Polyamory – like The Bachelor, but not

Words by James WF Roberts
Interview with Diane Cameron
Art by Angharad Neal-Williams

I tend to define polyamory as what it is not – stringent and unwavering monogamy without any room for deviation or discussion.

We are living in extremely interesting times when it comes to relationships, sexuality and sexual orientation. There is no doubt that it can be difficult to negotiate the tumultuous situation that is the contemporary relationship: are you Bi, Gay, Straight, Trans or other? CIS, or gender-non-binary? Are we in an open-relationship or non-exclusive, are we in a ‘poly relationship’?

I was full of confusion for a long time as well. After, a series of catastrophic romantic and emotional relationships after 2012; I felt alone. I felt drained. I felt like I wouldn’t find anyone who would understand me or feel the same way I do. I have never really worked well in the traditional monogamous relationship. There was something about it all, something about me that didn’t mesh, didn’t gel with the traditional role of being a man in a relationship with a woman.

I felt such uncontrollable attractions, intimate — emotional connections, to more than just one person at any given time. Even in 2013 when the most catastrophic relationship of my life was going on, I felt I was being pulled in all different directions — I was still with my partner, but was seeing other people — mainly as a break from the rancour and the toxicity between us, and I knew she was seeing other people too; but we could just never be honest about it. Everything was drama, every real emotion was hidden from each other; we just couldn’t get along, just couldn’t make anything work anymore. I went from flirtation to intense entanglement over and over again for about a year or so after we broke up and then I left the country town I came from.

I thought I was alone.

That was until, 2015 when I was performing at an erotic poetry event in Richmond; and I met many wonderful and interesting people from the Melbourne polyamorous scene, and I have been a semi-active member ever since.

But, what is polyamory? Is being in an intimate relationship with multiple partners just a fad? Is it just an excuse to sleep around?

Recently, I caught up with poly life coach Diane Cameron, who unravelled all the poly-possibilities.

What is polyamory?

Polyamory comes from the Greek word ‘poly’ which means ‘many’, and the Latin word ‘amor’ which means ‘love.’ So, there you are: many loves, or having multiple romantic and/or sexual partners. Polyamory can take many different forms, such as solo polyamorists, couples who are open and maintain their relationship as ‘primary’, V’s where one person has two lovers who aren’t together, triads, quads, polycules and even relationship anarchists, who abolish all hierarchies and labels. In hearing that someone is polyamorous, you can’t presume to know anything about their individual forms their relationships take. Polyamory, like sexuality, is a spectrum and can manifest in many different patterns and interpretations. I tend to define polyamory as what it is not – stringent and unwavering monogamy without any room for deviation or discussion.

What are the biggest misconceptions about polyamory?

That all polyamorous relationships are frivolous and shallow. That people just do whatever they want without consideration of others, as if polyamory was a trump card for never developing genuine connection with anyone. That polyamorous relationships aren’t “real” because they lack sexual and romantic exclusivity, as if this is the one thing that constitutes a genuine relationship. I did an interview on a national radio show once where the presenter questioned the validity of my very serious relationship, even going as far as stating that because I had relationships with other people that I obviously just hadn’t found “The One” yet. Needless to say, the myopia and ignorance shown through this claim was immediately obvious to me, and to my partner who was listening.

The other misconception is that polyamory is only about sex. Although this is often an aspect of polyamory, with some people engaging in sex parties and swinging, polyamory is not limited to just the physical. Polyamory is also focused on authenticity and honesty, with many who are looking for deep connection and lasting love. Sometimes this looks like a sexual relationship, but not necessarily. For instance, you can be asexual and polyamorous.

What is the main appeal of being in a polyamorous relationship?

This is going to be different for everyone. For some people it is having the freedom to accept and possibly act on their authentic desires. For others it is having multiple, deep relationships with a variety of people. For me, it’s about being in a relationship where neither of us depends completely on the other to have our needs met, sexually or otherwise. It removes a lot of the usual pressure. I find when you live a polyamorous lifestyle, you stop looking at what other people can do for you with a desperation to get all the boxes ticked.

Is polyamory more common than we realise?

Absolutely. There aren’t a lot of statistics on those living in alternative lifestyles, especially in Australia, but the data that is out there shows that numbers are growing. Additionally, I think a lot of people would be surprised by how many couples are “monogamish”. This is a term coined by sex columnist and author Dan Savage, and essentially means couples who are mainly monogamous and publicly present as such, but deviate every once in a while, usually privately from social circles, but still in a way that is respectful and honest to their partner.

As for people who are openly polyamorous, there are more and more spaces for us to meet, both online and off. Polyfinda, for instance, is an organisation that throws regular bar nights with growing attendance and has released a Tinder-like app designed specifically for poly people.

What are some of the main issues poly people face on a personal level?

On a personal level, jealousy comes up a lot, and is often the main issue clients come to me with. We then spend some time decoding their jealousy, often finding it is the emergent property of feelings of inadequacy, fear of loneliness or resurfacing childhood wounds. As challenging as dealing with jealousy can be, it is also great springboard to delve into personal discovery.
If you could change one misconception about the poly lifestyle, what would it be?

People often think choosing polyamory is the easy option, and this couldn’t be further from the truth. To do polyamory well takes a lot of self-exploration, emotional intelligence and often-uncomfortable conversations. There has to be brutal honesty, both with yourself and others. In traditional relationships, often the difficult and confronting stuff is hidden from view and we get on with our lives keeping our needs and desires suppressed. Polyamory has a way of shaking things up and bringing things to the surface that then have to be dealt with in a mature and emotionally healthy way. It is only when we understand and confront these challenging aspects of ourselves that we can become more authentic and true to ourselves.

Diane Cameron is looking for clients to coach in the polyamory lifestyle – visit polypossible.com for more.

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