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Love thy wife- and her boyfriend

It’s happened to the most loyal and dedicated of us. You love your partner from the absolute bottom of your heart. You would give them your kidney- you would give them both of your kidneys, three kidneys if you had them. Your nephrotic health is of little concern when it comes to Bae. But what if your partner is eyeing a kidney from another bae? Or, more specifically, what if they want to sleep with someone else? In this increasingly tolerant and intersectionally-oriented society, relationships involving more than two people are steadily becoming more mainstream.

There are nearly always times in a person’s relationship when they find themselves with a crush. Sometimes you fantasize about other prospects, or you think of someone you fancy as a “back-up” to your current partner. Maybe you’ll even think of the advice commonly attributed to Johnny Depp: “If you love two people at the same time, choose the second. Because if you really loved the first one, you wouldn’t have fallen for the second.” Sentiments like this one may force you to question your love for your partner – can you truly be attracted to more than one person at the same time?

There is a flourishing movement, brought to public focus with the swinger’s crusade in the 1970’s, to reject orthodox, heteronormative, monogamous, relationships. Polyamory is a burgeoning lifestyle and sexual identity that, by some estimates, one in five Americans have had experience within a relationship.

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Polyamory literally means “to love multiples.” Dante Brice, a fourth-year film student at Georgia State who identifies as polyamorous, defines it as “believing that love does not equate property but that you can love different people in similar ways equally.” Much of the appeal of polyamory is rejecting the traditional constraints of monogamy and celebrating romantic love for multiple people at the same time in a candid, straightforward manner.

As with most identities, polyamorous relationships come in many forms. Some partners choose to keep their relationship open, for example, with each partner allowed to casually date other people. Other polyamorous relationships might involve multiple people who all are dating each other. What the relationship entails will depend heavily on what those involved decide and agree on. As you might expect, this departure from pure monogamy requires ample communication to work.

Because of that ample communication, a growing body of evidence suggests polyamorous relationships tend to be healthier and more satisfying than monogamous ones. Honest and direct dialogue is paramount for any successful relationship, monogamous or otherwise, but it provides the very foundation of polyamorous relationships because there are multiple people involved.

There is a common misconception that polyamory is mere “ethical promiscuity” and a way to avoid commitment. But it’s still possible to cheat in a polyamorous relationship, like any other, as it is still based on a breach of trust.

“[Calling polyamory ‘ethical cheating’] presupposes that it is impossible to cheat in a polyamorous relationship, which is so far from the truth. Cheating implies secrecy and breaking of the agreed-upon rules and covenants in your relationship,” a Georgia State alumni who identifies as polyamorous and prefers to remain anonymous said.

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Polyamorous relationships are committed relationships like any other. They might require more planning than others, but adherents say the payoff is immense. “There is no hard limit to the potential amount of love and care that I can have in my life,” the Georgia State alumni said.

The merits of polyamory do not mean that polyamory is suitable for everyone. Some prominent researchers suggest that the preference for monogamous or polyamorous relationships is a spectrum, like many other sexual identities. In one study, those who were at either extreme – top 10 percentile for each monogamy and polyamory – exhibited significantly different neural responses to romantic images in the reward-related limbic system. These findings, though still exploratory, could mean that there is a biological basis to preferring polyamorous relationships over monogamous ones. And while people in polyamorous relationships are generally more satisfied, are less likely to spread sexually transmitted illnesses than people in cheating monogamous relationships, and tend to be less jealous than conventional couples, these benefits are probably exclusive to those who are actually polyamorous.

Indeed, if you know that you tend to be tremendously jealous when you see your partner look for a moment too long at a bikini profile picture on another girl’s Facebook feed, then it’s conceivable that polyamory is not for you.

Some Georgia State students in the polyamory community said they became interested in polyamory by the time they were in their first relationships. While you might enter the vast world of polyamory at any age, subscribing to it requires incredible emotional maturity, open-mindedness, and willingness to be absolutely, completely honest. Even that might not be enough for you to accept your partner loving or sleeping with someone else.

Still, monogamous partners might do well by taking notes from people in polyamorous relationships. Communication and compassionate understanding are essential in any relationship. Brice advised, “I decided it was better to be realistic and to have an open dialogue with my dating partners about when/if we found interest in other people.”

At the end of the day, the terms of the relationship are contingent on what those involved are comfortable and happy with. It’s also useful to remember that those terms aren’t set in stone. Like in any relationship, if one person is discontented, they should open up to the other(s) about how they feel and what they would like to change.

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