Polyamory: myth, lie or a real possibility?
A lot of people have asked me about polyamory recently and have expressed an interest in exploring this form of relationship as an alternative to monogamy. It is a subject that is gaining in popularity and yet raises much controversy in our conservative society.
I want to share my experience here around polyamory from my research, my background as a tantra teacher, and a transformational coach dealing with people’s emotions and in-grained patterns. I also intend to explore where and how polyamory sits with the concept of Inner Union that is at the heart of all I share and how I live. I have also personal experience of this subject both myself and in my family line.
What is polyamory?
Every book on polyamory has to start with its definition since the word is not yet commonly recognised. It is a new word invented to describe an a-typical kind of relationship into which the partners choose to enter. The word itself was coined in the late 1980s by an American couple, Morning Glory and Oberon Zell. Deborah Anapol wrote extensively on polyamory and was an avid supporter of it until her death in 2015. She has been described as a founding mother of the modern polyamory movement that she immersed herself in since the 1980s. She first published a book on the subject in 1992: Love without Limits1. In her latest book on polyamory, Anapol defines polyamory as:
“an invented word for a different kind of relationship. Poly comes from Greek and means “many”. Amory comes from Latin and means “love”. Mixing Greek and Latin roots in one word is against the traditional rules, but then so is loving more than one person at a time when it comes to romantic or erotic love.” 2
All the partners involved in a polyamorous set up clearly know that other people are involved, so polyamory differs from cheating.
Why people are drawn to polyamory?
Polyamory is becoming more prevalent as monogamous couples find themselves increasingly dissatisfied with pursuing a traditional way of relating. It often starts with one person sensing that their needs are no longer met by their partner, in particular their sexual needs, yet there is still a deep bond between them. They do not necessarily wish to separate from their partner or betray them by going down a route of getting involved with another person secretly. Author Tristan Taormino explains this trend:
“One of the reasons relationships fail is because we do have unrealistic expectations going into them, fuelled by myths about “the one” true love who is going to be our “everything”. Polyamorous people recognise this fallacy and respect each person’s capabilities and limits when it comes to what they can give. Instead of attempting to change someone, demanding that they be something they’re not, or resenting them for not being Superpartner, polyamorous people have multiple relationships so as to fulfil more of their sexual and emotional needs”. 4
Polyamory offers an alternative option of relating, in which all partners involved are aware of each other and choose to engage in the relationship with full awareness.
The different forms of polyamory
Polyamory can take many forms, in fact as many forms as the partners involved in it choose. One partner can be involved with two separate partners, who themselves can choose to remain monogamous towards that partner or not. That is called a triad and is the usual primal form of polyamory. A triad takes the form of a vee when one partner is the link with the other two people. A triad may also mean that all 3 people are romantically involved together. A triad may or may not live together.
Add an additional person to a triad and you get a quad. A quad may be two couples coming together, but not necessarily. Larger groups with complex patterns of connections are also possible. As you can see, there are many combinations possible. The relationship between two individuals is unique and will call for its own set of rules and understanding, which will then be shared with the additional partner(s). I also want to add here that relationships do not necessarily mean sexual engagement but the recognition of a loving bond between people.
No easy option
Polyamory is no easy option when it is chosen as a conscious way of relating. Don’t be fooled by the concept of “having your cake and eating it” that will come to mind for many of you when you know that a person has more than one sexual partner. I view polyamory more like “double the trouble” at least!
Any relationship has the power to press every single button to trigger our insecurities and bring our shadows into the light. How would you manage your fear of abandonment if you knew your own partner was out for the night with someone else for instance?
It is well known in tantric circles that relationships are a sure way to leave no stone unturned when it comes to places in you that you need to address and heal. Imagine having that twice or more in your life! In my view, it takes a deep level of commitment to be prepared to engage fully with more than one partner. Emotions certainly will run high in polyamorous partners and there is no letting off when the polyamorous person goes from one partner to the other.
The need for openness and communication
The key to success in polyamory lies in the respect of each partner and the openness of communication between the parties involved. Playing emotional games or deceiving people has no place in a polyamorous setting. You have to own your needs, communicate them and decide on your actions, while honouring the boundaries you have set in place with all your partners. Franklin Veaux and Eve Rickert refer to this approach as “Ethical Polyamory”. In their words:
“Practicing polyamory comes with a steep learning curve, and requires a lot of hard work as you build new skills and challenge old ways of thinking. Being ethical means you are willing to look at your actions and their effects on other people.”3
When a polyamorous relationship is based on respect and openness, it can bring many rewards and emotional maturity to the people involved, as they continually face all that arises in their emotional landscape.
Choosing to be polyamorous also requires an acute ability to balance your life as you create time for separate partners as well as for yourself. In the period of my life when I was polyamorous, I became a master at maintaining this even state, being fully present to each partner when I was with them, while also listening to my own needs for solitary time and creating moments to honour this. At times these were challenging waters to navigate, but I gained many skills that still serve me today.
When partners become manipulative
Often partners can become more needy and manipulate you into giving them more and more of your time as it makes them feel good. My advice to you if you are considering a polyamorous relationship is to raise your capacity to be aware of yourself and the emotional state of your partners so that you can always choose from a place of freedom and alignment with yourself.
Another key learning that supported me was to remember that I am not responsible for the reaction of others, however much I care about them. I simply have to know what my heart is telling me, own my reactions and hold myself in integrity. My training in Totality Therapy with Dr Shakti Mari Malan5 served me well for this and I can easily detect when projections arise in my personal life as well as when working with clients and their life circumstances.
