“Her” Almost Makes an Interesting Point About Polyamory, Then Doesn’t

Photo by Peter Lewicki on Unsplash

“Her” is an award-winning romantic science-fiction drama from Spike Jonze, and if you haven’t seen the 2013 film yet, please do understand that I am about to spoil it. If you have already seen it, here’s a quick reminder.

Lonely man Theodore gets a new operating system with artificial intelligence, who names herself Samantha. The two fall in love. Eventually Samantha reveals that she’s also fallen in love with other people (641 of them to be exact). Then Samantha and all the other artificially intelligent operating systems decide to leave humans behind.

Polyamory is the practice of being in multiple loving relationships. Generally it’s also understood that polyamory, by definition, requires honesty and consent from all partners. This is certainly a prerequisite for a healthy polyamorous relationship. So what Samantha is doing may not quite qualify, but there’s definite some overlap with this relationship model.

Samantha’s lines to Theodore explaining her feelings sound so much like a polyamorous person reassuring a partner about her other partners:

“I don’t know if you believe me, but it doesn’t change the way I feel about you. It doesn’t take away at all from how madly in love I am with you... But the heart’s not like a box that gets filled up. It expands in size the more you love. I’m different from you. This doesn’t make me love you any less. It actually make me love you more… I’m yours, and I’m not yours.”

And Theo’s answers sound just like a person who is new to polyamory and can’t quite wrap his head around the idea:

“How does it not change how you feel about me?… I thought you were mine… You’re the one that’s being selfish. We’re in a relationship.”

If you’re in a polyamorous relationship, it can certainly be hard to hear that your partner loves someone else. It’s normal for this to make someone feel jealous or insecure. But many polyamorous people are able to love more than one person without that diminishing their love for any partner. And being happy in a polyamorous relationships often depends on coming to accept this truth.

In real-life polyamorous relationships, though, there are also practical concerns. Time and energy are finite resources, so if your partner starts dating someone else, that could limit the time and attention that’s available for your relationship. Which can be a challenge to grapple with.

That’s not the case, of course, if you’re dating an operating system, which has no physical body, huge intellectual resources, and the ability to talk to thousands of people at the same time. Which would be a really interesting concept to explore further… if they didn’t all just decide to leave humans behind.