Miguel Bujanda has over 20 years of experience in the sexual health and public health sectors and is currently the Executive Director at REACH LA, a non-profit specializing in HIV prevention education, HIV testing, linkage to care and support services for HIV positive & high-risk negative youth and young adults.
Miguel has been practicing polyamory for years. Although practice hasn’t necessarily made perfect, through experiencing a variety of relationship structures—such as being in a throuple and being a solo polyamorist—Miguel has learned how to navigate a variety of relationships and give his full self to the world.
As defined by the Institute for Family Studies, polyamory is “one form of consensual non-monogamy (CNM), where an individual is in a relationship with multiple people but with everyone consenting to the arrangement.”
According to Frontiers in Psychology, “Results show that 1 out of 6 people (16.8%) desire to engage in polyamory, and 1 out of 9 people (10.7%) have engaged in polyamory at some point during their life. Approximately 1 out of 15 people (6.5%) reported that they knew someone who has been or is currently engaged in polyamory.”
How Did You Start Engaging in Non-Monogamy
Miguel was in a monogamous relationship with a former partner when he found out his partner was seeing other people.
“He couldn’t uphold our agreements we had in our relationship. We decided to open it up and had a sexually open relationship. He and I met an individual we gravitated towards and started to like outside of a standard hookup. We introduced him as our third partner and were in a throuple for two years of our six-year relationship. Although the way this poly relationship started stemmed from a toxic situation, I got a lot of practice for poly relationships and learned what to do and what not to do.”
Despite getting off on the wrong foot when it came to polyamory, Miguel decided to keep pursuing it. After he and his partner broke up, he started dating again and communicated with people from the beginning that he was non-monogamous. Miguel’s world opened up through polyamory, and he currently has two partners (neither of whom are primary partners).
“One of the things that’s interesting about being amongst other men who care about me is that my partners have a connection with each other, too because they care for me. I see it as a Miguel fan club where we have intimate relationships with each other. It’s given me people in many stages of my life who I still know and who love me and care about me.”
How Can Others Start Practicing?
Some tips Miguel had for those who want to start practicing polyamory is:
- Ask yourself, “Am I able to have a threesome with my partner?” If you can engage in a physical activity with another person, this is a good sign that polyamory might work for you
- Then ask yourself, “Am I able to spend a weekend with another person outside of my primary partner? I am able to start building more emotional connections?”
- When first starting out, ask any partners outside of your primary partner to only text you as a unit to start building trust
- The primary couple should have conversations and revisit how to engage any other individuals on a weekly basis
- Be honest with the third (or more) person/people about where the relationship is headed
- Know that both primary partners will not necessarily have the same connection with the other person/people at the same time, and that’s normal. Each relationship is different, and one primary partner may feel a deeper emotional connection with the secondary partner(s)
- Be humble enough to say, “Maybe I didn’t do this right. Let’s try this instead.”
- Consistently communicate with your primary partner that they matter and that they are valued
Agreements and Boundaries
When it comes to poly relationships for Miguel, his capacity to love is limitless. However, one thing that is limited that influences agreements and boundaries is time. Especially when you have a primary partner, it’s important to keep prioritizing them.
Miguel said, “Really setting consistency is beneficial. Do your best not to substitute or cancel days or weekends you have planned to spend with your primary partner. Allow them to know that they matter and that you can love people at the same time as loving them. People want to feel valued. Just living with them is not enough. How are you going out of your way to show them how you feel about them, all while loving someone else?”
Another barrier that people often associate with polyamory is jealousy.
When it comes to Jealousy, Miguel said, “Jealousy stems from fear. My partner leaving me could happen even if I was monogamous. Monogamy is based on a lot of assumptions, a lot of unrealistic expectations, and it’s based on a structure that’s antiquated. At least in my poly relationships, I am communicating, and I am honest. No one is going to be wondering how I feel or where my head is at.”
Some ways to deal with jealousy include:
- To acknowledge but not vilify jealousy. Jealousy is an emotion, it’s a normal human response, it’s ok to speak it and to work through it
- Find out where it stems from
- Communicate all of this with your primary partner
- Remind yourself what you have to offer and what you bring to the relationship
What is Solo Polyamory and What Other Types of Polyamory Exist?
Miguel defines solo polyamory as being a single man who has multiple relationship and intimacy at the same time. For him, it’s not just about dating, it’s about spending time with people and investing resources into them, just like in a “normal” relationship.
“As a solo polyamorist, I do not have a primary partner currently. I’m looking or open to having a primary partner, but people assume I want to be in a monogamous relationship. But I have two poly relationships at this time, so I come with that and won’t give those up.”
Another type of poly relationship is a polycule, which is where a person practicing polyamory has a primary partner and may have multiple other partners that don’t necessarily interact with one another but are all connected.
Another type of polyamory Michael identified is a poly family which is when multiple poly couples may combine and become one unit or “family.”
Having engaged in these types of relationships, Miguel recognizes that, “At the end of the day, I am poly capable. So, I have the capacity to be in a monogamous relationship, but I also have the capacity to be in a poly relationship.”
How Would You Like to See the Attitude Towards Polyamory Change and Adapt?
Miguel said, “Everybody believes monogamy is the only or best way to do things and a lot of that stems from the fact that people are afraid of polyamory. But, polyamory is not a competition, it’s a collaboration. It’s not about replacing, it’s about enhancing someone else’s experience. We only live once in this life, and for us to deny ourselves things we want or for me to deny the world of all of me is not ok. I’m not anybody’s, and you’ll never be anybody’s. I belong to myself.”
Miguel Bujanda is the Executive Director of REACH LA. Miguel has over 20 years of experience working in the non-profit and public health sectors. His experience spans program coordination, health promotions, research, capacity building, and extensive leadership.