Despite pushback and misconceptions, one student has found a ‘big, fun group of poly friends’
This cuffing season — when people tend to seek out companionship — more young people are open to exploring non-monogamous relationships.
“[It’s] very important to keep an open mind and curate our relationships to what our needs, and boundaries, and strengths are,” said Beau Houle, outreach and communications coordinator of the Gender Empowerment Centre (GEM) at UVic. “Instead of just allowing ourselves to be told how we should be relating to other people.” There is no one-size-fits-all in relationships.
Polyamory has become a kind of revolution among Gen Z (those born between 1997 and 2012). It requires individuals to push back against social constructs and voice their personal needs in order to maintain successful relationships, intimate or platonic.
As defined by a 2023 Psychology Today article, polyamory is an umbrella term for the practice of being in multiple consensual relationships at one time.
“Polyamory requires a lot of things out of people,” said Dr. Audrey Yap, a philosophy professor at UVic, in an interview with the Martlet. “You need to be really clear in your relationships about your boundaries, about your desires, basically about all kinds of things.”
While Yap says these skills are important in all types of relationships, Sam Capps believes polyamory has especially helped develop their communication skills. Capps is a third-year English and history student, who has been practicing solo-polyamory (having no primary partner) for two and a half years.
Unlike monogamous relationships, which usually end with the ceremonial burning of any evidence of your ex’s existence, Capps’ relationships rarely end with anything so drastic. “Just because it didn’t work out when we were sleeping together doesn’t mean I don’t want to be friends with you,” they explained.
According to Yap, modern dating labels promote a sense of belonging among young people. “There’s a way that I am, and there’s other people who are that way. It makes you feel like you’re not just by yourself.”
This is particularly true for Capps, who explained how their friend group expands due to the fluidity and inclusivity of the polyamorous community. “We’re just a big, fun group of poly-friends,” said Capps.
Yap teaches a course devoted to analyzing the nature of love called Philosophy of Love, Sex and Friendship. The course examines what love looks like, different types of relationships, and the challenges of standard views about love. While teaching, Yap has noticed many students showing interest in polyamory after learning about it. “It seems like [polyamory] has become a much more normalized way to be in relationships,” Yap said.
While polyamory is certainly not new, more recently it has been recognized in the online dating sphere. A 2023 study conducted by OnePoll on behalf of Tinder found that 41 per cent of Gen Z Tinder users are open to or seeking a non monogamous relationship. In an effort to celebrate the diversity of modern dating, Tinder launched the “It Starts With a Swipe” campaign — allowing users to specify their relationship orientations and pronouns.
Despite this, Yap says some people who are accustomed to monogamy still push back against dating practices like polyamory.“The kind of relationship that someone’s in often feels like … a big part of someone’s identity,” she said. “People doing things in really different ways can sometimes feel threatening to that identity.”
As for Capps, who has experienced some monogamous resistance, explaining their relationship orientation can be taxing due to misconceptions; and no, polyamory and casually dating are not correlated.
According to Houle there is also a darker side of polyamory within the community.
“I think there is a phenomenon of people who … date like they’re playing Pokémon, just like ‘gotta catch them all’” said Houle, referring to people who misappropriate the polyamorous label.
Cheating among polyamorous partnerships is also possible. This can be identified by a disrespected or broken boundary. Proving that strong communication and trust among all partners — polyamorous or not — is essential for healthy relationships.
“You have a lot more options [in] your romantic life. There’s not just one path that you’re going to follow,” Yap said. “I think having an environment where there’s not just one way that you might do things lets people actually try and explore what might work best for them.”