‘Oh you’re swingers?’; Debunking myths about polyamory
More people in Saskatoon are rejecting the idea of monogamy and society’s expectations for relationships, according to a person who practices the lifestyle.
Frank Collins is one of hundreds of people in the city who identify as polyamorous – people who have multiple partners.
While the relationship style is growing, Collins said there are still plenty of myths.
“‘Polyamory, oh you’re swingers. Polyamory, oh where’s the orgy?’” Collins explained as some of the misconceptions he hears.
Collins and his wife have been together for 16 years. He has also openly dated other women for four years.
In the relationship spectrum, if monogamy is on the far left, polyamory would be on the far right and “swingers” would fall somewhere in the middle – according to Collins.
“It’s me and two people. Maybe it’s, ‘I have a relationship with this person, who has a relationship with this person, who also has a relationship with me,’” Collins said.
Intimacy in polyamorous relationships
Poly relationships don’t always involve sex, though it’s a topic Collins said he often finds himself discussing.
“I usually ask them how their sex life is,” he chuckled. “That usually diffuses it. Most people don’t feel super comfortable talking about their sex life.”
Collins said there are misconceptions about people in non-monogamous relationships being solely focused on sex.
“It’s not about, ‘Hey I’m married to this person, I’m going to have sex with this person.’ That’s not what it’s about, but that’s the first thing that comes to people’s mind I think,” Collins said.
Collins said having an emotional connection with his partners is more important to him than sex. For some people it is about the intimacy and for others it’s not at all, he said.
More partners, less time
For Collins, managing time has been the biggest hurdle in his poly lifestyle as multiple relationships naturally require more time and effort to maintain.
Jacqueline Karley identifies herself as solo-poly – she has a relationship with herself first, followed by her other partners.
“I have one long-term relationship and two kind of medium-term so far, and I’ve been on a couple dates recently,” Karley said. In total, she’s in a relationship with three people.
Karley said her relationships run parallel, and don’t often intersect.
“My partners don’t have to be friends, but we could sit down and have a cup of coffee together,” she said.
That coffee date could go smoother than you might think. People in poly relationships are often better communicators than those who are monogamous, according to relationship experts.
“With monogamous relationships by in large, there’s an implied assumption that we’re going to be sexually faithful to each other, but often without discussion on what that means,” said Barbara Morrison, a Saskatoon relationship counsellor.
With poly relationships communication is implicit, Morrison said. She called them “emotional conversation ninjas.”
“People will talk about those things because it’s implicit in the relationship dynamic,” she said.
Managing jealousy in poly relationships
When it comes to jealousy, both Collins and Karley said they look within, rather than pointing blame on their partner.
“I stop and say OK, ‘I’m feeling that. What is causing me to feel it?’ So I know what it is, why it is, and I can go about the self-work to diffuse it,” Collins said.
“I have to take responsibility for my own emotions, and jealousy is an emotion I need to figure out where it came from,” Karley said.
While polyamory may seem unusual, it’s actually monogamy that is unnatural for humans, according to a professor at the University of Saskatchewan.
For great apes, humans’ closest living relatives, monogamy doesn’t exist – and for primates in general, it’s uncommon.
“Mated-pair bonds among primates is uncommon, seen among some lemur (25 per cent) and New World monkey species, but rarely among Old World monkeys and apes,” said Angela Lieverse,professor and head of the Department of Archaeology and Anthropology.
Monogamy “is certainly not ubiquitous across our species,” she said, describing monogamy as a cultural phenomenon.
Polyamory in Saskatchewan
Collins says poly relationships are more common than you think.
“Our community in Saskatoon and in Saskatchewan is quite large and growing all the time,” he said.
Access to social media is helping people come out, according to Collins. Both Collins and Karley are a part of a secret Facebook group with hundreds of Saskatoon members.
“There’s somebody in your social circle that’s polyamorous,” Collins said.