What “The School Of Life” has wrong about polyamory and non-monogamy

CakeMon 25th June 2018

A post from 2016 by The School of Life is making the rounds again and, having watched it, I had a few things I wanted to say… Links to the video and written article at the end.

Poly as the “cure” for fading LTR’s

The piece begins by talking about a long term relationship (LTR) that is being found dull and/or sexually unsatisfying or interesting. It is framed as “good enough” but not “great”. It seems to suggest that polyamory is an answer to the dullness of the relationship. It seems to conveniently forget the fact that many people begin their relationships as poly ones. No one within the non-mongamous community would even begin to suggest that polyamory is the solution to a “dull” relationship.

Sex parties

Several times, the piece conflates polyamory with orgies. The first mention of poly as being “tried” is in the context of an “orgy” and the imagery at the end of the piece has polyamory envisaged as a group of people stood around in their underwear. This is a fairly common misconception and mis-visualisation of polyamory by the mainstream media, and is one that deeply frustrates and annoys those within the community. Yes, poly people have sex! Yes, they are often free to attend events where they can have sex with multiple other partners! But some poly people are not! Some poly relationships are even asexual. There is so much variety and yet the media all too often conflates poly with 1970s images of swinging.


The whole piece has a general tone of snarky and quite childish meanness about it. When discussing considering polyamory as an option the voiceover says “[…] and you feel quite brave and adventurous for going this far.” and even in discussing the oddly unrelated subject of moving to the country from the city the tone is very negative and dismissive from the off (why would it be an issue not to be able to order sushi?) The fact that some people might move out of the city and really not care at all about the proximity of certain amenities seems beyond the narrator’s imagining.

The “It is all poly propaganda” angle

Nobody in the poly community is saying this. Literally nobody. We have no idea why this is in here.

“It is hard work”

‘You are too busy’. ‘There are not enough people’. ‘You might have to learn how to reject someone kindly’. There is so much wrong with this section [3:16 to 3:51] that it is hard to know where to start. Being able to reject someone kindly as well as being able to navigate a limited pool of potential partners are also issues within monogamy and are certainly not exclusive to the poly community. Differences in sexual preferences and meeting people who do not share your exact ideas of what a spanking or a dress up experience should constitute are also features of monogamous relationships.

Unpleasant feelings and difficult emotions

Aren’t pain, sadness, loneliness, rage and anger also experienced in monogamous relationships? There is no relationship framework that gets you out of feeling pain, loss or sadness. That is, sadly, the price one pays for being alive.

“How nice it is when something is fully ours.”

The image of the toy box tells you all you need to know. Emotionally mature people understand that, in any relationship, we do not own another human being.

Attitude towards change

The general tone is very negative about change and seems oblivious to the fact that, for many and in many contexts, change can be a positive thing and that a relationship ending or changing can be for the better for all concerned.

Other people’s feelings and desires can be contrary to yours and can be difficult to manage

It strikes us that anyone who has friends, or children, is used to dealing with multiple conflicting emotions that are not our own. Even something as simple as organising a family trip or a meal out can generate conflict or conflicting emotions and needs in almost any contact. It is not exclusive to non-monogamy.

In summary, it is the challenges of polyamory and non-monogamy that make them such a powerful tool for growth and learning. It is the difficulties that make it worthwhile.

Conscious relationships – monogamous or non – are, for me, a growth-oriented challenge. Conscious relationships help us understand ourselves and life more deeply and bring an awareness to all interactions that is, truly, a blessing.


The original links are below…