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Polyamory is difficult February 23, 2009

Posted by shaunphilly in religion, atheism, polyamory, culture.
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…yet has lessons even for the monogamous.

Relationships are difficult. People are complicated, and figuring out how to get along with them can often be a challenge. Anyone who has ever been in a relationship with another person knows how difficult it can be. Now imagine that difficulty multiplied by, well, by however many relationships you have (and then double that, perhaps).

When you are polyamorous, the emotions of the people involved are much more present. It is much easier to gloss over and cruise by emotional difficulties when insecurities and fears are not as frequently unearthed. The fact is that the vast majority of us have insecurities, fears, and other issues that lay under our everyday lives. Our culture has evolved in such a way that, for most people, these insecurities can hide most of the time. They come out from time to time, and perhaps we see a therapist or have talks with close friends, but they don’t dominate our lives.

But the lifestyle of polyamory brings many circumstances to the table which bring the hot buttons of our insecurities to the surface, meaning that they will be pressed much more often. This, in turn, forcies us to become very familiar with the terrain of our emotional landscape. That is, you are forced to actually deal with your fears, insecurities, and other parts of ourselves that we try to hide (from ourselves as well as others).

When we are compelled, through the circumstances we find ourselves, to find ways to deal better with our issues in life, we grow and mature in ways that we would not otherwise. And as far as relationships are concerned, this can be a great boon. This is why I think that what polyamory has to teach us is invaluable to anyone who has emotions. That is, I think that what polyamorous people learn through living this lifestyle should be learned by everyone, whether they are single, monogamous, or polyamorous.

So, what are these things that we should learn? Well, I’m no expert, but I’ll give a very quick analysis of what I think is most important:

  1. Communication is essential: We must tell our partners what we really think. We must not hold back things we do not like or things that we want.
  2. Honesty is vital: We must first be honest with ourselves about what we want. Then we must be honest with our partners about what we want. Outside of things like the details for their upcoming surprise party, we need to keep an open line of communication about the things that our partners need to know, which brings us to…
  3. We must create and maintain boundaries: In each relationship, we must use our communication and honesty to decide what is acceptable and what is not in that relationship. Rather than have what is “normal” or standard become the default, we should create our own rules and borders of the relationships we are in, keeping in mind that they may change over time and may need periodic adjustments.

These should be the basic rules for all relationships, not just what poly people talk about. I think that if everyone would follow these basic rules, rather than having the assumed rules of the monogamous world imposed without question, then we would find that things like polyamory would naturally emerge among people who have, perhaps secretly, desired something a little different.

The problem is that most people fall into relationships and never bother discussing many of the important things about the relationship. Most people simply assume that at some point you have to make a decision to commit to one person or another or to remain uncommitted. This absurd dichotomy overlooks that people can, if they choose, commit to more than one person, or primarily to one but with others, or whatever structure suits everyone involved. But when people automatically settle towards the cultural standard of monotony… I mean monogamy…, then people are often left without much of what they really want, which they think is the necessary sacrifice for a “real” relationship.

You don’t have to sacrifice everything you want. Try and be honest with what you really want in your life, and you may find that there are people that want the same thing as you. And don’t forget to start being honest with yourself so that you don’t find that you have worked yourself deep into a relationship with a person with whom you share few relationship goals simply because you didn’t know what you really wanted.

Finally, don’t worry about those insecure and fear-ridden people that you may scare off with your particular goals or kinks, because those people have to work on themselves before they are worth your time anyway.

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Comments»

1. Gerry - March 3, 2009

I am still asking you, shaunphilly, whether by your polyamorous lifestyle: you copulate with someone in the morning of the opposite sex or of the same sex, someone else in the evening, then another different partner tomorrow morning and still a different partner tomorrow evening, and so on and on.

Or do you practice some moderation as regards frequency of copulation and number of partners.

And do you keep your partners incognito among themselves as being your sex partners, or you introduce them to each other as your sex partners; and you yourself are known as also one among partners of people who practice your kind of polyamory, or what is called sexual promiscuity in other words before you call it polyamory.

And all that is supposed to be emotionally mature and most self-ennobling if ennoblement of the self is of any concern to yourself?

