Let's Talk About: Polyamory
Relationships through a Kaleidoscope: A look into Polyamory and Non-Monogamy
By Guest Author Aine Pullan
"So you are cheating?"
"What about marriage?"
"But are you happy?"
"I think you are probably going through a phase."
"Yeah but this is just like a fun experiment right?"
"But who do you live with?"
"What about kids?" "
"I'm just looking out for you."
"Ugh, I would love that but I'm just too jealous."
"I just want you to be happy."
This is just a small fraction of the responses I, and so many others, get when I tell somebody I have more than one partner, or that my boyfriend has other partners and so do I. And, if I am honest, these are questions and statements that cross my mind most days when I think about the fact that I have chosen to be polyamorous and non-monogamous. There are many reservations and misconceptions about polyamory and non-monogamy and that last one, about happiness, is a real kicker. Not only because it is a phrase I hear a lot, but because I ask myself about my own happiness, every single day. Whenever this comes up in conversation I wonder why the person sitting opposite me thinks that I'm not trying to be happy. Listen, I was monogamous for 29 years and, mostly, it was a lot of unhappy. Am I blissfully happy now I am polyamorous? Of course not! I haven’t been stoned for a year and a half!
One of the realities of being polyamorous is that I have had to retrain my brain to a whole new way of thinking and living. Like most of society, I was not raised to believe that having more than one partner could be positive. I was taught through school, media, and by my parents that not only is monogamy the norm, but that anything outside of monogamy was illegal, wrong and, the favourite, just plain old cheating which you should feel very guilty about.
Before I continue, I just want to say that I am by no means an expert in this field by a long shot, and there is much more to polyamory, non-monogamy and open relationships than this article includes. However as a polyamorous woman in multiple dynamics, this is a small insight on my experience, research and what the education system has and hasn't done to help, relating to polyamory.
The UK sex and relationships education curriculum states as follows:
• There are different types of committed, stable relationships.
• How these relationships might contribute to human happiness, and their importance for bringing up children.
• What marriage is, including how it impacts a persons legal status e.g. that marriage
carries legal rights and protections not available to couples who are cohabiting or who have married, for example, in an unregistered religious ceremony.
So, I hear you all say, it's great that the curriculum states that schools should be teaching children and young people that there are different types of committed and stable relationships. However! And stay with me here people; I would bet my bottom dollar that this is frequently overlooked in schools in favour of the monogamous marriage model. Also, I'd be willing to bet that whilst children are taught that it is normal for two men, two women or two non-binary individuals to be together and have a family, there is very little education provided that normalises co-parenting and families built on stable, polyamorous relationships. I know where my money is.
To tell the truth, I really struggle with blaming the education system, because it would be really easy to sit here and yell at the education system for not teaching us about other relationship models and trust me, I yell at them a lot. But I've been polyamorous for over a year and I have read more books in that time than when I was at school. I've been to more seminars and workshops than when I was at university and learnt that communication is the key to not only non-monogamy but just…well…life. It sounds complicated, you say? It is, and I can't help but wonder if there is just so much to teach, that schools would not even know where to start…
Well I've thought about it and yes, whilst it's complicated, it's worth doing the work when we are younger in school, rather than when we are 30 years old and have to train ourselves to un-learn everything society told us up to that point about what is and isn't correct when it comes to romantic relationships. And it's worth doing the work because you gain completely new perspectives on things, such as jealousy, the number one topic I get asked about most. Do I get jealous? Of course! But the range of dynamics I have within polyamory means that I have a whole support network to help me work through any issues. Not only that, but I can then use these new gained perspectives in other areas of my life, such as friendships and my professional life.
How, you ask? Communication! It is the foundation on which these dynamics are built on and without an understanding of communication itself, how are we supposed to make others understand that, for example, polyamory is not just an excuse to cheat. Communication is not just for when you're older and you know more big human terms. If the education system put time into teaching us about communication on a basic level then, perhaps, as we grow into fully, semi-functioning adults, things such as polyamory will become easier to digest.
The title of this article compares different relationship models to a kaleidoscope, and no I haven’t just had a few too many and started describing my current eyesight - It is because us humans can experience a spectrum of many different kinds of a relationship, and be taught that provided it is not hurting any body (ethical non-monogamy) then we should get to choose, be it monogamous or non-monogamous. We aren’t pitting the two against each other here, just saying each should be considered as normal as the other, and that we have the choice. A few people may be disappointed or disagree along the way, but that is exactly why this conversation is so important to keep having now, in the future, and should be opened up to the younger generations.