On “Processing” and being in a non-monogamous relationship
Have you ever heard of “Processing”? Not like a food processor. Just the word with a capital “p.”
Odile Dion, a Concordia student and graphic artist, thinks you have—under a different name. It’s romantic communication and discussion, involving more than two people. It was coined by her community, the polyamorous community. In this community, relationships are between multiple individuals, with no restrictions. There is no central relationship—all parties involved are treated as equals.
“You have to talk with your partners about everything,” she said. “You have to be upfront with them, with your feelings, with your fears. It’s hard.” She talks about the dates she goes on, how on the first date she’ll say “hey, I’m not monogamous,” and how the men won’t call her back.
“We tell little girls, ‘you’ll find the one,’” Dion said. “You’ll meet your prince and he’ll take you on his white horse and you’ll go into the sunset together and end your life in a bungalow with a dog and kids.” This isn’t the reality for Dion.
Pauline*, a McGill student who is polyamorous, said that when she tells people that she is open to more than one relationship at the same time, there’s misunderstanding.
“There’s this perception that all poly people are cheaters,” Pauline said. “The whole point is that we’re not.” It’s about consent, she said, and communication. It’s about the acceptance of everyone involved. “Non-consensual non-monogamy is pretty much the definition of cheating,” she said.
She said fidelity is still vital in polyamory, it just means something else. “It doesn’t mean only have sex with me. It means be honest with me. Respect this bond that we have. It’s not just the classic concept of an open relationship,” said Pauline.
Someone can be in a three-way relationship with each partner loving the other equally. People can be married with a partner on the side without changing how they feel about their married partner. Two different people can be in love and in a relationship with the same person. As long as it’s consensual, it’s fine, said Pauline.
“There’s a problem, though,” Dion said. She said that there is this confusion where other people think that if you’re interested in someone who isn’t your partner, it implies you don’t love your partner. Dion believes the confusion is a byproduct of monogamy being considered the only model for relationships. “They’re different models among many other models.”
Pauline sees comparisons in friendship and romance. “Some people love having a best friend, and other people love having tons of friends. The more love you have the more love you have to give, and I always wondered why that doesn’t apply to romantic love,” she said.
Friendship, communication and respect are all seen as hallmarks of monogamous relationships, as explained by YouTube sex educator Laci Green at a talk at Concordia last week. So if polyamorous relationships are built on the same ingredients, and make people happy, why do Pauline and Dion feel like their lives aren’t acceptable to society at large?
Dion said it’s because people don’t talk about it. Pauline said it’s because people don’t talk about it. So let’s talk about it. With enough communication—or should I say, Processing—we’ll get there.
*Pauline’s last name has been withheld.