What Disney taught me about healthy polyamory

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In an alternate reality, this living arrangement was quite different. Image from Disney's Snow White.
In an alternate reality, this living arrangement was quite different. Image from Disney’s Snow White.

No one would ever try to argue that Disney love stories are realistic portrayals of the ups and downs and trials and tribulations of relationships. Their fairy tale happy endings are what make them so endearing, but they definitely don’t set proper expectations for dating in the real world. A prince is probably not going to come wake you up from sleep with an enchanted kiss while woodland creatures serenade you. But, there are some relationship lessons I have recently realized Disney imparted on me — and they’re the least likely of all.

Let’s see what Disney characters can teach us about healthy multi-partner relationships…

Image from Disney's Cinderella
Image from Disney’s Cinderella

Relationships aren’t one-size-fits-all

Grand Duke: The prince sire! Swears he’ll marry nobody but the girl who fits this slipper.
The King: He said that, did he? Ha ha. We’ve got him!
Grand Duke: But, Sire, this slipper may fit any number of girls.
The King: That’s his problem. He’s given his word, we’ll hold him to it.

The fact that the slipper may fit any number of girls doesn’t necessarily have to be a problem if the prince decides he’d rather be polyamorous. In Cinderella, the Prince’s plot revolves around the pressure he’s under to find a wife and have children. But just like the glass slipper doesn’t fit every eligible maid in the kingdom, monogamy doesn’t fit every person, either. Having an open or polyamorous relationship doesn’t mean that the Prince couldn’t also raise a family with one or more committed partners. Of course, given how jealous the stepsisters are, it’s important to acknowledge that…

Image from Disney's Aladdin
Image from Disney’s Aladdin

Possessiveness is very uncool

“I am not a prize to be won.” -Jasmine, Aladdin

In polyamorous relationships, everyone is going to get hurt if there’s competition or possessiveness between partners. Jealousy is a symptom of needs not being addressed between partners, and shouldn’t be present in a non-monogamous relationship. Polyamorous relationships can have many iterations, and sometimes they can include a main or primary partner with other partners, too — but no one should enter a polyamorous relationship with the idea that they’ll eventually “win” a partner completely. That’s disrespectful to everyone involved. And after all…

Image from Disney's Hercules
Image from Disney’s Hercules

Trust and respect are the most important aspects of every relationship

“You know how men are: they think ‘no’ means ‘yes’ and ‘get lost’ means ‘take me, I’m yours.” -Meg, Hercules

Meg from Hercules understands the importance of trust. She has a lot of difficulty opening herself up to Hercules, and it’s because her trust has been broken in the past. In a polyamorous relationship, trust and boundaries are the most important aspect. Respecting a partner’s “no” is paramount — as it is in any situation! Open and honest communication and setting clear boundaries are the only ways to make sure that everyone can get their needs and desires met in a respectful way.

What lessons about non-monogamy can you glean from Disney movies?

Comments on What Disney taught me about healthy polyamory

  1. YES! THIS! I appreciate so very much how this article takes what is usually framed as a terrible representation of relationships and pulls out the good. Not to mention speaks very well to the strong female characters that are often buried in these movies. Thank you!

  2. I don’t know my Disney well enough to glean any lessons, but I do really like this line: no one should enter a polyamorous relationship with the idea that they’ll eventually “win” a partner completely.

    • Incidentally, despite that it should be a pretty obvious recipe for disaster, apparently it’s so common that some polys call people who do that “cowboys” (or “cowgirls”, as the case may be), because they’re trying to “rope one off from the herd”.

    • Um…being poly wouldn’t just solve everything? I could never be poly. Ever. But it’s not because I’m an evil jealous person, or a really insecure person. I just don’t want to share. It’s like kinky people saying that vanilla people are boring- some people just prefer to be vanilla, and that doesn’t make them or their lives boring, it’s just how they are.

  3. So it’s Dreamworks, not Disney, but I recently saw How to Train Your Dragon 2 with the kiddos and they totally slipped in a poly-resolution to the love triangle [very]sub-plot. Of course they do NO follow up (like whether the guys are okay with it), but the girl totally decides to be in love with both of them. It made me happy.

  4. You could say that about the Book of Life too. The relationship could have stayed happy between all three until the men grew up and started becoming possessive.

  5. Loved the way you viewed those moments! The awesome pay off Disney is that the stories all have so many meanings and lessons that change depending on the viewer!

    To those saying poly could just fix all love triangle problems, that’s really not always true . Just like some aren’t made to be monogamous, some people are not made to be poly! I was in a love “square” for awhile and we chose to fix it by being poly. But it ended up destroying my relationship with one partner because he only wanted to be with me and was truly monogamous at heart. I also realized I wasn’t happy because now I’d lost someone I cared deeply about, realized I honestly wanted to be just friends with one of my partners, and monogamous with the other. But the one I wanted to be monogamous was truly unhappy with just me. So I tried another poly relationship thinking maybe it was just the mix of people. . . It wasn’t. Been in only monogamous relationships since and I’ve been happier. Not all of us can handle it or be happy in a poly relationship, even if we’d like to! 🙂

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