I have a piece up on Everyday Feminism about common misconceptions about polyamory and the hurtful comments and questions they inspire. [Before I get any irritated comments about the frequent paragraph breaks, that’s their house style and not my own choice.]
When people find out that I’m polyamorous and that I prefer to date multiple partners with everyone’s knowledge and consent, I get a variety of responses.
Some express strong disapproval or even disgust. I’ve been told that I clearly don’t love any of my partners, that I’m stringing them along or manipulating them or cheating on them, that what I’m doing is against nature and a sign of sickness.
Thankfully, though, most people are totally cool with it. They know other polyamorous people, or maybe they’re even polyamorous themselves. They might say things like “I’m not polyamorous, but good for you!” or “That sounds like fun, but I’ve got my hands full with one.”
But there are some people who fall somewhere between those ends of the spectrum when it comes to accepting that polyamory is a valid way to do relationships.
They may not think I’m doing anything morally wrong, but they’re skeptical. They ask questions that make it clear that they don’t really understand what polyamory is about. If I were talking about marginalized identities, I might refer to their comments as microaggressions.
While we should not conflate being polyamorous with being queer or a person of color, it’s true that polyamory is a misunderstood and stigmatized relationship style.
Polyamorous people end up hearing the same types of responses over and over, and it can be exhausting to defend our relationships and preferences.
Here are 15 assumptive statements people say to non-monogamous people and why they are misguided and hurtful.
1. ‘That Could Never Work’
Often accompanied by an anecdote about a friend who tried polyamory and totally hated it, this comment seems like a well-intentioned statement of opinion, but it’s actually very invalidating.
How can you claim that polyamory “doesn’t work” when speaking to someone like me, who’s been happily polyamorous for three years? Am I wrong about my own perception that my relationships have largely been healthy and successful? Am I actually miserable and just don’t realize it?
Statements like these are problematic because they stem from faulty assumptions that go far beyond polyamory.
Telling someone that they’re wrong about their own feelings causes them to doubt themselves and their boundaries and preferences. For example, queer people often hear that they’re “actually” straight, and people seeking abortions are often told that deep down they must want to have the baby.
Whether you’re telling someone that they actually like something they say they don’t like or vice versa, you’re saying that you know better than them what their own experience is.
That’s just not true – in fact, it can become gaslighting, which is a tactic of abuse and control.
2. ‘You Must Have a Lot of Sex’
Just like monogamous people, polyamorous people have varying levels of interest in sex.
Some are on the asexual spectrum. Some have illnesses or disabilities that impact their desire or ability to have sex (or their partners do). Some choose to implement rules that limit what they can do sexually with some of their partners. Some are single.
The fact that someone is polyamorous says nothing about how much or what types of sex they have.
The idea that polyamory is all about sex sex sex is often used to discredit it as a valid relationship style or portray polyamorous people as “slutty” or noncommittal.
There’s nothing wrong with having lots and lots of consensual sex with lots and lots of people, but it’s not the whole story about polyamory.
3. ‘So Which One Is Your Main Partner?’
Some people do choose to have a “main” or primary partner with whom they share certain responsibilities and have more interdependence. But others don’t.
To them, this question is hurtful because it’s a reminder that many people still believe that you can only have one partner who really “matters.”
This question comes from the idea that there always has to be one “main” relationship in someone’s life, which is a view that’s very centered on monogamy.
Of course, it’s okay to do relationships that way whether you’re monogamous or polyamorous. What’s not okay is assuming that’s the only way relationships can work.
Read the rest here.