A few years ago I started conducting interviews with over people about their online dating experiences. I wanted to know how people presented themselves on their profiles, perceived other users on the platforms, and made decisions about whom to date.
Things were going well, with a steady stream of data coming in — right up until the pandemic hit. Lockdown upended the normal ebbs and flows of dating life.
So I switched gears and decided to focus on how the pandemic had influenced the dating lives of my participants. I sent out quarterly surveys and interviewed subjects over video chat, the phone and social media. One finding soon emerged: People practicing polyamory were facing a totally different set of pandemic-related dilemmas than those who practice monogamy.
At the same time, their experience navigating the complexities of having more than one partner had put them at a particular advantage when it came to managing pandemic-specific dating issues. Everyone involved is privy to the arrangement.
There are numerous forms: hierarchical networks place certain relationships over others. In solo poly, individuals prefer autonomy and give all romantic partners equal standing.
With all of this variation, a lexicon unique to poly relationships has emerged. A representative study of adults in the U. For single people, finding at least one partner has been hard enough during the pandemic.
But for those accustomed to juggling multiple relationships, the pandemic has forced them to rethink their expectations for dating altogether. Messages are dwindling. She is partnered up monogamously with one of her partners, too.
Lance, a year-old poly man, simply cited a lack of opportunity. Aristotle, a year-old solo poly man, reported a newfound openness to monogamy.
Trying to manage a poly lifestyle during the pandemic had been exhausting. I noticed how people in Facebook groups devoted to poly relationships were discussing how stay-at-home orders advantaged some relationship types over others. In my study there were also participants who have tried to retain some semblance of their preexisting relationships. This experience has served poly people well when it comes to talking about COVID testing and social contacts.
A polyamory primer
For many poly people, their pods and polycules do not neatly overlap. Some live with roommates or family members while their partners live elsewhere. Finding ways to connect with partners without endangering members of their pod has proved to be challenging. And yet the risks could be daunting, with some polyamorous arrangements reflecting a sprawling web of contacts.
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He quickly realized that it would have been impractical to adhere to safety guidelines, so in the end he put some relationships on hold to reduce risk. A year-old nonmonogamous man who goes by Seadog described a similar shift with one of his regular partners.
Therein lies the core dilemma for people in polyamorous relationships. Because of the complexity of pods and polycules, the challenges of keeping romantic relationships alive are even greater. Until life gets back to normal, compromises constantly need to be made.
You can get our highlights each weekend. Plymouth Contemporary — Plymouth, Devon. Edition: Available editions United Kingdom. Riki ThompsonUniversity of Washington.