A Circuit-Ous Explanation

Q:I would be very interested to hear more about “Parallel Polyamory” and how that actually works in an ethical and compassionate way.

A: Gladly! I have been in a relationship structured this way for 31 years. My nesting partner and I date separately; our other partners know about each other, but don’t necessarily interact, and we don’t come together as one big group… well, ever.

So long as information is flowing, it works. There is no reason to force my partners to be friends with each other, or for them to come to know my metamours. They form the relationships that they want to, because each person is the center of their own poly constellation. They are aware of the whole thing, and can thus make informed decisions about how to participate.

For some people, kitchen table poly, focused on the group, is a preferred way to go. There can be a comfort in a large, warm, connected set of relationships. Parallel poly, on the other hand, focuses on the autonomy of each individual and their ability to form whatever relationship they want, independent of the others. It can certainly work for those so inclined.

Yes, it is a bit confusing from a geometric perspective. But the parallel part refers to a couple – as in, “I am dating and YOU are dating, but WE are not dating as a unit.” Think of it more like the electrical conception of parallel circuits rather than the geometric one. In a serial circuit, all the bulbs are connected in sequence, so they all have to light before the last one can go on. (Ask anyone who has tried to fix old-fashioned Christmas lights.)

In a parallel circuit, one is not dependent on the others. It gets its own power and can connect to any of the others or none. And so it is with parallel poly; it’s a different way to light your tree.