< SWITCH ME >

Hurting others is not the only risk you run. A lot of non-believers claim that having multiple partners will increase the risk of catching an STI. But Matthew Bobbu, 23 and editor of Polytical, a British organisation that works for poly rights, claims that the health risks are actually smaller than in a monogamous relationship.

"Normally, if anyone cheats they might not bring it up, and then you would not know that your partner is risking your health. This is less likely in a polyamorous relationship," he says and sniffles. "But you do run a greater risk of catching a cold with all the people around you." Despite the runny nose, Matthew, who has a long-term relationship with his girlfriend and a distance relationship with his boyfriend, sees the amount of people involved as a big advantage. "It becomes a great big web of people that can help you out," he continues. "I've had a fire in my house so I'm homeless at the moment. It's been great to be able to stay at my partners' and then have their partners look after me as well."

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Photo: twoacrephotography (CC BY-NC-SA 2.0)
Some people choose more than one partner

But everyone is not as comfortable with their lover's others. Harald admits he can struggle with jealousy, but like most polyamorous people he believes it stems from his insecurities, and that it can be managed by attacking the underlying issues.

"It's sort of like practising CBT [Cognitive Behavioural Therapy] on yourself. You expose yourself to a little jealousy at a time and look at your feelings and think, 'what is this, what caused it, and why does it scare me?'" he says.

But even if your health and your jealousy are under control, you still have to worry about how others are going to perceive your lifestyle. For some, "coming out" can be tough. People have lost their jobs, and some have even lost their kids.

To make it as smooth as possible, Matthew advises you to be casual when you come out to people, instead of "sitting them down for a talk". "People follow mental cues," he says. "If you're serious when you bring it up they'll be serious when they react to it. But if you don't treat it like a problem, the chance is greater they won't either." 

When Harald first came out he had some issues with his mum. "She thought, 'I'll never get grandchildren if you're going to be that weird'. Makes you wonder who taught her maths," he says. "But we talked about it and eventually she realised that perhaps I wasn't so weird after all."

When he first came out he had issues with his mum. She thought "I'll never have grandchildren if you're going to be that weird."

Harald's mother is not the only one who struggles to work children into the polyamorous equation. Some are concerned that role-models can disappear suddenly when parents split with one of their partners, or that the children will get bullied in school. But Harald's kids – although loud and messy – seem healthy enough. "I don’t think our family is crazier than any divorced family with their step-brothers here and their step-sister there, and those families usually work out. And the kids can only benefit from more adults in their lives."

With all the difficulties that polyamory holds, there are various communities and organisations that offer support. They can help you to manage your jealousy, or give tips on how to handle stuff like sexual health checkups. Polytical works to end discrimination in Britain, such as the extra fee that has been put on some households with multiple unwed occupants. They also help polyamorous constellations to get the same legal protection that a normal couple gets from marriage. Polyheart is not an activist organisation. Instead Harald wants to offer polyamorous people a sense of belonging, hoping this might give them the courage to live the way they want. "I think my life is pretty good now," he says. "That is mainly because I've got the guts to stand up for who I am."

In the future, Harald hopes polyamory will lose its bad name so that more people who feel that it would suit them can find the necessary confidence to try: "Today, people inform students in school about alternatives to heterosexuality. I hope they start talking about alternatives to monogamy as well, because I think everyone should know that it's a free choice. That it's up to everyone to decide for themselves."

Useful sites on polyamory
www.polytical.org 
www.polyheart.se 
www.xeromag.com/fvpoly 
www.polyamory.org.uk/ 
http://www.lovewithoutlimits.com/
http://thepolyamoryproject.wordpress.com/

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