Essays

About Polyamory

Polyamory is not a condition but part of an identity that distances itself from monogamous relationship concepts.

By Anne Lomberg on January 22, 2024

Also available in German
Über Polyamorie

Polyamory is a topic that I have often dealt with and re-evaluated time and again. It is one of those relationship concepts that, unlike polygamy, require a certain maturity: the maturity to have several relationships at eye level, to be empathetic, to communicate openly about desires and fears, and, above all, to be 100% transparent. Polyamory is not a condition but part of an identity that distances itself from monogamous relationship concepts. The belief that one person cannot and should not satisfy all needs brings a certain freedom and takes the pressure out of relationships, but are all polyamorous people really able to share their love equally, or do they simply use the label as a carte blanche for sex?

I’m divided on that because I have the feeling, especially on dating apps, that at least the non-monogamy category is used as a means to an end, namely, not wanting to commit. Because, let’s be honest, only a few people have reflected on themselves to the extent that they can engage in open and sometimes brutal exchanges with their partners. It takes courage to be sensitive, to make oneself vulnerable, and to sincerely present this vulnerable side not just to one no but to several partners. And how many (I’m deliberately putting this in quotation marks) “polyamorous people” have the energy to do equal justice to all their relationships without jealousy or a feeling of neglect coming up? Because one thing is certain: whether we talk about monogamous or polyamorous relationships, they all need 100% attention.

Love is not exclusive

Ownership and sharing are both terms that I find strange. Ownership, because everyone is their individual and belongs to no one. Sharing, because it reduces people to objects. For this reason, I support the polyamorous approach that love cannot be exclusive. Because love is boundless, it is not simply finished when we meet the man or woman of our dreams; it constantly evolves with all the people we allow into our hearts. A relationship means that we participate in it just as much as we allow someone to participate in it, and that doesn’t always have anything to do with the sexual aspect. Rather, it’s about building a bond and being there for each other. So the only difference between a monogamous and a polyamorous relationship is that instead of being with one person, you are with several people and place just as much value on a long-term, trusting, and transparent relationship.

I mentioned at the beginning that one person cannot and should not be able to satisfy all needs. What if we applied this approach to ourselves instead of several people? By that, I mean that many needs can be met by ourselves without needing another person at all. Don’t get me wrong, but sometimes I wonder whether self-love shouldn’t be used more as the main source before we always make ourselves dependent on others. I would probably describe myself as “solo open-minded” if there were a category. I love being alone, but I could also imagine a partnership independent of any labels or claims of ownership that is constantly evolving, sexually and spiritually inspiring, and lasts a lifetime. But I don’t necessarily need a traditional partnership for that, just as I don’t need multiple partners at my side.

Sexual and emotional liberalism

The term polyamory originated in the 90s in the queer-feminist environment in the USA and stands for “multiple” and “love”. A concept that has definitely earned an honorable place in this world and should be viewed less critically because most polyamorous people I know are very reflective, open, honest, and ask concrete questions to get to the bottom of problems. They aren’t afraid to express their feelings and thoughts or stigmatize sexual orientation. They want to live relationships sincerely and focus on their partners, even if this means that they may not be able or willing to satisfy some needs. In traditional monogamous relationships, there is often a risk that sexual preferences that the partner doesn’t share will be acted out in secret, which sooner or later leads to the failure of the whole construct.

I just wish that people who call themselves polyamorous would know what that actually means. Unfortunately, many people confuse emotional responsibility with sexual freedom. I’m not polyamorous if I fuck around on a whim. I am polyamorous if I am able to love several people at the same time and give these people a certain amount of attention that is needed to keep these liaisons running smoothly. Polyamorous relationships are not easy; everyone should be aware of that because if a monogamous relationship already demands a lot, why should a polyamorous one be easier? Ultimately, I believe that monogamy can work just as well as polyamory if we are more open and honest with ourselves and our partners, if we let go of the idea that we need another person to be happy, but rather find our happiness within ourselves first and see the other person(s) as a gift; someone we can accompany for a time or perhaps even forever, just like someone we introduce into our lives and allow to participate in it. Relationships are not to be taken for granted; relationships are everywhere. We find them in friend groups, in the family, in our work environment, in animals that we take care of or give a home to, in sexual encounters, in love affairs, in partnerships, in favorite bars or cafés, in our neighbors. All these connections exist and sometimes need more or less attention. If we look at it broadly, it has something to do with appreciation (without involving the character of exclusivity), whose significance we should be aware of in order to be open to the concept of polyamory.

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