Polyamoury and fiction

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.

About Nimue Brown

Druid, author, dreamer, folk enthusiast, parent, wife to the most amazing artist -Tom Brown. Drinker of coffee, maker of puddings. Exploring life as a Pagan, seeking good and meaningful ways to be, struggling with mental health issues and worried about many things. View all posts by Nimue Brown

16 responses to “Polyamoury and fiction

  • janeycolbourne

    I think this culture of possessive love can be objectifying at its extreme, and lead to a sense of entitlement, which is a factor in acrimonious divorces, fighting over the children, and at the furthest extreme feeds into abusive patterns of relating. Media portrayals of ‘love’ can sometimes validate quite disturbing possessive attitudes.

    Ironically being possessive of a loved one can alienate them and drive them further away.

    • Nimue Brown

      Yes – the idea that you own someone I think has a lot of impact on the scope for all kinds of domestic abuse, and the idea that it’s ok to kill someone who resists being owned, doesn’t want to stay etc. Hideous.

  • Robin Herne

    Dr Phlox in Star Trek is in a multiple marriage – a common practice of his species. I’ve not seen all the episodes, so don’t if any of the other members of the marriage appear in the show.

  • Robert

    Fiction aside Many people are naturally polyamouric and it is the none polyamouric members of or societies “the control freaks and their institutions” who have imposed this societal situation —-That is why so many people practice serial monogamy —– We do not truly quit loving or caring about someone —– we are forced in many cases to hide our feelings —— If we were able to be totally honest without loosing our present loving companions we would find that many people are “Closet Polyamourics” ——- It is truly sad —– It is through love and intimacy that we gain the most fulfillment as we relate the the needs and gifts of others —– Remember that in the Greek language there are many different words for love depending on how you are experiencing it with that individual.

    • Nimue Brown

      I think you’re so right about the language issue, more words for love would be a great help in all of this. My feeling is that if we can start to change the stories, we can change the culture, but there is so much that needs to change.,

  • alainafae

    I strongly agree with janeycolbourne and Robert, and I would add that I feel it is unreasonable to expect another person to be ‘everything’ for someone else. It seems like a very co-dependent, “You must make obvious that you need me as much as I feel I need you in order for me to feel secure”, unrealistic and unhealthy sort of relationship that demands of a particular person to perfectly fit all of one’s ever-changing desires and interests for the rest of their life. Having that expectation of someone seems to doom them to failure from the very beginning, regardless of either party’s romantic interest or lack thereof toward other people during the course of the relationship, resulting in avoidable heartache for everyone involved.

    It also takes the possessiveness to the next level when it comes to having children, taking the attitude of “I only want to care for a child if it’s ‘mine’ “, rather than approaching it like “A person I love has/is going to have a child, and I want to support them in that journey”.

    • janeycolbourne

      Spot on! I was just going to say the pressure on relationships is huge when each person is expected fulfil all needs, and if they don’t then they can’t be ‘the one’. Deep friendships and community can provide the aspects of support and understanding that might not always come from a partner.

  • mtn_tarzan

    I’ve recently decided to try being polyamorous. I didn’t like having to chose one woman when I was in love with or wanted to explore another aspect of life with a different woman. It’s definitely not easy to get others to buy into or understand what you want. But opening up my ability to love has lifted a lot of stress off the dating life. Thank you for writting about it. Good to hear more people feeling this way.

  • Nick Isabella

    I could not agree more with your last line. Thank you for have the courage to say what you say in all your blogs.

  • bone&silver

    Polyamory is one of the fastest growing social phenomenons, esp in America; And I agree, more authors need to write about it.

  • TPWard

    I’d like just one politician caught having an affair to say, “not that it’s any of your business, but my spouse is well aware.”

  • at your service

    Yes,Something as natural as love shouldn’t be tried to be understood intellectually, considering the fake but extensive humbug around it.To love is beyond physicality,it is one’s way of life.
    Nice article!!

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