questions people have for polyamorous people, and, of course, it’s ok to be curious. But the most important thing to remember is that above all else, they are people too. Most of the times your polyamorous friend may be glad to talk to you about their relationships, but don’t assume that because they came out they are willing to be your guide into the world of polyamory.

A great way of making sure you don’t offend your polyamorous friend is to remember that if you wouldn’t want to answer it yourself, don’t ask them that question. As long as you approach things with an open mind and accept your friend for who they are, it’s all good.

[Image courtesy author]

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