Poly Myths

By Anne Hunter

Just last week I bumped, once again, into the surprising (to me anyway) myth that polyamory is all about sex. I was talking to a couple I’d only just met, who made the mistake (if you’re poly-phobic) of asking me what I do. I was explaining polyamory in the context of my relationship coaching. Despite my earnest attempts to explain that it’s not, for me, primarily about sex, I think there must have been five or six different ways in which they kept coming back with uncomfortable innuendos about what my satisfaction in life comes from. Don’t get me wrong – I LOVE fabulous engaged sex with luscious intimates. It’s just not the primary reason I’m poly.

It reminded me once again of how many myths there are about polyamory in wider society. Some I can think of off the top of my head are:

  • You get all your sexual needs met.
  • You get all your emotional needs met.
  • It’s the same as cheating or sleeping around.
  • You’re never lonely.
  • It’s less emotionally evolved – people are only poly because they ‘can’t commit’ to one partner.
  • You’re permanently sexually available to everyone and you have no taste – you’ll sleep with anyone. All poly people are having sex with everyone in their group/community.
  • You can’t be trusted because you just want to use people for your own sexual gratification.
  • Only a tiny, weird fraction of the community is polyamorous.
  • Loving a second person must diminish the love available for the first person.
  • All poly relationships have to be equal.
  • If you feel jealousy you can’t possibly be polyamorous.
  • You obviously don’t really love someone if you don’t feel jealous about them.

There are a couple of myths I occasionally find surfacing within some parts of the poly community as well, such as:

  • There must be a particular structure and ethical framework for it to ‘count’ as polyamorous.
  • You have to be in more than one relationship to identify as polyamorous – if you’re single you ‘can’t’ be poly.
  • Poly people are more evolved and enlightened than the general population.

The reality is so much more glorious, I find. Poly allows so much variety and freedom of expression. Poly relationships encompass so many diverse structures, styles, flavours, levels of self-awareness and maturity, and forms of love. I love wandering through the forest of my poly friends and seeing the sturdy old relationships, the tender new green ones, the spreading relationships who welcome in and nurture others, the vines with tendrils that run everywhere, the ones in flower and the ones with bare branches.

The only things I know of that all poly folk agree on about polyamory are honesty, multiplicity, and love.

So I’m curious to hear from you. What myths have you encountered about your relationship/s?

5 thoughts on “Poly Myths

  1. Hi Anne :)

    I’ve recently decided to own up to being poly and been doing a lot of dating (via an online website). Then, after the first date is ‘coming out’ – I’ll call the person and let them know that I’m poly. I’m experiencing a lot of closed-mindedness around polyamory, an instinctual reaction I think – usually the reaction is that they don’t condemn it morally but that it’s definitely not for them. But then when I am able to talk to (some) people more about their idea of what polyamory is, I find they actually are really unclear as to what it is.

    One person thinks that it’s swinging.

    Another thinks it’s about temporary, casual sex with whoever you want and no commitment.

    Another just couldn’t get her head around the idea of being ‘in love’ with more than one person at once.

    So basically I think (here in Australia at least) that polyamory is still in its social infancy. Even relatively open-minded people still hold on to roughly formed shapes of ideas of what it is, and mostly see it negatively. I think the underlying psychological motive for that is actually jealousy of a more natural and free way of being.

    And then there is the martyr syndrome – people that do realise how amazing this type of love life could be but yet they feel socially compelled to conform to monogamy. They then see their monogamy as a contribution to an ordered society because “you can’t have a perfect world anyway” or (my favourite) “if everyone just went around doing whatever they wanted, it would be anarchy!”

    Well, yes indeed, that is anarchy :)

    1. Thanks so much for sharing Tristan and I agree with the ‘social infancy’ of polyamory. I think it’s where homosexuality was about thirty years ago. Thanks to the tireless groundwork laid down by our GLBTI friends I hope poly peeps will have a shorter journey to acceptance.

      I’m not sure about envy being the underlying motivation of the responses or rather, I suspect that it may be one of a cluster of emotional responses. These could also include fear of the unknown, fear of losing the superimposed structure of monogamy and having to work it out for oneself, difficulty believing polyamory could be ethical, fear of self-discovery, shame at one’s own desires, fear of invalidating all of one’s life-choices to date, fear of ostracism… the list goes on.

      I feel for people who really feel they are making what they see as the best choice for society, by giving up even the thought of exploring their own desires. It’s a genuinely valuable thing, to be able to put your own needs aside for a time for the benefit of someone else. When I was in that space myself, I didn’t realise just how good it was for the whole world when I pursued that which gave me joy. It came from a background scarcity-belief. I didn’t understand how damaging that belief was to me, my friends and family, and the wider community. I still think there are (obviously) times when I need to be able to put my stuff aside for someone else’s benefit. However for me that is in the context of a fundamental abundance-based joy-centered self-aware orientation.

      Thanks again for commenting. :-)

  2. Just to balance things up a bit I have come across some myths within poly communities which have been occasional rather than the norm.

    *Monogamous people dont grow emotionally.

    * Monogamous people lack emotional intelligence

    * That Polyamoury really is the only way to live a fulfilled life.

    *Monogamy is easy compared to Polyamoury

    * Monogamy is boring

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