Here’s a kind scenario I’ve seen repeatedly, in various forms of fiction. Usually it starts because a man has been discovered having an affair. “But I love both of you” says the man. “But you can’t,” says the woman. And thus the polyamorous possibilities in the situation are disappeared.
Love triangles are popular in stories – and not just romances. Tales where male opponents are fighting to win a woman are not unusual. Tales where a man must choose between two women, or a woman must choose between two men abound. I have no idea if this same structure is normal in queer writing, I’ve just not read enough to know. Love triangles create tension, which makes them attractive to authors. Who will be chosen? Or will someone conveniently be killed off?
The underlying story is that choosing is the right thing to do. You are only allowed to be in love with one person. It is only good and natural to be in love with one person. This is pretty harsh on those of us who don’t fit the model.
I have spent many years talking about being a plural sort of person, because I want to challenge the shame around this way of being. It isn’t a lifestyle choice – in fact for a long time now it’s not been an active feature of my life at all. How I feel is not something I have much control over, and my capacity to love is what it is.
I have fantasies about a world in which being able to love more than one person is something to be celebrated. Where having more space in your heart doesn’t make you wrong, or shameful, and where the ‘happy endings’ to not mean having to choose one love over another. Of course, you might choose to do that, and if that’s your free choice then fair enough. Love who you love, express it how you will – it should all be fine. But the dominant narrative that love must be all focused on one person, is something I find really difficult.
I’d like to see polyamoury expressed as generosity, not greed. I’d like to see it out there in fiction as a possibility, not the impossibility we’re so often shown. I’d like a world in which honestly open relationships are more socially acceptable than going behind an established partner’s back.
I’d also like a world in which bisexuality is not automatically equated with plurality. A bisexual person is no more likely than anyone else to be polyamorous.
I’d like a world in which we do not see other people as things to possess, to own and to jealously guard. Where we do not feel diminished by people we love loving people other than us. Where we don’t automatically feel threatened by that. There’s so much competitive thinking around relationships, and the portrayal of relationships in fictive forms does a lot to reinforce it. We’re told every day through the media we interact with how it is that we’re supposed to be with each other, and those stories are very narrow, and have fear laced through them. Cling tight, own, control, fear the interloper, fear the lapse of attention, fear the sexier competitor… it does us no good at all, and better stories are certainly a possibility.