I dont believe people should follow a specific way set by the society to form and consume their relationships - be it monogamous or polyamorous. At this point in time it seems social monogamy is the accepted way for people to live, love and die, but it appears that “Only 17 percent of human cultures are strictly socially monogamous. The vast majority of human societies embrace multiple types of marriage” (Bernard Chapais of the University of Montreal quoted by NYTimes).
Therefore, I do feel it is wrong to assume all relationships should be monogamous. The image we get from pop culture, media, family, work and friends is one of continuous monogamous relationships (a.k.a serial monogamy), and we somehow are expected to enthusiastically accept it and provide our fair share in forming the monogamous society. Thanks, but no thanks. Thinking about our needs, and not taking monogamy as the only acceptable option could provide us with the opportunity to choose what feels right for us specifically.
Polyamory vs polygamy
Polygamy is the practice or custom of having more than one wife or husband at the same time. When a man is married to more than one wife at a time, sociologists call this polygyny. When a woman is married to more than one husband at a time, it is called polyandry. If a marriage includes multiple husbands and wives, it can be called a group marriage.
Polyamory The fact of having simultaneous close romantic relationships with two or more other individuals, viewed as an alternative to monogamy, esp. in regard to matters of sexual fidelity; the custom or practice of engaging in multiple romantic relationships with the knowledge and consent of all partners concerned.
I met Inna just few weeks after one of her workshops on jealousy and polyamory at Other Nature in Berlin. On her blog she describes herself as “... queer, white cis-woman with jewish history. I live in two loving relationships and want to share my intimate, funny, sometimes
absurd and sometimes enriching experiences from my live as a polyamorous
person with you”. Having followed the topic for a while now, and also in the process of finding the right relationship type for myself, I was very excited and nervous about this interview.
Vanina: How long have you been doing workshops on polyamory?
Inna: This is my 3rd year of doing workshops and Im expanding. Im getting new ideas - starting this “Poly How To” at Other nature - when I started this workshop last year it was 5 hours long, but now is shorter. Almost all people who come there are in a relationship and kinda dealing with the subject of jealousy, and not strictly in a monogamous way. It will be good to have a weekend full with jealousy and relationship (workshop) stuff, but its not easy to organize and also people are a little bit shy because it is intense.
V: Theres is definitely an interest in the topic. I was in Leipzig for the CCC and there were 2 Poly workshops and they were packed. Do you think it’s picking up or was it always like this?
I: I think it’s getting more popular as more people are getting involved and try to find information on polyamory. Like in Germany for example, German TV, they started to approach me and other people from the poly community more often then in the past. Both of my partners and myself are skeptical, as a lot of times the media would change the story / the context, and its there forever.
V: In that sense, do you have to be careful with the way you present polyamory?
I: I mean if you google polyamory and if you google jealousy the articles you see are mostly shitty. People will say things like “being faithful without being faithful”, which I think is a pretty weird thing to say ...
V: Yeah I get questions like this a lot …
I: I dont know why people are concentrating on the sex (part) a lot. It can be about sex, but it doesnt have to be.
V: I also get the question about the difference between polyamorous relationship and an open relationship and Im not sure how to explain that.
I: Well, it depends. People would say that an open relationship is this main category, and then you have swinging, mono-poly, you have all these different sub-categories. So I would also say that open relationship is this big category or non monogamy, and then you have polyamory, sexually exclusive, or not sexually exclusive.
Some of my friends say that they find open relationship as a term has negative connotations, and they prefer saying non monogamy.
I use “open relationship” as being open for sexual experiences. Right now Im not ready to be emotionally attached or committed to someone new. I always get involved, and Im fast to like people, but I don't feel like committing myself right now in a way that I would take care of people, or seeing them as a stable factor in my life and talk about kids and the future.
V: Co-parenting and is there a correlation between polyamory and co-parenting? Is this something that goes together? Is this the way we will be living in the future?
I: I know some people who have kids and they are approaching me. I have this friend and he and his girlfriend and another partner of her - they have a kid together, all 3 of them. And I think it is definitely co-parenting as you all engage with the kids and stay in their lives. We already live this - as when people remarry, and they already have their kids and bring them into the new family - I think it is already coparenting.
In a heterosexual relationship they at least can easier adopt the kids. Then you also have the ex-partners, who also take responsibility for the kids. I think I would wish for another way where all of them have rights, where all of them can be legally acknowledged as the kids parents. But something that bothers me and that i think about a lot is that I am not legally a parent, if Im not the one who gave birth and Im not the one who adopted I dont have rights. I would like to have the legal status of a parent so I don't need to prove myself all the time.