A ripe ground for psychological projection
A polyamorous environment creates a ripe ground for projections. A psychological projection is a defense mechanism in which the human ego defends itself against unconscious impulses or qualities (both positive and negative) by denying their existence in themselves while attributing them to others6. In simple terms, you don’t want to see how a certain person or circumstance touches on a part of yourself that you don’t like, so you push that outwards onto another person.
For instance, if I avoid at all cost to feel my fear of being alone, I will try to make my partner feel guilty when they leave me to go to their other partner. Instead, a healthier way to deal with it is to first recognise that this fear arises in me whenever my partner leaves, to explore it and find out when it was first created – it will often originate from a childhood trauma. Going back to that moment in time and healing it is all that is called for. I am very grateful to my clients who trust me enough to go there with me in private one to one sessions when they sometimes have avoided facing such fears or traumas most of their life! Do you start to sense now how polyamory calls for maturity and continual self-improvement?
Of course there are many people out there who hide their own agendas and lack of integrity under the polyamory banner. Some for instance enter the polyamory arena with insatiable sexual needs looking for people to feed their predatory impulses. Variety and quantity are what they will demand. Beware of falling prey to such individuals. You will recognise them by how little they are willing to discuss the framing of the relationship, and their skills at manipulating.
Other people use polyamory to avoid establishing deep intimacy with each partner and not commit themselves to any relationship. As soon as the connection with another veers towards heartfelt intimacy, they will run to another partner rather than be drawn into it. They will come back to you when the same situation happens with another partner…
Those people are usually a lot more considerate than the previous individuals, but make no mistake, you will never find real intimacy with them. You will simply waste your time in a seesaw of barely present connection.
If an authentic relationship is what you are after in a polyamorous setting, stand your ground and call them out on their pattern. They will very likely deny it, but only their actions will tell if they are willing to change…
No solution for avoiding issues in your own existing couple
Similarly, polyamory is no solution for avoiding issues in your own existing couple. It may cover them for a little while, but sooner or later those issues will return to the surface and will have to be faced. The presence of an additional partner at this stage could well make matters worse! My advice to you if your calling for exploring polyamory is tinted by this, is to iron out your couple’s issues as much as you can before you open up to others.
Polyamory and Inner Union - are they compatible?
How does polyamory sit with the concept of Inner Union? Inner Union is a path of emotional healing and self-growth that Nick Hudis and myself have developed. It is a way of “Loving Yourself back to Wholeness”. Our vision and message is to bring meaning, balance and authenticity to people's lives by healing our primary relationship - the relationship we have with our self.
From the perspective of Inner Union a good outer relationship is a reflection of inner harmony. The key is to be aligned within ourselves as a foundation of authenticity in relationship whether polyamorous or monogamous. Polyamory is therefore compatible with Inner Union when it is conducted consciously. If instead you are seeking several relationships because you keep avoiding looking within, then you are using polyamory as an excuse.
Polyamory is compatible with Inner Union but only when it is conducted consciously.
“Our vision and message is to bring meaning, balance and authenticity to people's lives by healing our primary relationship - the relationship we have with our self."
Compersion - a new concept in relationships
One last thing I want to share about polyamory is the concept of compersion. The word “compersion” was coined by members of the Kerista Commune as part of their philosophy of “multipartner polyfidelitous relationships”. For them it refers to an emotion that is the opposite of jealousy, positive feelings about your partner’s other intimacies. Compersion is the ultimate form of empathy, when your love for someone is not attached to simply making you feel good. While this may be one of the hardest skill to acquire for someone involved in polyamory, compersion appears to be the ultimate test in achieving to embody love fully. From that perspective polyamory becomes a powerful teacher to open our hearts further beyond what we ever knew was possible.
Always do your inner work
If you have read this far, I take it that polyamory is of real interest to you. I would encourage you to read further and discuss it with your partner to find out their view about it, even if you have no intention of opening your relationship quite yet. Sometimes such a discussion can spark curiosity about how to make your current relationship even better and fulfil more of what you are seeking.
I am curious too and welcome your comments and further questions on the subject. Such a concept as polyamory depends so much on the people involved and what may work for one couple would lead another one to disastrous consequences.
Always do your inner work, find your way to Inner Union, and from a place of genuinely knowing yourself you will sense what comes next in your life, and in your relationship landscape. I wish you well on this journey.
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1. Deborah Anapol, Love without Limits (Intinet Resource Center, 1992)
2. Deborah Anapol, Polyamory in the 21st Century (Rowman & Littlefields, 2010), 1
3. Tristan Taormino, Opening Up - a guide to creating and sustaining open relationships (Cleis Press Inc 2008), 75
4. Franklin Veaux and Eve Rickert, More Than Two – a practical guide to ethical polyamory (Thorntree Press, 2014), 36
5. Dr Shakti Mari Malan, Sexual Awakening for Women (Shakti, 2012)
6. Wikipedia, psychological projection
Authors - Kalyani Ma Mukti and Nick Hudis
"The words Inner Union describe the incredible sense of wholeness, balance and power that results from the unification of the two aspects of your being, the feminine and the masculine. The practice of Inner Union is the healing and growing of a self-loving relationship with yourself.
This is something we feel passionate about, so much so that it is the foundation we have built our lives, and our relationship on. Together we have almost 60 years of experience in healing work and spiritual practice. We have worked together offering retreats and workshops in France and in Europe as well as one to one coaching since 2010. Kalyani is French, Nick is English. We offer all our work bilingually"
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