‘I’m wired differently’: What it feels like to be polyamorous and how couples make it work
Elise Wandering Hummingbird, a 32-year-old massage therapist, had an inkling she was polyamorous at a young age. A former Jehovah’s Witness, however, the Seattle resident didn’t settle into her identity for some time.
“As a kid, when I had crushes, I always had crushes on multiple people,” she says. “It was never like, ‘I have a crush on one person, I fixate on that one person.'” A TED Talk introduced her to the possibilities a polyamorous life had to offer.
“I’m not broken. I’m not a cheater. I’m not this person that has bad morals. I’m literally just wired differently,” she says.
Contrary to popular belief, polyamory is not an antidote for wandering eyes in a relationship. Polyamorous relationships are built on the utmost trust, often involving specific rules, synced calendars and strict communication – and no, not all polyamorous people are interested in dating every person they meet, among other common misconceptions.
“A lot of people we meet kind of assume that we want to sleep with them,” says Daniel Wolf says of his polyamorous relationship with Dana Hobson. Hobson adds: “I’m just so interested in deeply getting to know someone. If that becomes sexual, great. That’s just like a deeper version of a friendship to me that would happen over time.”
What does polyamorous mean?
Polyamory means “multiple loves” – a word coined in the late 20th century, with Greek and Latin roots.
“It usually describes a particular approach to (consensual non-monogamy) that prioritizes ongoing emotional and sexual connections with multiple partners,” Sheila Addison, a family and marriage therapist, previously told USA TODAY.
About one in six Americans wants to try polyamory, according to research from Amy Moors, assistant professor of psychology at Chapman University and research fellow with the Kinsey Institute. One in nine have already had polyamorous relationships.
Remember that polyamorous people don’t want to erase monogamy. “The goal is for everyone to know what options they have in relationships and being able to kind of customize and tailor them and be able to honestly express their desires to their partner or partners,” says Leanne Yau, polyamory expert.