Could you be in a relationship with more than one person at the same time? It's a question that a small percentage of people can answer in the affirmative because they've tried it, openly and honestly.
They know that having successful romantic relationships with two or more people is about hard work, honest communication and transparency – just as it is with one person.
Better still, having multiple relationships means that you're not relying on one person to fulfil every one of your needs, a task that can – and does – prove rather impossible for many in monogamous relationships.
"It has added to my life significantly and takes the stress off one person to interact with all my needs and desires," says Melanie, a South African polyamorist.
The official term for it is polyamory and it's one that is often met with derision and distaste by those who are monogamous. While many reject the idea for religious or cultural reasons, there are those who believe that loving two or more people at a time is not only possible, but a fulfilling and wonderful experience.
"More love is the greatest part of it, my love for others and their love me has really helped me grow and feel secure," Melanie adds.
"I have never been a natural monogamist, but the very idea of cheating is anathema to me."
Open and honest communication between each partner means that there is no cheating or lying.
"There has to be [open communication] with any successful couple, and so with three people, even more so," explains one anonymous woman of her relationship with two other people in an article by John Shore on Huffington Post.
Having multiple relationships is very different from swinging. While both might involve sex, swinging is far more focused on casual sex, whereas polyamory is about building meaningful and long-lasting relationships. Polygamy and the feminine version, polyandry, is also different in that it is having more than two marriage partners - mostly chosen by one person in that marriage unit and motivated by religious or cultural reasons.
Dealing with possessiveness and jealousy is a reality in any relationship – particularly in a monogamously-minded world – but it seems that most polyamorists are not the possessive type. Ian Danskin and Aida Manduley, themselves both open polyamorists, say that jealousy is often an indication of your own insecurities, and is "really code for other things".
In email correspondence with Melanie she seems to agree, saying that if she is ever faced with feelings of jealousy, she uses it as an opportunity to scrutinise her own issues more deeply.
"I have my moments, but my loves are not my possessions and I am just happy they have chosen to share some of their love with me," she explains.
"Instead of just saying 'I'm jealous,' I ask 'Why am I jealous? What is making me feel insecure?' and often it is something easy to resolve, like time or intimacy."
The key to resolving feelings of jealousy is by communicating them to your partners, she says.
"If one partner feels that not enough time was spent with them, the people involved would need to work out a schedule that suited everyone and gave more time to the person. With other issues we may have to change our behaviour to make the jealousy go away, but as long as everyone is doing the work, I find that it eventually goes away."
Coming from a liberal family, Melanie and her partners are able to live fairly openly, but she is aware that many in the polyamorist community in South Africa don’t have this privilege. She hopes that through careful education polyamorists could one day become more widely accepted.
When asked if she thinks polyamory could become more popular, Melanie says: “There will always be […] those who will continue to disapprove but I think that as long as everyone remembers that this is our choice and we do not impose it on others, it will grow."
"I think that acceptance will be the greatest point of growth, and that is essential. But I have no desire to 'convert' people to polyamory, but only wish for people interested in it to feel able to explore it."
Learn more at www.polyamory.co.za