I realised I was polyamorous 5 years into my marriage - the difference between polyamory and polygamy

Transcript of a video titled 'I realised I was polyamorous 5 years into my marriage' - the difference between polyamory and polygamy” which is taken from an interview with an anonymous member of ZAPoly, the South African Polyamory organisation/group. The video shows a silhouette of a person in deep shadow, responding to questions from off-camera.


I think there's a running debate in the polyamorous community about whether polyamorous people are born that way, or whether it's a lifestyle choice.

And there is actually a lot of mixed opinions on this from within the community itself, from people who identify as polyamory... as polyamorous individuals, um, they don't always even know how to answer that question.

You get those of us who feel that from our earliest memories we've always been capable of loving two people at the same time. We've always felt comfortable with that and there's never been a time in our lives that we've ever questioned this as being how we are and what we need to do.

And for others of us it was more a process of sort of becoming aware of the fact that once we began to deal with our insecurities and you know sort of any kind of lingering prejudices that we had about about having multiple lovers we began to realize that we were actually more comfortable than we thought and that it actually worked for us.

I know that several of the group moderators are definitely, they would call themselves , inherently poly, they were born that way.

I only realized that I was polyamorous about five or six years into my marriage, so...

And it's, it happened because I discovered that I was in love with a woman. (Laughing) So, really a very challenging situation for any marriage to recover from and yet a further five years after that we’re still together, everything's growing well.

So it's something that I wouldn't want to define for other polyamorous people. It's not.. it's not a settled thing either way, but society has a lot of very strong ideas about what relationships shouldn’t shouldn't be.

And I actually think a lot of people are quietly dying desperately unhappy deaths in their relationships because of the fact that they’re not really building their relationships, from scratch with the things that they want their relationships to contain and to be.

They're trying to conform to a societal ideal of what their relationship should be that doesn't really suit them, at all.

And I think if you look at the divorce rates historically compared to the fact that gradually as society has started to open up and be more flexible about gender roles and the role of different partners in the relationship and the fact that we more often marry for love, the more that those relationship restrictions have started to fall away, the more stable our relationships have got. The divorce rate is in decline. So I think challenging societal norms about what relationships should look like is an essential part of ensuring that we actually have greater marriage stability in future.

Alright, so as mentioned before, the Ethical non-monogamy as the umbrella term...

You could say, there are certain types of polygamy that I would consider non-ethical non-monogamy and this is typically the kind of thing that people really strongly object to. So you are looking at religious cults where little girls are forced to marry a man, or you know, those kinds of experiences, that to me is very non-ethical non-monogamy, but some forms of polygamy are actually, in my opinion, ethical non-monogamy.

If you, if you're looking at five people who are fully adult, fully grown, fully consenting to having a fully polygamous marriage I'm cool with that, no problem there.

My concern does come in with the fact that we do live in a very patriarchal, very sexist society, and typically women don't have the same kind rights and privileges and freedoms that they would have if there was more gender equality and so quite often you'll see those kinds of elements creeping into polygamous relationships and I think a lot of South Africa's discomfort with polygamy comes from that.

Polyamory really challenges this issue head-on, because we don't challenge the idea of having multiple partners, we challenge the idea of having inequality in relationships. Polyamory is gender equal so both the male and the female members of the relationship are fully free to have relationships of their own, they don't have to conform to a rule of only one man gets multiple wives. And so it's... to me it is a much more equitable, much more fair way of running open relationships of this kind.

And I would actually love to see how traditionally polygamous societies feel how their women folk feel about the idea of actually having the same freedoms, as rights, as their men folk do.

It's in our constitution. Gender discrimination is prohibited by our constitution but you don't see that really percolating through the rest of our society.

I've been in radio interviews where I've jokingly referred to polyamory as equal opportunity polygamy, and quite often the response I've gotten from , callers and commenters was This is awesome! I wish that this was how it really worked because , I hate the fact that my boyfriend is constantly , going on about other girls, but I don't get to date other people you know, and that's so unfair”. So I think there is a significant number of people out there that are openly questioning this idea already but there's just nothing for them to sort of latch onto, there's no... movement or knowledge about the fact that actually there are people out there who are already doing this, it's not new, it's not strange, you're not alone.

When we have a couples coming into polyamory that are facing a situation where not both of the parties are entirely on board yet, we try to work with the concept of education first”. So whichever party of the two is ready to go and knows what they want and kinda just wants to go forward... needs to really dig deep in themselves and go..

this person that I am with, currently, is not comfortable, they don't feel safe they don't feel ready. If I am a good honest ethical person I'm not going to push that I’m not gonna bully my partner or nag them, or make their lives uncomfortable because they don't wanna go through with this”.

Its only respectful and loving and caring to accommodate their discomfort and and allow them the opportunity to really explore this idea without feeling like they have to make a decision about it soon.

Obviously at some point if you strongly feel that you need to be in a polyamorous relationship and your partner is just an absolute no-go, it would be exactly the same as if a couple realized that the one partner want to have a child and the other one doesn't want to have a child. You need to ask yourself Am I willing to compromise on this, or not”, and for some the answer will be yes and for some the answer will be no.

But ultimately you need to be willing to do the work and sit and talk about it, read about all the different ways that people do polyamorous relationships, educate yourself about the reasons that people often don't feel comfortable starting polyamorous relationships, because those things very often help people work through those issues, and come to a point where they actually are willing to go forward and actually do get into polyamorous relationships.

Um, I've got, the over-large majority of particularly couples who come into polyamory, are usually sort-of in this mixed state of comfort with polyamory. One partner has embraced it fully, they feel that it's the new religion for them. They're completely happy to go, but the other partner is sort-of going , I...I can see myself maybe doing this, but this is not gonna , I'd like to just just be cautious and sorta check this out a little more before I make a decision” Um, and the rule is Go as slow as the least comfortable member of the family. Slow yourself down to the pace of the person who has the most to lose or is the most afraid and ... if you don't already know how to do really strong communication in your relationship, that should be the first thing you want to learn to do.

The first thing you want to study is How do I have a difficult conversation with my partner, how do I raise the topic of multiple relationships. And the resources online are a mess. There's so many web sites, so many places that you can go to look for details on how to do these things that if you really apply yourself there's no reason why you wouldn't be able to find out how to do this properly, and protect yourself against the risk of maybe moving too fast and then losing somebody that you obviously already care for very deeply.

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