Polyamory is usually met with a lot of doubt and suspicion. Some people express strong disapproval or even disgust. They ask questions that make it clear that they don’t really understand what polyamory is about. Polyamorous people end up hearing the same types of responses over and over, and it can be exhausting to defend our relationships and preferences.
So here are some questions you should never ask polyamorous people -
1. Which Is Your "Main" Partner?
Some people do choose to have a “main” or primary partner with whom they share certain responsibilities and have more interdependence. But others don’t. To them, this question is hurtful because it’s a reminder that many people still believe that you can only have one partner who really “matters.” But in fact, there are many ways to practice polyamory that don’t involve having a “primary,” such as solo polyamory and other radical alternatives. This question comes from the idea that there always has to be one “main” relationship in someone’s life, which is a view that’s very centred on monogamy.
2. But What About Kids?
Polyamorous women (or people who are perceived as women) are often asked this question. Men seem to get it much less often because they are not expected to plan their lives around raising children. Some people, including some polyamorous people, are not interested in having children. Asking someone “But what about kids?” is presumptive. Moreover, the question suggests that polyamory and parenting are incompatible. Many polyamorous people do raise children with one or more of their partners. While this certainly comes with its challenges, polyamory does not necessarily mean an unstable or inappropriate environment for children.
3. So Basically You're A Cheater?
Suggesting that someone is being manipulated or taken advantage of simply because their partner has other partners denies their agency. But polyamory is not cheating. This comment is usually made to women who date men and seems to come from the stereotype that men always want to cheat on their girlfriends or wives and feel entitled to multiple partners (with or without everyone’s knowledge of consent). Viewed with this frame, polyamory seems like just another way for men to cheat, except without even having to feel guilty. But that's not the case, polyamory is a consensual relationship between two or more people.
4. So You're Always Available?
Polyamorous people are not necessarily “available” to you. They may be in closed relationships consisting of more than two people (this is known as polyfidelity). They may have rules with their partners about seeing new people. Or they may just not be interested in you. If you’re interested in someone who happens to be polyamorous, do the same thing you’d do with anyone else: Ask them if they’d like to go out with you. If they don’t want to, or can’t because of their relationship structure, they’ll let you know.
5. Don't You Get Jealous?
People assume this is some sort of trump card – if you get jealous, clearly, polyamory is impossible, and everyone gets jealous. Actually, some people really don’t. Others do experience jealousy but have decided that polyamory is what’s best for them anyway. Jealousy happens all the time in monogamous relationships – you might be jealous of a partner’s friendships, job, family, talents, or basically anything else they have that you wish you had too. You might feel insecure when they spend time with their friends. You might worry that they love their work or their hobbies more than they love you. But that doesn't make you want to just leave them or stop dating altogether, it's the same case.
A good rule of thumb is don't ask a poly person a question you wouldn't ask someone of any other orientation and try to be polite. It's really that simple. And you always have Google to guide you through your weird, annoying or rude questions, so spare the poly person the pain.