For those of you who are unfamiliar with the term polyamory, it’s helpful to understand its many manifestations.  The textbook definition (that is, only if you have a really good, progressive textbook) will explain that polyamory is a state of romantic and sexual attraction which involves more than one partner.  However, that’s far from the whole picture.  There are a lot of configurations for polyamorous relationships.  Some poly people desire to be the middle partner in relationship, where the other two partners are not attracted to each other, but only to him/her/zir.  Others prefer to be in a triangular relationship, where all members of the relationship are equally attracted to each other.  Of course, poly interactions are not in any way limited to three people, either, and can encompass all varieties of configurations and interactions.  I know of one asexual person who thought a poly relationship would suit them best because his/her/hir partners could get their sexual satisfaction from each other and their emotional satisfaction from him/her/zim.

However, polyamory takes on an even more unique adaptation, especially in the sphere of college couples, which is much more “mainstream:” The Open Relationship.  I will admit to you right now that last year, I did not understand open relationships at all.  It seemed completely unfathomable to me that two people could claim to love each other and care about each other, but see other people simply because of distance.  Now, the open relationship seems like not only a viable, but a daring solution to the societal pressure to remain faithful and the natural urge to explore variety in sexual and romantic interactions.  Usually I don’t like using Autostraddle for actual, informational articles, but this latest one about why polyamory can work in a relationship is great.

Contrary to popular belief, monogamy and fidelity are not one in the same. Take it from two lesbians – real lesbians – who have both been in serious relationships, both open and exclusive, and are still trying to figure out what exactly that means.

By nature, monogamy is insistent upon jealousy and structured according to what we feel areunrealistic expectations of yourself and your partner. There’s more room to focus on building a secure, lasting relationship when it’s not bound by or founded on obligation or a denial of attraction.”

While I don’t believe that the article hosts a completely unbiased analysis here (monogamy in a trusting relationship isn’t built on jealousy, but perhaps on respect and subsequent restraint), it does present a unique viewpoint- one where being with someone other than your primary partner is not cheating or doing something wrong, but actually a progressive movement towards honesty and a building block for a healthier, more realistic relationship.

Myself, I am still toying with the idea of polyamory.  Conceptually, it makes a lot of sense, but I’ve never been afforded the opportunity to try it in practice. I’m not by nature a jealous person (I mean, at all- when my ex cheated on me, I didn’t care about the action of infidelity, only the secrecy of keeping the information, rather than trusting me with it).  There’s potential for this configuration, although I’m not overwhelmingly drawn to it, either, except perhaps with a sexologist’s general abounding curiosity.  Which is another great point: some poly people are perfectly fulfilled at some points in their life to be in monogamous relationships (although others aren’t…).

What I think interests me most about polyamory though is the comparisons that the blogger Sex Geek draws between non-monogamy and D/S (domination and submission) relationships: transgression, specialization, spirituality, personal growth, and intimacy.  Check the full article out here.

Both non-monogamous and power-based relationships fly in the face of all manner of social norms that tell us who and how to love. So in order to do either, you have to get comfortable with the idea that you’re now beyond the pale of mainstream acceptability….

Have I ever mentioned my fetish for constant improvement? Well, I have one, and it comes into play

in both non-monogamy and D/s relationships because both involve intense trust and deep communication. They often force us to face our demons and exorcise them (or at least learn to manage them well), deal with our insecurities, figure out how to love ourselves better, and do some serious fine-tuning of our communication skills.”

My only note with all of this discussion of polyamory is an insistence on communication- on the necessity of making sure that both your partner and you want what you are pursuing (again, a parallel to important aspects of D/S).  Polyamory has the ability to tear down much more easily than it can build up, so if either you or your partner are unsure about how to navigate the territory, do so carefully and with respect for the other’s boundaries.

Stay queer, cool kids.