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Polyamory
Photo: Katy Blackwood (Wikimedia Commons); Licence: CC BY-SA 4.0
London Pride 2016 

As journalist Laurie Penny so aptly put it “Polyamory, if you believe the news­papers, is the hot new lifestyle option for affectless hipsters with alarming haircuts, or a sex cult, or both”. Polyamory, in fact refers to having a multitude of partners, which for many countries in Europe is cast aside with the socially imposed concept of monogamy ruling as the norm, while in many other countries, polygyny, one husband with many wives, still remains the norm.

But today, more and more young Europeans are turning to polyamory and, doing so, breaking old out-dated social conventions of dating. At E&M we ask ourselves what really is polyamory and what do young Europeans think about it?

 

Diana, 22, Italy

I think many young Europeans struggle with the concept of Polyamory. It does appeal, mainly due to the fact that it seems to promise freedom from the burdens of monogamy: mainly jealousy and the fear of the occurrence, and consequences of infidelity, which is seemingly ever more normalised. However, I think the conflict stems from a, perhaps socially instilled, idea of synonimity between trust and monogamy. This creates a desire for it and a lurking feeling that polyamory would be a form of giving up on the concept of trust, or our capacity to be trusted.

In fact, perhaps monogamy, or the willingness to be monogamous, can have the ability to grant relationships an elevated status which can, alone, be the element which allows us to distinguish our level of emotional investment. If we succeeded in dissociating monogamy with the much sought-after idea of stability and loyal, durable and meaningful companionship, I am sure that polyamory, with its stronger foothold in realism, would become greatly diffused. However, in many cases this would involve altering some deeply entrenched subconscious tendencies.

I think the conflict stems from a, perhaps socially instilled, idea of synonimity between trust and monogamy.

 

Sam, 23, UK

When I was about 17 I was set the task of, during one of those terrifically contrived inter-school debating competitions, of defending polyamory. At the time I knew very little about it. Even then though, it was pretty easy. 

Some people just don’t only fall for one person at a time, some people want to share love with a third or fourth person. Some people find that different people fulfil them in different ways. 

The western concept of monogamy clearly doesn’t suit everyone, and I don’t see anything wrong with trying new arrangements. If your romantic polygon works for you, so be it. There is nothing inherently good about being only with one person. (And just because most people tend to do that, doesn’t make it ‘normal’, either.)

Whilst I’m aware that this is something I have very little experience of, and I’m sure that many readers will have had both good and bad experiences with polyamory, I just don’t think it has any problems that being in a monogamous relationship doesn’t. 

As long as the people involved are on the same page.

As with the vast majority of sexual and romantic practices, my feelings are best summed up as “what consenting adults do together privately is none of my damn business”. 

 

In short, I just don't want to do it and it makes me feel slightly inadequate sometimes.

Anonymous, 28, France

In theory I feel positive about the honesty, flexibility, and altruism inherent in polyamory. It takes off the guilt of fancying someone else when you're already in a relationship and means you can explore romantic activities with different partners and respect each other's freedom. 

That said, it's not for me. I cannot focus on more than one love interests at a time and would be scared of forgetting things or mixing up memories between partners and hurting someone. I also feel jealousy even though it is a negative, reactionary emotion and I really wish I didn't. 

Beside, it is important for me to have a family, and multiple partners and/or a partner who is seeing several people would complicate joining households and raising children in a stable environment. Maybe if we heard more testimonies from fulfilled polyamorous people with children and mortgages I would find a model to consider.

In short, although polyamory is very fashionable among highly educated, socially progressive people, I just don't want to do it and it makes me feel slightly inadequate sometimes.

 

What is most grueling is balancing between tasting as much candy as possible and dealing with sometimes the extremely complex flavors all at once.

AN, 35, Poland

I have been polyamorous all my life, basically. Only recently I got into a situation where I got stuck with a single love interest and probably will use the moment to try and create a family of sorts. Truth is I am quite tired by this point and I believe some conventional couple dynamics can soothe a tattered soul: polyamory gives a lot but it still is extremely taxing on a person’s psyche. It is certainly not for everybody and those that are polyamorous by design know the bitter truth.

The burnout effect comes from various factors, but what is most grueling is balancing between tasting as much candy as possible and dealing with sometimes the extremely complex flavors all at once. It is not that much a logistical problem, adapting to different schedules or resolving issues with people that are not really sure about polyamory. It is that every partner whose immediate vicinity you enter is a volcano of small details and perks, with which you need to deal with, sometimes literally simultaneously. People have certain energies going around them and plunging into so many streams will certainly titillate ALL your nerve endings, but will also definitely give you more than you bargained for.

Even the strongest minds can’t balance that, partly because that is what they crave – to feel extreme pleasure and to suffer altogether, or, to quote Hellraiser, “Pleasure and pain indivisible”.

 

Nicoletta, 23, Italy

I am not actually polyamorous, but have always been drawn to it, however feeling almost imprisoned in my outdated devotion to monogamy.

I have always felt very self-aware that my feelings of jealousy and desire for monogamy are entirely socialised. It comes from a long history of laws imposing monogamy to stamp out sexual egalitarianism and polygyny whilst championing heteronormativity, and yet today many millennials like myself that like to think they are forward thinking and liberal cannot take this step - myself included.

Ironically also, whilst marriage used to have an element of self-denial within it and be generally considered to be somewhat of a sacrifice, nowadays, as argued by Laurie Penny - through prolific romcoms younger generations have the added pressure that they must find one perfect partner that needs to respond to all their needs. This seems highly unattainable and unrealistic, yet millions still strive for this romantic notion. However when I flirt with the idea of a polyamorous relationship I am overwhelmed with jealousy, but look forward to a future where jealousy won’t be the norm but rather compromise and acceptance.  

 

 

Teaser photo: Robert Ashworth (Flickr); Licence: CC BY 2.0

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