Relationships with Multiple Partners
Polyamory, the practice of having many romantic partners, is becoming more prevalent in Neo-Paganism. People who engage in polyamory may establish a stable primary relationship first and then bring others into the mix, but this isn't always the case.
Polyamory is not the same as “swinging.” Some polyamorists join in long-term group marriages, which is often called polyfidelity. Polyamory is not simply about sex; it is about love. Polyamorous people recognize that they are capable of loving more than one person at a time, and they don't want to limit their romantic experience to a single person. The romantic relationship may or may not also be sexual. These romantic relationships usually involve some level of commitment.
While polyamory and other alternative sexualities are becoming more common within Neo-Paganism, monogamous heterosexual relationships are still the most prevalent form of romantic connections. If you don't feel the need to explore your sexuality beyond traditional relationships, that is a perfectly valid choice. When it comes to sexuality, the key is to go with what works for you.
Adding Polyamory to Your Relationship
Polyamory is not an excuse for cheating on your partner. Monogamous couples who decide to become polyamorous discuss their decision before they become involved with other people. Both partners agree to the arrangement, and may set ground rules. If you violate one of the rules you've agreed to, it's still considered cheating. For example, if you and your partner have agreed to form one additional relationship each, and then you have a one-night stand with a third person, that would be a violation of your agreement.
Communication is the key to a successful polyamorous relationship. If you and your partner decide to become polyamorous, you should first decide what that means to each of you. Does it mean that you will each find someone to bring into a group marriage? Does it mean that the two of you will find a third person to share? Will one or both of you have same-sex partners?
Once you've started to form polyamorous relationships, you have to learn how to deal with any jealousy that may arise. Try to find the source of the jealousy. It's probably rooted in fear or insecurity. If you are a member of the primary relationship and start to feel neglected by your primary partner, talk to your partner and explain that your needs have changed. You can then decide together how to proceed.
What about Swinging?
Swinging has no connection to polyamory. Couples who swing engage in sexual activity outside of their primary relationship. These sexual interactions don't involve love, and the couple doesn't establish romantic relationships with other people.
If you feel sexually, but not romantically, limited by monogamy, then swinging might be a solution to the problem. Before either of you seeks sex outside the relationship, you and your partner have to agree to swing. Having sex with someone other than your partner without your partner's prior consent is cheating, no matter how you rationalize it.
A group marriage consists of three or more polyamorous people who agree to form a long-term relationship. Usually they all move into a single home. Sometimes the members of the marriage agree to be faithful to each other and don't become involved with other people outside the marriage. Other groups still allow relationships outside the marriage. In a group marriage, any partners that aren't legally married to each other are called co-wives or co-husbands.
An example of a group marriage might begin with a legally married couple who decide to become polyamorous. The wife brings another man to the relationship while the husband finds another woman. The new couple might also decide to get legally married, or they might not. All four could engage in same-sex or opposite-sex activity, depending on the arrangement. The more people you add, the more complicated the arrangement becomes.
Group marriages are fraught with all the same difficulties as traditional marriages. There are ebbs and flows in sex and love. Child-rearing and financial issues arise. Once again, clear communication and an ability to transcend jealousy are the keys to a successful group marriage.
Pagans come from all walks of life, and may have a variety of sexual persuasions or interests. All sexual and romantic choices are treated with respect and tolerance, whether it's a traditional marriage or a group marriage.
How is polyamory different from polygamy?
In polyamory, both men and women are free to have multiple partners and all involved parties agree upon acceptable behavior. Polygamy, and its converse polyandry, means one person has multiple spouses of the opposite sex, but those spouses may not also have additional partners.