As will forever be a hurdle to overcome with language, the term polyamory means different things to different people. Open relationships, ethical non-monogamy, consensual non-monogamy, ambiamory, throuples, triads, quads, polycules, swinging, solo polyamory, asexual polyamory, these and many more terms describe the relationship structures available to us when we venture outside the world of monogamy. Our associations and practices of these concepts are as wide and varied as the people who choose to enter these types of relationships. As long as all parties are informed and consenting, polyamorous relationships can blossom in endlessly different expressions.
Fifty Years of Polyamory in America: A Guided Tour of A Growing Movement, written by Glen W. Olson and Terry Lee Brussel-Rogers, is a beautiful homage to many of the early explorers of committed multiple relationships, also known as polyamory, and the many different expressions of this lifestyle choice. This book encourages the reader to reflect on the notions of giving and receiving love, joy, happiness, and connection as we venture through a historical summary of how polyamory has been explored by some of the early adventurers in this relationship style.
Through a yogic lens, if we explore the concept of polyamory through the fifth Yama in Patanjali’s Eight Limbs of Yoga, Aparigraha, we reflect on the toxic cultural narratives that still prevail even in our modern society. The restrictive and imposing assumption that we must choose only one person to love.
This fear-based normative has roots in a variety of largely outdated or unbefitting motivations – everything from the advent of agriculture which paved the way for the American nuclear family, to the commercially relevant notion that houses with large expanded families living under one roof need fewer washers, dryers, cars, and refrigerators than do smaller families living in separate households. A pertinent topic as discussed in Coauthor Terry Lee Brussel-Rogers keynote address at the 2006 Family Synergy Annual Convention.
Aparigraha, as practiced through non-attachment, encourages us to actively reconcile the many aversions and falsities that cloud our authentic expression. In unveiling the transparency of these starvation-oriented relationship incentives, we allow space to embrace our true, uniquely curated, practice of relational expression.
Disrobing our comprehension of romantic love of the false, albeit, societally-projected constructs that are created outside of our own relational experiences and imposed upon our relational expectations is an empowering exercise of self-reflection. Some of these assumed social injustice scripts may include:
- Monogamy is the only “real” type of relationship
- Sexual desire is dirty, sinful, or indulgent
- To be in love is to be in control of the other person (ie: ownership or possession as experienced through jealousy)
- We are not complete as-is and need another to achieve full personhood
- There is a finite amount of love to give and adding partners reduces the love we can offer to our primary relationship
When these scripts don’t fit us, these distracting attachments serve to separate our minds and bodies in ways that leave us feeling isolated, shameful, or otherwise irrelevant and disengaged. Reclaiming our space as dynamic humans capable of love in its many forms allows us to re-approach relational connection based on our own felt sense of what fits us, instead of trying to fit ourselves into a preconceived and standardized package of what a relationship is supposed to look like.
This concept is foundational in my own understanding and associations of polyamory. Through the many practices and varying usages and definitions of the terms, many polyamorists are familiar with the concept of compersion. I’ve felt compersion towards my primary partner in countless ways and situations, but each time I stand in humble awe of how great of a person they are. In those warm moments, I don’t want to control or limit their awesomeness. I see just how amazing they are! I feel honored and loved to be part of their journey. Just as I don’t want the socially accepted notions of what a relationship should look like imposed on me as a method of control, I see how they too don’t want agendas, my own included, imposed upon their true expression. That is what compersion and polyamory means, to me.
Fifty Years of Polyamory in America takes us on a walking tour of the many ways polyamory has been practiced throughout history by various communities around the states. Thank you to the loads of people and organizations who have preceded me on this path of free love. This book decouples the idea of happiness from any one relationship style and sheds light on the fact that there is no right way to structure a relationship, aside from creating more connection, joy, and love in our lives.
Polyamory Day is November 23, 2022.
Guest Posted and written by Larissa Farrell, Education Coordinator at CPS & Owner/Digital Content Creator at LCF Writing Services
Graphics and light edits by Social Media Coordinator Victoria Reuveni (she/her)
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