Polyamory: The Next Taboo: Jane Wallace-Knight


As a writer of triad romance stories I decided to explore the world of polyamory and all of the myths, and stigmas, that go with it.

As I set about researching the concept of faithful polyamory, I quickly realised that there wasn’t nearly enough information out there, at least not on the surface. Internet search after internet search didn’t give me what I was looking for, and that was information on real triad relationships and how they work in the real world. I wanted to write about breaking, what is possibly considered, the next big taboo. There have been mentions of open relationships in their varying forms in mainstream media, but very little about a loving, and devoted, poly-relationship. The majority of the websites I found made it clear that the concept of fidelity, in a polyamorous relationship, is an uncommon one. Most of them seem to be either an open relationship, where each partner is free to form romantic, and sexual, relationships with others, or a Poly/Mono relationship, where one partner is monogamous while the other seeks companionship from outside of the relationship.

To think of how far we have come as a society, in terms of acceptance and understanding of sexuality, is somehow both depressing and encouraging at the same time. It wasn’t until 1967 that the Sexual Offences Act in the United Kingdom decriminalised the act of homosexuality. Since then we have seen the legalisation of gay civil partnerships, with a promise of legalising gay marriage, as well as the Adoption and Children Act of 2002. I think that perhaps the world as a whole isn’t yet ready to accept the concept of more than two people in a relationship, but the world never will be if we don’t start talking about it.

The main issue with legalising polygamy, of course, is that with the concept of polygamy there are no limits. Could you really have it be legal for three people to marry, but not four? What about ten? What would be the cut-off point and is it fair to change the laws for some but not for all.

I have often talked to my grandparents about homosexuality and had them insist, quite vehemently, that they were in support of gay marriage, as though they believed that they deserved a pat on the back for being so open-minded. However, if I were to bring home two people and introduce them as my partners, then I think they would have trouble understanding it, or possibly even think that I had joined a cult.

“Although the world as a whole has become a much more open-minded place, the concept of a triad relationship is still not something most people would accept.”

The idea most people have of a polyamorous relationship is one of infidelity and distrust. However, if three people love each other and choose to spend their life together, then isn’t that a different issue? There are several countries that currently recognise a civil partnership between three, or more, people, though, these are mostly laws that allow a man to take multiple wives due to religious beliefs, and not about recognising the love that exists between a triad.

It is only recently that the concept of a polyamorous relationship is even mentioned in the mainstream media, and even then it is seen as something of a joke. In an episode of the TV show New Girl they talked about a triad living next door to them and how cool that was. It was perceived that they were only living as such because it was the latest fashion in sexuality and that they were following a trend.

There are countless books and movies that portray a so-called love triangle, where one person, usually a woman, is the focus of two men’s affections. Although the world as a whole has become a much more open-minded place, the concept of a triad relationship is still not something most people would accept.

To some people, a triad develops naturally over time and they find themselves, rather surprisingly, in love with two people who are also in love with each other. Others tend to seek out that type of relationship, believing that they can only be truly content in a three-way relationship. These days it seems like there is a label for every sexuality, preference, and lifestyle choice. However, I couldn’t find a word for someone who seeks out a connection with two people. Should this perhaps be a sexuality of its own? “A man, or woman, who is sexually and romantically attracted to two men, or women, together,” is quite a mouthful, no pun intended.

The truth is that there are so many more people than we all realise living right now in relationships that consist of more than two people. In fact it is estimated that around 5% of all Americans are currently involved in a polyamorous relationship. Times have changed enough that if two men, or two women, sit in a crowded restaurant and hold hands, on the whole people won’t care, at least in most parts of the world. However, I have never seen three people holding hands or showing any signs of affection towards each other. Most triads are firmly in the closet and will stay there until society’s views change.

As someone who has always been intrigued by the concept of a three-person romance, not because it’s fashionable or shocking, but because there was something attractive about it, I was surprised, and delighted, to find so many adult books on the subject. These aren’t books that are purely about sex, they are about love and romance and three, or more, people sharing their lives together.

“I think that by writing about committed polyamorous relationships we are helping to portray them in a positive light and perhaps one day we will see the same in mainstream media.”

The stigma of promiscuity and greed tend to follow polygamy, and polyamory, and will continue to do so, at least until we learn more about it. As a whole, if people don’t understand something, then they often form negative views on it. With so many sexual cultures, and sub-cultures, can we really be expected to keep up with them all, let alone get to the point where we are comfortable with every single one of them?

I think that by writing about committed polyamorous relationships we are helping to portray them in a positive light and perhaps one day we will see the same in mainstream media. It is easy to get bogged down in terminology, and there are so many different sub-categories and labels in this particular community that it is easy to get it wrong. In the end though, whatever you choose to call yourself, and your relationship, it all boils down to love. I have learned a lot about the different meanings during my research, and have joined several forums in order to talk with people who are, or have, lived in polyamorous relationships. I had never before needed to learn these terms though, because when I write of a triad, I just call it love, and I believe that is the right way to start breaking down these stereotypes, with tales of love.


photo credit: erin leigh mcconnell via photopin cc