I’ve always been the monogamous type, or so I thought until I started writing this article. I was raised on the Disney Princess fantasy of the prince swooping in and saving me from a mundane existence, flying me away to an exotic life of adventure and of course the fairy tale ending of everlasting love that solves all. I’m a whole lot of Jasmine mixed with Ariel and a dash of Cinderella. But now as I settle into midlife, looking back on several committed long- term monogamous relationships, one of which was a sixteen-year marriage, I am seriously considering the potential and merits of polyamory.
During my last stay in Colombo I found myself in a six-week lockdown alone. To ease the boredom, I discovered and fell down the rabbit hole known as Clubhouse. If you haven’t heard of it yet, it’s an audio-only social media app that’s much like an interactive podcast. Most of Sri Lanka seems to be on it these days. There are some very interesting rooms being moderated by the pioneering “Sex Guru of Sri Lanka” as I like to think of her, Kumudini David. Clubhouse became a fun diversion for me and a way to connect with other human beings while living alone. It is a fascinating social experiment where one can learn about other subcultures and diverse perspectives.
The week I joined Clubhouse there were a lot of rooms going on about polygamy. It seemed to be the hot topic. But it was very toxic, lots of patriarchy being thrown around. And I learned a new term in one of those rooms: Polygyny. There is a whole lexicon of terms related to all things poly. Polygamy is the umbrella term for heterosexual partnerships where only one person has multiples of the same gender. It’s almost always the male who has many wives and in this case the specific term for it would be polygyny. The opposite of Polygyny is Polyandry, where the female has multiple husbands. What I like about polyamory is that it’s gender neutral, non-hierarchal, and non-hetero normative. So in polyamory any sexual orientation or gender combinations are possible.
Single for a year now, the longest I’ve been single after twenty consecutive years of being in partnership, I feel a return to innocence, a return to childhood freedom and a sense of virginity. I belong to no one, only myself. I am what is known as Solo Poly. I am free to explore and discover new friendships without fear of reprimand or damaging a partner’s feelings. I am allowed to be present in the moment for a connection to arise with no fear, hope, or doubt about any outcome.
What I’ve learned, and am still learning, in this new way of being is that polyamory is an opportunity to express ourselves as human beings in an elevated way that isn’t restricted by societal norms and traditions that confine or define us. It’s a radical way of loving that transcends constrictive definitions of love and relationships. It’s a way of loving that is about choice, consent, and rejoicing in the mutual respect and appreciation of each connection as it arises naturally. For those of you who identify with anarchism, then polyamory may be right up your alley. RA, or relationship anarchy, is the relationship philosophy behind polyamory in which the main tenet is that no parties should be bound by any rules not agreed upon by all involved.
Just as each human being is unique, so should everyone be able to express their love in a myriad of ways that suits them and the other person or people with whom they find themselves engaged in relationship. Polyamory is vast and expansive. There is no cookie cutter definition of it. It can come in so many shapes and forms. It’s not a sexual free for all or excuse to hook up. If a wild sex life is part of some folks’ style, if that’s their jam, then polyamory for them can manifest in that way. But it’s by no means the definition of being poly.
For some, being poly can look like monogamy for them personally while their partner is not monogamous. It’s very individual. Think custom designed relationship dynamics that are open and flowing made to order and not fixed but fluid as each person grows, evolves and changes. There are all combinations imaginable: triads that have a “V” that is the “hinge” or “pivot” partner, “throuples” that have a “unicorn” join the relationship as a third member, “quads”, “moresomes” that involve more than four partners, anything and everything imaginable.
As a newly identified poly, I’m a work in progress and I have no idea where my exploration is going to lead me. But I’m enjoying the journey and that’s all there is in the end, isn’t it? And on second thought, maybe there is a Disney Princess for the polyam in me— my girl Snow White, the OG Poly Princess. Not sure if I could handle seven at a time, though, hehe.
Jessica Palden is a writer and independent filmmaker who lives in New York and Sri Lanka. She is currently directing and producing the feature length documentary “Teardrop on Fire: Breaking the Silence in Sri Lanka '' which centers around true stories of victims and survivors of gender based violence captured through the lens of contemporary Sri Lankan society.