by Victoria Derr Valencia
Poly – many
Amory – love
To love many. The Greek and Latin root of the word polyamory breaks the concept down to its most base understanding. Poly means many; amory means to love. Put together, to love many.
It’s an umbrella term of sorts, expressing the practice of engaging in multiple intimacies with multiple persons. Some use the word to mean open relationships, group marriages or domesticity or love/romance functioning outside of a heteronormative romance. Each person has their own particular expression of polyamory. Not all two poly people do their relationships the same!
The snap associations when you hear the word “polyamory,” include the free loving hippies of the 70s in San Francisco, and a myriad of confusing terms like “non-monogamous,” “open relationships,” “heteronormative.” How to navigate such an ocean of vague terms? And what do these all really mean, anyways?
Let’s run through some vocab to be on the same page.
polyamory: a practice or the philosophy of having multiple love partners, with the consent and understanding of all parties involved. The specifics of each practice is particular to each person. At a core function, the word means “to love many.”
non-monogamous: an umbrella term for any kind of relationship that does not function under monogamous terms.
monogamy: to be living/in marriage with one person at a time.
metamours: the person your partner is dating.
polycule: everyone involved in the polyamorous relationships, including the metamours.
compersion: The opposite of jealousy, the happiness you feel when you see your partner loved by someone else.
As vague as its definition, the practice of polyamory doesn’t come with a set of easy guidelines. For starters, common culture (specifically speaking on the culture the author is immersed in: Western civilization, general pop US culture, and Mexican family values) is embedded with a plethora of codes and behaviors that are considered normal, and therefore not normal.
These foundational, almost subconscious qualities are driving our desires a lot more than we recognize.
Certain misconceptions about polyamory? Sluts, easy, avoidance, non-committal, the list of negative connotations and misunderstandings goes on. In general culture, there is a still-standing stigma surrounding polyamory; a pushback, a fear response of sorts. The idea of loving more than one person at once brings up insecurities for people, such as fear of abandonment and unwillingness to recognize a larger appetite as something that is normal.
Humans were not built for monogamy; society was. In the Bible alone, there are numerous accounts of both adultery and polygamous living. These are themes that have been around since the ancients and far beyond.
Nonetheless, an extreme amount of pushback through misunderstanding fuels society’s stigma against the practice of polyamory. Non-committal? Slutty? Against human’s monogamous nature? For a polyamorous person engaged in more than one love relationship, they are putting in double the amount of emotional and physical energy required to be committed to one person. Deep honesty with oneself and continued communication with partners is required to smooth over the speed-bumps that happen in relationships.
As for the slutty stereotype? Sex shaming is an (outdated) cultural mode of perceiving sex and sexuality as something that is inherently shameful or sinful. Emotional traumas aside, most human beings on Earth are creations, products of a sexual encounter. This is natural; this is life force. Furthering the species is one of the most base instincts of human survival.
And sex is the action that does just that.
For the skeptics, those who are still grappling with the idea of loving more than once person, let’s reflect. Think: how many of your relationships would you call intimate, or close? Most likely, there is more than one deep intimacies present – one with your partner, and another with a close friend, perhaps. Each of these relationships develop with time, grow with care, and deepen with attention. The idea of polyamory embraces that these multiple intimacies can be expressed alongside each other; there is no limitation for only having one intimacy.
Polyamory takes it a step past platonic friendships, into the realm of having more than one romantic or sexual partner. In no way does having multiple intimacies affect the depth of other intimacies in your life. This can only happen if you let it happen. Rather, engaging in multiple intimacies and multiple relationships strengthens each individual connection we have.
Dipping your toes into polyamory will bring up questions challenging the status quo, making a person think more deeply about the kind of intimacy they engage in. How does culture and society predetermine a structure for relationships? In what places does this structure not seem to “fit?” Why is jealousy such a taboo emotion to feel? How can I love my partner without limiting their actions? How can I feel comfortable with the idea that my partner shares intimacy with others? Why does my partner’s other intimacies bring up feelings of lack, or insecurity within myself?
As in all relationships, emotional turmoil is unavoidable. There will be moments of overwhelming jealousy, of distrust, or dissatisfaction. But these turbulent experiences are not limited to polyamory, and are not caused solely by a polyamorous approach to relationships; jealousy, insecurity, and shame are present in monogamous relationships as well.
So, how to navigate when these tricky times come up?
Breathe, and recognize that jealousy is a passing human emotion, like any other.
Jealousy is usually a top layer emotion for something deeper – it takes exploring the trigger moments, and questioning the fears that arise. Do I feel that I won’t receive as much if my partner begins seeing someone else? Will my partner like the other person more than me? Am I not enough to satisfy my partner’s needs? Navigating jealousy, or shame, is never an easy ship to steer. But for the ultimate growth of a human person, plunging into the sea beneath these choppy waters is vital.
Folks who engage in consensual polyamory tend to gain many levels of insight from approaching relationships with a more open mindset. In appreciating the openness of emotional and romantic connections, poly people say they experience more variety and experimentation in their intimacies. And that these multiple experiences feed into each other, marking more gratitude for the diversity.
Spending time with one partner doesn’t immediately throw a negative light on a second or third partner – there is no hierarchical system as to which relationship is better or best. Rather, the individual relationships are appreciated for what they are, which in contrast brings appreciation for the uniqueness of each relationship. There is greater freedom and autonomy in being able to express their desires, and deep emotions to multiple partners.
Humans are social creatures; we have this deep need to connect.
Although there is still a long way to go in dismantling the stigma surrounding polyamory, We, as humans, need to acknowledge and accept feeling attracted to others while in a loving, committed relationship. The poly population needs to be recognized as fully whole, and not functioning from a state of non-committal slutty-ness.
Jealousy needs to be embraced as an emotion to understand, like sadness and anxiety, rather than avoid. To explore the insecurities lurking beneath jealousy, and how to move past those moments with self-love. To explore with your partner what you need to feel safe and loved what your triggers are for certain situations. Exploring these root emotions and being able to honestly communicate with partners is all fertile soil for coming to understand oneself.
To love many and to love openly!
To accept conflicting desires, to cultivate communicative depth with another human beings. To move through feelings of jealousy and insecurity; to understand your partner as a human with the capacity to develop multiple intimacies. To appreciate and embrace the chaotic and mysterious realm of human connection. To accept Polyamory as a practice of self love and loving many through that.