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A Filipina’s experience in a poly relationship

by Gaby Agbulos

FOR almost four years, 29-year-old writer Zoe Alcazaren was in a polyamorous relationship with four other people: Travis*, Alice*, Jan*, and Dean. 

Unlike other polyamorous relationships, where monogamous couples open up their relationship to more partners as time goes on, Zoe and her primary partner at the time, Travis, started as a polyamorous couple. 

She explained that this was because they were casually dating each other at the time, and were never really ones to experience jealousy, be it emotional or sexual.

“The discussion was less about whether we were going to be exclusive and more about whether we were going to be official,” she stated.

At present, Alcazaren is still friends with Alice and Jan, but no longer keeps in touch with Travis. She and Dean, however, are still together.

Zoe and her partner Dean

Life in a poly couple

Alcazaren was 25 years old at the time of her relationship. Now, despite being in a monogamous relationship, she looks back at the experience with no regrets.

“I lived with Travis for three years; he and I were in a throuple with Jan,” she recounted.

“He didn’t date Alice, but was intimate with her, [and] he didn’t date Dean either, but they were good friends.” 

Since Travis was Alcazaren’s primary partner, there were expectations between them – the same you’d find within any monogamous relationship. 

As a primary partner, Alcazaren and Travis were expected to spend more time with one another. Your primary is the often you’ve been with the longest and is usually your priority within the relationship. 

Not all polyamorous relationships are required to have this, though. Others have more than one primary relationship within the group.

Secondary partners, on the other hand, are those who may not be as involved in your life as your primary. You may see them less often than your primary, or have specific focuses in your relationship, as compared to your primary wherein you hold each other to the same standards as what you’d expect from a monogamous couple.

With polyamory, Alcazaren explains that while there are several ways in which it’s different from monogamous relationships, the two also have plenty of similarities, as well. 

For instance, if you have two primary partners, you expect them the same as you’d expect from a monogamous relationship.

With this, she explained: “It’s just a matter of discussing these individually or in a round table setting depending on what you’re comfortable with.” 

In Alcazaren’s relationship, Alice was her secondary. Occasionally, she would go out on dates with her, and the three of them often spent plenty of time with one another. 

With her and Dean, on the other hand, they would all go out together as a group, usually on the weekends. 

“We didn’t have strict schedules to adhere to, we would all just discuss when we wanted to see each other, [and] it was mostly sporadic,” she said. 

In this relationship, though, the pairing that caused the most tension was that of Travis and Jan; over time, Travis wanted to spend more and more time with her without Alcazaren present. This, she notes, is what eventually led to the breakup of the entire group. 

The relationship was further strained because Travis often showed signs of envy within the relationship; whatever Alcazaren had, he wanted to replicate to an almost exaggerated degree. If she started dating someone, he’d wanted to do the same. 

There were also times when she’d experience jealousy, especially during the times when Travis would specifically box her out, and would expect more of her than what she could provide.

She explains that unlike what others may think, jealousy and envy are very common in polyamorous relationships, just like any other. 

Judgment from others

For a large part of her relationship, Alcazaren felt that she and her partners were treated by others as a sort of novelty.

She added: “I often felt like a circus show, which I understood, but it often felt slightly derogatory.” 

Given the conservatism of people in the Philippines, as well as the media’s skewed portrayal of polyamorous relationships as something that’s just about sex, it’s easy to see where she’s coming from. 

For someone like her, who lived the experience of being in a poly relationship for years, she’s come to realize that the way people see it or portray it is never about what it really is. 

If anything, these aforementioned views and portrayals often come across as rather superficial.

Aside from people thinking it’s just about sex, many also judge the people in polyamorous relationships themselves, thinking that couples that decide to go into that kind of set-up do so because their initial partners aren’t enough for them.

“That in itself is a damaging reason to be poly,” Alcazaren stated.

“Some people are just capable of managing multiple relationships and [understanding] that different people provide different forms of enrichment.” 

With just the views of many Filipinos on issues like divorce, abortion, and same-sex marriage, their opinions on non-monogamous couples come as no shock to Alcazaren. 

She said: “I honestly have zero hope for [them] recognizing the validity of these relationships. It sounds cynical, and I can’t speak for all poly people, but it’s easier not to expect change where it may not happen.” 

Hopefully in time, though, more and more Filipinos will start to open their minds to the things they may not be used to. It may be a long shot, but who knows? Maybe in the future, the masses will finally be able to prove Alcazaren wrong.

… For now, though, one can only dream of it happening, as sad as that may be.

A sense of urgency

Before you jump into a polyamorous relationship, remember that there are still responsibilities involved. If anything, there are more than you’d expect from that of a monogamous relationship, because there’s more than one set of needs that you have to keep in mind.

Alcazaren explains that at the end of the day, polyamory’s a lot like monogamy, but with a heightened sense of urgency.

“You involve multiple people, so time is of the essence,” she said.

“If you can’t solve things quickly, they tend to spiral – especially if you’re in relationships with people whose attachment styles are different.” 

Here, decision-making can sometimes be tough, especially if the boundaries of you and your different partners vary. To be able to maintain a relationship such as this, you need to learn how to compromise, compromise, compromise. 

For someone who’s had partners who were confident and assertive, as well as those who were highly avoidant when it came to discussing issues, she notes that the latter often takes up a lot of energy to deal with. 

This is also something you need to consider when entering a polyamorous relationship: whether or not you can handle the energy of numerous partners because each one is bound to be different.

That is, however, the beauty of it as well. 

Advice for first-timers

For a healthy, well-rounded polyamorous relationship, Alcazaren recommends a discussion on the following:

  • The specifics of your expectations of one another.
  • How you’d define infidelity.
  • Your boundaries.
  • Whether your relationship with one person is a primary or a secondary one. 
  • Whether you’re going to follow a kitchen table set up, where everyone is friends / interacts with one another, or a separated one, where your partners don’t necessarily have to meet.

It’s also important to remember that you shouldn’t be afraid to express your feelings to your partners, whether they be good or bad. 

Jealousy and envy in particular, as well as denial of emotions like these, may eventually lead to the death of your relationship, hence why it’s important to nip problems in the bud as quickly as possible.

Yes, some cons come with a polyamorous set-up, but that’s to be expected of any kind of relationship. Of course, there are a lot of great things about it– not just relationship-wise, but in terms of discovering things about yourself, too. 

“Being poly helped me define what I was comfortable with, and the kind of love I wanted to receive,” she said.

“It puts you in an excellent position to be more honest with yourself and with your partners.” 

And remember: at the end of the day, get into a polyamorous relationship because you want to.

Don’t do it because your partner’s pressuring you. Don’t get into it if you’re not 100% sure. And if you’re already in one, don’t feel bad if you want to change your mind down the line. 

* Note: Travis, Alice and Jan’s names have been changed for privacy reasons.



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