If there was a Theory of Polyamory 101, it would probably start with the principle that love is not a finite resource, and so we should stop treating it as if scarcity applies. We know that love for old friends doesn’t decrease with making new ones, or that love for our brothers, sisters or children isn’t reduced with new additions to the family; but from an early age we absorb, unconsciously for the most part, the idea that romantic love exists in limited supply, is shared between a couple, and is tainted by any affections that stray elsewhere.
If this idea doesn’t sit well with you, the alternatives suggested by mainstream culture are few and far between, consisting more or less of serial dating, empty promiscuity, or lonely death in a house full of cats. Hence the widespread habit of what we could call "monogamy by default" – not an active choice between a range of options, but the acceptance of the only game in town.
In this context, polyamory is not so much a whole new game as an attempt to renegotiate the rules: it suggests that romantic love for one partner does not have to rule out attraction to another, or that the deep fulfilment and security of long term commitment should not banish away the excitement of new sexual encounters. All these things and more are up for discussion, provided it can be done in a transparent and consensual way.
However, regardless of how much you support the theory, putting it into practice still brings a huge potential for jealousy, hurt and insecurity. It's not that polyamory is too good to be true, but it's definitely too good to be easy.
When I first actively decided on polyamory as a lifestyle choice, I felt like I’d stumbled upon a way to hack the rules of relationships – to have all the benefits of romance, but without the inconvenience of compromise.
It was just over a year ago, January 2015, and I was starting two new relationships at the same time. Both of these people were unique: creative, unconventional, attractive to me on many levels. But instead of being blissfully happy with these two wonderful partners, I felt like I was in a constant state of crisis: neither relationship felt stable, and after a short while, each one was constantly on the verge of collapse. It was as if two plates were spinning slowly at the end of long sticks, far apart, and I was caught in the middle, frantically sprinting between them.