Post 3.10 - Along Came Poly

On Sunday evening, I watched a program that included a 15-minute story about polyamory. In this specific example, it was one woman accompanied by her two male partners, and all three co-habitated. Male #2 also dated additional people outside of this unusual family, and was the biological father to the group's son.

It became a little convoluted for my taste, but if they were happy and well-adjusted with it, who am I to say?

Polyamory is generally defined as having multiple romantic/sexual partners with the knowledge and consent of all involved. At least, that was how this program defined it.

I have seen wide variations in the expression of polyamory in my own experience:
  • Typically, I have observed one individual in the group who is decidedly polyamorous, while the others are monogamous to him/her (despite having permission to be otherwise) and view their co-partners like sister wives or brother husbands.
  • In other couples, they have what is considered an "open" relationship, with the core pair being the "primary" relationship, and any additional partners are subordinate. Sexual expression in these configurations are typically still binary, i.e., no regular sexual threesomes or moresomes, but there is definitely a hierarchy in play.
  • Among homosexuals, I have observed additional configurations -- specifically a "triad", or stable group of three wherein all are romantically interactive. In this situation, there is typically a couple that accepts a permanent third. The triad itself is the primary relationship, and sexual expression may be binary or include all three. I suppose this could also work among heterosexuals if there was bisexuality or at least heteroflexibility in play -- I just haven't encountered it myself.

In all of these arrangements, I have yet to meet any group that lasted more than five years, although I do have one friend who is getting close to that milestone, despite reducing the number of his females from three to two.

In the abstract, which is to say, on paper, I could see how this would be a very optimal, logical solution. We all get different things from different partners, and different personalities definitely bring different qualities to the table. So, if one partner is not able to meet all of one's needs, an additional partner can be advantageous. Certainly there is a benefit to feeling additionally loved, getting more attention, and having variety or diversity available.

But I think it takes a special level of maturity, stability, and self-esteem for such things to work -- and such qualities are seriously lacking in most people. Jealousy is the most obvious potential problem, and there are people who never overcome this tendency even in monogamous, non-poly relationships. In achieving whatever balance or levels that will exist across the multiple relationships, the novelty cannot trump reality, and people have to understand what they are getting into and what the limitations are going to be.

I'm not saying it isn't possible, but it certainly takes an entirely different kind of effort.

There was a time when I was quasi-polyamorous. I was dating (and sleeping with) multiple people simultaneously, and everyone knew about everyone else. The intent, however, was to identify one partner, not to continue it all indefinitely. That whole experiment lasted about five or six months, and was a reaction to a breakup where I'd felt I'd too quickly put all my eggs in one basket. So, like, a happy, demented Easter Bunny, I spread the candy around. Honestly, I don't know if we'd consider this "polyamory", or just dating -- I wasn't in a committed relationship with anyone, and while I was seeing 6-8 people, I was only sleeping with three of them. None of them were required to be monogamous or emotionally exclusive to me in any way, either.

I loved and valued the people I did for who they were, good and bad. And the bottom line for me is that I don't like to share my toys, and I don't like feeling like I am not doing all I can for my partner -- I am not meeting my partner's needs if they need to go elsewhere. And I couldn't ask a partner to give me permission for such an expansion without extending the same courtesy, which brings me back to the original problem.

So, could I be in a triad or something like that? Maybe. It would have to feel balanced, and I'd have to feel the same way (or close to) about everybody. I can say honestly that I loved my ex's at different levels and in different ways, so I couldn't be sure if this would work for me, either.

I think it is possible to be in love with more than one person at a time, so again, on paper, it can make a certain amount of sense. But in looking back over my ex's and who I would say I was actually in love with, I don't know that I could have asked them to indulge me if two or more were concurrent -- because that's what I feel it can degrade to. If I was in love with Girl A, Girl B, and Boy C, and then asked them all to shack up together and be in a romantic/sexual relationship with me despite the others, what does each get out of that equation other than a piece of me? I'm not that awesome, so there would have to be some other positive attribute in terms of household division of labor, freedom to be polyamorous themselves, etc.

There was one occasion where I was invited into a polyamorous situation, but it just was not the right fit for me, given the participants and what would have been required of me. I was only interested in the one person, but I was going to be expected to be romantically interactive with the two others that were already there, plus anyone else the de facto "leader" of this little coven might bring in. It seemed to me that for as free a situation as it appeared from the outside, I would actually have less say over who I might be involved with. And it just didn't feel right.

I am not judging anyone who is in a poly relationship and can make it work for them. If you're happy, if everyone's happy, no one feels neglected or otherwise abused, then go for it.

In the program I watched, the problem I had with the highlighted family was that it didn't seem equal. The woman wanted to have a baby with Male #1, he said he didn't feel ready for parenthood, so she had a baby with Male #2 -- and Male #1 is the primary caregiver. That seemed kinda wrong to me, as if Male #1's feelings didn't matter.

I also know couples where the polyamorous or "open" nature of it is forced upon the original partner, and to me, that's a bit sad, callous, and selfish of the person doing the forcing. Everyone needs to be respected and valued, or someone has the wrong idea about how it's supposed to work.

Have a question or a suggestion for a future topic? E-mail me at facetsblog@gmail.com.

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