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Polyamory is when couples have more than one romantic partner.
There are many misconceptions about the lifestyle, including the fact it’s all about sleeping around.
In fact, sex is just one part of why couples choose to be polyamorous.
Many couples report that polyamory has brought them closer together.
Couples can fall into a polyamorous lifestyle in a few different ways. Some decide they want to search for a third member of their relationship, whereas others simply fall into the polyamorous community and find it works out better for them.
A common misconception of polyamory — the word for having multiple romantic partners — is that it’s all about people wanting to have their cake and eat it too. This may be the case for those who go “unicorn hunting,” but others in successful polyamorous relationships don’t see it that way.
As is the case with all sorts of relationships, there are many misconceptions about polyamory. Business Insider spoke to people in polyamorous relationships to find out what it’s really like.
* Names changed for anonymity.
1. They don’t really get jealous
Many people get jealous in their relationships, whether they like it or not. It’s an ugly, upsetting emotion, but it’s also basically inevitable in love. So introducing multiple people into your love life might seem like a recipe for disaster.
But according to Alex*, who has been polyamorous with his wife for several years, it’s not really like that.
“I do feel jealousy in all my relationships sometimes, but for me I have learned that I feel jealousy mostly when something is wrong in my relationship with my partners,” he told Business Insider. “It’s not discomfort about them seeing other people. Jealousy for me acts as a warning sign that I am feeling insecure or stressed about my relationship with someone, and when I address whatever is causing that worry (usually with lots of reflective conversation) the jealousy goes away.”
Dr Elisabeth Sheff, the author of “The Polyamorists Next Door,” has been studying polyamory for over two decades and is also in a “monogamish” relationship with her wife. She told Business Insider that some people genuinely never experience jealousy. However, she has also seen cases where people believe they are unable to feel it, only to come back years later after learning they actually can — it just took the right situation or person to trigger it.
2. It’s not all about sex
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Sheff said she travels a lot for work, which is why polyamory works out well for her relationship. Sometimes she can be away for two months at a time, so she likes her wife to have someone to keep her company while she’s away. But that doesn’t mean they act on it all the time.
“We have a lot of flexibility, but we don’t tend to act on it very much. Me because I don’t have a very high sex drive, and her because she’s been working like a fiend,” Sheff said. “She’s very serious about her career, and spends zero time trying to date. It’s only happened the once, where she met someone she really connected with.”
Still, since polyamory is about getting a variety of needs met, sex is still an important factor. Sometimes one person may not be able to give you everything you want — but that doesn’t mean you want to break up with them.
“A lot of people report having different kinds of desire for sex, like one person wants BDSM or kinky sex and the other really doesn’t, and that’s hard to manufacture in a satisfying way,” Sheff said. “If your partner can find someone who is totally psyched for that, nobody has to have the kind of sex they don’t want to have, and everybody gets to have the kind of sex they find fun and appealing.”
3. Sometimes people just fall into the lifestyle
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Alex and his wife Claire* talked a lot about all the reasons polyamory wouldn’t work before they tried it. They then met and became friends with a lot of polyamorous people, and since then, they haven’t looked back.
“We learned a lot about how poly worked for them and soon it was quite a normal thing in our social circle,” he said. “It did make us more relaxed about other things, we became more comfortable telling each other when we found someone else attractive or had fun flirting with someone or whatever.”
Sheff said that unless a couple goes out in search of a third member, couples can find themselves falling into polyamory.
“Polyamory just happens to people,” she said. “Like they find themselves falling in love with their best friend, get drunk one night, have an accidental threesome, and say ‘Oh wait, all three of us are in love, what is this?'”
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