Some people stress about finding the perfect gift or the right restaurant reservations for Valentine’s Day, but for Rachel Yi, a sophomore film production major, the real challenge is balancing all of her dates without letting jealousy interfere.
Yi wanted to set her own terms for dating polyamorously, when it seemed to her like monogamy was only advantageous for men “to acquire women like property.”
“I just didn’t like the idea of ‘I complete you and you complete me,’ like we aren’t truly ourselves and complete without a partner,” said Yi, who has multiple partners.
Polyamory is the practice of having multiple romantic relationships – with all the same qualities of a monogamous relationship – at one time. Although there may be more than two romantic partners involved in polyamorous relationships, that does not guarantee that each partner is also polyamorous. For example, there may be a group of three monogamous men each dating the same polyamorous woman.
“I just want there to be more education and dialogue on the matter because I still hear the craziest preconceived notions about polyamory. I hear, ‘Isn’t polyamory just cheating?’ a lot.”
Michaela Hook, a senior creative writing major, entered a relationship believing it would be monogamous, but later discovered that her partner was polyamorous.
“I know it’s not for everyone. I’m a monogamist myself, but I wouldn’t change my girlfriend for the world and will stand with her if she ever decides to pursue another partner,” Hook said. “We both had this preconceived notion of monogamy, so when she started realizing that she could possibly have feelings for someone else while still feel the same way about me, she felt extremely guilty and ashamed.”
Though she personally doesn’t want to date multiple people, Hook supports her girlfriend by exploring and overcoming any jealousy, and by setting her own guidelines for comfort.
“(My girlfriend) emphasized that, no matter who she has feelings for, I come first, because we’re a team and she doesn’t want to be with another person if I am not OK with it,” Hook said.
In Hook’s relationship, she is the primary significant other. For now, her Valentine’s Day will be shared solely between her and her girlfriend, but she is willing to discuss and adapt to her girlfriend’s needs. However, not all polyamorous relationships function this way. For Yi, all her significant others are equal, and each member communicates and respects the desires of the other. This makes Valentine’s Day difficult, so she opts out of it all together to allow everyone involved in the relationship a peace of mind.
“When I am dating polyamorously, I try to set up certain dates and times to meet up with my significant others, but ever since one of my exes got jealous when I didn’t spend time with them on Valentine’s Day, I’ve just decided not to spend physical time with anyone on that day,” Yi said.
Though jealousy can be a primary stressor in polyamorous relationships, Hook and Yi stress that it is not a form of cheating, but rather a complicated lifestyle in which one must set clear boundaries and communicate with all of their partners.
“I just want there to be more education and dialogue on the matter because I still hear the craziest preconceived notions about polyamory. I hear, ‘Isn’t polyamory just cheating?’ a lot,” Yi said.
Chapman professor Cheryl Crippen, who has studied LGBTQIA+ psychology for years, believes many people attach a negative connotation to polyamory because of its misrepresentation in popular western culture.
“(In the U.S), monogamous relationships are privileged and other relationship structures are considered deviant. Polyamorous relationships are predicated on trust, honesty, transparency and commitment between those in the relationship,” Crippen said.
She believes that, despite having multiple partners, polyamorous couples do not encounter any more problems than monogamous couples do. In fact, she believes the structure of a polyamorous relationship can actually promote stronger flexibility and communication between partners.
“Individuals who thrive in poly relationships tend to have a well-defined sense of self, are secure in their relationships with their partners, and are assertive in communicating their needs,” Crippen said.
Hook added that polyamory may be out of the “societal norm,” but is just as meaningful as monogamy.
“Just try to have an open mind, let love be love, and if you are confused or offended, try to educate yourself and be kind. Polyamorous people are just living their lives loving people in their own way,” she said.