V: Yes, in Bulgaria it is actually illegal in a way to live with more than one partner on marriage terms…
I: Having multiple partners and basically living polyamorous isn't a new thing around the world, there are societies that have been living that for many years.
V: yes, monogamy is kind of a new thing …
Monogamy in the sense of "the goal in your life that you definitely need to achieve in order to be happy" got definitely more important since there was no need to marry for economical reasons. But it never worked 100%.
For some people it does work, but many people struggle with it and try to fit themselves into this concept. If you look at statistics of people being "unfaithful", I feel like we need to talk about the relationships we really want to have and monogamy can be part of it.
V: Its just assumed that this is what relationships are and thats it. But now Im feeling like people are questioning it. So how do you date, how do you find partners that are interested in polyamorous relationship?
I: I feel like right now I have a limited amount of time for people I can date, I don't feel excited about it right now. Generally I am really committed and want to spend a lot of time with my 2 partners, so to me it feels like I dont have the capacity to date more people or get involved in an emotional way right now, it just feels too much. But usually I use OK Cupid. Especially because you can find (and choose yourself) different relationship and gender identities there. It also feels like more Queer people are on Ok Cupid. Im really shy in real life. Sometimes there are situations when I would meet someone at a party, but its hard if you are a shy person. Friends of friends - this also happens sometimes.
V: Hierarchy in Polyamory. Prime partners and other partners? How do you look at the idea of hierarchy?
I: Well, I have 2 partners. One of them I’ve been with for 7 years and the other one 2 and a half years. The first partner is the one who already had a partner and she initiated the polyamory relationship (before that we were just in an open relationship). So when she fell in love, I felt like I wanted to have this primary and secondary thing but mostly because of my fear of losing privileges and losing my status. So it was more of a way for controlling (now I can say it that way) - “Thats the only way I could do it!”. But we didnt do it that way we just agreed on not having primary and secondary partner, we just both are going to be partners and see how it goes.
I wouldnt say “I have a primary partner, and now Im looking for a secondary partner”, but I feel like sometimes, without even using these words, it just turns out this way. Like “I have partners who I live with and I have kids, I cant spend 3 days of the week with you although I really like you”. So this way it somehow naturally evolves to something that is maybe a secondary partner relationship, because you dont have more capacity. That feels more like the way of doing it, not just putting someone in the box of secondary relationship.
Maybe Im at a moment of my life when Im not in a position for another equal time, equal energy, equally committed person. But I wouldnt say this person is less worthy for me, it is more about capacity. And there I feel its very helpful to say hey, I cant just leave everything behind, spend 7 days a week with you, and abandon everything - its not how it works - it sounds great, but I cant do it, especially when I grow older and I have all the grown up shit to deal with, its just not very realistic. When it happens consensually you can change it and you say my needs are this and that, and I want to spend this amount of time with you - you can be more flexible, rather than saying oh this is my primary and this is my secondary - i dont want to have this status because it feels so non flexible - i dont want to change the status every few months.
Its all about boundaries and needs, not about putting someone into a category or trying to fit into a category instead of trying to see what kind of relationship I want to have with this person.
V: But thats the thing - you have to be very honest with yourself. You have to ask yourself these questions a lot. You really have to think about it a lot
I: Yes, and sometimes it is very complicated. When you have a long term partner and you fall in love with someone - than you have all this new relationship energy and you are all excited about this person. Mostly people are worried of neglecting their other partner, because they are so full of hormones so thats also complicated. You cant, in my opinion just go ahead and be all in love and neglect your other partner. If you want to be in polyamorous relationship you have to take care of both.
And that’s the complicated part - sometimes your needs are not 100% of what is the best way to act in the first place just because it feels super awesome. But then, I dont want to leave my other partner behind, I want to have polyamorous relationship and this means responsibility for both, taking care of both. Making sure nobody feels left behind. Because this is what people are afraid of - “My partner will fall in love and leave me behind”. And this happens if you are not interested in a polyamorous relationship - of course you will leave someone behind if you are only looking to fall in love and start a new relationship with someone.
V: When is the next workshop coming up?
I: I have 5 workshops starting in March in different cities in Germany. Im very excited about Hannover, Dresden and Kiel, because Berlin feels like a queer/poly bubble sometimes. People read all these books and have a lot of knowledge and experience, many have been in polyamorous relationships for years, so Im like whats with the rest of Germany - how is it, people sometimes dont have any experience at all - I rarely talk to people who dont have experience.
For more workshop dates checkout Innas workshop schedule here
For more info about Inna, checkout her website
Lede image Joshua Fuller