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This, has to be beyond a shadow of a doubt the biggest and most debated question surrounding the topic of Polyamory in general. And because of that there is no easy answer. If one were to choose a very plain and dictionary definition of the word they may see the following:
Polyamory (noun; from the Greek πολυ [poly, meaning many or several] and Latin amor [love]) 1) Any of various practices involving relationships with multiple partners with the knowledge and consent of all involved. 2) Any non-monogamous sexual activity, treated much like any other social activity, that can be experienced as a couple [cf. swinging].
But we, as a human feeling and thinking species, cannot be bound by a simple definition. Especially when it comes to matters of the heart. So, pulling from the varied responses from our diverse membership we would like to provide a broader description of what Polyamory may be. (your mileage may vary, as we like to say)
One core belief about Polyamory, that all could agree on, would be the freedom of choice. The freedom to choose how your heart should be allowed to love. Whether that be one person or one hundred. Now, of course we may love our friends and our family, but this is where Polyamory takes a different path. In Polyamory you choose to be sexually intimate with those you love. In a perfect Polyamorous world all parties involved are well informed, fully consenting, and open minded individuals. However, that is not always the case. There are times when the scale is unbalanced, and that is when problems can arise and destroy the "perfect" Poly dream. That, is not something to go into detail here, but can be covered in another FAQ or on the forums.
Polyamory is not a means to score notches in a bedpost, nor is it an excuse to sleep around if you are not satisfied with your current lover. Polyamory is about love and making a meaningful emotional connection. Polyamory is about the heart's capacity to love many, and love well. Polyamory is about honesty, with yourself and others. Polyamory comes in many forms, and what is right for you may not be right for another. But what's important is what matters to you. As Willaim Shakespeare said, "To thine own self always be true." If it doesn't feel right to you, maybe you should not be doing it.
Do relationships last? That's the real question. The answer? Sometimes yes, sometimes no. How long does it have to last? Many relationships are awesome for a few years, and then end in an amicable, low-drama way. It all depends upon the partners, and what their desires are, when it comes to relationships. As with any relationship, we all bring pre conceptions, baggage and so forth. A relationship has the potential for lasting as long as the people within that relationship wish to make it work, through communication, compassion, commitment, and a whole lot of willingness to bend when need be.
No. Some people may be seeking bisexual folks to complete their triad, or other such combination, but you are not required to be bisexual.
For poly relationships that live under the same roof they may either opt for all sharing the same bed and taking turns for "quality alone time" with another partner. Or they may choose to have separate bedrooms and sleep together as is wanted. For those who do not all live together under the same roof, dates are scheduled and time spent with others rotated so no one feels left out.
Communication. If someone if feeling left out, you talk about it.
Yes. Polyfi is just as poly as any other flavor. No less and no more. Poly just means many; it doesn't specify how many, so unless polyamory requires that a person be open to loving sexual relationships with an unlimited number of partners polyfidelity is definitely poly.
There's no real test to tell if you are Polyamorous or not. It really has to do with being comfortable with open relationships. If it feels forced, or if you are being forced into this lifestyle then it may not be for you. Only you can decide what's right for you.
It's basically feeling happy when someone you love is being loved by another person, and loved well -- knowing that your beloved is being adored and taken care of and feeling good, and feeling great about it.
The ability to be ok with your partner's (or partners') other relationships is necessary in the long term. But you don't have to be all, "Oh, squee! My husband just got laid! I'm tickled pink!" After all, few people get that excited about their partners' NON-relationship interests when they don't personally share them.
Of course not. Jealousy happens. It's all about how you deal with it.
Compersion can hit you right in the heart with its power, or it can sneak up on you and make you giggle. It can turn you on powerfully (even if, and maybe especially if, you're also feeling jealous or envious), or it can make you feel protective and tender. It comes in waves and whether or not you feel it, it doesn't PROVE you're poly or not. It's just a feeling.
Males and females have evolved differing mating strategies, related to the great difference in the investment of each gender in reproduction.
Humans as a species are classified by biologists as "mildly polygynous" based on our sexual dimorphism [the difference in average sizes and appearance between males and females] and our behaviors [males tend to be more physically aggressive, and compete for mating opportunities with females]. Polygynous polygamy is accepted by about 85% of all known human societies, and in those societies [like Islam] only the wealthiest men have multiple wives. In monogamous societies like ours, the richest, most successful men often keep mistresses in addition to their wives. The reverse, polyandry, is extremely rare among humans. This is because typically males are sexually jealous of their female partners due to a fear of being cuckolded, and of raising another male's offspring. Men tend to crave sexual variety for its own sake to a much greater degree than women, and to make up the vast majority of sexual deviants [pedophiles, etc].
Given this basic difference between male and female sexual strategies, it is not surprising that many men in monogamous relationships would be interested in pursuing swinging or the polygynous type of polyamory. In the general populace, many, many men have a fantasy of having sex with two or more women at the same time. The only difference between men in those monogamous couples and the men in the polyamorous couples who are seeking specifically the "HBB" is that the latter are lucky enough to have a female partner that will LET them try to fulfill the threesome fantasy. Owing to greater female equality and the possibility of divorce, women in the Modern West have the choice of stopping their male partner from sleeping around if they know about it, so often it is the woman who gets to make the final decision as to whether or not a monogamous couple tries polyamory. The woman in a poly couple looking for an "HBB" is often bisexual, or sometimes is a closeted lesbian, and sees the poly option as an opportunity to explore that side of her sexuality. Or, sometimes she is straight, and just isn't prone to jealousy.
The surprise is not that so many poly couples are of this polygynous type, but that not more of them are. Just like the religious preferences of the poly community don't exactly match those of the general populace, but are tilted more to the progressive end of the spectrum, perhaps poly people tend to be less jealous than the average [they would almost have to be, wouldn't they?], thus tilting the percentage of the exclusively polygynous couples lower than it otherwise would be.
Because _that_ is the dynamic that works best for them. YMMV