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Is there such a thing as the guilt-free affair? Controversially, this writer argues there is. Welcome to the world of polyamory.
Here’s what I think: one person cannot give you everything. The premise is that no matter how happy you are with your partner, few people could deny occasionally fantasising about having more. More sex with more women, without sacrificing the intimacy (or the sex) you have with the woman you love. Here’s the other thing: that fantasy, for some, is a reality. It’s called polyamory. It’s adult, it’s evolved, and – if you do it right – it’s very satisfying.
Let’s say your primary partner (as the jargon goes) isn’t into your space princess kidnap fantasy. In a polyamorous set-up, secondary and tertiary partners can be brought into the fold to share those pleasures with you. If you can juggle it, polyamory lets you have sex with as many women as your schedule allows, without lies or sneaking around. Right now, for instance, I’m juggling one guy who likes to tie me up, the odd slave who likes to be tied up, a couple of guy-friends for hot, hard vanilla sex and the occasional hook-up with a female friend. It’s a lot, perhaps, but from this set-up I get care, affection, friendship and all the kinds of sex I crave. And so can you. If you can sell the idea.
THE BARE TRUTH is, if you want to convince your partner to try polyamory, you’ll have to be both up-front and subtle. Suggest that after one too many break-ups you’ve come to question whether monogamy can really work. Tell her: “I’m looking at a different kind of arrangement this time around.” Not: “How do you feel about being the girl who gives me head once a month?” It’s about complete openess. One former partner of mine wanted a poly arrangement, but he neglected to mention it until six months in, when he declared that he “wasn’t monogamous”. If he’d told me at the outset, I would still have wanted to date him. But by the time I found out, I had already fallen in love in a monogamous way, and I didn’t want to share him.
Still curious? Then be warned: if you’re already in a relationship, your bold new suggestion shouldn’t come as a surprise to your partner. Most successful poly couples (or triads, or quadrangles) start out on the same page. If she’s more reluctant (say, if she’s only agreeing to it because she fears losing you), that’s a recipe for untold stress, resentment and heartache.
If she can’t stand you passing comment on attractive women, don’t expect her to sign up for this. And no matter how well your initial conversation goes, no amount of flattery and cuddles will persuade a monogamous woman otherwise. This is a lifestyle choice, not a fad.
Dating multiple people at once does, of course, make the concept of fidelity redundant. Instead, ironically, loyalty comes to the fore. During the build-up (and at all times during the relationship), it’s about asserting your loyalty to your primary partner – even when you’re arranging dates and sex with other women. This could mean not discussing your finances with a new girlfriend, or asking your primary partner before you arrange a date with your secondary.
Similarly, whether it’s sofa-cuddling or bed-thumping, polyamory dictates that you keep some activities solely for your primary, and that you agree on any acts (sexual or emotional) that are off-limits with other women. This not only maintains the intimacy with your primary partner, but it also builds the trust you’ll need when you start a relationship with somebody new.
Which brings us to a subtle distinction you should consider: polyamory is the practice of simultaneous relationships; it’s not about simultaneous hook-ups. You have to keep everyone happy, both sexually and emotionally. And as well as managing the trust and emotions, your time is just as important.
If this is really something you want to try (and just because it works for me, doesn’t mean it’ll work for you – or for the woman you’re with), decide how much you have to give and to how many partners. And be prepared for a load of admin. There’s a dull reality that overrides the sexual fantasy of an open, polyamorous relationship. And this lifestyle choice definitely isn’t for men who’re simply bored in their current relationship.
You’ll have to block out chunks of your calendar for your primary before you give any away to anyone else. Designate at least one night a week to a proper date and at least one weekend a month for the pair of you. Make sure both of you have VIP dates, such as birthdays, marked, and don’t book dates with others in these slots.
How you divide your private time in your house and bedroom is another tricky issue: a one-bedroom flat is suitable only for the most unflinching of poly couples. Second bedrooms are useful but it’s usually better for everyone if you arrange at-home dates on nights when your primary is out with someone else.
“Someone else,” you ask? Yes. Remember, this isn’t all about you letting off steam with multiple partners. Your primary partner gets to enjoy all the same perks… so if you don’t fancy the idea of her getting together with men who aren’t you, then the whole deal is off the table.
At this point, we need to stress two words: “safe” and “sex”. All the sexual health professionals and sexologists we spoke to agree: in a country like South Africa, where HIV is a serious health risk, polyamory must be a mature sexual decision between consenting and informed adults who practise safe sex.
There are rules to follow if you’re going to go poly.
Follow them, and you might find that monogamy really
is something you can be happy without. But break them, and word will get around that you’re just a lying, philandering cheat who can’t be faithful to his partners.
Still want to try it?