As you may have noticed, there has been a sort of blog-around going on here at Polyskeptic about the idea of polyamory as a sexual orientation. Alex, Shaun and Wes have all weighed. I’m not the kind of person to miss out on a party, so I thought I might say a few words about this. I want to talk about how my personal experience has led me to believe that polyamory is not my sexual orientation, but rather my philosophy on relationships.
That, my friends, is what we call a Thesis Statement. Awwwww shit.
As I have mentioned in previous posts, Wes and I were monogamous for the first 5 years of our relationship. Non-monogamy didn’t really enter our collective consciousness until then. I don’t quite know how we started to think about it or where we learned about open relationships (specifically polyamorous relationships). I can probably safely blame Dan Savage for this since he talks often about the idea that often a long term relationship can be helped with the introduction of non-monogamy. Regardless of how we got to the idea, one thing is certain: Though I was always monogamous in all my relationships before this, I never fully understood why so many relationships went to hell simply because partners cheated or expressed interest in people outside their relationship.
This might sound hilarious to those of you who know that I have definitely been the jealous one here. I have spoken about this often (mostly to get over the shame of being so flawed in this way. Jealousy really bothers me and I hate that it is part of my laundry list of things I have to deal with all the time in my own head). I can speak about it more freely these days as it rarely causes a problem now, but in the beginning problems were many.
When Wes and I talked about opening up I was completely onboard from a rational and logical point of view. The philosophy of non-monogamy made perfect sense to me. I am committed to Wes. I wish to spend my life with him. It seemed absurd to assume that over the course of a multi-decade relationship that neither of us would never find ourselves attracted to other people. And, as we are committed to our mutual happiness as individuals and as a couple, it also seemed absurd that we would wish that the other would deny each other chances at additional happiness. The distinction between “in addition to” and “instead of” means everything here. Wes and I wanted to be able to seek out happiness opportunities in addition to what we already have (and will continue to have) with each other.
So my wanting to be open had everything to do with believing in it philosophically. The practice of what the philosophy entails was initially tumultuous because handling something emotionally is very different from handling it logically. I was an emotional wreck for a long time. My insecurities were fierce and they led to nasty bouts with jealousy when I feared that all of my insecurities were founded. It was awful.
But I never wanted to pull the plug. To me this was not an interesting experiment that Wes and I would look back on down the road, having “gotten it out of our system” and safely returned to monogamy stronger and wiser than we were before. We chose this lifestyle because we logically, rationally, and philosophically believe in it. If I could not work through my personal issues that were getting in the way of enjoying the possibilities that polyamory presented, it would be dishonest to blame the philosophy itself for my failings. Viewing relationships through polyamorous spectacles illuminates things about yourself and those relationships. If you can work through the things that scare you about being that vulnerable, about trusting that much, you can adopt a polyamorous philosophy if you want to.
In this way, I agree with Shaun’s assessment that many people could be non-monogamous if they chose. I do not view sexual orientation as something you choose. But, to me, polyamory is all about choice. I could have demanded Wes and I go back to monogamy when I was at my lowest, but I chose not to because I believed that the potential freedom that polyamory could afford would ultimately lead to much greater happiness and strength of our relationship. This is not because I was in the closet for years about my deepest darkest desires to have relationships with multiple people, but rather because the ability to trust Wes so deeply required me to tackle a number of awful things in my brain that were getting in the way of my own happiness.
At this juncture, I know that polyamory is the right “lovestyle” for me. Practicing it makes me very happy because I have the benefit of support and love from more than one person. I would not want to go back to monogamy because that would mean not having the wonderful life I currently have. But I do not feel that it is my sexual orientation. I liken it to atheism and skepticism, not bisexuality. My commitment to skepticism means that I view the world through skeptical spectacles which means that I follow the scientific method in my approach to all things. Skepticism colors my point of view of the universe. Atheism is the same way. I do not believe that there is a god. I really don’t. I must allow for a small amount of doubt of this belief because while I don’t have any evidence that there is a god, I don’t have completely definitive evidence that there is not. But I live my life as though there is no higher power governing what I do. This is the philosophy which colors my point of view on morality. Polyamory is the philosophy which colors my approach to relationships, whether I have one or several. It is a philosophy where self-introspection, personal growth, honest communication, and truth are major tenets. Though practicing polyamory means that I can love who I want to love, it does not dictate the type of person that I love, but rather how I love.
4 thoughts on “Hey You Guys! I Have an Opinion about Orientation Too!!!”
Thanks for this. I feel very much the same way you do — intellectually poly makes perfect sense; emotionally it is probably the hardest, most painful thing I’ve ever done. I do often question whether it’s really worth it.
@anon: Yeah, as you read, I know how that feels. For me it has been completely worth it, but it took me a good year and a half of putting myself through hell to get there. I’m glad I did the work because life is beautiful now. But I was often afraid that I would never be able to really handle it. Having it be a philosophy helped my commitment.
I think you accurately captured my feeling and beliefs on the subject. Polyamory is a conscious choice, one that I too arrived at through logical, introspective and philosophical deduction. I by no means see it as an orientation as I believe I have a choice in my “love/lifestyle”. Polyamory, especially when contrasted with cheating (in a monogamous relationship), is all about using one’s brain to make choices and behave in a sexual way that is ethically sound and responsible. I would posit that as individuals who have chosen polyamory for ourselves, we value highly our capacity for conscious decision making more than most people, which in and of itself, takes polyamory out of the realm of orientation.
On cheating; I think cheating is easier than polyamory in many respects, but it is also cruel and lazy … I don’t think anyone would ever posit that being unfaithful (chronically or otherwise) is an orientation. Ergo, polyamory cannot be an orientation.
On jealousy, I agree that it is a most distressing personality trait, one that prevents the individual experiencing the jealousy from being all they can be. In spite of any and all the pain and difficulties this lovestyle has caused me, the philosophical journey towards polyamory has had a remarkable effect on my sense of jealousy and my feeling of romantic in/security in general. I feel so much more free in my own mind now that I’m significantly less riddled with jealousy. (I owe “Polyamory; The New Love Without Limits” (Anapol, 1997) a great deal for guiding my emotional and philosophical development.). Ironically, I do fear ending up alone in this lovestyle, primarily because I am not sure I could ever go back to monogamy (I would only be lying to myself) and I wonder just how many people out there are even receptive to polyamory.
I wonder how many people out there are even receptive to polyamory as well. I just lost one partner (a secondary whom I wanted to be a co-primary) and fear that I’ll lose my primary too because of my conviction around this philosophy. it is so hard. I find myself considering cheating as a viable alternative. I am looking for info on people who have made that choice. not that I think I could ever actually do that. I guess I would have a long time ago, considering how damn hard this whole thing has been. (2.5 yrs of struggle now).
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