Smash Talks: Poly-Am I?-Rous

Ashera is a Marriage and Family Therapist with an extensive background in sexual health education. You can ask her stuff anonymously and she won’t get weirded out. Seriously, try her. Send your queries through our anonymous contact form here.

Dear Smashera,

I love my current partner oh so dearly. He is so pretty and so fun and my heart leaps out of my chest whenever I get a text from him out of the blue.

I also think an acquaintance of mine is so pretty and so fun and my heart leaps out of my chest whenever I get a text from them out of the blue.

And my palms get all sweaty whenever I have to talk to the barista at my fave coffee place with the rad man bun. Oh, and the English professor who recommended a great book to me? She’s on my mind a lot, too.

Is this what it feels like to be polyamorous? Or am I just a walking pair of wandering, fantasizing eyes?

— Poly-Am I?-Rous

Dear Poly,

Let’s just put this out there: people are hot. I don’t mean that everyone is always attractive to each and every person at all times, but instead that there are tons of interesting, beautiful people out there and they are bound to float into our lives at the most convenient and inconvenient of times. At least that’s what I think on my non-misanthropic days.

With six billion plus people floating around, it’s damn near impossible that you’re going to meet one person that consistently outshines everyone else all the time. You also will not consistently outshine everyone all the time to anyone, which can be a tough pill to swallow, but it’s true. The best we can hope for is to find someone (or someones) that make us pause and reflect when other shiny things come our way. In return, we hope they will also pause and remember why they are with us and not leave us emotionally wounded.

Healthy, functional, poly relationships are not a sexual free for all—generally there are still rules (or at least guidelines) in place regarding how romantic or sexual ventures are started and maintained. A poly friend joked with me that she thought that opening up her relationship would mean she’d get laid a lot more. In practice, she doesn’t. Poly people need to process their feelings and emotions with a lot more people, which doesn’t always equate to more sex.

Whether you’re with one person or in a polyamorous web, relationships are a choice. When we commit to a person or people, we’re choosing to put them in an elevated space in our lives. Sure, you can have room for multiple people in your heart (and schedule, and life), but as your relationships deepen, there’s simply less room for others. Relationships take up space, and this is continually renegotiated.

Whether polyamory is your path or not is deeply personal. Some people argue that being poly is similar to a sexual orientation. Philosophically, that’s a lot to tease out entirely here, but I think for some people that’s kinda true. Some people struggle really hard with monogamy and it’s just not for them. Likewise, jealousy can make polyamory a challenge for others. Hell, jealousy is a challenge in a lot of poly relationships as well.

Love and attraction take a plethora of forms. Admiring someone or finding them attractive doesn’t always equate to desiring a sexual relationship with them. In which case, I think it can be healthy to have lots of different crushes, whether they are emotional, intellectual, romantic or something else entirely. Sometimes ya just vibe with somebody.

What I’m getting at is, it’s totally fine and normal to see lots of people as interesting and desirable. That’s way better than just seeing all the people around you as lowlife dirt bags. In that vein, I hope that way more people are able to recognize the beauty in the people around them. But I’m not sure that inherently makes anyone polyamorous, per se.

However you decide to structure your relationships is completely up to you and the people you’re involved with. If it feels pressing to you, it might be worth having a conversation with your current partner about what opening up your relationship would mean. Remember, there are lots of different ways to open a relationship. Experimenting with degrees of openness may be valuable, so long as you and everyone involved is on board. It’s super not cool to experiment with other people’s bodies and emotions without fully disclosing your situation beforehand. Whatever you do, ya gotta be kind.