Because my relationships are poly and I spend a lot of my free time organizing poly get-togethers and meetups, my social circle is filled with a TON of other polyamorous people — to the point where I often forget that a large majority of people are, in fact, monogamous...if only ostensibly, in some cases (you know who you are). Sometimes when I'm chatting with my friends who identify as monogamous, I'll make a casual remark about my relationship that seems to surprise them, and that’s when I remember: poly couples are not the norm and can seem kind of weird to most people.
Of course, all couples have their idiosyncrasies, but poly couples have their own unique set of weird quirks that come with the non-monogamous territory. Curious what it's like to be part of a poly couple? Here are six things you didn't know about poly couples that can give you a good view into our world, from how we may wingman for each other to how we may not be dating anyone else at the moment. In this case, when I say “couple”, I mean any pair of people who are romantically or sexually involved (but more on that later).
1. We May Not Consider Ourselves A "Couple"
Some people who consider themselves life partners may not think of themselves as part of a couple, even if they look that way to outsiders. "Couple" is often a label applied to two people, while "partner" is generally a mutual understanding between two (or more!) people.
As Josh, a member of my local poly community, puts it, it's "when you know you want to spend the rest of your life with someone, but desperately hope you receive separate invitations to a party."
2. We May Not Have A Sexual Relationship...
There were years that I wasn’t sexual with one of my long-term partners, for various reasons — but that didn't mean they weren't important to me, or that our relationship wasn’t romantic still. While it's not specific to poly relationships (think long-term marriages), it seems to be more common and more openly acknowledged, and seems less likely to lead to unhappiness or separation as people don't rely on only one partner to meet their needs. It could be because one partner is asexual, or it could be just the kind of relationship those individuals want together, or it could be due to circumstances like illness or distance, but no matter what reason, it doesn't make the relationship any less valid.
3. ...Or A Romantic One
On the other hand, I know people who live together and function as partners in many ways, but have only a sexual and not romantic relationship. Some "couples" have neither a sexual or romantic relationship, but have chosen to be life partners in other ways, such as co-parenting. Again, this could be because one or both partners are aromantic, or it could just be the way they work together.
4. We May Not Be Dating Anyone Else At The Moment
Kind of like how being in a hetero relationship doesn’t mean someone's straight, being in a relationship that is currently monogamous — whether by intention or default — doesn’t necessarily make someone mono. It could be that we don’t have the time or energy to pursue other relationships currently, or that our other relationships ended recently, or even that we're consciously choosing ethical monogamy for the time being. Either way, we may identify as poly.
4. We May Tease Each Other More Effectively
As my girlfriend points out: "You know that thing with significant others where they can tease you with impressive efficacy because they know you too well? You know that thing that happens when your significant other teams up with your sibling to really rag you? In poly couples, your significant others can — and will — do that with each other. Which is equal parts frustrating and adorable." Guilty as charged.
5. We Sometimes Wingman For Each Other
Do you ever go out with your best friend in hope that they'll be your wingman? That's all well and good, but I've found that the best wingmen are my partners. They know me better than anyone, they really want to see me happy, and they are more than willing to playfully make sure my crush knows I'm available (if not single) and interested.
And if we do date together? We'll both be nervous about farting in front of our date, because we are so over worrying about that with each other.
6. How Long We've Been Together Doesn't Necessarily Mean Anything
Poly couples are less likely than mono couples to follow the relationship escalator, which means that our longest relationships may not be our most entwined ones. My former nesting partner was not my longest relationship, we just happened to want to co-habitate and moved in together pretty early in our relationship.
Don't take the length of time as indicative of where a couple is at in their journey — they may have been together for 20 years and not live together, and never plan to! And that's one of the benefits of polyamory — it allows for all sorts of interesting arrangements.
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