Dear Alice,

I'm a bisexual female and I've been dating a girl on and off for the past couple years. "On and off" due to distance, but the point is that as much as I love her, I still feel like there is a male void in my life. I'm not sure if it's because I get a lot of attention from guys and very little from girls, but lately I've been thinking that I would feel most comfortable in a committed relationship with a man and a woman. Do you think there's any hope in finding others who would be able to maintain this kind of relationship in a healthy manner? I have a lot of difficulty finding the right chemistry with people to begin with...

Dear Reader,

Humans are incredibly complicated creatures — the depth and complexities of our desires for companionship take many forms. Coming to terms with the specificities of your true desires, as you are doing now, is an undeniably positive undertaking. There is hope for you to fulfill your relationship desires; in fact, many people choose to love more than one person at a time in a healthy, respectful manner.

The predominant culture in the U.S. enforces a norm of monogamous heterosexuality, as seen in debates over gay marriage and whether to include topics about non-heterosexual relationships in sex education. What you are describing — wanting a committed partnership with both the woman in your life and a man — is coined polyamory, or "plural loves." Polyamory does not refer to marrying more than one person (which, in fact, is not legal in the U.S.), but rather involves choosing to have multiple romantic and/or sexual relationships with multiple consenting people ("consenting" meaning that all relationship partners are fully clued in to and amenable to their partners' polyamorous intentions). People who practice polyamory often face stiff resistance to the idea that multiple committed partnerships can be healthy and functional relationships. Polyamorous persons do not outright reject monogamy as a workable option for some people, but emphasize that people can choose their dedication and intimacy levels with their partner(s), and can also choose to be faithful and committed to more than one person, like the situation you are envisioning.

Those in polyamorous relationships are not sex-crazed people without morals or inhibitions, as some stereotypes imply, but rather believe that the human capacity for love can expand beyond simply one partner. Polyamory has been defined as the philosophy and practice of loving more than one person at a time with honesty and integrity, upholding many of the values ideally found in any healthy relationship. Here are some of the other underlying principles of polyamory:

  • It is vital to accept and celebrate the reality that human nature does not dictate monogamy.
  • Non-monogamy, when chosen, should be practiced responsibly, ethically, and intentionally.
  • Intimacy and sex between multiple simultaneous partners in polyamorous relationships is not an inherently wrong, bad, or unhealthy thing.
  • Sex is a positive force if applied with honesty, responsibility, and trust.
  • Love is an infinite rather than finite commodity, and should be offered to your partners without conditional constraints to love only that one person.
  • Even while having more than one partner, grappling with jealousy is not predestined. Polyamorous persons try to find joy in knowing their partners may be desired by other people, and if jealousies do arise, work to address feelings in a constructive way.
  • Relationships require long-term emotional investment.

As you mentioned, finding true connection with one person, let alone more than one, can seem daunting. It is entirely understandable that you would want to grab hold of the sparks as they fly. As you first begin to explore polyamory, having open, honest dialogue with your current partner about taking this step is paramount. How do you see your partner fitting into this newfound polyamorous paradigm? Polyamory points out the harms perpetuated by deceit and dishonesty; all of your romantic interests deserve to be on the same page with any relationship arrangement, sexual or otherwise. You may also consider asking, what is it about the "void" you feel that a polyamorous relationship could help fulfill (sexual satisfaction, need for emotional connection, other concerns)? Being clear about what you need and desire could help you determine whether polyamory is a suitable option for you.

Finding a community of likeminded lovers may help flush out these budding ideas. If you are in New York City, attending a meeting of Polyamorous NYC may be a good place to start. This group, and others in other areas of the country, formed as a support network to encourage healthy polyamorous living. In addition, several books may be good reference tools as you sift through polyamorous questioning. Check out The Polyamory Handbook: A User's Guide by Peter J. Benson; and Polyamory: New Love without Limits by Deborah M. Anapol. Another guide for non-traditional relationships is The Ethical Slut, which tackles the stereotype of being a "slut" if you love more than one partner and presents an ethical code of conduct for relationships (whether polyamorous or monogamous). And finally, see Unmarried Equality's page on Polyamory for definitions and musings on the subject.

Staying in close touch with your true desires may lead to more avenues of romantic possibility, now and in the future. With an open attitude and a reverence for honesty and communication, the more may very well make the merrier.


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