‘Dating other people saved our marriage’

Home UK News ‘Dating other people saved our marriage’
‘Dating other people saved our marriage’

Emma Grimshaw,BBC News, West of England

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Alice says polyamory is more than a lifestyle it is “part of who I am”

Alice Lovegood was nine years into a monogamous marriage when she came out as polyamorous. Looking back, the sex educator, from Brentry in Bristol, said she had always felt that way but never knew how to act on it. Here, she invites us to learn more about the world of polyamory and how some of those in it, view it.

In 2006 polyamory entered the Oxford English Dictionary, which defined it as the “practice of engaging in multiple sexual relationships with the knowledge and consent of all partners concerned”. Yet that definition falls some way short for those who engage in it, Alice said.

Lots of people in the community feel it is also part of their identity and should be classified as a type of sexuality, she added. In her case, she believes her marriage has grown stronger for embracing polyamory because each partner has to work hard on sharing how they are feeling. The emphasis on strong communication and articulating their emotions has made it easier for partners to deal with every other situation in their life, she said.

It seems Alice might not be alone when it comes to couples opening their relationships up to others. Since 2019, five UK dating apps have sprung up to cater for ethical non-monogamy. One of those reported experiencing 350% growth in Manchester, 250% growth in Bristol and 200% customer growth in London in the past year. To put that in context though, while anecdotally polyamory seems to be increasing, a YouGov poll in 2023 claims only 2% of the country identifies as polyamory.

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Opening up their marriage has made them a stronger couple, Alice Lovegood says

“I have always felt like I was polyamorous and felt desire to connect with more than one person, however I never acted on it as I felt like that was wrong until I finally learned about polyamory as an option,” 29-year-old Alice said.

“It’s like when someone has a stepdad – it’s just an extra person to love. It doesn’t mean you love your real dad less.”

Initially her husband Matthew was dubious about opening up their relationship, she said. The couple visited a polygamous therapist and have been taking their journey slowly.

Alice, who is bisexual, said she believed polygamy should be viewed in a similar way to sexuality.

“It’s part of who I am – we have a really beautiful relationship now.”

She said currently she and Matthew were both seeing the same person and were also enjoying dates and exploring meaningful relationships with other people.

According to them, their three children, aged 10, five and three, have been very accepting of their relationships.

“Kids understand poly relationships better than adults,” she said.

“Kids might come home from school saying they have three or four boyfriends and we just say ‘that’s fine’.”

Matthew said: “We have learnt to talk about our emotions and look after each other’s feelings.

“This has helped us in every part of relationship – it’s made us a lot stronger.”

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Laszlo runs workshops to help educate people about polyamorous relationships

For Laszlo Agoston, from Westbury-on-Trym in Bristol, he said it was like a lightbulb being switched on, when he learned about polygamous relationships.

He was living in Hungary at the time in 2015.

“I remember the epiphany of that moment as one of the most important revelations of my life. Suddenly everything started to make sense,” the 37-year-old said.

After years of research, he said he started running workshops on polyamory. An unfortunate consequence though, he said, was that his workshops attracted hate mail from Neo-Nazis and was a contributory factor to him fleeing his native country.

Now living in Bristol, Laszlo said it was not about having one-night stands and he and his wife had an agreement only to enter meaningful relationships with other people.

At first his wife had struggled with jealousy, he said, but looking back that was something he felt they had since successfully worked through together.

“When we got over this, our relationship was much more beautiful and powerful,” he continued.

His wider family has been supportive of his lifestyle, and his mother even attended one of his polygamous workshops in Hungary, he said.

“She was not poly but she was very interested in the philosophy behind it,” Laszlo said.

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Poppy Scarlett says polyamory “is a spectrum that encompasses many different relationship orientations”

Poppy Scarlett, from London, has been dating the same person for 10 years while also dating other people.

She said her early monogamous relationships “never felt right”, in contrast “living in a way that celebrates loving and connecting with multiple people is more aligned with who she is”, she said.

Like many others in the polyamorous community she said she viewed it as an important part of her identity.

It’s something she regularly posts about on social media.

“Ethical non-monogamy is a spectrum that encompasses many different relationship orientations,” Ms Scarlett, who is bisexual, said.

“As well as polyamorous people, there are swingers and people who enjoy threesomes, and those people might consider it to be a ‘lifestyle’ rather than a core part of their identity.

“But with polyamorous people, who want to be open to multiple, simultaneous loving relationships, it is often an important part of who we are.”

Ms Scarlett said she chose to “come out” to her mother when she was first fell in love with two people. Her family were supportive of her and were “pleased to see her happy”, she added.

In her experience, she said social media could be an unforgiving place,

“I’ve had to ban certain words like degenerate, or you get people saying ‘you’re happy now, but wait until you’re alone when you’re 50’.

“My content is there to help people who might be feeling like monogamy doesn’t work for them and they want to try something different.”

At the heart of all her relationships, she said, was an eagerness to ensure the other person feels comfortable.

“For me, polyamory is more than just a relationship style.

“It’s a philosophy about connection. I want my partners to be happy and to have autonomy to interact with whomever they like, in whatever way they like.

“People assume that we’re all just doing whatever we like all the time and casually sleeping with loads of people, but actually we spend a lot of time talking about our feelings and working out how to show up for each other.”

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Dr Louise Styles has worked with scores of polyamorous couples and said some people find it liberating

Psychologist and couples’ therapist Louise Styles said polyamory encouraged some healthy relationship behaviours.

She reported she had seen a modest increase in the past few years of people coming to her who were interested in opening up their relationships.

“On a societal level, I think that people are starting to see their partners less as possessions,” she added.

Treating people as “possessions” in her books falls into the category of partners assuming they have a right to know everything about each other, and controlling “everything each other are doing, and that they should report back to each other,” she said.

Dr Styles, offers couples counselling across the country, and continued: “I think people are growing, in a way, to treat their partners as actual partners.”

She acknowledged it was not for everyone but said “people who get through that initial quite painful bit of thinking, ‘oh, my partner’s not just mine anymore. I have to share them'” can feel very difficult for some people.

But for others, if they get through that stage and start seeing their partner for who they are and not as belonging to anyone, was a positive result, she said.

If “their partner chooses to stay, being their partner, and they can allow that freedom for each other,” must be empowering, she added.

‘Don’t identify with’

Ethical non-monogamy dating app Feeld declined to share its raw data, but reported that it had seen 300% growth in some of the areas across Britain in the past year.

Feeld CEO, Ana Kirova, said: “This growth is such an incredible reminder of how far our mission at Feeld has gone, to allow people to be in the relationships that feel right, instead of following a blueprint that they don’t identify with.”

The CEO said there was also more than 100% growth in bi-curious members on the app. Yet it is by no means mainstream.

A YouGov survey for August 2023 suggests about 2% of those who responded said they were polyamory, and 10% responded saying they would be “open to it”. But overwhelmingly 82% replied they were not polyamory and never would be.

The figures have been fairly consistent over the past five years.

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