by Tracy Deagan LPC-S, LCSW-S
Polyamory as a relational structure with defined rules and values is very young – everyone “does” Polyamory differently. This is often seen as meaning Poyamory is not a valid structure. (However "monogamy" I find has fewer clear "rules" and "ideas" for many people in recent times.)
I would assert that I have seen hundreds of variations of how people “do” monogamy yet it is seen as a “valid” relationship structure despite this.
Below are some common misperceptions regarding polyamory that I believe would be well known to folks that identify as Polyamorous. I also believe my answers are ones that the majority of folks I have worked with that identify as Polyamorous share.
- Polyamory means the same thing as cheating, swinging, and open relationships.
Polyamory differs from all of these due to polyamory’s emphasis on honesty, fairness and full consent by everyone involved, and communication. While these can be found in some swinging and open relationships it is not a declared value system as it usually is in a Polyamorous relationship.
- People choose polyamory because their relationship is in trouble.
This can be true but not why most people are polyamorous, in my experience. Often folks feel they are born this way or they see it as a way to keep themselves and their lives fulfilling. Our practice is fully committed to letting clients know our opinion on whether Poly seems right for them based on several specific traits that have been linked to success or failure at Poly relationships – we do not prejudge what structures will be right for that person or couple.
- Intimacy is a problem for those that choose polyamory.
Often, polyamorous people are much better at intimacy because this structure does not work if those involved do not have superior relating skills. Over the last 25 years I have seen many polyamorous folks organize and participate in workshops and educational opportunities to incease their relational and intimacy skills; I have not seen this nearly as much in the monogamous folks I have worked with.
- Polyamorous people do not get jealous.
Totally untrue. We all get jealous. Poly folks just feel the best
response is to move closer to the situation than farther away. They
and I also believe you need to use your jealous feelings as a self
growth tool. i.e. What exactly about their relationship is making me
jealous? What aspects of myself that I am not comfortable with have
come up that might be clues to where I need to do some self esteem /
growth work? etc.
- Gay people are not Poly, especially gay men, they are just in naturally promiscuous.
So very not true but also not all open gay relationships (or open straight ones) are Poly.
- Polyamorous people view monogamy as wrong.
This is untrue. That said, I think that Poly solutions could offer much better continuity of relating to others than current solutions such as cheating, divorce and divided homes. etc.
- Polyamory lets you avoid conflict and communication in your primary relationship.
Definitely not true, polyamory requires one to communicate and deal with the conflict in a way monogamy does not engender just by it’s structure. I find my Poly clients to be among the folks that have the best self and other awareness and to have very strong communication skills.
- Polyamory damages children - or as one therapist with 20 years experience said to me at a workshop “if they will do this sick stuff then imagine what they will do to their children.”
It is my experience that children do well when they have loving caregivers that coordinate their care and are honest, caring communicators - areas polyamory encourages folks to become very good at. Polyamory also values and encourages engaging with others in a healthy, assertive communicative way. I believe these values are healthy for kids and adults.
Polyamory does not ensure any particular individual will be skilled at communication and value articulation any more than monogamy assures this. My opinion is however that we do know that the lying and cheating and pain that ensue in many divorces is harmful to children. I also see the kids that get continuity in their caregivers and loved ones and how very valuable this is.
So, I think that exploring as many ways of being good humans and parents and caring best for our kids is the the most important value and goal.
by Tracy Deagan LPC-S, LCSW-S
Violet Crown Counseling