Its a topic I avoid often, not because I’m ashamed of my relationship dynamics, but more likely it feels like I’m being put on the spot as a representative of a community and as such it means that its never quick. It requires an in-depth, nuanced, contextual conversation; and sometimes I’m just not up for that.
When people hear poly they assume its synonymous with an open relationship, and whilst I believe that open relationships are a perfectly valid form of ethical non monogamy its just the most commonly and widely accepted poly relationship and its not how I define mine.
Poly can have many meanings to many people. As a person I would describe myself as Polyamorous. This just means you can love more than one person, which to me makes perfect sense. Love isn’t a finite resource (time and energy on the other hand very much so are but that’s a different story altogether), so it makes sense that people can fall in love with more than one person.
I’ve described myself as Polyamorous but I would describe my relationship as Polymonogamous.
What this means, in my relationship (because its different for different relationships), is that my husband and I occasionally date men, together. If we both like a boy and that boy likes us then we could go on a date. Like any relationship a date does not define exclusivity with a boy, so whilst my husband and I exclusively decided to date a boy doesn’t mean that during the courting period it would limit his dating prospects.
Relationships are complicated and difficult, generally speaking, even with just two people. When you add more people you add a layer of complexity, you’re adding an entire person (or more) worth of lived experiences, insecurities, and biases. I mention this as a preamble to the discourse on primary partners.
A primary partner is someone within a poly relationship that has either higher importance or some sort of veto power. Poly relationships that have a primary partner normally fall into the category of a Hierarchical Poly relationships, and whilst I think it could potentially work within a Polyamorous relationship I think that Hierarchical Polymonogamy is the kind that is ethically dubious and is more inclined towards failure. Thats not to say that it will always fail and that its always unethical, it’s also not how I define my relationship so I am in no place to judge it.
The form of Polymonogamy that I practice is called Egalitarian Polymonogamy.
Whilst I am legally married and have been with my husband for more than a decade I believe that if you like someone enough to be in a relationship with them that you should consider them an equal, to both you and your existing partner (even the term existing partner smacks of Hierarchy and I don’t love it).
A point of clarification (and this is where I’ll get defensive). We’re not out on the apps unicorn hunting. In fact we’re not actively looking to date at the moment at all (not that we’re not open to meeting a guy, if it happened). Unicorn hunting is the practice of Poly couples searching for a third (the unicorn), that loves both people and that both people love.
Whilst its called Egalitarian Polymonogamy I’m old enough that I don’t believe in love at first sight and I don’t believe all things are one hundred percent equal. Any parents who says they love all their kids equally either hates their kids or is lying. I believe that three people can love each other, to varying to degrees, and that can be enough to form a relationship. It very much so depends on the individuals involved though.
One of the things I like about being queer is that I get to choose my family, and I don’t have to conform to heteronormative conventions. I think people and relationships change and evolve.
I’m not advocating that every person should be polyamorous and that every relationship should be polymonogamous, what I am saying is that this is what works for me at this stage in my life.
If you have any questions,or need a better explanation DM me (@mardukian) I’m always happy to educate from my experiences.
If you disagree with me or want to share your experiences I’m always open to discourse on the subject and am happy to be educated from lived experiences.
Now that a few people have read this, and I’ve had time to think on it more I thought I should mention something that I blew right past in the initial text. The term Compersion.
Before I google it, off the top of my head, Compersion is the feeling of happiness when you see your partner happy (googled it and apparently its the opposite of jealousy, and refers specifically to your partner and their relationships).
Let start by saying its not a sex thing, this is different from cucking (if you don’t know about cucking then google it, I’m not an expert on the topic and won’t be covering it here). It’s weird to describe emotions because they’re so integral to a person and everyone feels differently but I liken it to a person’s passions.
I love asking people what they’re passionate about, when someone is given a chance to speak at length about something they love, you see their eyes light up and they speak a little bit quicker because they’re excited. Even if its something you’re not interested in, the passion is contagious, I always get a kick out of seeing that spark. It’s the same with compersion, seeing my partner talk about boys he likes, talk about the time they spent together, the things they did, you see that spark, and I like to celebrate it.
Compersion is the opposite of jealousy. It’s easy for your mind to immediately go to the worst place, to think “Why wasn’t I there to experience that joy”, “When was the last time we had that spark”, “Why don’t we do XYZ”, or worse, “When we did that together we didn’t have that great a time”.
I think therapy helped me in answering those questions for myself, or reframing the questions in a less harmful way. The long and short of it is that everyones different, circumstances are different, and everyone has their own dynamic. I know that if I want that spark with my husband I can go and create experiences that do that, it’s not something that just happens.
Compersion is reframing your mindset from one of scarcity to one of plenty. I know this has a tendency to sound really pseudo spiritual, but happy people are happier. People don’t have twelve minutes of happy time per day and if they spend those minutes on one person then you’ll get the unhappy minutes. Letting a person be happy will generally make them happier for more of their day, and you’ll have a happier partner out of it as well.
Thats not to say that you should ignore your feelings. Any strong relationship is founded on open communication. If you’re not in a place where compersion is something you’ve learned or you’re having difficulties then talk to your partner about it. “I’m glad you’re enjoying your time with XYZ, I’d love for us to do something fun together”, if you’re feeling insecure be honest about it but don’t point fingers, “I’m feeling insecure about our relationship lately, I see you having a lot of fun with people and I don’t think we have as much fun together”. Hopefully that leads you to a place where you can fix it and have more fun together, maybe you need to have more fun on your own, or maybe the relationship isn’t working and that needs consideration.
Lastly, on compersion. It shouldn’t be weaponised. By yourself or your partner. You’re allowed to feel your feelings, and you’re allowed to be jealous, but ask yourself why you’re jealous, what you’re jealous of, and identify whether its situations that are within your control to change, or if its to do with dynamics within the relationship that need redefining.
I did an interview with ABC on this topic, and while I write better than I speak for those of you who would prefer to listen to the content, see below: