Hollywood feelgoods are full of triangles. But to most people, being in love with more than one is a scene set for tragedy. It often ends with you drinking your way into oblivion, without any lover left to lean on when you wake up. But there is an alternative ending. Some people refuse to choose, and instead they love several people at the same time. It is not cheating. It is not being a Mormon. It is polyamory.

Photo: Pretzelpaws (CC BY-NC-SA)
Polyamory pride in San Francisco, 2004

"There are polyamorous people who are very daring and alternative, sure, but most of us are perfectly normal with normal relationships – only they contain more people," he says. And almost to prove his point, Harald looks, acts and sounds very ordinary. He is a 34-year old civil engineer and computer programmer, nothing strange there. He lives in a small apartment with his girlfriend Dana, who is the mother of his two kids – a normal enough arrangement. At a first glance, his red glasses are the most eccentric thing about him, but even this shy abnormality is well compensated by the ketchup stains around his kids' mouths.

According to Harald, it is thanks to polyamory that he manages to live this seemingly normal life. His earlier relationships all crashed because he was unable commit to one person, knowing he would end up hurting them when he inevitably fell for someone else. "I thought there was something wrong with me that I'd have to deal with, and I ignored the possibility that I might be healthy and that the norms were at fault. It was a very difficult time," he says. "But then I met Dana and she expressed a will to live non-monogamously. I almost had to pinch my arm when she said it, because I'd given up." Since then Harald and Dana have both had multiple relationships on the side, but they do not share partners. And unlike some poly-relationships that have rules on who you can and cannot see, Harald and Dana's only rule is that they make sure not to risk each other's health by having unprotected sex.

Harald and Dana's only rule is that they make sure not to risk each other's health by having unprotected sex

To many, this arrangement seems impossible. To make it work, Harald advises you to use the same old remedy that is prescribed for most issues in a normal relationship: communication. Being open becomes especially important when polyamorous people meet new partners. They have to be aware of the setup, as this will minimise the risk that they get hurt. This basic rule - that everyone has to agree on the arrangements - is key to polyamory.

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