Polyamory is often misunderstood in a world dominated by media which is only now starting to fully accept gay marriage — but not multiple partners and certainly not multiple relationships. But in North America we are creeping up to a 60% divorce rate with young people waiting longer and longer to get married (the average age of first marriage in the Canada is now 31 for men and 28.5 for women.) Meanwhile, in all those ‘before marriage’ years individuals engage in serial monogamy and that is accepted as completely normal…where having 2 or more partners at the same time is completely demonized in many circles. So let’s look at the demonetization and see if any of these myths are true. I am basing my response largely on personal experience with many poly people and a study by Melissa Mitchell at Simon Fraser University (that’s a totally legitimate Canadian University: Macleans Magazine rated Simon Fraser the top research University in Canada) and the study looked at 1093 polyamorous people to see what it is like to be poly. The results shatters a lot of myths (and comes as no surprise to me, being poly.) Oh, and none of the 1100 people were in a relationship with each other…so this represents 1100 relationships.
th #1 Polyamorous relationships don’t work and are short term.
Truth: The average length of the poly relationship with the primary partner was 9 years. That’s average. (For comparison, the average duration of a marriage in Canada is 13 years.) That may look like polyamory is worse until you consider that the average age of the study was 35. Also, the study doesn’t mention when people first discovered polyamory so it is entirely possible that they discovered polyamory when they were 22 and stuck with it. But 9 years for an average relationship for a group with an average age of 35…that’s solid.
Myth #2 Poly People are really paired up
Truth: Sure, some poly people are paired up and subscribe to a primary relationship/secondary relationship model. This can be either by circumstances or by conscious choice. But 70% of poly people are not in a paired up relationship like this. Why? Maybe because they are poly. And the truth is, each relationship offers its own rewards and challenges. That is why you are in each of those relationships. In the study, when forced to make a decision about who their strongest relationship was with…over 10% just couldn’t decide.
Myth #3 Polyamorous People can’t make a commitment
Truth: Fuck, this one makes me crazy because from all I have seen, poly people seem to have longer, stronger relationships than monogamous people. Poly people tend to communicate a lot and have an ethos that it is better to face your feelings and share them openly (good or bad) rather than hide them until they become monsters. Also, when a monogamous couple starts to fight…there isn’t 2-3 other people handy to referee and keep things calm and sane. Don’t underestimate this: someone stepping in and being the voice of reason can completely defuse a fight before it blows up and hurts people. And I recently participated in a study (not yet released) but I inquired about the results. The researchers were finding that poly relationships from their sample were outlasting the monogamous relationships by a long shot. (I will blog about this further after the paper is released.) But poly people often are very committed to their partners and will fight hard for all of them.
Myth #4 Polyamory is exhausting and not worth it
Truth: Sure, poly people have to communicate and negotiate a lot more than monogamous people but they also have a lot more love to sustain them. I am convinced this is partially chemical as having two people love you up and cuddle and kiss you…is the best thing in the world and makes you feel so loved and secure. Making love to 2+ people you really love would be the highest moments of my life. And that sooooo outweighs the extra negotiations to make sure everyone is cool with everything.
Myth #5 Polyamourous people can’t have their heart broken because they always have
Truth: Polyamory means you are more likely to get your heart broken. Someone could die. Someone could break up with you. And just because you are in love with another person…doesn’t make that pain any easier. Poly people know this all too well…but for the monogamous people: Imagine being wildly in love with you spouse and you decide to get a wonderful and beautiful dog who warms your life and becomes part of your family. Now imagine that the dog is run over by a car. Does having a loving spouse erase the pain? Of course not. It fucking hurts.
Myth #6 Polyamory is bad for kids
Truth: Polyamory works out pretty well for kids. Kids have more adults around to act as caregivers an article written by someone who grew up in a poly household if you want to read a first hand perspective. My favorite line is, “I’d imagine there’s very little variation between the ways monogamous and poly parents fuck up their kids.” 🙂 )
which means it is easier to get meals on the table, kids off to soccer practice and bathed. Kids also benefit from having multiple trusted adults giving them advice and a wider knowledge base to teach them skills and about things. Additionally, since poly people tend to be very communicative, kids learn from an early age about negotiation and respect — and almost always grow up knowing they can make whatever relationship choices they want (and some even choose to become monogamous.) The biggest complaint that kids in a polyamorous family have is: there are too many adults around and they are oversupervised and can’t get away with anything. Note; I am not saying that all poly families are good places to raise kids as poly environments can be toxic too…but there is nothing inherently bad for kids about growing up in a poly home and there are plenty of benefits. In Mitchell’s study, 44% had kids. The biggest disadvantage is…well, the breakups and a child getting attached to someone who kind of disappears. That sucks for any kid. (Here is
Myth #7 Polyamory is for backwoods, illiterate people
Truth: In Melissa Mitchell’s study of 1100 relationships, she found that just 5.7% of women and 4.1% of the men had highschool or less (and the vast majority had highschool with 5.3% of women and 3.4% of men having graduated from highschool.) Nope, the majority of the polyamorous people had graduated college and more had finished graduate school than simply attended college. That is 94.3% of women had at least attended college and 26% of those had finished graduate school. The men had 95.9% at least attending college and 28,2% finishing graduate school.
Myth #8 Polyamorous People are Poly because they are Unsatisfied.
Truth: Poly people are actually more satisfied and the average monogamous couple. And I am not strictly speaking about sexual satisfaction. I am talking about satisfaction in terms of: a) relationship satisfaction b) commitment c) need fulfillment d) autonomy e) closeness f) emotional support g) security h) self-esteem i) self-expression and finally j) sexual. Guess what…poly people rocked it out with an average score of 83% for the primary relationships across all the above categories and 81% for the secondary relationships. That’s bloody high 😉 Poly people were found to be more satisfied with their primary partner than monogamous people. Now here’s the kicker. Of the above categories, the needs satisfaction were matched in several relationships in just 1 out of 28 cases. Mostly, the needs satisfied by one partner were different from those satisfied by other partners. I have explained it to new partners like this: it is ludicrous to expect one partner to completely satisfy every need you have in some mythical soulmate nonsense…each relationship is there for its own purpose …and because of this, it is secure and unique.
Myth #9 Polyamorous People don’t get Married
Truth: In the study of 1100 relationships…46.6% were married. Remember, the average age of the study was 35 so half were under 35. So yeah, poly people seem to get married. Frequently.
Myth #10 Polyamorous People are all Fucking Each Other
Truth: First off, poly people are frequently in committed relationships and therefore not available nor looking for new partners to shag. But even within a poly group, just because A is in a relationship with B and C doesn’t mean that B and C are in a relationship. The study found that there was frequently an independence of relationships and this was more common among men. Interestingly, 67.6% of the women surveyed identified as bisexual and 9.3% as ‘other’ while just 27.7 were bisexual and 61.4% identifying as ‘straight’. So women in this sample were much more likely to bisexual than other groups. And this definitely matches my experience. In fact, I tend to look for bisexual women as this is a good indicator that they may be open to being poly and the almost all the poly girls I know are bi. But that said, it isn’t a big fucking orgy and people won’t just fuck you because their partner is fucking you. Life doesn’t work like that. If you want to have a relationship with each person…you have to connect with each one and convince them that fucking you would be a good idea. 🙂 Note: Possibly the most offensive thing you can say to bi person is to assume that they will want to have a 3-some with you and your partner. I believe that makes most people put you into the ‘creepy’ category and you just can’t recover from creepy. :p