Kate is a thirty-something Melbourne woman, in a happy relationship of two years with Mike.
Kate is also in a relationship with Nora.
And Kate is also in third relationship with another man (who didn’t want to be identified).
Before you feel outraged at Kate cheating on so many people, you should know that all of Kate’s partners know about each other and are fine with the arrangement.
Yes, they really say they are totally fine with it. They even say it’s “great”.
They’re part of a group of people called “polyamorists” – from “poly” meaning “many” and “amor” meaning “love” – who engage in multiple, open relationships, and they’re by no means the only ones doing this in Australia.
We spoke with them as part of our Radio National series “Assumptions” to investigate the common assumption that monogamy is the best way to arrange a relationship, and that anything outside of that would be either a jealousy-ridden disaster, or just a way to bang as many people as possible.
I asked academic Maria Pallota-Chiarolli from Deakin University if “polyamory” was really just a fancy word for “sleeping around with no responsibility”, but she said that’s “one of the biggest myths about polyamory, and it’s false.” She went on to say that “polyamory is the practice of multiple, ethical, loving relationships, with the emphasis on the love and the care. And there are definitely people who enjoy having lots of sex with lots of people, but there’s always care and engagement involved in that.”
Anne Hunter, a polyamory educator, agreed, saying that far from being a consequence-free, free-for-all, polyamory “is about taking on everything else of the other person’s life. You take on the raising of children, you take on the sharing of finances, houses, people’s illnesses, so, most polyamorous relationships are not just about the sex. It’s about every other facet of your life.”
While that might sound okay on paper, I couldn’t help but wonder about jealousy; if jealousy exists in monogamy, wouldn’t it, by definition, have to be multiplied in polyamory?