Oddly enough, ever since I started writing about my experiences with poly and my marriage’s sojourn into that lifestyle, I have been inundated with emails and comments asking for advice and just conversation about it. I don’t really understand this, as my experience with it in the married environment has been minimal, though my experience with it in a single mode, as well as taken-but-not-married-mode is extensive. I must seem like I know what I’m talking about, and I do for the most part. The parts that I don’t are usually just extensions of my personal philosophy.
However, I never realized what a journey it was when you actually make the marital commitment. (Honestly, that can be said about 90% of my married life.) But, given my poly experience outside of marriage, I suppose it gives me an outlook that translates well to the marital theater, given that the requirements are essentially the same.
For reasons I don’t quite understand, I have been writing almost predominately articles and literature regarding polyamorous relationship models, but for the most part, the main question I get asked is, “Is polyamory for me?” I don’t pretend to be the authority, so I’ll just say with certainty that no one model of relationship is the right fit for everyone. The things that seem perfectly fine with one relationship would not be allowed in another. I have found that ultimately, it’s not about finding the right relationship model, but finding someone whose idea of a relationship is compatible with yours.
If monogamy is something that is ingrained in the both of you, then it’s probably best to stick with monogamy and leave polyamory as some kind of interesting thought experiment (if it is even mentioned at all), provided monogamy is meeting all of your needs.
For the majority of people I know, polyamory is NOT for them. For these people, the jealousy is too unruly a beast to manage, egos are too high, or their sexual/emotional needs are actually being met sufficiently. I want to put on the record right now, that polyamorous people and relationships are no different than monogamists. Nor are they more evolved or whatever it is poly people use to separate themselves from monogamists. It is simply a different configuration. But, because we are ingrained to look for differences, we have a tendency to think that the way we live is superior. It is not. We simply require different things.
So, let’s take a look at this.
Do you believe in absolute trust and communication to your partner about EVERYTHING? The poly style of living is rooted in a deep love of honest communication. If you can’t tell your partner every gruesome little detail of everything, then this is clearly not for you. The reason being is, you are going to run into problems. Jealousy can rear its ugly head, a specific image might not leave your mind, and it’s important to be able to have an honest and loving conversation about that, so that you can navigate any roadblocks. That being said, sharing everything is not necessary. It’s not necessary that you know the entire contents of the book, just that you have access to it if you need to.
What’s more is you have to enjoy having deep conversations with your partner.
Would you be able to know, intellectually, that your spouse/partner is having sex and having an intimate relationship with someone else and be alright with it? This is often the hardest part of any poly requirement. Intellectually, it’s easy to wrap your head around it. But, then our brain plays its little tricks and before you know it, you’re imagining them running off with whomever they’re with and never seeing them again. Thankfully, our thoughts are rarely (if ever) accurate descriptions of what’s going on. If you can compartmentalize the sex and love, then you’re already halfway there.
Would you feel guilty for getting your emotional/sexual needs met by more than one person? This is also another issue that people run into. The feelings of guilt and remorse are dominant in us based on our upbringing. My upbringing was very Catholic and very conservative, my reaction was to revolt against it. I embraced the fleshy and the aesthetic and as a result, my life has been filled with memories and moments instead of regrets and restrictions. Call me the token atheist, but feeling guilty for enjoying something as basic to the human experience as love and sex seems to be the by-product of the religious right as well as a self-righteously gullible society, not to those who insist on being responsible for their own happiness.
To most polyamorous people, the idea that all needs can be fulfilled by one person, for some people, is unrealistic and unreflective.
Would you feel guilty for going out on a date with someone else? For many the thought of dating brings up feelings of anxiety and apprehension. For myself, dating was fun because as much as people annoy me, I am amused by them. I have always loved meeting people from different walks of life, people’s experiences are like trading cards to me, I collect them all. Dating can be fun and exhilarating if you have the right perspective. On the other hand, if you’ve had bad experiences with dating this can be a pitfall.
Would you feel guilty for double dating (you dating your preferred member of another couple, while your spouse/partner did the same)? This is often the beginner’s way to ease into things. When I first started legitimizing this as a way of living for myself, I was with a girlfriend who was very much on board, with at least the philosophy. We dated this couple for about 6 months and it was one of the most illuminating experiences I have ever had. The dynamic was ever-changing and the flow was completely different than normal, monogamous relationships. However, it was by no means unhealthy, as it had its own internal logic that was devoted to courtesy, integrity, honesty and free and open communication.
If you can read all of this and still think it’s not entirely out of the question, then congratulations. This mode of living could possibly be for you. What should follow is an analysis of your relationship on every level to see if it could survive the growing pains necessary to dip your toes in the water.
As a rule, those who succeed end up with a slightly different and more liberal definition of “love”, “relationship” and “fidelity” than their monogamist counterparts and generally are more open to the experiences that might deviate from the normal hustle and bustle of every day life. The sexuality aspect is secondary to the mutually loving way of relating to each other that can really make your heart bigger. The analogy I like to use is that your heart gets larger, the more love you fill it with. It’s like a cup that gets larger when you fill it with water.
It’s different to be sure, and there are problems and pitfalls to avoid, but with the divorce rates varying between 20% and 50% (depending on which study you subscribe to) it might bear some looking at.
My wife and I have chosen this as the next logical evolution in our marriage and relationship, maybe it might work for you as well. If not, the mental discipline that goes into thinking about it objectively might ultimately help a relationship anyway.
Just as a side note, my column here on The Good Men Project is primarily going to be about polyamory, relationships, sex, motivation and things like this. It seems to be the part of “the conversation no one is having” that I might conceivably contribute to. If you want ALL of my writing, check out: unfiltered—if you’re not interested in my writing, well then… Uh, don’t… read it?
Cheers and safe loving. 🙂
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