For the past few days I’ve been reading posts about polyamory. For full disclosure, I do describe myself as polyamorous (poly). And I suppose I identify sooo much that people have accused me of being a poly advocate. I would actually describe myself more as an advocate for healthy relationships. No matter what form they take. I don’t necessarily advocate poly for everyone, but instead I use it as an example of a relationship structure that not only works for me but works fucking well for me.
And here is a quick summary of my relationships: I am legally married to one man, let’s call him Husband and we have two marvelous children. I am spiritually married to another man for the past 3 years, let’s call him Warrior, who is legally married to another woman (and she has another partner as well). I date both women and men and those that identify in between. So does Warrior. Husband is only now starting to consider getting involved in other relationships. Husband and I have been poly for 7 years this July, which is more years we’ve been poly than not (we’ve been together for 12 years). So, yeah, poly is working quite well for me.
Over the past few weeks, I found myself getting hyper defensive of what I’ve been hearing about poly lately. Maybe this is how the rest of the world feels when their relationship dynamic is under attack. Except, you know…they’re the majority and still have power, control, rights and shit. Most of the people making complaints about poly have been either those who are new to it or had a terrible experience with it. Anyway, I thought this might be a good place to start a blog about relationships, sexuality, culture and where they all intersect in my life.
This is by no means a coherent or even competent defense of poly. It’s just a reaction. A knee-jerk reaction that wasn’t at all appropriate for the person who originally inspired this…but was something I needed to say after redefining over the past year the way in which I practice poly. Again, I don’t advocate poly for everyone…but I do advocate conscious relationship building.
Every relationship is whatever the people in that relationship decide it is. Long before I identified myself as poly, Husband and I still had discussions in our relationship about what the boundaries were in our relationship. Everything from “What is considered cheating” to “Where shall we spend our holidays”. Things have shifted dramatically over the years (it’s cheating if I’m not honest with him about who I am with) and others not so much (we still spend Christmas Eve with his family no matter what). But I think that’s what makes for a conscious dynamic relationship whether it’s monogamous, poly or any of the fantastic in-betweens. We’ve kept the conversation going and the commitment is to listen to and try to find a way we can meet each other’s needs. And then we make choices based on those needs and abilities, instead of defaulting to some pre-conceived idea.
Now, granted I’m considered a poly advocate…only insofar as using it as an example of how flexibility of relationship norms can serve the individuals in the relationship itself. And I’m certainly thinking about a statement that was made about poly recently which basically said that poly made that person feel inadequate because they weren’t meeting the needs of their partner. It got me thinking and yeah, I reacted badly to this because I felt a reaction of inadequacy is more about the perspective and worldview of the person who feels it than a judgment of the universe against these people involved.
I admit when I talk about poly sometimes I do talk about how unreasonable it is to assume that one person can meet all your needs. It puts a lot of pressure on someone. If one of your needs is to communicate daily and snuggle every night for an hour, it might be unreasonable for one person to always meet these needs every day for the rest of your lives. What about when they’re sick or have had a bad day? What if they’re not a snuggler or are having trouble communicating and keeping in touch throughout the day? It’s not that this person is inadequate. They are who they are; they may be going through a rough patch or having difficulty in setting priorities. Meanwhile you go without your needs being met…for how long? A day, a week, 12 years? And meanwhile what happens? Forgive them and move on? Suffer in silence (or maybe quite vocally)? In my personal experience it’s less that the person doesn’t want to give you what you need, it’s that they are not able to for one reason or another.
In my marriage, it’s been about freedom to be loved in a committed relationship for who we are and where we are in that given moment. By being poly, it’s given Husband the freedom to be himself…to not have to meet 100% of my needs 100% of the time. He’s always expressed it as a path that allowed him to escape some of the pressure. If I was feeling subby that day, I had a way to fulfill it if he wasn’t in a place where he could take control and be Daddy that day. He hasn’t expressed it as an inadequacy so much as a freedom to be valued, loved and recognized for who he is instead of forcing himself to be someone he’s not or be more ready than he is. But while he’s enjoyed that freedom, I can’t always say that I have. I have felt too many times that I let him down, because I wasn’t able to always be there when and how he needed me. And I would have felt better knowing that he had someone else he could turn to, someone else who could share the interests he had or the new passions he was developing.
I think whatever path will help us achieve happiness for both you and your partner, while maintaining the integrity of who you each are as individuals is valid. For me, it’s a path that allows me to maintain intense connections (romantic, sexual, plantonic, etc.) that help me grow and love. For Husband it’s a path where that option is open to him should he choose to pursue it, but where he’s not forced to be someone other than the man I fell in love with. And for Warrior it’s a path that allows him a comforting domestic relationship as well as the ability to have hot man-sex when he needs it. And it’s awesome and amazing and I’ve noticed the difference in our lives. And while I may describe my life as poly, for others it’s simply open. For others it’s closed. Whatever the words, building a conscious relationship that serves the needs of the people in it is a positive, beautiful and transformative thing.