When James and his wife decided to sleep with other people, they needed a set of rules.

What is polyamory

My name is James, I’m 37 years old and have been with my wife for 20 years… and we practice polyamory. Polyamory is one of the many forms of open relationships humans use to find happiness. Polyamory means “many loves”, and I have found it to be the most ethical way to experience free life and love.

I have been practising an open relationship for 17 years out of my 20 year relationship. I have the privilege of raising five children within this dynamic, along with my wife.

Watch Wyee talk about how polyamory affected her relationship on tonight’s episode of Insight. 

Video by SBS Insight

In the beginning of my relationship, I found my wife and I had an amazing ability to have open communication. A big reason for this was the breakdown of my family when I was fourteen. One of my first boundaries I had for my relationship was to be explicit with our needs, no matter how harsh they were. I said to my partner that if we were looking to make a life together, then the first thing we need to do is to agree to be honest and respect the fact that we will annoy each other… a lot!

After a few years of living with each other I noticed my wife and I had wandering eyes and a tendency to flirt very openly. We spoke about this inadequacy in our relationship on a number of occasions. The heated requests of each other, to “cease and desist” had the best intentions but after a while we both knew it was not going to happen. We came to an agreement, where we were both allowed to flirt, fondle… and even fornicate. We did, however, lay down a foundation of rules. One was to not build any sort of long term relationship with any potential “play partner”. This was to ensure our relationship would not be jeopardised by other interests.

Since opening our relationship, and reading a multitude of ‘how to do ethical polyamory’ books, my wife and I have agreed the way we used to do ‘open’ is not the only way, and definitely not the best. In the beginning, I was angry at myself for committing to a long term relationship so early in life. I thought there were going to be a lot of opportunities I would be missing out in life, because I had agreed to a life time with one person. I thought the best way to combat this was to protect my existing relationship with rules and fulfil short term “fixes” by using people as objects. How wrong I was! With a lot of guidance from my empathetic wife, I started to understand people had feelings and more importantly “meaningless sex” wasn’t so meaningless.

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The more I practiced “open” the more I wanted to get to know people, and found how many people wanted to get to know me. I witnessed how my wife found it extremely hard to not find a romantic connection with people and how difficult it was for her to push feelings aside. I felt there needed to be a change to our rules to become happier. I talked this over with my wife and we agreed what we were doing wasn’t right. My wife did some research and found a little lifestyle choice called polyamory.

Polyamory
You can watch James speak more about polyamory on SBS' Insight tonight.

Polyamory has taught me to really look deeply into the things I wanted out of my life, not just a relationship. To look at how people treated me and learn how to advocate for myself. This was a very important life lesson as I found I had the control to change my relationship and life, to better suit my needs. At the same time I understood that my wife, and the other people I interacted with, had needs of their own. I learned I could setup relationships to fulfil experiences I thought I would never get to enjoy. For example: my wife can’t stand horror movies, yet my girlfriend loves them, and that is just the tip of the iceberg.

In the end, I guess I would have to say I know this lifestyle isn’t for everyone and I would definitely warn people that it’s NOT easy. But for me, I could not have life any other way.

James will feature on Insight on tonight at 8.30pm AEST on SBS and SBS On Demand.

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