The Soho Sex Column: I want to try polyamory, but have no idea where to start
This week, our resident sexpert Olivia Petter interrogates the often misunderstood practice of loving multiple people all at once
Friday 5 August 2022 By Olivia Petter Illustration by Clémence Gouy
To those who know nothing about polyamory, the word will probably conjure up one of the following scenes: a group of people arguing about schedules, three people sharing a giant bed, or some sort of orgy straight out of Eyes Wide Shut.
Not only are none of these examples accurate, but they’re also offensive to the poly community. And yet, they’re often the ways in which this way of life is depicted in popular culture, or spoken about by those outside of it.
To be clear: I am not polyamorous. But it’s something I’ve become curious about the more I’ve learnt about it – and evidently, I’m not the only one. However, perhaps like you, I don’t know anyone in my immediate friendship circle who is polyamorous and have only really become familiar with it through my work as a journalist. And, given that roughly 1% of Brits are polyamorous, I suspect some of the people reading this article are just as out of touch as I was.
With this in mind, a clearer, more specific definition might be helpful. Put simply: polyamory is the practice of having sexual or romantic relationships with two or more people at the same time. At least, that’s what it says in the Cambridge Dictionary. But the reality is how it works can be far more complex. Not least because it will require you to consciously unlearn everything you’ve been conditioned to think about relationships.
We live in a world that is built around monogamy. Think about it: literally everything is made for pairs. Beds, hotel rooms, two-for-one deals at Dominos. Almost nothing in our society is geared towards those in romantic relationships where the number of partners exceeds two. Consider all this on top of the fact that polyamory remains practically untouched in film and TV and it’s no wonder there are so few people living this way. It doesn’t mean they don’t want to, they might just not know enough about it.
But things are slowly changing. Consider the increasing conversation around ethical non-monogamy, a slightly broader term that can refer to any arrangement where people have multiple consensual intimate connections. Meanwhile, there was even a portrayal of a polyamorous relationship depicted in the recent remake of Gossip Girl.
Slowly but surely, it’s becoming less taboo to explore romance outside of the monogamistic ideal we’ve been conditioned to subscribe to. That can only be a good thing.
As for where to start if you find yourself wanting to try something new, may I direct you to Morgan K, polyamory coach and creator of the Chill Polyamory Project, who has kindly shared her tips for anyone who is keen to explore polyamory. Enjoy – and good luck.
1. Don't underestimate the huge mental shift required to live this way. Unlearning mononormativity takes time.
2. Read and listen to as many books, podcasts and IG/ TikTok videos about this community as you can.
3. Secure polyamory means you have to face every fear, insecurity and trauma response you may have been avoiding. So, if you have access to therapy, use it. Many polyamorous elders also offer peer support on a sliding scale.
4. Partner choice matters. If anyone acts routinely selfish, reckless or inconsiderate, run. Secure attachments are built through collaborative problem solving, so you’ll need partner(s) who are teammates.
5. If it feels like too much, you don’t have to do it. Most of us do this work because we can’t imagine ever being monogamous again. It does take time, energy and resources to finally feel safe. But it gets better, and you don’t have to figure out anything alone.
The quick-fire round
What do you do when you’re in a relationship, but really fancy someone else?
Consider whether you still love your current partner. Is your attraction to this other person based on a lack of something in your current relationship? Focus on that first. If you conclude that you’re happy in your relationship, and you still find yourself fancying another person, talk to your partner about it. It might be time to explore non-monogamy…
Why are so many quality women single today?
You ask this like there’s something wrong with single women. Like it’s a crime for ‘quality women’ to be alone, or we’re a problem that needs fixing. It is not and we are not. Get a grip and dance around to Lizzo’s new album.
If you want to get in touch, please email me at email@example.com. All submissions will remain anonymous.
Olivia Petter is the relationships writer at The Independent and author of Millennial Love, which is out now in paperback with 4th Estate