Yeah, we’re pretty under-represented and a lot of it has to do with age and as a result of that, income status. Younger people aren’t likely to have the time to be able to blog or maintain websites as often as people with a history in writing or web work, etc, unlike those who are retired or have money in the bank, or are more established at careers and have higher income levels, homes they own, etc. Older people are also more likely to be just discovering polyamory while younger people, especially Gen Z have really grown up with it their entire lives and it’s just normalized dating, a casual thing they mention, not some big breakthrough in their lives when they — gasp — finally breathe the fresh air of doing poly after years of stifling monogamy (playfully speaking, of course). Thus, people who open up existing marriages are usually louder than for people whom it’s not really a big deal to be poly.
There are really two main branches of poly dynamics, people under 35 and people over 35, and the contrasts are pretty striking: people over 35 are generally opening up marriages and more often tend toward swinging, they’re in search of new sex rather than concurrent relationships, though not everyone is this way, it’s usually what I find to be the case. Rarely are longtime-married people wanting to assume additional financial and emotional responsibilities that could possibly put in jeopardy all that thye’ve worked for. They’ve grown very used to their relationships and aren’t ready to allow a secondary relationship (or more) to transpire independently, though sex within the framework in the marriage is a safer bet. Emotional bonds are deep attachments and dependencies, and thus possible liabilities.
People under 35 are often starting two or more distinct relationships at the same time, so there’s a different mindset for these two groups that’s less dependent upon age, more dependent upon where in the timeline of our relationship progression we were when we decided that poly was for us. A lot of my followers are in the over-35 camp, most of them who read my polyamory stuff, actually, and we don’t really see eye-to-eye because of this, to them, it’s a complimentary addition to their marriage, to me, it’s how I love and have loved for a very long time, and how many other younger people are actually starting their relationships now that it’s socially acceptable, without a long window of time where monogamy was the norm.
They tell me, often, that I take my relationship too seriously, that it’s just fun sex, and I silently roll my eyes and realize that they’re swinging, a totally different experience from developing concurrent relationships like my friends, or from walking into an established relationship, like myself. Their lovers are part-time, while we intend to be there for each other through thick and thin, putting our finances on the line, our time, our energy, our effort, our love, and compassion, and much more out there so that we can be supportive partners. This is what a relationship is all about.
So, in a very real way, we’re the new generation of polyists, and it’s pretty cool that your generation paved the way to making it socially acceptable enough that my friends who are, say, 19-years-old, have chosen it as their path in life, avoiding monogamy altogether. We’re the generation who grew up with it. It’s really a different experience and it’s nothing shy of amazing. Even my relationship is more traditional, with my girlfriend and her husband having been married for quite a long time before I came along and we settled in together, but more people in my age group that I know of tend toward the other way now that they can finally say that this is the way they want to live.
We also don’t have a need for swinger communities and so forth as much anymore because we’re not branching out from a longstanding marriage, we can just meet people naturally, have the conversation that we don’t believe in possessive relationship types, and usually the other person is pretty accepting of it. We don’t need to tiptoe around the conversation, we can wear it as a part of who we are and express it openly from the get go, no monogamy hangover necessary. I haven’t had a monogamous relationship for over 10 years, every single partner has known within the first few weeks of dating that I intended the relationship to be open and they could choose to date me with that in mind or not.
To me, once we remove sexual fidelity from the definitive factor of a relationship, the next important thing that matters is our level of commitment; polyamory is differentiated from swinging by our levels of commitment to our partners, as I alluded to in my other piece. I generally like to look at it like this: if I was single and dating ONE of my partners, would this be considered a standalone relationship in itself? Sometimes the answer is yes, sometimes no, but if a single person is seeing someone once a month that they have sex with, nothing more, that’s called a “booty call” so if that’s taking place within the framework of a preexisting relationship, it’s still the same thing, its an accessory, and definitely not the same thing as what we have going on with shared finances, distributed responsibilities, time investments, keeping all of the partners in mind with career changes (this is a big one, career and other life changes are a big determining factor of the quality of our relationships) and lifestyle changes that might affect them, etc. Not that either one is better or worse, but pretending that they’re the same thing is disingenuous, at best. Sacrifice and selflessness is a huge part of emotional bonding and pair-bonding, that shouldn’t be underscored.
Lastly, becuse we don’t need a “poly community” (or swinger group) to do our thing, it’s socially acceptable now, that’s likely why many people don’t see us. I mean, how would you know? How would you know my girlfriend and I aren’t just great friends, when we’re out on the town, hands-off, acting casually? Or how would you know that the two people you see having lunch together and holding hands, gazing into one another’s eyes, aren’t just a pair, but two people of a larger group? I feel like there’s a loudness bias, where the people who consider poly a “lifestyle” (I don’t under any circumstances, and I don’t consider monogamy a “lifestyle” either, nor being single, etc.) are the loudest and the rest of us just go on about our business.