This is my monthly column about our life, life in a triad in general, or whatever rants & raves I feel like talking about at the time.

Previous editions of this column can be found in the Monthly Columns Archives.

Concepts and Definitions

For many people, wrapping their minds around the concept of polyamory is extremely difficult. I think that they get so involved in trying to define their relationship that they lose sight of the concept behind loving more. I think that with all of the terms and definitions floating around that this is very easy to understand. Polyandry, polyfidelity, polygyny, polyamory, and of course polygamy. Unfortunately, when people here anything prefaced with the word "poly", they immediately complete the term in their mind with "gamy". Polygamy, at least the Fundamentalist Mormon definition of the word, is so far from the actual truth of the matter that it's like comparing apples to oranges. Despite this fact, people hear the word and immediately define it according to whatever terms are most convenient for them. Add to this the many other facets that can exist in any type of relationship, and people's minds get even cloudier. Kink, BDSM, fetish, leather, bondage, the list is almost endless. Given the many types and combinations that can exist, trying to apply one definition is akin to finding the proverbial needle in a haystack.

At Stew & Brew, Renaissance Man and I had several conversations about definitions and gray areas. There are so many gray areas that exist with definitions that it's virtually impossible to try and classify our relationships as one thing or another. For me, anyway, my relationship just is. Currently my family is structured as a polyfidelitous triad. If we decided to add an element of BDSM or kink, does that mean we're no longer polyamorous? Of course not. At the same time, if we were to add a fourth person to our family and become a quad, do we lose the aspect of polyfidelity? In our case, no, because if we do expand our family to a quad we would retain the fidelitous aspect. That's just us, though. You could also ask, however, what the definition of a fidelitous relationship is. Many people are fidelitous while, at the same time, they've opened their marriage to the possibility of other lovers. Many would call this swinging, many would not. Where is the line drawn between open marriage, swinging, and polyamory? That's a good question, but not one with a definite answer. Again, the gray areas are everywhere; which is exactly why people have a hard time with the concept of any type of alternative lifestyle. It's hard to grasp a concept when you're unsure of the definitions.

When my family and I began exploring the concept of polyamory, we weren't concerned with definitions. We concentrated on the concrete aspects and built upon that foundation. What were the concrete aspects that we built our family on? Friendship, communication, honesty, love, and most importantly the desire to be together, as a family. We didn't discover polyamory and set out to redefine our lives to fit this ideal model. We discovered our lives together and ended up living in a polyamorous relationship as a result. I had absolutely no idea what polyamory was when I met my wife, and it didn't matter to me. What mattered was that I knew that I loved Sister Dagger, and wanted to be with her. Polyamory was the means to that end, not the reason for it.

Another area in which people tend to confuse concept and definition is "sharing". I use the word in quotations here because I've never really been comfortable with it's use in expanded families. Many people hear the term polyamory and immediately think that it's about "sharing" your love for your significant other with another person. It's not really about sharing at all. Sister Dagger has two husbands. She loves us both equally yet differently, just as we love her differently from each other. Despite the fact that we're a triad functioning as a family unit, we're also two distinctly different couples. Kriek and I aren't interested in "competing" for Dagger's love; we already know that we both have it. Seeing her happy is really the best thing that we could ask for. She loves two men, but she's not fighting with any feelings of having to divide herself in half to please both of them. So, in this case, the definition of "sharing" is much different from the actual concept.

The internet is a fantastic resource for finding information, almost too fantastic. Through the use of search engines you can find over ten million resources regarding alternative lifestyles in general, and over one million dealing with polyamory. Almost every resource dealing with polyamory talks about the concepts and definitions in one way or another. There are indexes of terms and definitions, there are frequently asked questions pages, there are countless places to read about the concept and practice of polyamorous relationships. What you don't often find, however, is a correlation between concepts and definitions in practical life. The best place to find this is in your own relationship, but many folks can't wrap their brains around the concept of polyamory because they don't like the commonly circulated definitions. If you can't get beyond the definitions and explore the concept, you'll never fully understand the concept in order to interpret the defintions on your own terms. It's a double edged sword, and one that many people find much too heavy to bear. Anything that deviates from the norm is viewed in a negative light by most people. Usually, however, these perceived definitions are like an onion. Peel away the outermost layers and there's much more beneath the surface. The concept of polyamory holds many great rewards that aren't defined anywhere.

If you're already living in a polyamorous relationship of some type, chances are that you've already come to grips with your own definitons and how they relate to the concept of your ability to love more. If you've never explored a poly relationship because of your fear or inability to grasp all of the definitions, I recommend that you throw the book of definitons out the window for temporarily and concentrate on the fundamental concepts of being in love with more than one person. Once you've become comfortable with your own concept of polyamory, then you can pick up that list of definitions and begin applying them if you wish. Whichever path you choose, I think that you'll find things much easier once you think about the concepts and definitions of multiple lovestyles.

~ Chias, June 27, 2006


folks have read this article.