The term early adopter refers to an individual who is amongst the first to try a new product, technology or service. In our context, it refers to the modern polyamorists; social pioneers who have found monogamy to be inadequate for their needs and who have found a polyamorous model more suited to their proclivities.
While monogamy is a relatively recent experiment, it has predominated in Western Civilization to exceed the collective memory of all but the historians. Thus, the re-emergence of polyamory is instead viewed as a novelty and has not yet gained in mainstream social acceptance.
Early adopters are the trend setters. These are the individuals who were doing [insert activity here] before it was considered “cool” and “hip” to do so. And they are eager to remind you of this, as if it were a badge of honor. And so it should be.
It’s easy to “go with the flow,” at least in concept. Society promotes monogamy starting with fairy tales. Men are pressured to pop the question and women are busily planning for their wedding day. But is this working? Every divorce would suggest not. Even those who remain married, what percent do so out of social, religious and financial constraints, and not out of love or affection? When did the pursuit of monogamy replace our pursuit of happiness and what can we do to redirect our pursuit to more hedonistic aims?
The early adopters of polyamory are those who aren’t just wondering, but who are actively seeking to find their own happiness instead of blindly following in the footsteps of prior generations. This group does deserve recognition and applaud. These are the brave. These are the strong. These are the social pioneers. Others who follow do so in the wake of the trails that these early adopters have forged when the terrain was much less tamed.
Who is an early adopter of polyamory? While polyamory has been practiced in its modern iteration for decades, the concept has still not achieved mainstream social acceptance and thus, is not yet “cool.” Of course those who actually engage in the practice know otherwise, but for this to expand to a more mainstream awareness, the early adopters will have to educate and inform the population.
If you are an early adopter, this responsibility falls on you, as it does on me. As early adopters of polyamory, we possess knowledge and experiences that others are still only curious about and have not yet found for themselves. There will be those who become disillusioned with the trappings of monogamy but will not understand what alternatives and choices they have to shape the relationship style that works best for them.
It is not our role to overstep our boundaries, proselytize and impose our relating styles on others who are not in accordance. Polyamorists honor consent and respect the personal autonomy of others. But in the honoring of consent, is where the duty to educate and inform springs forth. For how can one consent, either to polygamy OR to monogamy, when one is not fully informed of the alternatives?
So, to fulfill our role as early adopters we must do our best in our personal relating with others to model the precepts of polyamory. The principles and practices we engage in will, decades from now, be traditions adhered to by future generations. We must ensure they promote the pillars of polyamory and are not injurious to self or others.
The role of early adopters is also to make ourselves available to answer questions and mentor others who are further behind us on their journey toward more open relating. We should also be mindful not to encroach on the personal autonomy of those whose journey is mono oriented. As more persons become aware of their choices and elect a polyamorous path, this relating style will gain in mainstream social acceptance, so that eventually, the early adopters of polyamory can proudly claim that we were “poly before poly was cool.”