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Polymory doesn't erase mental illness.

Polyamory Doesn’t Change How Partners Should Deal With Mental Illness

Polymory doesn't erase mental illness.

Polyamory  is not a cure-all. Having a significant other — or more than one –doesn’t change brain chemistry.

I’m polyamorous.  I enjoy being polyamorous.

But I’m still mentally ill.

And, not surprisingly, people don’t understand that.

As much as the “your partner cannot fix you narrative” seems to be understood in monogamous relationships, that particular logic goes out the window when you’re polyamorous. All of a sudden, if you’re polyamorous and in a relationship (or two or three!), you have no right to vent about being hurt. All of a sudden, because you have a few someones to come home to instead of one, you should shut up and be thankful.

What makes this narrative different for people? Don’t the same rules apply? Isn’t it just plain facts that your mental health won’t be changed overnight?  What about the polyamorous person who is single and in the dumps — does that not apply as well?

This narrative does not change, regardless of the amount of people you’re dating.

Despite me being polyamorous and being in a loving relationship with the only person I’m seeing, I still suffer from a lot of trauma as a survivor of abusive relationships. I still suffer from gender dysphoria. I still have flashbacks that trigger my feelings of loneliness and isolation. I still constantly feel unlovable and unwanted.

Related: Poly and Borderline Personality Disorder: Leave Your Assumptions at the Door

Many times I have thought to myself, “How the hell am I still feeling this way, despite being in a loving relationship? How am I feeling this way when my partner is cuddling me and wiping my tears? I’m so fucked up; I still manage to feel this way.” But I have to constantly remind myself that mental illness and trauma does not stop when you start “getting better” or when you start meeting people that you can see in your life forever.  

Understandably, folks will have to constantly remind me that the amount of friendships and the romantic relationships I foster show the opposite of my feelings. But this is an example of someone’s relationship status not being able to change their feelings of loneliness and hopelessness when they have been recovering and struggling for so long.

Often, if someone enters a series of relationships with the assumption of unconventional medication, it will not work. This is just commonly known: doing so much and having such extreme expectations will end up in disappointment, regardless of how much folks were trying and how valid their coping mechanism is. This is also very common with folks to do, regardless of whether or not one is polyamorous or monogamous. Mental illness doesn’t discriminate. Pain does not discriminate.

I am blunt about my relationships, about my trauma, because I KNOW that I don’t want a relationship to fix me. If I decide to get into a relationship, I want that person to help me recover. They’re free to walk at any time. They have their own autonomy. This is regardless of whether it involves mental illness or something more mundane. This is like when I date a monogamous person who’s aware of my polyamory. They don’t need to stay if they need a different relationship configuration.

At the end of the day, no matter how much people I flirt with or the people I go home to, that does not make PTSD go away. That does not make psychotic depression go away. That doesn’t not make my conflicting gender feelings go away despite affirmation.  Single polyamorous people do exist.

Loneliness is not an emotion that can only be conveyed by single or monogamous people. It can be frustrating for a lot of people involved, but the trauma that causes these feelings are valid.


Mickey Valentine is an activist of Jamaican descent born and raised in the Bronx, NY and currently lives in Somerville, MA. Some things (besides angry) that can describe them : a polyamorous, nonbinary, queer disabled femme who promotes the importance of honesty and vulnerability. They’re down to talk about animation, youth development, kink, gentrification, disability justice and reproductive justice-related things.

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