Over the past few years, polyamory has become a more widely known term and practice.
And perhaps inevitably, certain misconceptions and misunderstandings about what "polyamory" means have become widespread as well.
It would be unfortunately difficult to say which among these misunderstandings is the most common, or the most hurtful to polyamorous folks.
There is a common misconception that a polyamorous relationship is really no different from an open-relationship agreement: one committed couple, with some lighthearted fun on the side.But the word "polyamory," by definition, means loving more than one.Many of us have deeply committed relationships with more than one partner, with no hierarchy among them and no core "couple" at the heart of it all.To me, this notion that there must be one more important relationship, one true love, feels a lot like people looking at same-sex couples and thinking that one person must be the "man" in the relationship and the other must be the "woman." After all, both of these misunderstandings result from people trying to graft their normative conceptions of love and relationships onto people who are partnering in non-normative ways.Generally, any discussion about the benefits of such practice revolves around how it strengthens and/or reinvigorates the central couple in question.
I want to be perfectly clear that I don't see anything wrong with strictly sexual non-monogamy so long as it's genuinely fulfilling and consensual for all involved, including the outside partners.But for those of us living in polyamorous families, it can be incredibly frustrating when people use those concepts of open marriage to make assumptions about the structure of our relationships.Because we live in such a monogamy-centered society, it makes sense that many people can only conceive of non-monogamy in what ultimately still amounts to monogamous terms.It seems that it is somewhat easy for many people to acknowledge that humans are capable of loving one person and still enjoying sex with others (assuming, of course, that the terms of their relationship make such behavior acceptable).But it is much harder for people to think outside the fairy-tale notion of "the one" and imagine that it might be possible to actually romantically love more than one person simultaneously.The unfortunate result of this is that, for those of us in more than one serious and meaningful relationship, the world around us insists on viewing one of those relationships as less valid than the other, especially when one relationship happens to predate others.