Is polyamory a choice?


Well, opinions vary on the subject. Some people say that the concept of humans as naturally monogamous is entirely learned, and that if left to their own devices, everyone would be polyamorous. I think that's taking it way too far; the majority of people have neither the time and energy nor the inclination for polyamory.

Other people say that there are no polyamorous people, only polyamorous relationships. I disagree with that too. I know some people who are unable to be happy in a relationship which restricts the way they choose to love others, people for whom monogamous relationships are, as my friend Heather puts it, "trying to put a round peg in a square hole". Conversely, I know people who cannot be happy with more than one relationship happening at a time.

So, on the basis of what I have seen in myself and others, I would have to say that it's pretty much another kind of sexual orientation, like being gay or straight or bi. The research that's been done seems to indicate that very few people are either 100% gay or 100% straight; most people fall somewhere in the middle, although they may lean toward one side or the other. I think it's about the same with polyamory; there are those who cannot be monogamous, just as there are those who are unable to be polyamorous. The majority of people, to my thinking, are somewhat defined by their situation: for example, if a situation comes up in which you realize that you don't want to choose between two people, you may consider polyamory even if you are a monogamously inclined person. Or if you have a partner who is unable or unwilling to deal with polyamory, you may consider monogamy even if it is not what you would naturally choose.

This way of looking at things suggests that polyamory is not a choice; that people are defined as one thing or the other based primarily (no pun intended...) on an inherent nature which they cannot change, and only secondarily based on circumstances. However, the fact remains that almost no one is raised to consider polyamory as an option. It's just not socially recognized.

So in one sense, yes, polyamory is a choice. We could choose to ignore or repress the feelings we have for others and remain sexually/romantically faithful to one person. Or we could choose to deal with it dishonestly and keep each lover a secret from the other ones. Or we could circumvent the problem by avoiding long-term relationships entirely and never committing to anyone. In short, we could change our behavior. But the fact would remain that some people do want to maintain honest romantic/sexual relationships with more than one person at the same time.

People say to me a lot "I could never do that!" But for me, when I have strong feelings for more than one person, the choice between making my life more complicated and denying my feelings is really not much of a choice. I accept the complications along with the joys. I don't feel that it's necessary to ignore the possibility of a wonderful relationship with someone simply because I (or they) happen to love someone else.

I don't know if, scientifically speaking, the tendency toward polyamory is genetic. Maybe it's just that certain combinations of personality traits are more favorable to it. But I do know that if I had to choose, I would choose to live the life I'm living now.

A note about bisexuality: a lot of people think that bisexuality and polyamory are synonymous. They're not. However, it is true that a lot of bi people are polyamorous and vice versa. There are a couple of reasons for that. First of all, people who have been forced to reconsider the social norms they were brought up with in one way (e.g. coming out as bi) are more likely to examine other social norms critically. Second of all, bi people are (to my way of thinking) more likely to identify with the principle of looking for different things in different people.

Definitions of poly-related terms.

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