Misunderstood, dismissed and often hidden,
polyamory, or having several romantic relationships simultaneously, is slowly
coming out into the open in Germany aided by the efforts of a counsellor and
At the age of 19, Christopher Gottwald
decided he didn't want a monogamous relationship and spent the next decade
searching for a partner who shared his outlook. He eventually found her and
their "open" relationship has lasted 13 years.
With this experience behind him, three
years ago he set up his own polyamory advice and information service, offering
practical and emotional help to aficionados as well as seeking to dispel myths
"I no longer believe in monogamy. For
anyone," Gottwald, now in his 40s, told AFP.
"I don't believe we are made to be
(faithful). The best thing is to say to yourself 'let's, us two, live together
while remaining open to what may happen'," he said.
Read: Cheating partners
Not just free sex
Gottwald organises conferences, workshops
and individual chats on polyamory and helps run the PolyAmore Netzwerk
association which has 120 members in Germany, Austria and Switzerland.
He insists on the emotional aspect of the
practice in which a relationship is conducted with more than one person but
with the consent of all. "It is about love. It's not just free sex where
you can sleep with whomever you want," he argued.
Taking into account the feelings of one's
partner in a polyamorous relationship can be complex, not to mention the
practicalities such as who sleeps where.
Complete honesty is the key
Gottwald advocates complete honesty but
says it's an individual decision. "The more you open up, the more you feel
connected," he said.
While such relationships have existed in
secret since time immemorial, polyamory aims to break down the hypocrisy by
bringing it into the open and staying true to the needs of modern-day couples
who may end up spending 60 years together.
Gottwald argues it is also simply the
natural next step on from serial monogamy.
Women and men seek his help in roughly
equal numbers and his clients include heterosexuals, same-sex couples and
Read: Lots of love, little temptation
But he said it was difficult to say how
widespread the practice has become due to challenges in defining a polyamorous
relationship and the fact that many don't necessarily own up.
Despite growing media interest in
polyamory, it remains difficult for supporters to be public about their
relationships in a society where being faithful remains the ideal, Gottwald
"It's like 'coming out', with the
fear, sometimes justified, of repercussions" from those around you, he
said. But people's reactions can be surprising, he added, recalling how his own
"very Catholic" mother had accepted his choice. "She wouldn't
live like that but she finds it fascinating and we talk about it
Picture: Polyamory from Shutterstock
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