What the Heck is Polyamory: Part 2 – Why?
Published: September 24, 2013 • Updated: June 21, 2016 • by rigel
This article is part of a four-part introduction to polyamory: Part 1 – What, Part 2 – Why, Part 3 – How (Structures), and Part 4 – How (Getting Started). So, after reading our first post you have an idea of what Polyamory is. This part addresses the question: Why would people do this? I see you back there jumping up and down with your hand raised ready to say: “I know! Sex!, Sex!!!” but you’re wrong. Well, partially wrong anyways. Now before you call me a liar, I’m not saying sex isn’t one of the reasons people choose poly. It certainly is, but remember that what distinguishes Polyamory from other types of open relationships is the romantic component. If you are just looking to get laid there are much easier ways then developing a relationship. Relationships take time and effort; and are significantly more stressful then hooking up. If NSA sex or play is what you and/or your partner are after there are plenty of people who are looking for the same thing, so do everyone involved a favor and be honest about it. So, what are some reasons besides sex that people do poly? I’m glad you asked:
Some people just swing both ways. While most people would consider Cassie “bisexual,” she prefers women 95% of the time (correction, after reading this she told me 97%). There are certain things she likes that I just can’t provide her without a few expensive and mostly irreversible surgeries. She could simply go without (and did for a while when we first got together), but that didn’t benefit either of us. Beyond the physical component she also enjoys the ways her relationships with women differ from those she has with men, which brings me to my next point:
Interests, Roles, and Being (more of) Yourself
While it’s our opinion that finding a new partner because the one/s you have aren’t doing it for you is a bad idea; there are many ways that having multiple partners can satisfy different want and needs. First, you might share an interest with a new partner that your existing partner/s don’t have. I’ve gotten to spend time with various partners doing things from morning runs to playing Xbox to watching anime that Cassie simply doesn’t enjoy. Cassie loves horror movies and I hate them; so when I’m not around she might cuddle up with a date and watch The Shining. Having more relationships simply gives you more opportunities to share things you enjoy with people you care about. Perhaps more importantly though I have come to appreciate what it means to be able to be different parts of yourself with different people. One of my favorite quotes from The Ethical Slut (a well-known book on open relationships) addresses this topic:
“One of the things people get out of multiple relationships is the chance to be all of their various selves. When two people meet, they relate where they intersect, where they have complimentary roles in similar scripts.”
The easiest way to explain this is with examples. When Cassie is dating a woman she takes on a very gentlemanly role, but with men she is more authoritative. I am Cassie’s submissive, but with another partner I can run the gamut of switchy depending on the person. If we are dating someone newer to kink we might both might take on the role of teacher, which is something we don’t get to do often with each other. Being able to express different aspects of yourself is incredibly fulfilling, and something you don’t understand the satisfaction of until you get o experience it.
Ever heard the phrase “Many hands makes light work?” With a wider network of relationships you have more hands in the mix. Depending on how your relationships are structured this can make anything from housework, to finding someone to play with, to moving, to child rearing, to finding a ride, to paying the bills, or simply finding someone to talk to or a shoulder to cry on that much easier. Cassie has had two wrist surgeries over the past couple of years. The surgery where we had a partner who helped to cook, care for Cassie, and watch the kids during her recovery was much easier then when I was doing it alone. Of course, we’ve done (at least) our fair share to help out our partners as well.
Sometimes seeing your partner happy and fulfilled because they are getting to explore their interests with someone or express a part of themselves they don’t get to with you is its own reward. Poly people have a term for this, it’s called “compersion.” Seeing the people I care about happy makes me happy as well.
Okay, I’m bringing it up anyways. While you have better options then poly to get laid; that doesn’t mean that the sex can’t be great. It can be, and here’s some reasons why (not all points will apply to all relationships):
- Variety. It’s the spice of life, and different partners can keep things fresh.
- The different interests and different roles apply to sex as well. Perhaps one of your partners likes oral sex but the other prefers some kink. Maybe you are sexually submissive with one partner but rough and primal with another. Again, you get different chances to be different parts of yourself.
- Learning new skills and techniques.
- Different genders and orientations.
- Threesomes, foursomes, and moresomes.
- Unique opportunists to deal with differing sex drives.
- And last but not least, sometime sex with other people reminds you to appreciate how good in bed your long term partner/s really are and how well they know you and your body.
So, now you know what Polyamory is, and you know some reasons why people do it. Perhaps some of the reasons piqued your interest, and you are thinking that poly might be something you want to try. Never fear, the final part of this series (or parts if necessary) will cover how some of these relationships work and hopefully give you a place to get started. Have a question you want answered in the next section? Leave it in the comments below. Want to learn about polyamory and more? Check out our events.