Many poly bloggers, myself included, have attempted to explain what polyamory really is. But many people still don't quite understand it. More importantly, they don’t understand what polyamory is not.
Despite my fears of being judged and misunderstood, I've started to open up to people about being poly. Overwhelmingly, the responses I've received have been a fine blend of curiosity, surprise, and excitement. Sometimes a bit of fear is mixed in as well. Lately I've started to notice another kind of response – sexual desire. Some people assume that the reason I tell them I’m poly is that I either want to sleep with them or want to let them know I'm available in case they want to sleep with me. But this is rarely the case. There are multiple reasons why I choose to open up about my quite personal lifestyle choices to some people but not to others. I've come to realize that having the freedom to share this part of myself is my personal choice that I cannot give up for anything or anyone else. There is the right time and place for surfacing that, of course. That time might never come with some people, and that's okay.
In rare situations, I may share that I'm poly right away (it's also in my dating app profile). But outside of dating, I only discuss it when I'm getting to know someone on a deeper level and feel that it’s important for them to understand this fact about me since it’s a crucial part of my identity.
For me, polyamory is the freedom to ethically explore feelings and meaningful connections with more than one person and the possibility of loving multiple people at the same time.
Here is what I think polyamory is not:
It is not a reason for me to sleep around with anyone who's willing. I value emotional and spiritual connection higher than just great sexual chemistry, although combining all three is a winning combination. Usually building that kind of deep connection takes a while, just like it does in any other type of relationship. Joe Duncan explains this well in his article "Polyamory isn't about sex".
It is not a way to avoid commitment. In fact, I'm married. Doesn't get more committed than that. I am also committed to my other relationships in different ways.
It is not an excuse to cheat on my husband. In my dictionary cheating means breaking someone's trust. The key word in my definition of polyamory is "ethically", which means I would explore boundaries with everyone's consent.
It is not a fix for my relationship with my husband. Our relationship is in the best shape shape it's ever been. Although our level of communication has improved, we didn't open up our marriage because things were bad. We did it because things our relationship was solid already, and by accepting our need for connecting with multiple people on a deeper level, we wanted to make things even better.
It is not an indicator that I will gladly help you cheat on your partner. Again, being ethical is key. Breaking trust is not ethical.
It does not mean I am involved in wild orgies every night. Polyamory is related to sexuality in some ways, but for me it's mostly about my emotional connections with others.
It is not a way to avoid getting emotionally attached to someone. This is different from commitment. Commitment is when I consciously choose to devote some of my energy, time, and life to someone else for an extended period of time. Attachment is when I cling to others out of fear of losing them. It happens as often in my poly life as it did before I accepted this part of me. I've struggled with anxious attachment most of my life and polyamory actually helps me feel more secure in all of my relationships.
It does not mean I am seeing a dozen people at all times. In fact, polyamory has nothing to do with how many people I’m dating. Sometimes it's none. I have even taken breaks from dating my husband. Polyamory School explained how polyamory can even be lonely sometimes.
Most importantly, polyamory is not a utopia where everyone is always happily singing kumbaya and sharing free love. Multiple relationships come with multiple problems, multiple conflicts, nuances, and complexities of dealing with various personalities. The intricacy of these interactions has been the largest catalyst of my personal growth.
So I urge you to familiarize yourself with what polyamory is, but also with what it is not, especially before assuming what it means to another person that has chosen a polyamorous lifestyle. Curiosity, interest, and eagerness to learn are always welcome, when they are not stained in misconceptions.