by Lily Zheng
In high school, I probably wouldn’t have predicted that polyamory would have any part in my time as a Stanford student.
I figured that maybe I’d find someone I’d like, we’d date and then we’d presumably either break up or marry — only two options, and both of them daunting. Could I even date people if I had to choose between falling out with them or marriage? Marriage?
And then I actually came to campus and added the word “hookup” to my vocabulary, and for a few short months I thought everything made sense. It was so convenient to have that sort of no-strings-attached intimacy, so nice to not have to date so I didn’t have to think about the future. For that one night I’d have a hell of a time, and then we’d perhaps smile at each other for a week as we biked past in opposite directions. Then we’d forget about each other, rinse, repeat. Welcome to Stanford, right? We’ve all grown to accept that.
But when I started falling in love with multiple people instead of just hooking up, I had to ask myself if I was ready for polyamory. Well, the first question I asked was: Was poly even okay?
When it happened, it wasn’t as if it was nonconsensual — we were all from campus, we all talked about it, agreed on it, had the consent of everyone involved. We went on cute dinner dates, bickered over completely pointless things, flirted over Skype, cuddled — how was that different from “normal”? My friends had similar relationships and were some of the happiest, most content people I knew. But for some reason, poly didn’t make sense to people around me.
Some people told me that my love wasn’t genuine since it was “spread out,” or something — how could I be so cruel to my partners as to only love them half as much as I should, or a third as much as I should? I was honestly puzzled by the question; what about people with two kids? Is each only loved half as much as they should be? Sorry, economists, but love is an infinite resource — it’s not like love takes up space, and we tend to have large hearts in the first place. Why restrict yourself to one?
Polyamory is hardly perfect — we deal with the same things that all relationships go through. Jealousy, miscommunication, loneliness; we work through the same issues as people in monogamous relationships, except that for polyamorous relationships, communicating about these things is not a choice but a necessity. Communication is the only difference between a healthy poly relationship and cheating on your monoamorous partner. And so we tell each other when we’re feeling jealous, when we develop feelings for new people, about how we feel towards each other multiple times a week. ...