sexdownunder

Sex, Love & Relationships in Australia

Is One Ever Enough?

Polyamory large

I thought I was quite enlightened about sexual relationships until a friend of mine informed me he and his partner practice Polyamory.

Polyamory is the practice of having more than one intimate partner at a time with the knowledge and consent of everyone involved.  it is different from swinging which is sex with others for merely recreational purposes.  With Polyamory there is more intimacy and emotional attachment than in swinging.  There are polyamory relationships where the various participants all live together (often a type of threesome arrangement and frequently two women with one man) and there are those where the primary relationship partners form relationships with secondary partners outside of the home (this can number from one to many extra partners).

I asked my friend to tell me more about his relationship.

He explained that his partner is currently seeing two other guys and is open to more. They are both on numerous “sex” sites (one specialising  in affairs for married people), and swinging sites.  He hasn’t yet met anyone for ongoing sex but he’s actively looking and said he’s happy for his partner to have numerous extra sexual relationships.

Since having this chat I’ve done lots of reading about Polyamory.  Apparently there are over 50,000 people in the U.S identifying with this lifestyle.  There are no clear stats for the number in Australia and I’m guessing the figures would be somewhat distorted by the confusion with swinging and other open type relationships. The “official” Polyamory website in Australia states there are “several hundred” people practising this lifestyle in Australia.  I am sure there are many men who would claim to support polyamory when in fact they simply want to have sex with numerous women without attachment (labeled as Promiscuity).  But there are many others who are committed to this lifestyle who find it highly satisfying.

Wikipedia has an excellent entry about Polyamory.  In defining it they say:

People who identify as polyamorous typically reject the view that sexual and relational exclusivity are necessary for deep, committed, long-term loving relationships. Those who are open to, or emotionally suited for, polyamory may embark on a polyamorous relationship when single or already in a monogamous or open relationship. Sex is not necessarily a primary focus in polyamorous relationships, which commonly consist of people seeking to build long-term relationships with more than one person on mutually agreeable grounds, with sex as only one aspect of their relationships. In practice, polyamorous relationships are highly varied and individualized according to those participating. For many, such relationships are ideally built upon values of trust, loyalty, the negotiation of boundaries, and compersion, as well as overcoming jealousy, possessiveness, and the rejection of restrictive cultural standards.

There are many forms of Polyamory and I wonder if perhaps the term has become a little too inclusive.

Wikipedia lists the following forms of Polyamory:

  • Polyfidelity, which involves multiple romantic relationships with sexual contact restricted to only specific partners in the group (which may include all members of that group) (e.g. group marriage).
  • Sub-relationships, which distinguish between “primary” and “secondary” relationships (e.g. most open marriages).
  • Three people romantically involved, often called a “triad relationship.” (Commonly initiated by an established couple jointly dating a third person; however, there are many possible configurations.)
  • Relationships between a couple and another couple (Quad).
  • Polygamy (polygyny and polyandry), in which one person marries several spouses (who may or may not be married to, or have romantic relationships with, one another).
  • Group relationships, sometimes referred to as tribes, and group marriage, in which all consider themselves associated to one another.
  • Networks of interconnecting relationships, where a particular person may have relationships of varying degrees of importance with various people.
  • Mono/poly relationships, where one partner is monogamous but agrees to the other having outside relationships.
  • So-called “geometric” arrangements, which are described by the number of people involved and their relationship connections. Examples include “triads” and “quads”, along with “V” (or “Vee”) and “N” geometries.
  • Open relationships/open marriages, where participants may have sexual liaisons with others not within their core group of partners. Some open relationships may be open only sexually, while exclusive emotionally.
  • Swinging: Traditionally there has been a cultural divide between the polyamorous and swinger communities, the former emphasizing the emotional aspects of plural relationships and the latter emphasizing the sexual activities of non-monogamy. It is possible for a person with polyamorous relationships to also engage in traditional swinging and other open relationships. Those in polyamorous relationships who take part in casual sex often see it as separate from the emotional bonds they share with their polyamorous partners. However it is also possible for swingers to develop deep emotional attachments with those they have sex with, and thereby find themselves in polyamory. Such swingers in their new polyamorous relationships may or may not choose to continue swinging with others.

Why choose Polyamory ?

A lot of people in this lifestyle believe that one person can not fulfill all their needs and they are more content and satisfied when they have multiple partners.

The risks

I was about to publish this post when I came across an excellent article in Psychology Today outlining the risks.  Here’s the link: http://www.psychologytoday.com/blog/love-without-limits/201301/five-ways-polyamory-can-fail.

As with any relationship there are risks associated with miscommunication and a difference in opinions and values.  Polyamory will not work unless everyone involved has the same understanding of the boundaries of the relationship.