Gerry

2. shaunphilly - March 3, 2009

Polyamory is not necessarily promiscuous. It can be, if that is what the people involved want. In my case, I’m in two committed relationships. That is, I do not have sexual relations with anyone besides these two people, at least unless some new boundaries or agreements would be made between us.

The two women I am in relationships with know one-another personally, they both know I am in a sexual relationship with the other, and they are both free to pursue a relationship with others, so long as certain rules are maintained. The specifics of those rules are not necessarily the same as the rules other poly people choose.

There is no one way to be polyamorous. All it means is that monogamy is not assumed and that you discuss and maintain the rules of your relationship with everyone involved. That is, I discussed with both of my girlfriends, separately as well as together, what the nature of the relationships would be.

In many of my previous relationships, especially the monogamous ones, I found that people simply assume a bunch of relationship rules without discussing them, which I think is less healthy. This will eventually lead to a time when the assumed rules are not actually what one (or both) want.

This sometimes leads to a married couple finding out much later in life that they are both interested in something that they never discussed out of fear of it seeming weird or kinky. I think that;s sad; these things need to be discussed openly early in a relationship. Imagine being married to someone for 15 years and THEN discovering that you are both interested in swapping partners (swinging). All that lost time…

3. Deeply Flawed But Trying... - October 13, 2009

I hate the word ‘polyamorous’- me and boyfriend are not monogamous. We have been best friends for 15 years, throughout my marriage to someone else- and fell in love 2 years ago. When we got together, we realised that we didnt want to be monogamous, we didnt want to live together- but we are absolutely in love and respect each other. It would have been ludicrous to pretend to this person who knew EVERYTHING about me, includig how I felt, in theory about monogamy, that all of a sudden because it was him, I would never again want to act on an attraction to other people. I dont want him to look at me, when we are 70, and me be the reason he didnt act on genuinely felt attractions to other people, in the course of our relationship.
Not being monogamous is not about being promiscuous. Neither of us were promiscuous before we met, it would seem odd to somehow become promiscuous because we agreed we didnt want to be monogamous.
What it does mean is if, on the occasions where we are attracted to someone else-want to act on it, we can. I would expect him to treat anyone else, with the same respect I have always seen him treat people, and the same respect he treats with me.
I am not threatened by this idea- because I know what we have, and I know that no matter what- the thing we have with each other remains amazing. I am secure in that, and so is he.
We are about how we treat each other=not some idea of how we should behave when we are not even together.
I am not interested in swinging, or anything else.But nor am I open to falling in love with someone, being the reason I should close myself off to the possibilities that life has to offer.
Monogamy is something that works for some people- for others it clearly doesnt. I choose not to be monogamous, I dont lie to anyone, I dont all of a sudden become someone who treats people with disrespect. I know its not usual. BUt it works.

4. Deeply Flawed But Trying... - October 13, 2009

And my question to Gerry would be this- is about the word promiscuous.
I have never quite understood what the deal is with this attitude to sex. If you were asking Shaunphilly how he treated people, I would understand it. If you were asking about whether he was practising unsafe sex, which would put someone at risk, I would understand the question. If you were asking about whether he harmed someone, I would get that.
But the only question appears to be about whether or not he has sex, and the accusatory tone of your post= appears to denote that something is wrong with sex.
I am seeking to understand what that is?
I am not ‘promiscuous’ – I have been attracted to one other person, who remains a great friend of mine- in the course of my current relationship with James. But what denotes promiscuous? What precisely does that mean?
What is it, about two people coming together, being attracted to each other, and possibly having sex- that offends you so much?
Given the adultery rates in monogamous relationships, I am guessing that for some people- monogamy is not what they need.
As I said in my blog post- I believe strongly in fidelity, but in terms of promises made.If someone makes a promise to someone in a relationship, then that should be kept- thats about basic respect. But if neither party need or desire fidelity- why should they all of a sudden pretend that they do?
How does my boyfriend meeting someone he likes, and is attracted to, have any bearing on what we have together? And vice versa?
Sex between two people is not a bad thing. It can be a great thing.

5. shaunphilly - October 14, 2009

Deeply:

So, you are polyamorous but hate the term?

Man, that sounds like ‘humanists’ who are atheists but hate the term. Why do you hate it?


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