Sharing the Wealth

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I'm told that if something seems too good to be true, it probably is. That's likely why I've never given polyamory a second thought. Openly dating two (or more) people without drama or moral conundrums sounds great, but there's got to be a catch, right?

Further research, however, indicates that there isn't, really. I mean, yeah, it's certainly not for everyone, but you can't really accuse polyamory of not laying it all out. It's right there in the name! Your boyfriend has another girlfriend or boyfriend-or you do. Everyone knows. Everyone is satisfied. And rather than unleashing that green-eyed monster, this arrangement actually brings you all closer together.

Of course, this is an ideal scenario. There are bound to be dysfunctional poly relationships, if only because people are inherently dysfunctional. I'm not advocating polyamory for all, because that would mean polyamory for me, and there is no way in hell. I'm just saying, I admire the openness, the communication, the everyone getting exactly what they want. We could stand to learn something from the polyamorous, even if we see our relationships as a strictly one-on-one deal.

But let me back up a minute. Just because this is Berkeley doesn't mean I should count on all my readers being familiar with the concept. Polyamory is not the same as an open relationship, which is basically a fancy way of saying you get to fool around on the side. Hey, I'm not condemning it-just drawing a distinction. Poly people have more than one relationship, not more than one fuck buddy.

That having been said, polyamory is not the same as infidelity. The key differences here are secrecy and being a douchebag, both of which are integral aspects of cheating.

Anyway, my goal here isn't to explain polyamory-they have Wikipedia articles for that. Instead, I want to look at what those of us who are not polyamorous can take away from those who are. Incidentally, do they have a word for us? Uniamorous, maybe?

First, there's the idea of sharing. Non-poly couples deal with this, to some extent, but there's a sizable difference between sharing your closet space and sharing your significant other. The latter requires understanding, security and the knowledge that a person can't really belong to you in the first place. One of the thing's I like most about polyamory is that there's this inherent selflessness built in. As an only child, that appeals to me, because it's pretty much a foreign concept.

From a practical perspective, polyamory forces time management. Again, balancing work and play is a pretty standard necessity, but throw two or more relationships into the mix and imagine the complications. Sorting all this out requires massive patience and a color-coded Google calendar. Given that I can scarcely make lunch dates without inadvertently double-booking myself, I must say I'm impressed by anyone who can devote substantial attention to multiple partners.

Finally, and perhaps most importantly, we come to the issue of jealousy-or maybe the lack thereof. Except, from what I understand, polyamory isn't so much about not getting jealous as it is about dealing with that jealousy productively. Oh, sure, there must be some who are 100 percent comfortable with the arrangement, to the extent that they don't feel a twinge of discomfort while they're partner is out wining and dining someone else. But jealousy is a natural emotion, and there are likely plenty of others who are totally cool with polyamory and still can't help but feel a trifle icky when confronted with the scenario above.

Instead of getting all torn up about it, which is probably how I'd handle things, they use it to their advantage. Rather than mope, they identify and respond to their feelings: Where is this coming from? What can I do to stop it? How can I prevent myself from feeling this way in the future? Talking back to yourself is a valid technique when confronting an unpleasant emotion. (If you don't believe me, you can ask my therapist.)

In general, I think it all comes down to the same point. Exploring new relationship terrain forces you to discover and work through aspects of yourself that might otherwise remain hidden. And if that means getting to have a boy- or girlfriend for all seasons, more power to you.


Teach Louis how to share with others at [email protected]

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