02 May 2008

Letting it be what it is

Hey everyone, James here. I've been rather slack in getting my thoughts into this blog, but I've been trying to write more recently, so here I am!

The topic of this blog post is one close to my heart. While at ConFest over the Easter long weekend, my friends Anne and Pete ran some workshops on polyamory. I gave an answer to one of the participants' questions that got me thinking about one of the things I really love about being poly, but had never distilled into words before.

Polyamory allows relationships to be what they are.

I feel that, in the world of monogamy, there is great pressure from all sides for relationships to confirm to a certain archetype: meet, fall in love, get married, have satisfying sex, have children, stay together forever. Any ongoing relationship which doesn't match this template is suspect. If two people have been having a sexual relationship for years but have never felt the urge to settle down, their friends will almost certainly be asking when they're going to "tie the knot", and if they're not getting married when are they going to break up and find a "real" relationship.

Intense platonic relationships fall under the same pressure. When the participants are single, friends will be asking, "So, have you had sex yet?" The suggestion will be that a relationship without sex is no relationship at all. If the participants are not single, then intense, loving, affectionate platonic relationships are a source of jealousy and tension. The trouble is, if someone in that situation tells a worried partner that, "We're just friends!" they may not be telling the truth; polyamorous people often tell me of intense "platonic affairs" that feel as real as any sexual relationship.

The trouble is, trying to force these relationships into a designated shape will nearly always be a bad thing. I suspect we all know someone who found someone with whom they had amazing sex, and felt compelled to take it further, despite ample evidence that outside the bedroom they didn't get on so well. This will usually result in years of fighting, acromonious divorce, and unhappy children.

Then there are the non-sexual affairs, which participants and friends may feel should be sexual. When two people who love each other deeply, love each other's company, and talk for hours about intense and personal topics, but feel no real sexual attraction toward each other, forcing the relationship into a sexual arena is rarely a good idea. Such relationships may naturally develop into something sexual over time, but forcing the issue is unlikely to make anyone happy. Years of passionless marriage, with bland, unsatisfying sex at best, and no sex at all at worst, can lead to affairs, betrayal, and broken hearts.

Polyamory can neatly sidestep all of this bullshit. The reason is quite simple: in monogamy, you only get one relationship (aside from affairs) so you need to get all of your relationship needs met in one person. Most people need a confidante and friend, a soul mate, a partner, and a lover. They need someone who shares at least some of their interests, and someone who will meet their needs. In poly, you can meet your needs with multiple people, and this means that each person is not forced to try to be everything for you.

If you're poly, you can have your passionate sexual friendship, knowing that you'll go home to your own place to sleep and not have to share a living space. You can have a deep, non-sexual relationship without having to either forego sex entirely (or have sex without someone you are not physically attracted to).

As I see it, trying to reshape a relationship into something it was never meant to be is only going to hurt the people involved and break the relationship. Polyamory lets relationships be what they are, without pressure to make them into something else. This, I think, is one of the great gifts of being poly. In my own life, I have a lover named Jack. Early on we had a great conversation in which we both admitted that we didn't know precisely what our relationship was, where it was going, and what form it would ultimately take. More importantly, neither of us cared. There is true freedom in that, and it's one of the things I love most about this lifestyle.

. . .

Edit - I've heard through the grapevine that something I wrote in this blog entry has offended someone I care about. Even though no names were mentioned, they felt something I wrote made them feel personally identified and (I think) unfairly judged. It was not my intention to hurt anyone, so I have deleted the offending phrase and also deleted an anonymous comment made by that person that referenced that comment.

If you read this, please get in touch and talk to me about it. I'd like to apologise and try to explain.


Anonymous said...
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William S said...

Love to talk more about this if you could drop me a line.

Rebecca said...

Hi William S. Since you've left no way to get in contact with you, I'm dropping a line to you via this blog.

Please feel free to pose any questions or make any comments here, the comments are moderated so I see them before they are published.