University life is complicated. Between all your classes, part-time jobs, extra-curricular activities, and parties, there’s no time for finding true love. Some girls come to university with their high school sweetheart, others seem to hit the jackpot right away, and then there are those of us who spend their entire undergrad going on dates, trying to find “the one.” We sit in movie theatres getting so caught up trying to figure out if the person beside us is “the one” that we completely miss the movie. My question is: is there really just one?
Love at First Sight… Again
Imagine you’re in line for Starbucks and the barista takes your order. They ask for your name (to put on your cup) and your number (to put in their phone). The next day, you have a text from the barista, asking to meet up for coffee – somewhere other than Starbucks this time. You’re psyched, except for one small problem: you’ve been seeing a girl for a while now. But the barista was so cute, and seemed like fun; It’s decision time. What if it didn’t have to be? What if you could go out with both of them?
We’ve all heard about polygamist relationships – when one person is married to several. Generally stigmatized, they’re normally associated to certain religions. In fact, one of my favourite actresses, Amanda Seyfried, played the daughter of a polygamist in the controversial TV series “Big Love.”
But a polygamist relationship isn’t the only type of relationship that involves more than two people. There are many others, ones that aren’t based on religious beliefs or a hierarchy, but on something more: equality, love and honesty. Polygamist relationships fall under a larger umbrella term called polyamory.
What is Polyamory?
The term polyamory is a combination of the Greek term “poly”, meaning many, and the Roman “amor”, meaning love. In a nutshell, it means to love more than one person at a time. It’s not the same as sleeping around, since you establish a relationship with the people you’re involved with, and no, I’m not telling you to cheat on whoever you’re dating – the essential part of a true polyamorous relationship is honesty. Each member of the relationship has the right to know what’s going on.
Honesty is Key
Let’s go back to your imaginary dating dilemma. You’ve decided that you want to go on dates with both the barista and the girl you’re already seeing. Great! Now you have to tell them about your decision. You can’t hide new relationships in a polyamorous relationship. Before you go on your date with the barista, meet up with the girl and explain how you’ve met someone that you’re attracted to, and that you’d like to go on a date with them while still seeing her. Once you’ve made sure that the girl understands, it’s time to talk to the barista (preferably on your first date). Let him know that you’re already seeing someone, but that you like him too and that you’re really excited for your date. The key part of all of this is to be open and honest.
No matter how honest and open you are, be prepared for negative responses. Much like LGBT relationships, polyamorous relationships aren’t part of the traditional view of love. People may feel intimidated by your decisions, or feel like your lifestyle is audacious. I once had someone tell me that they had “too much self-worth to be involved in a situation like (that)”, but that they wished me all the best. I never really understood where they think my self-worth got to, since I’d say that being completely honest with myself and others is the best way to respect myself, but I had to respect their decision.
Once you’ve entered a polyamorous relationship, you’ll need to define the rules. No two relationships are the same. In fact, because the umbrella term “polyamory” covers so many different types of relationships, you’re free to create the lifestyle you want, with your partners’ consent. Relationships can be open (where you’re allowed to see more than your defined partners) or closed (where you’re only involved with your defined partners). Either way, most partners frown upon cheating. Polyamorous relationships can involve people of any gender or marital status, as long as everyone involved agrees. As the Canadian Polyamory Advocacy Association says on their website, “We don’t just choose freely; we define the choices.”
To find out what polyamory is like on a personal level, I talked to Rachel Batty, who runs Poly Ottawa. She gave honest answers to some important questions, just like she keeps honesty in all of her relationships.
Her Campus: How long have you been in a polyamorous relationship for?
Rachel: I have been identifying as poly for just over 3 years now. However even in my other relationships I have not been monogamous.
Her Campus: What’s the biggest misconception that you come across when people find out that you’re in a polyamorous relationship?
Rachel: Some people think it’s because you are looking for multiple partners for sex. Like sex is the driving force. When even the roots of polyamory are both Greek and Latin but mean ‘many loves’. And it’s really more about love than about the sex.
Her Campus: How do you explain your lifestyle to new partners?
Rachel: I mostly date people I have met online, my online profile has it front and centre and clearly marked that I’m in open relationships. But I have had a couple of instances where I have met people outside of the Internet that I have had to explain it to. I do often struggle with telling them. Mostly it’s about when do I tell them. I want them to get to know me a little bit and understand I’m not that weird. But I think it’s unfair to them and my other partners for them not to know. Usually at first I talk about how I’m in an open relationship and say that everyone knows about everyone else and it’s okay. I explain that my boyfriend lives with his partner of 18 years with their children and she has a boyfriend. And I have a girlfriend and she is dating. It doesn’t mean that I don’t love them and they don’t love me back.
Her Campus: What’s the best part about being in a polyamorous relationship?
Rachel: There’s an interesting level of trust you can achieve when your partner shows you over and over that they won’t leave you just because they found someone else they are interested in, find attractive, fell in love with or slept with.
Her Campus: Any words of wisdom for college girls thinking about it?
Rachel: Communication is key! It’s key in any relationship but in poly it’s necessary to succeed. Some things are difficult to talk about. Sex being one of them. I have created a written communication agreement with partners describing what I want to know/how to tell me. It’s not easy being poly but monogamy isn’t easy either. Love is infinite only time is finite.
Finding yourself in University
The next time you feel a connection with more than one person, why not try polyamory? University is the time to discover who you truly are, and to make connections that might just last you a lifetime!
Think polyamory might be for you?
If you want to find out more about polyamory, or if you’re polyamorous yourself, the Ottawa Bi/Poly Group meets weekly and is always open to welcoming more people to their group. You can find out more here:
Poly Ottawa, the group that Rachel Batty runs, has been in Ottawa for a year and a half now. They meet the second Tuesday of each month. To stay updated on their next event, “like” their Facebook page:
For even more information, media stories, and forums, check out the Canadian Polyamory Advocacy Assocation’s website: