BY OLIVIA MARBLE ’21
One day, while my friends and I were having dinner, a friend of mine who is in a relationship said, “Oh guys, guess what? I have a crush on this girl in my class!” Even though I already knew he was polyamorous, his simple comment struck me. Throughout my relationships, I have felt a crushing guilt whenever I even recognized that someone other than my partner was attractive. Every time I have developed crushes on people while in a relationship, I pushed that person away because the guilt became too much for me to deal with.
The guilt I feel most likely comes from media representations of relationships, which are almost always monogamous. In more traditional media this is reinforced by portrayals of marriage and the idea of “soulmates.” The normalization of monogamy, combined with the idea of finding “the one,” can make people feel like having crushes while already in a relationship with one person means that they dislike their current partner.
But this is not the case. In fact, developing feelings for other people while in a relationship is perfectly natural, and it does not mean that you have to leave your current partner. According to a 2016 YouGov Poll, 31 percent of women and 38 percent of men would be comfortable engaging in polyamory. You will always have chemistry with people other than your partner, even when you are in a monogamous relationship. What is important is what you choose to do when you feel that chemistry. Having crushes may be an indicator that something is wrong in the relationship, and you may need to do some introspection regarding why you are drawn to this other person, but this is not necessarily the case. Also, there will never be a point at which you are absolutely positive that you are with the right person.
Soulmates do not exist. Relationships work not because your souls are perfect for each other, but because you have worked together towards creating a relationship. This means that in a different situation, you may have been able to create a similar type of happiness with someone else, but for whatever reason, by fate or chance or an inexplicable connection, you chose this person. And you can be in a healthy relationship if you trust one another, communicate and are always aware of your wants and needs, even if you have chemistry with other people.
There is also nothing wrong with pursuing these feelings as long as it is consensual. Many people have a negative view of polyamory, maybe because historically, polyamory is seen as non-consensual (i.e. cheating) or exploitative (consider the stereotype of a young, recently-out bisexual person being used like a sexual object in a threesome). But the healthier side of polyamory is about embracing the fact that it is okay to love multiple people, and that love for one person does not take away from your love for the other. Even though people may think that relationships cannot function without complete devotion to one person, this simply is not true, provided there is proper communication and trust. As my other polyamorous friend explained, “Monogamy is like gender. It’s a social construct. People can choose to subscribe to it, but they don’t have to.”