I have always been an advocate of open non-superficial romantic relationships, but didn't know there was a name for them until I was well into my 50s and began dating for the first time in about 25 years.
I hadn't dated for so long because my life-partner Patricia and I had been in a long-term relationship, and although our relationship had always been open, we were also very conservative about getting involved with others and had only become involved with others once during our time together.
The emotional flow of our relationship had been as natural as breathing so when she died of cancer in 2015, I suddenly felt as though I was left in a vacuum, and that part of me was dying along with her. My chest felt like a wreath of cinders that someone could pass their hand right through because there was simply nothing left at the center where my heart had once been.
One day while carrying a bookcase up a flight of stairs I got stuck and the weight began to drain my strength. My emotional state had also taken a physical toll, and I unexpectedly found myself struggling. It suddenly dawned on me that if I collapsed and was injured, it would be days or weeks before anyone bothered checking on me. It could be the end.
Patricia had written in her journal that she wanted me to accept her death and move on, but my heart just wasn't in it. However I was now faced with either giving up or literally finding a way to carry on. Being a survivor and knowing Patricia wouldn't want me to simply give up, I gathered my remaining strength, hoisted the bookshelf into a manageable position, and took my first steps toward finding a new relationship.
One of the first things I did was visit Indigo, a local bookstore in the hope of getting some insight into dating for guys my age. There were the usual self-help offerings for recovering from typical relationship breakdowns and divorce. There was also plenty of advice on how to find that one perfect partner who is right for you.
Somewhat ironically, while leafing through these titles, it looked like the reasons for many relationship breakdowns stem from the belief that there is one and only one partner that is right for anyone at a given time. But that factor was conspicuously absent as a causal factor because the premise for the relationship in question was consistently a monogamous model.
Consequently the section also consisted of titles on how to get out of those relationships and into new ones with the same inherent weakness. There was also the usual junk psychology, and religious self-help books for those who believe in astrology, numerology, religion and mythology. Clearly there were some disconnects, and I thought to myself, no wonder so many relationships have so many problems!
I decided to browse a few titles while enjoying a caffè latte at the bookstore's Starbucks. While selecting which books to take to my table, it occurred to me that if I wanted to appear interesting and appealing to any potential prospects who might happen along over coffee, that titles suggesting I was looking for psychological help probably weren't a great idea.
There were also a few options on how to get into swinging and other alternative sex-based lifestyles, but that's not what I was interested in. An oversized paperback called Dating After 50 For Dummies, caught my attention, but on second thought, I might as well have been holding a giant black and yellow warning sign that said, "Old & Desperate".
So I began looking for something more colorful and among the various titles was one called The Ethical Slut. Surprisingly, it didn't take long before I was involuntarily nodding my head in agreement. Despite the rather racy title, it made a lot of sense. It also turned out to be what many poly people consider to be the Bible of the Polyamory community. Before then I'd never heard of Polyamory.
So through a combination of fate and circumstance I had found a name for the type of relationship that resonates with me. Even better, I discovered that there are more people like me out there someplace, and therefore perhaps there was hope that I could meet one of them. That didn't happen. Instead I met a wonderful mono woman, and that led to another series of challenges discussed on the Poly Mono Pairing page.TOP
I was fortunate to have stumbled upon polyamory in a manner that allowed me to study it on my own terms and gain a personal perspective on it before getting involved. But many people are introduced to it by someone else.
Being introduced to polyamory by someone else can have advantages or disadvantages, especially if one evening your partner suddenly says, "Honey, maybe we try polyamory." and you say, "I haven't got the faintest idea what you're talking about." because that leaves you open to being manipulated into something that you aren't prepared for and may not even be polyamory. Here's an example:
In order to try to connect with other poly people I decided to join a local polyamory group in an online community called Meetup. That was where I got my first inkling that the reality of polyamory can be very different from the ideal. Right away I was invited to take part in an event where participants were to gather in groups and discuss how others could provide them with a little piece of "Heaven on Earth".
That didn't sound so bad, but upon further investigation it turned out that "Heaven On Earth" was interpreted by a number of people as a euphemism for their sex fantasies, and we were being encouraged to attend an after party that turned out to be a swinger's club that charged a rather steep admission only to men. So basically this group was serving as a recruiting pool for a sexist swinger's club.
As covered in the Introduction, the various forms of indiscriminate sex in the absence of a meaningful relationship are as shallow to truly poly people as they are to many mono people. I brought my concern to one of the group's organizers who simply suggested that their group wasn't for me.
Feeling misled and rather appalled I immediately withdrew from that group. But had I not done my own research first, I might have been convinced by a trusted partner or friend that everything was at it should be, and that polyamory itself was something completely different than what it is, and therefore it wasn't for me.TOP
Whether it's a positive or negative spin, television and the media in general tend to portray polyamory incompletely, and in doing so they can leave false or ethically questionable impressions about polyamory. Of particular prevalence are articles that suggest polyamory as a cure for ailing mono relationships. As covered on the Polyamory & Marriage and Understanding Bias pages, there are some serious ethical considerations in that sort of advice.
In today's world, the media in general is a powerful social conditioner. So it should come as no surprise that it should consistently portray cultural stereotypes that reinforce prevailing beliefs and customs. Consequently we're bombarded by plot lines portraying mono relationships as the norm, while alternative views are generally criticized or portrayed in a negative light.
Around the time I was writing this page, I happened to tune in to an episode of The View, a television talk-show on which the panel were trashing an actor for his views on non-monogamy. The panel's bias appeared to me to be thick and self-centered, based only on shallow knee-jerk reactions.
On another channel was a fictional TV series in which the actress played the part of an abused run-away who became involved with an unsavory character who was into polyamory. However the behavior of the unsavory character in no-way resembled actual polyamory. He was a wolf in sheep's clothing. More about them is outlined on the Reasons For Caution page.
Much more could be said about the role of the media as a tool for social conditioning. Suffice it to say that real life is seldom as portrayed on TV. More often than not TV conforms to popular opinion to get higher ratings, which means it appeals to the masses rather than those who may be better informed but of a different view than the status quo.
It should also be pointed out that despite the heavy social conditioning of the media, monogamy continues to fail, resulting in breakup after breakup. Even shows like The Bachelor and The Bachelorette that feature all the trappings of an ideal mono relationship fail to demonstrate that monogamy is really what they want.
83 Percent of "Bachelors" and "Bachelorettes" Call It Quits - Shape
When it comes to discovering polyamory, the lesson is that whether you've stumbled on it yourself, or someone ( including your spouse ) wants to introduce you to it, do some of your own research at arm's-length before adopting it as a lifestyle.
Learn bout what polyamory really is on a fundamental and historically objective level ( see the Introduction ). Then you'll be better prepared to discern who's truly poly, who's not, and decide for yourself what sort of poly lifestyle ( if any ) is the right choice for you.