by Ocean DeRouchie
I know how bad that might look on paper. But for the longest time, no matter how long I was with someone, no matter how much I cared for them, I would eventually find myself in a situation where I had serious feelings for another person(s).
Any sentiment of guilt or shame I felt came less so from the consequences of any action, and moreso from a societal belief that “sleeping with someone else is something you do to your partner, not for yourself,” as Dossie Easton and Janet W. Hardy put it so eloquently in their remarkable book, The Ethical Slut.
It wasn’t out of not loving my partner, or out of wanting to cause harm, that I acted on those feelings—I was just happy to share love, and I found that the more love I had to give, the more love I had to share.
So for years, I would try to follow my heart—and end up hurting everyone else’s in the process.
At the end of summer of 2015, I came to the conclusion that being in exclusive relationships was a no-no. I started telling new romantic interests that I was polyamorous, and soon enough my heart felt lighter and lighter. The realization that polyamory, for me, was moreso a part of who I am, rather than a lifestyle choice, came with a strong sense of self, and an even stronger feeling of relief.
That’s not to say that sharing this with people didn’t come without some intense reactions. When I first told my mom, she was like, “No, Ocean, you just need a boyfriend.” To which I responded, “No, Mom—I have like, five of them.” Her concern and bewilderment—which comes from a sincere, distinct place of love—is shared by many others who find out that someone in their life is polyamorous. It comes from a sheer lack of public knowledge or even comfortable conversation around non-monogamy.
However, polyamory still remains taboo in nature, and is largely ignored as a research topic as a result. It was only last summer that data from the first-ever national survey on polyamorous families emerged.
The survey collected information from 547 respondents—all self-identified poly folks in “families,” or what I just call “relationships,” between three or more consenting adults. It’s worth noting that this is by no means an exhaustive representation of polyamorous relationship structures.
The survey also (somewhat) reclaims the word “family,” indicating that the meaning of it in Canada is evolving.
Of these respondents, there was a general consensus that public acceptance of polyamory is increasing, but perceptions that it’s a kink or fetish, or is somehow aligned with polygamy, is still giving it a bad rap.
Poly peeps have to consider who they tell, because “many parts of the world will not welcome us with open arms,” write Easton and Hardy. People have lost jobs, been denied leases and lost custody battles. “It’s not easy being easy,” they point out.
My experiences telling potential partners since this coming-to-terms with myself are different depending on the person. Some are uncomfortable with the idea of a partner pursuing other interests—and that’s okay; people need to set their own boundaries. On the other hand though, there are people who are into it, and they aren’t as few and far between as you might expect.
Poly living situations are on the rise, too. There was a time not too long ago when I was considering a move-in with two of my former partners. The dream, as a friend of mine once called it, never came true, but discussions around the idea included how many bedrooms we might want, in what context would it be appropriate to bring our other partners into the shared space, and beyond.
When looking at poly living situations, the 2016 survey found that most people lived between two households. However, one fifth of them said that all members of their relationship lived in one home. In these single-home families, three fifths of them included one married couple. ...