This topic has come up in conversation a lot lately. I have discussed it with my partner, former partner, best friend and even on a first date.
This is important because in polyamory, as in the rest of life, there's a queue of people always waiting to tell you how to do it right. But right does not exist.
There are very few absolutes in this life and those are universal: Don't lie, don't cheat, don't steal, don't kill. But even those have their exceptions that are situationally dependent.
It is therefore up to the individual to develop their own value system and live within it. When I first got into the dating scene, when I was newly considering poly, I was told, "I get you have a strong sense of internal consistency." THIS is what I look for in others.
How does this apply to polyamory?
When I first decided that polyamory might be a workable relationship model for me, I went to a Poly101 held in Dallas, Texas. The point was very much for newbies to learn and ask questions. At the time, I had just broken up with my very not poly boyfriend and slept with a married man whose wife is decidedly not poly, either. So at this Poly101 the question was posed: Why are you poly?
My response was, "I don't see myself as poly. I see myself as a relationship opportunist."
And while today, I find myself resoundingly poly, no going back, and woe to any ear whose attached mouth accidentally calls me monogamous just because I have only one boyfriend; I find that statement I made over a year ago is still very true.
Because for me poly is not about having sex with anything that moves or even the many and varied types of needs one can have filled by multiple partners.
For me polyamory is a tool by which I achieve a means. That means is to live an open and free life. To spend my time freely with whomever I choose whenever I choose without worrying if some non-independent person is going to cry to me about what it means about them. I have an ex-partner that I cuddle with on my couch whenever he comes over to watch a movie. He and I are comfortable and free in our interactions and my boyfriend is comfortable and free as well. He's not worried about whether or not I might sleep with this guy again because he knows that I will or won't in a manner which suits me and my happiness.
Part of this open and free life is surrounding myself with people that have value for me.
People who add to me, who I am, and what I am up to as opposed to people who simply take. I am currently working on launching one of my biggest dream achievements ever and talking to people about it has become my litmus test for who I want in my life. If the person listens, adds value, encouragement, or is generally supportive, that's who I want. If they diminish or say, "What about me," then they are clearly not here to add value to my life.
I am aware that I am choosing, have chosen, and very much live an alternative lifestyle. Coping with that means having friends and lovers who are supportive and not hindrances. I once told my 19 year old daughter to "Go Break It," and I meant it for myself, just as much as for her.
Choosing polyamory simply enhances and enriches the life which I have. Because, ultimately, I am still a relationship opportunist. I want to interact with fellow human beings in a way which enlivens both myself and the other individual. And I want each interaction to be determined solely by the persons involved, not by some other person or concept who is not participating except by way of having given rules about the interactions I'm having.
That is what polyamory means to me.