What may start out as clearly defined can slowly become blurry.  I believe each person needs to be aware of both their own needs and the needs of their partner(s).  What happens if the primary partner loses their secondary partner or isn’t as successful at organising sexual liaisons? What happens if one person no longer wants to continue in this lifestyle?

I don’t think Polyamory is the answer to “happiness ever after”.  As with any relationship it has risks and benefits.  And as with every relationship its success depends on the existence of respect, trust, honesty and great communication.

13 Comments

  1. Fascinating blog, especially so because, as you know, Le Maitre, la petite and I have a polyamorous relationship which you could classify as a Triad.
    You are so right when you said, “Polyamory will not work unless everyone involved has the same understanding of the boundaries of the relationship.” and even more so when you concluded that “success depends on the existence of respect, trust, honesty and great communication.”
    It always requires a mass of patience and a great understanding of the other members aims, wishes, fears and pleasures. Our ‘wobbly moments’ have always occurred when one of us has become too self-centred and has failed to consider enough the needs of the other two.
    Perhaps our relationship is a success as the three of us have different roles to play within our ménage à trois. But that is another topic………………

    • Hi Jane, I thought of you when I wrote this post. Sounds like you’re an example where it can work and you’re fully aware of the risks. I wonder if you’d consider having kids in this type of relationship? Thanks for responding. Keep Smiling, Michelle

  2. One man is quite enough drama for me, can’t imagine juggling more than one! I have a good friend who practices polyamory… two men and two women involved. One couple is married, the other dating. I don’t even pretend to understand it, and there are kids in the picture, so I do have a problem with that component… not sure that a child can truly process that kind of information when it can so easily be distorted into infidelity or swinging, at least in an immature mind. If there were no kids involved and all adults are consenting, happy, productive members of society and it works for them, it doesn’t affect me at all. Just because I don’t get it doesn’t make it inherently bad.

    • I’m sure Polamory is similar to other relationships where there’s kids. There’s certain aspects that should be kept for after the kids go to bed ! I think kids can get various relationships at a basic level but understanding intimacy is tricky.

      • Kids are perspective little buggers, no matter how much parents try to keep some things from kids, they pick up on it, and as you said, they can only get a basic understanding, which may be very skewed from reality due to lack of emotional development at a young age. I’d be concerned about the future effects that even an innocent misunderstanding can do to a child.

      • Yes very true although I think school and advertising probably have bigger (often negative) influences on little minds. Still…no point in adding more confusion for them. Thanks for your comment.

  3. Paul

    Great Article Michelle. It certainly flies in the face of so called ” traditional ” relationships. I strongly believe that the human race was not born to be Monogamous and the reason that people do cheat on their partner is exactly that. I recently read an article which suggested that in the results of a survey it showed that in relationships of 10 years or longer , up to 80% of them had either one or both partners cheat.
    That’s a damning figure and supports my opinion.

  4. recoveringloveaddict24

    I have never considered polamory, however I do frequently fantasise about my partner at the time having sex with other men, with me being present. I have never done this and really wonder how i would feel afterwards if it ever happened.

    • sillyman😔

      I also have always thought about my wife with another man, we have 4 kids, and have been together a bit over 20 yrs. I always have told her that she is attractive to other men and given the opportunity many would f@$# her. She is a very horny woman. So several months ago i said put an ad on a site for a fb. She did and was overwhelmed with reples. She chatted to several for a while. Ended up organising 1 to come over for her to give him head only to see if she could go through with it and how she would dwal with it. It hapened and we discussed it all. Then another 1 she was quite interested in she invited over while i was at work and kids at school (like last time) she let me know when he was at our home and i waited nearly 1 1/2 hours for her to say he had just left. We discussd it all again. Now i hate it, we have blewed about it all over and over. Yes i put the idea out there but she also did the ad and the act, now i dont know if she is still doing it behind my back or not. Although she has said she got rid of their phone numbers i will never know unless she f@#$s up and i catch her out.

  5. Fascinating article Michelle. I hope you don’t mind that I nominated you for a Fabulous Gutter Blogger Award. Please know that I offer it as a gesture of respect for the thought-provoking content of your blog as it relates to sexuality. It is intended as a compliment, albeit a bit of a goofy one! 🙂

    You are cordially invited to join the rank and file of the Fabulous Gutter Bloggers! Congratulations!

    http://cliteraryreview.com/2013/04/06/fabulous-pussy-indeed/

  6. sillyman😔

    Why wasnt my post added? I thought it would be useful feedback.

    • Added now. I don’t go on this site very often anymore that’s the only reason.

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