The Wireless 3 August 2015
In a Grey Lynn flat, finishing off breakfast while their flatmates head to weekend jobs, Monique, Chelsi and Matthew might be any young Kiwis catching up on a Saturday morning. But these three aren’t friends – they’re lovers.
Or rather Matthew and Monique are. And Chelsi and Matthew are. And so are Monique and her secondary partner Meeks, who has another girlfriend as well as more casual partners. Any of them are free to see or pursue anyone they like, provided they keep any interested parties in the loop along the way.
Chelsi, 20, explains that though she doesn’t have additional partners, she still considers Matthew a secondary partner as they don’t have what she calls “primary dynamics”. And though she and Monique aren’t romantic or sexual partners, she says they get along “like a house on fire”.
Polyamory – literally meaning “multiple loves” – means different things to different people. It’s sometimes described as ethical non-monogamy, as everyone’s expected to be open about their feelings, expectations and experiences.
For Matthew, Monique and Chelsi, terms like “primary” and “secondary” help denote how serious their relationships are.
“It doesn’t sound very nice, but it definitely helps to know where you stand,” says Monique, 26. “Secondary’s not a derogatory term, secondary just means that there is someone else who gets to spend more time and possibly has more of a life plan together. It just comes secondary to that.”
Matthew, 25, first began thinking about a polyamorous lifestyle after exiting a three-year monogamous relationship over a year ago. He’d recently met Monique on Snapchat and made it clear from the start that he didn’t want the relationship to be exclusive or monogamous.
“When Matthew first pitched the idea of polyamory to me, I freaked out,” says Monique. She was ready to say “thanks, but no thanks”, but decided it was worth giving a go – if nothing else, to see whether it worked for her. And, she says, it does.
On the other hand, Chelsi says she’d always had polyamorous tendencies. “When I was 13 years old, I had a school dance and really wanted to take two of my really close friends. I was told that that wasn’t okay, I had to choose one of them … I couldn’t understand for the life of me why that was.”
She and Matthew have been together for a few months, and though she’s interested in having other partners, or even a primary partner, she’s in no hurry to find them. “The whole idea of polyamory for me is not pressuring yourself to be 100 per cent of what someone else needs,” she says.