My Personal Poly Ideology: A Summary

I’ve probably said a lot of these things in the past on this blog at some point, and the topics I haven’t addressed here yet will probably get their own entire post here at some point in the future. But I thought it might be nice to write a fairly concise little post summarizing my general poly ideology—not the daily practicalities of poly relationships, but my core poly beliefs. I get a lot of google hits here from people who seem to be newly exploring polyamory, and sometimes I think it can be useful for folks in that situation to read a brief overview of how others approach poly rather than reading lengthy pieces about each finer point. And additionally, I think it can also be useful for people to understand the perspective this particular blog is coming from. So with that, I’ll offer my own personal “poly in a nutshell,” which I’ll also be adding to an “about” page here on the blog.

 

I believe that polyamory means, by definition, having the ability to romantically love multiple people simultaneously. And by “ability,” I mean not just the personal capacity, but also the freedom. If you’re in a relationship where the agreement is “you can have sex with multiple people, but don’t get emotionally attached,” that’s great if it works for you, but it’s not polyamory. I don’t think being poly means you can’t ever have more casual sex, or that all of your relationships must be of the deep, committed variety, but identifying as polyamorous should signal that you’re at least open to the possibility of maintaining multiple loving relationships.

My more extensive thoughts on defining poly can be found here and here.

I don’t agree with “rules” within relationships. I think sometimes people need to make agreements, but unlike rules, agreements are mutually consensual, not about one person dictating the behavior of others. I believe that being free to love others necessitates personal autonomy, and that becomes impossible if someone else is given the power to micromanage the details of your personal relationships. I believe people are always entitled to have personal boundaries, ie, “I’m not willing to do ______.” But this is not the same as saying “you’re not allowed to ______.” I’m of the opinion that genuine love and respect in relationships make rules unnecessary, and that without genuine love and respect, rules aren’t ultimately going to help you.

More of my thoughts on rules can be found here and here.

Along the same lines as my feelings about rules, I don’t agree with “veto power,” where one partner has the right to “veto” another’s choice of partners. I believe this is both completely unfair and dehumanizing to the third-party in these situations, and is possessive and controlling in a way that runs counter to everything I value about being polyamorous.

I also do not agree with any kind of double-standards within poly relationships, especially the far-too-common gendered double standard wherein a man allows his wife/girlfriend to have female partners but not male partners, while he is permitted to have female partners himself (in poly-jargon, the “one-penis-policy”). Even setting aside the obvious patriarchal connotations of these arrangements, if what we’re talking about when we use the word “polyamory” is actually love, I don’t believe love can be made to answer to such terms. “You can only fall in love with people of my choosing” is not how love actually works. I believe love must be freely and autonomously given—without being subject to the rules, regulations, and permissions of someone else. This is not to say I believe in imposing an artificial “fairness” on the situation; if a woman is only interested in dating other women outside of her relationship with a man, for example, that’s great. Plenty of people in poly relationships have different numbers of partners than one another, or relationships that are at different levels of seriousness and commitment. This is all well and good, as long as each individual is free to relate to others however they choose. Wanting different things is not the same as an externally imposed double-standard; equality simply means that all members of a relationship have the same freedoms.

I am not in favor of using hierarchical terms like “primary” and “secondary” to designate one’s relationships. Again, I don’t believe that any kind of artificial equality should be imposed, and it’s natural and normal for different relationships to take different forms and have different levels of meaning and commitment. But that does not require identifying those relationships in a way that hierarchically ranks them against one another.

More on the use of primary/secondary labels can be found here.

Finally, I believe strongly in viewing polyamory in a broader sociopolitical context. Society’s enforcement of compulsory monogamy is deeply tied up with patriarchy and other systems of oppression, and I think any work we do to increase awareness and acceptance of poly relationships should be done with mindfulness about the intersections between various forms of oppression in our society.

More of my thoughts on poly in a broader context can be found here, here, and here, as well as in a multitude of other pieces on this blog.

It’s important to note that this is all just my personal ideology, and it is often said that there are as many ways to “do” poly as there are poly people. But so often, “how-to” poly advice treats things such as rules, primary/secondary labels, and veto power as though they are absolute givens in polyamorous relationships. If nothing else, I like to offer an alternative point of view, and perhaps some comfort for those who are wondering whether things like rules and veto power in poly relationships are really necessities.

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2 thoughts on “My Personal Poly Ideology: A Summary

  1. mamaziller

    I think having no rules and not giving veto power is a rule. If you commit to someone, to live with them and build a life with them it is normal that you would have to start considering how your actions affect that person emotionally. If you fall in love with someone and decide to commit to them (commitment is already quite a rule) and they get jealous about another person that you start falling for then giving them veto power is just a form of caring about them emotionally. It is a form of being considerate. I do not see how monogamy is the result of the patriarchy. I just see (equally at polyamory) as an alternative to the most natural relationship between men and women (no relationship, with no commitment and no live together).

    I do not mean to be rude by the way. I just like discussing.

    Reply
    1. Angi Post author

      I’m defining “rules” here as regulations placed on one person’s behavior by another person, not just as any mutually agreed upon practice. If you’re using “rule” in the broader “accepted practices” sense, then sure, everyone has “rules” within their families. But that’s not generally what people mean when they talk about rules in poly relationships, and it’s not what I mean here. I’m talking about instances where someone would say “you’re not allowed to _____” or “you must ______,” and there will be punishment if you break that rule. And I don’t believe in people in romantic relationships dictating one another’s behavior in that way. A commitment isn’t a rule, it’s a commitment–a mutually entered into agreement. Rules, as I’m using the term, are specifically about controlling others’ behavior. And that’s certainly not what I consider the function of commitment to be. Rules are also not the same thing as simply caring about others’ behavior. In the longer pieces about rules that I linked to above, I talked extensively about the fact that people within relationships still must communicate, respect one another, and care about one another’s feelings. “No rules” doesn’t mean “I do whatever I want and to hell with you if you don’t like it,” it means “if you’re unhappy with something, we’ll talk about it together and work to find a solution that makes us both feel better.” The whole point is that we don’t need rules to force us to respect one another, and in fact rules can never actually serve as substitute for actual respect.

      I personally think that veto power is extremely cruel and destructive, and to say that giving it to someone is a way of showing you care is really problematic. I don’t show people that I care about them by allowing them to control me. I show people I care about them with how I treat them directly. Anyone who thinks they need to have authority over me and my relationships with other people in order to know that I care about them is not someone I am interested in being involved with.

      I’ve written quite a bit on this blog about monogamy and patriarchy under the feminism tag, and also in the pieces I linked above, so I’m not going to ramble about it here 🙂

      Reply

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