By: Nazaneen Baqizada A man and a woman are sitting side by side at a pub in Pickering. They are holding hands on top of the table. A few minutes later, the woman starts speaking fondly of her other partner. This may confuse the average bystander, but what they have witnessed here is polyamory.
A polyamorous lifestyle is having more than one love interest, with the knowledge and consent of all people involved.
While many polyamorists keep their relationship preference a secret, there are quite a few groups out there for them to come together and meet others. The man and woman from this story are from a group called “Polyamory Toronto,” which was founded in 2011 and now has over 1,000 members. They have had over 270 meet-ups in the past four years.
“Some people don’t wish to be outed, it could be quite detrimental to their families,” says Johnathon Hooper, one of the three organizers of the group. “It’s easier to have the secret than the disruption coming out could cause.”
In a Meet and Greet gathering for the group in September, seven people came together at a pub to hang out and meet other poly people. These meetings are usually very private and there is a process every person who signs up must go through.
The process helps them sort out between those actually interested in polyamory and what one woman in the gathering who wishes to remain anonymous calls the “polyf*ckers;” those who join these groups just to get intimate with different men or women.
While polyamory has been around for a while, it is more recently that the idea has been gaining more attention.
“Public figures and journalists are looking into it and getting the word out there,” says Carol Morotti-Meeker, relationship coach and therapist based in Philadelphia.
While Meeker says there is still a lot of stigma around polyamory, there are a lot of people out there who are practicing. One of these people are Robert McGarey, founder and executive director of the Human Potential Center, a non-profit Fitness Center for the mind and heart, based in Texas, has known he was poly for 35 years, and has been in a poly relationship for 24 years. Seventy percent of his clients are also poly.
I have never been monogamous. When I was in second grade, a family friend said, ‘So Bob, do you have a girlfriend?’ I said, ‘Yes, I have 20 of them,’ and they laughed and I didn’t know why.”
McGarey had three partners, until recently when his longest partner of 25 years passed away.
While being in a poly relationship may seem complicated to some people. The most important thing you can do in one is communicate.
“Communication is crucial for any kind of satisfying relationship, especially when there are more than two people involved,” says McGarey, who also has a book called “Polyamory Communication Survival Kit.”
Some people in poly relationships have a set of rules and guidelines they either write down or communicate verbally for times like when they get jealous.
“I personally insist that anybody I’m dating has to meet my other sweeties first,” McGarey says.
While McGarey got into polyamory at a young age, not everyone figures it out early on.
“It’s a journey, it can happen at any age but if you don’t have the support, education, feedback and sounding board, you’re not going to be able to develop it and embrace it the way you want,” said one of Hooper’s partners. “Hopefully this group is going to give me all of that.”
Decades ago, not many people could have guessed that same-sex relationships would be as common and open as they are today.
Now, more and more people in “ALT communities” are ready to let the world know they exist.
“If you’ve ever read all the childhood literature, watched the movies and read the romance novels, there is an ideal model of a relationship, but if you don’t want that, there’s no model,” Hooper said. “There are no boundaries, so the moment people go beyond, there’s a whole new world to explore.”