Addressing the stigma surrounding polyamory

Zayna Ratty

When we think about Valentine’s Day, we imagine a fairly heteronormative narrative, it’s one that has been introduced early in our lives and one that we accept as the true one.

What if there were other options? A way of having relationships that acknowledges we aren’t swans or penguins in the mating race.

shutterstock_740064304 (2)One option becoming increasingly known and utilised is consensual non-monogamy (CNM), you may have heard of it as polyamory (polyam). It does what it says on the tin: it’s consensual, open and honest non-monogamy.

This relationship structure or anti-structure is about conducting multiple relationships alongside each other. CNM is not just a sexfest, it’s more about scheduling Google calendar than jumping in and out of bed.

Increased disillusion with societally fixed gender roles and greater awareness of sexuality has delivered CNM to the fore once more. It’s not new and in some cultures has been routinely practised throughout history. This rediscovery has given many people a new view on what a relationship actually is. Academic research around those who practice CNM suggest they can have lower levels of jealousy, higher levels of self-acceptance and better psychological wellness.

Uncomfortable feelings of jealousy can be worked through, sat with and acknowledged, consequently leading to adapted behaviour and a greater understanding of self. There could be an argument that being exposed to multiple (not always) sexual partners increases your risk of contracting an STI. Monogamy is not exempt from this risk, if infidelity occurs the risk is even greater as there is an absence of communication around it. Infidelity itself could likely be a result of our culture that values monogamy and rejects consensual non-monogamy as a valid relationship.shutterstock_1209731032 (2)

The relationship hierarchy has a habit of making monogamy the superior choice and other forms a less valid method of conducting our lives. You can have more than one child and love them all, so why do we struggle with the notion of loving more than one partner? Attitudes are improving but those in CNM relationships can still experience stigma and shame when being open about their lives, commonly forcing concealment.

Every relationship is right, if it’s right for you.

A shortlisted nominee of the National Diversity Awards 2019, Zayna Ratty is a hypno psychotherapist, chair of Oxford Pride, and LGBTQIA+ & PoC mental health writer. zayna.net

 

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