Welcome to A Polyamorous Perspective, an advice column where I, Leanne Yau – a bisexual, polyamorous, and neurodivergent educator, writer, and advocate – answer your burning questions on navigating all things non-monogamy. I’ve been in various forms of open relationships since 2016, and have been publicly sharing tips, personal stories, and resources on how to practise healthy, sustainable polyamory since 2020 on my page, @polyphiliablog.
Polyamory is a non-monogamous relationship style where you can have multiple simultaneous loving relationships with the knowledge and consent of everyone involved. Over the years, it’s brought me so much joy, but also comes with its own set of challenges – just like monogamy! With that, let’s jump right in.
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“I’ve been monogamous all my life but have recently developed feelings for two separate people – how do I know if polyamory is right for me?”
I can definitely imagine how this scenario might be confusing! Having feelings for multiple people at once can sometimes feel like you’re being pulled in different directions, especially when most of us have been taught that you can only be in one relationship at a time and that your attraction isn’t real unless it is focused on a singular person.
This is a concept called “mononormativity”, and it runs pretty deep in our societal and cultural values. Developing simultaneous crushes, or developing a crush while in a monogamous relationship, is one of the many ways non-monogamous people discover who they are and start to take steps towards a non-monogamous life.
However, something I always say is that attraction does not necessitate action – you can be attracted to someone without necessarily wanting to pursue a relationship with them. Crushes are one thing, but do you actually want to be in more than one relationship at the same time? Are you ready to take on the responsibility and work it requires to maintain them, to face the stigma of being non-monogamous, and to do the personal work to deconstruct mononormativity from your life? It’s a lot to take on, and the reality of non-monogamy often does not match up with the fantasy, so it’s not for everyone.
Moreover, are the two separate people in question non-monogamous themselves? You could be non-monogamous, but they might not be. Everyone gets to choose for themselves what relationship style they want to practise, and sometimes, even if there is chemistry, there may not be compatibility. If one of them said no to polyamory, would you still want to be in a polyamorous relationship with the other person and seek out other partners? If one of them wanted to be in a monogamous relationship with you, how would that make you feel?
So, how do you know if polyamory is right for you? You can’t really know for sure unless you try – but I’d definitely recommend reading and researching more about it first, and most importantly, figuring out for yourself a reason you want to be non-monogamous that isn’t just “because I want to be with these two people”.
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“Me and my partner have been open for the past 6 months, to mixed results. How do I broach the conversation that I want to close our relationship again?”
A relationship is a bit like Pandora’s Box – once you open it up, it changes things forever. This is not to say that you can’t go back to monogamy, but the way that you practise it after opening and closing will be forever changed. A lot of monogamous relationships operate on exclusivity being a core aspect of the commitment – you love each other, because you know you aren’t into other people.
This is why when someone wants to open up a monogamous relationship, it often throws the other person into a panic about whether they were ever loved at all, because acknowledging that you’re attracted to and want to be with other people is questioning one of the fundamental pillars that made your monogamous relationship feel secure. So if you go back to monogamy, I’d suggest renegotiating your relationship agreements, specifically around what happens if you find yourself attracted to other people in the future.
I’m also curious about why you want to close the relationship and what sort of “mixed results” you experienced. There are of course many valid reasons why someone might want to be in one relationship at a time, but if the reason why you want to close was because of unethical behaviour from your partner that led to mistrust and communication breakdowns in your relationship, I’m afraid that those problems won’t go away even after you close things down. Sure, there might be fewer people involved, but if the problem is your relational skills, that’s an issue that’s going to stick around no matter how many people you’re dating.
Finally, be prepared for the possibility that your partner might not want to close, and that you might have to make a difficult decision. It’s okay to try something and decide it isn’t your thing, but your partner might feel strongly about not going back to monogamy ever again. Ultimately, you do what works best for you, and sometimes that means acknowledging that you are no longer compatible.
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“I’ve been out as poly to my friends for several years, how do I come out to my family? I know they might not react well but I no longer want to feel like I’m hiding part of myself from them.”
Coming out is a very personal decision, and it’s understandable that you want to be your authentic self with the people that you love. I came out to my family as polyamorous first, and bisexual second, and like many queer polyamorous people, they responded to me being polyamorous much more negatively.
The LGBTQIA+ community has gotten much more visibility over the years, but people still struggle with the idea that love can involve more than two people. Hopefully, this will change as we gain more representation and more people are educated about the different ways love and relationships can look – which is part of the reason why I’m doing this column!
If you do go through with coming out to your family, I’d suggest preparing in advance for the potential reactions that might come your way. There are a lot of misconceptions about non-monogamy – in fact, I have an FAQ which addresses a bunch of them on my website – and having a rehearsed script will help you feel more grounded rather than put on the spot when you are inevitably questioned about it.
Most importantly, know that their approval (or lack thereof) does not determine your worth, and that you get to set boundaries with family on how you want to be treated. Don’t let your family walk all over you just because you want to maintain a relationship with them.
Some of them may react positively, some may come around over time, and some will never understand or make any attempts to do so. Educate as much as you feel able, but remember that it is never your responsibility to convince people who are committed to misunderstanding your position. Protect and love yourself, first and foremost.