This Blog is written by our full time therapist Annie Jacobs (edited by Candice Christiansen):
The question, “Am I polyamorous?” is one that at times we hear at Namasté Center for Healing when we are assessing people to determine if they have problematic sexual behavior including sexual addiction. I am here to offer you some clarity around this subject.
If you’re struggling with compulsive porn abuse, having multiple affairs, or sexual acting out in other ways that are a secret outside of your relationship, the answer to the question, “Am I polyamorous?” is “no”. If you find yourself compulsively wanting to have sex at times when you are expected to be fulfilling other obligations (working, spending time with your spouse or children, etc.), the answer is “no”. If you find yourself wanting to have sex with multiple people, are indeed having sex with multiple people, and it is causing you and your primary relationship harm, the answer is still “no”.
Sex addiction entails a person compulsively engaging in sexual activity despite negative consequences. They often find themselves preoccupied with fantasies of different sexual activities and constantly searching for an opportunity to act out again (the thrill of the chase). When their addiction takes control, they may no longer care about the negative consequences that might occur due to their actions, such as their partner finding out and leaving them, contracting and spreading STDs, or getting caught by the police if their sexual acting out is illegal. They are consumed with one thing: escaping reality via their sexual "fix." Whether their "fix" is having compulsive and risky sex, compulsively masturbating, or compulsively looking at porn, their inability to focus on anything else is a challenge and often interferes with their daily life and normal functioning.
Polyamory is quite different from sex addiction, though in today’s society it is often confused and tied into sex addiction. Polyamory is participating in more than one relationship at a time with all partners’ knowledge and consent. In other words, all of the partners know about each other and are okay with it. The people in the relationships have open communication and respect for each other's boundaries. There are no secrets or going behind their partner’s back to see someone else. Find yourself lying to your partner to have sex with a secret affair partner? You are not polyamorous.
In a short video by Polyamorous Productions, they describe a term called “Magic Math” to help describe what polyamory is. They describe it as such: if you have a child you will love them with all your heart. If you have a second child you will also love them with all your heart. So how can you love more than one person with all your heart? That’s Magic Math. Polyamory involves, but is not limited to, loving more than one person at a time. It is quite different from compulsively wanting sex or compulsively sexual acting out in ways that are damaging to you and your relationships, which is often symptomatic of having a sexual addiction.
One of the biggest misconceptions about polyamory is that it is all about sex, which is why some people may confuse having sex addiction with polyamory because they desire and crave having sex with multiple people. Polyamory is not about having sex with multiple people, nor is it about being able to have sex with whomever they want, especially outside of the relationship. It is about having meaningful and fulfilling relationships with more than one person.
Annie Jacobs, LACMHC
Trauma and Addictions Specialist
A Note from our founder, Candice:
At Namasté Center for Healing, we strive to educate our clients on a variety of sexual behavior. Our program assists our clients and couples in having the healthiest intimacy, connection, and relationship possible, which for some may entail being polyamorous. We do not judge people for having various lifestyles. However, if certain behavior is causing one or more person in the relationship harm such as emotional, physical, spiritual, sexual trauma including violating their human rights and we are asked to provide treatment, we will do our utmost to assist both parties in getting the appropriate therapeutic support. When our clients and their spouses come to us in need of recovery support for sexual addiction or pornography addiction, we provide evidence based treatment to ensure that they achieve lasting sobriety and recovery, which for most, per their preference, includes healthy emotional, physical, and sexual intimacy, and monogamy.