Polyamory is the desire and willingness to date and form intimate relationships with more than one person with the awareness and understanding of everyone involved. The odds of you already knowing this are high, as Vancouver has a thriving polyamorous and poly-friendly community with multiple groups and meetings to support it. That community definitely plays a role in keeping Vancouver erotic.
I have identified as polyamorous – or poly – since 2008. It is very much part of my identity now, which flies in the face of the Roman Catholic-fueled education and pop culture influences of my formative years. And for that, I am very happy.
While growing up I was told that monogamy was natural and right and that building relationships meant choosing that one right person to date. If you discover you are dating the wrong person, then you start over. The process continues until you find the right one (or think you have the right one), marry that person, and then begin to reproduce. And then you teach your kids about finding that special one, and so on, and so on. Any other option would be unethical and irresponsible, I was taught. And yet troubled marriages and divorces provided a view into the reality of this option. This clashed with what I was told about monogamy, but did not yet drown the fires of monogamy that were forged within me.
Fast forward to 2008. With three long-term relationships behind me, I performed autopsies to evaluate what had not worked in these past relationships and what I wanted in future ones. It was clear that I had settled into long-term relationships far too soon and without confirming a true compatibility. I knew I was done with the traditional dating game. And so I dated, but would not commit.
Around this time I met a lovely woman and decided to go on a date with her. Despite my skepticism of dating, her warmth, intelligence, beauty, and compassion won me over easily. I found the best elements of all my prior relationships: a sense of fun and wonder, trust, loyalty, social and sexual experimentation and openness. She introduced me to the concept of polyamory, and so I entered the wonderful polyamorous pools of dating in my late 30s.
As a concept polyamory made sense, but as long as it remained just a concept I could not get comfortable with it. When I got an opportunity to interact with folks who identified as polyamorous, something clicked. Polyamory moved from an abstract way of life to something more concrete and applicable to myself. And as I tend to do when I am interested in learning about something new, I dove right in. I began attending monthly Vancouver Polyamory meetings and Men’s Poly Group meetings, which I would facilitate for 18 months. With each meeting and discussion, I was able to define what polyamory meant for me much more easily, distilling it down to this:
“Being polyamorous means that instead of building new intimate relationships with someone instead of your current partner, you can build new intimate relationships with people in addition to that partner. The key, of course, is to ensure you do so consensually, ethically, and responsibly.”
The ethical portion is critical. For example, the latest issue of Esquire tries to define polyamory as “the term invented for people who reinvented cheating.” While it isn’t clear if writer Stacey Woods is uninformed or failing to be funny, I can understand where the comment comes from. I have seen people try to retroactively define non-communikcative or dysfunctional relationships or even affairs as polyamorous. I have seen people juggling multiple relationships and secret one-night stands and telling people they are into polyamory. Don’t be the person approaching polyamory this way – because it is not polyamory.
On the other hand, if you are open to forming multiple relationships while everyone involved is aware and game for it, polyamory may be a good non-monogamous option for you. While I don’t presume that non-monogamy and polyamory would work for everyone, I know many people who identify as such and balance more than one relationships in a very fulfilling way.
RESOURCES: If you are interested in learning more about polyamory, you are in luck. As I mentioned earlier, Vancouver has a thriving polyamorous and poly-friendly community.
A good starting point is the web site for the Van Poly group. Van Poly hosts monthly meet and greets on the first Friday of each month. The Van Poly site includes a thorough calendar of poly-related groups, events and contact information, including:
- Vancouver Poly 101, which hosts regular monthly discussions with one focused specifically on BDSM. They also host social events.
- Women’s Poly Meet group, which holds a monthly discussion and a monthly support meeting.
- VanPoly LGBTQIS group, which holds periodic meetings.
- And finally, the Men’s Poly Meet group I mentioned earlier also holds periodic meetings.
If you are leaning more towards reading rather than meeting in the flesh, read Opening Up by Tristan Taormino (2008). While many point to The Ethical Slut as the poly bible, I find Taormino’s book much more engaging and provides a solid overview on multiple non-monogamous options and how you and your partner(s) can open up your relationship. More Than Two, by local and semi-local authors Eve Rickert and Franklin Veaux, describes itself as “a practical, hands-on toolkit for having happy, successful polyamorous relationships”. And to take a look at the prehistoric origins of sexuality (and how non-monogamy fits in), read Sex at Dawn by Christopher Ryan and Cacilda Jethá.