29 February 2008

What is polyamory?

I'm not talking about a definition or explanation you can find on wikipedia, although that is useful. I'm talking about what it actually gives you, what you find when you are poly... if everything goes relatively well.

This is more, I guess, about how polyamory feels, what I gain from it and why I am poly.

I have never really been monogamous. My earlier relationships all overlapped until I was forced to choose between the two partners I had. I chose the new partner in each situation because there were reasons that those new relationships had started up... Being poly was only a matter of time for me... and the right partner/s and understanding it myself... but what do I get out of it?

Being poly means I can love without restriction. I can find someone who I connect with and I can let myself fall in love with them, if that's where that relationship goes. Being poly means that I am loved and know I am loved by my many friends and my tribe. That we can declare our love for each other without having to second guess what it all means, because it really doesn't matter.

Being poly means that not only am I loved, I know I am loved and that is a buffer against other pain in the world. When my other partner left me, I never thought that I was unlovable, unlikeable, that I should go off and eat some worms... I knew that I was loved by my tribe, husband and friends. There were there, their love was overwhelming and positive... even when the rest of the world was dim.

So my world is filled with love, this is a good thing.

I am never alone. This doesn't mean that I never have any time to myself... because if I didn't I'd go crazy, but my partner/s and tribe are always handy to offer hugs, an ear to listen, a shoulder to cry on, etc.

My experience of monogamy is that your sole partner is expected mostly to do all this for you, that if your partner can't fulfil all your needs then there is something wrong with the relationship and you should leave it. This of course is bollocks. There will never be one person on the planet that meets all your needs. One person who fits you so perfectly that you never feel that need X or Y is going to be unmet. Monogamy is a series of compromises. You know that this person is close to perfect, that they meet most of your needs... so you bundle those needs that are unfulfilled and put them in a box and pretend that they aren't there... or if they are safe needs... like watching soppy, romantic comedies, you find friends who will join you in that (depending on how possessive/jealous your partner is).

With poly I can go and get all my needs and desires filled. I can find the people who fit around me like the hexagonal puzzle piece I am and get my needs met. And in doing so I can be challenged and challenge myself into growing, learning and filling my potential.

One of the brightest things about poly that I have experienced over the past few years is that the love is multiplied and the pain diminished. Yes there is pain... just like there is in monogamy when partners clash or misunderstand each other... but with the extra love and support from poly friends, family and partners, the pain is lessened.

The other thing about poly is that its all about positive choice. I don't have to be asked to choose between two people I'm attracted to/love (and if I am I get very cranky) and I don't need to ask anyone to choose between me and someone/s else. I don't have to consider which partner, friend, lover, whatever I prefer over someone else. I can have it all, provided I am considerate, communicate clearly and am patient/understanding/accepting of my partner's potential jealousy or whatever.

So, in summary.... poly gives me the ability to love as much as I can, the knowledge that I am loved in return, the knowledge that I am never truly alone, the ability to have all my needs and desires met should I seek to do that and positive choice.

Of course I'm poly... it makes perfect sense to me.

20 February 2008

Getting along

I've been asked to write more frequently in here, and believe me, there wouldn't've been such a big gap between postings if I hadn't had my heart broken. That kind of thing tends to crimp your writing and most other creative outlets quite severely.

So today's topic is one that is close to my heart and one that there are many different impressions about. Getting along with your partner's partner... is it important?

My answer is FUCK YES! With all the extra emphasis that capitals, bold, underline and italics can add to two words... oh I can't underline... well you get the idea.

Polyamory lends itself to many different types of relationships developing which is a good thing. Some may be casual, others more serious. No matter how important each relationship is to your partner, it is important that you get along with their other partners. (I know I could just assign a gender here, but I can't be arsed just now, so deal with the incorrect "their" for the moment).

Remember when you were back in school and had a best friend. Remember what happened when you best friend had a falling out with one of your other best friends and you were forced to play sides or choose between friends. Remember how destructive that was... well poly can be that bad if you aren't mature about it and communicate and work on getting along.

Asking your partner to choose between you and someone else because you don't like them or are insecure about that relationship is a recipe for disaster. I've told my partners that to ask me to choose is very likely to mean that they lose. Being polyamorous is all about positive choice. Being asked to choose is about negative choice...

This post isn't about communication or choice, that can come later, so I'll get back to my point. I've been the pivot, pointy end of a V relationship where my two partners weren't getting along and I've been at the end of a V and not getting along with another partner, so I am speaking from experience here about how important it is that everyone does their best to get along.

You don't have to be best friends with your patner's partner, but not hating their guts and actually having an avenue of communication open if its needed is important. If you can be best friends with your partner's partner, then that's great, but if not, as long as you can be friendly it will mean a huge amount to your partner.

In a healthy relationship you want your partner to be hapy and your partner wants you to be happy. If you are not getting along with another of their partners your parter will feel the tension. They'll probably censor what they say about their day, be cautious around you and that runs the risk of damaging the relationship you have with your partner because you will know that they aren't being entirely honest with you, know why they aren't being honest with you and that tension will be felt.

If the falling out between the partners is shortlived, then it goes away and people are ok. If it's unresolvable as far as the partners are concerned, this is where the pivot has a role to play. When my partners weren't getting along (briefly) I ensured that they knew it was important for me that they got along. I encouraged them to talk to each other, to extend the hand of friendship and forgiveness, and explained that them getting along added to my happiness. They both understood that my overall happiness was impacted them getting along and so worked on getting over stuff... and did so.

When I didn't get along with my partner's partner... then that particular partner told me that he didn't mind if his partners didn't get along. This was really hard for me to deal with as it was the complete opposite of how I viewed polyamory. I was constantly afraid that he'd choose sides in the conflict, that the other partner would influence something somehow, that I'd be perceived as being difficult or whatever. I didn't feel that my concerns about this were really heard or understood by my partner because he didn't work on sorting out the conflict. He didn't encourage each of us to talk, he didn't explain to me his partner's position and I don't know if he explained my position to his partner. I felt that I had no way forward in resolving this and he didn't help me.

Polyamory is difficult enough without adding conflict between partners to it. So, I strongly recommend you work through any conflict you may have as quickly as possible. If you can't sort it out yourself, ask your partner to help. If you are concerned that your partner may not be the best help, find someone you both trust to help mediate, or meet somewhere public and just talk about the issues between you, how much working through these will make your joint partner happier and how it will make you both happier. This requires ownership of your own issues and maturity to acknowledge your own fault in the conflict.

05 February 2008

The right way

I haven't reread my earlier post, but apart from it being WAY over time that something was posted here again, something has also happened that I think is relevant to the whole poly thing.

It has been said by some, and by me once or twice, that the worst thing about polyamory is monogamy. Falling for monogamous people who won't shift is really hard, and monogamous people who try out poly and then don't deal well with it, can break your heart when they leave.

I've done both of these. I've fallen for a monogamous man and I've been left by a poly partner for a monogamous partner because she couldn't cope with my partner's polyamory any more... and he didn't want to lose her, but was happy to lose me (I could rant about this, but I won't other than its short-sighted and blind behaviour - denying an aspect of yourself doesn't lead to long term happiness).

Anyway, my point is this... time leads you down all sorts of strange roads, and that person who can't consider polyamory today or can't cope with it today may actually grow and think and learn about it and decide, in time, that they can.

This, I think, is the best way to go about it. Forcing someone to be poly isn't going to work for them or for you. It's a big change to stop following the footsteps of society and look at relationships in a different light. It's a big step to actually ask yourself if you could share a partner with someone else or even be shared by other people. For some this comes naturally, for others it's weird, odd and very scary.

People's choices as well as your own integrity should be respected in this instance. You should be who you are.

If you are poly and in relationships with other people, then leaving those people for a monogamous relationship isn't necessarily good for you, the other people or the person you are hooking up with . The big picture is important, I feel.

If you are monogamous, then you should respect that about yourself... and if you are questioning it, talk freely to the person/s you are interested in and go from there.

Just like sexuality, I think that polyamoury is a fluid scale from people who are very poly, who would never ever be happy being monogamous to people who are so monogamous that the idea of having an affair or another relationship is repulsive to them. Generally though, most of us fall into the spectrum. From the people who understand it but don't want to do it, through to those who do it and are hoping for the best, and then those who are poly and actively making it work and are happy doing so.

So, back to my point. Time. There is time enough for everything. Don't rush things, don't feel that you must make a decision today, tomorrow or even next year. If someone you love is poly and you are not... then question what will make you happy and whether you can live that lifestyle:
  • being monogamous with them while they are poly with others, and don't forget that appropriate boundaries still need to be set;
  • learning to be poly yourself, and all that entails;
  • or if you can't do it at all.

If you are poly and have fallen in love with someone who is monogamous, then respect their beliefs and values, even if you don't hold them. Tell them about what poly does for you, but let them decide, when and if they are ever ready, to come and join you or not.

One of the great things about being poly is that you don't have to fuck everyone you love. You don't have to have any more than a deep, loving and committed friendship. Sure sex is great, but it isn't the sole reason you have relationships with people. It may be the reason you have relationships with some people, but not all of them.

The most important thing you can do for yourself and the people you love, is to aim to always do the right thing by them and by you. Keep your integrity and only question your own values if you really want to and think that perhaps it might be time. Don't let anyone push you into something you don't want to do. You are the one who best makes you happy.

That said though, finding out what you want is an important part of the journey of life. Experimentation is not a bad way to go about these things, but try to do it respectfully of other people's feelings. Many poly people I know, including myself, fall in love hard and deep. Communicate clearly what you are doing so that everyone involved knows what is going on and can guard (or not) their hearts as much as they need to.