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Saturday, August 27, 2011

Considering Polyamory

All for One and One for All

Polyamory is the practice, desire, or acceptance of having more than one intimate partner in a mutually consenting relationship. In plain speak, I have a lover, who has a lover, who may have a lover as well (hopefully) and together we are co-lovers.

In many ways, polyamory provides the best of many worlds. Imagine sharing time with your friends who enjoy hiking, fishing, outdoor adventures, and then with those who prefer time at home with a movie and glass of wine. On some nights you are out for dancing and karaoke; generally wandering about the city. Is it possible that one friend can share all those adventures or might you divide your time with those who enjoy the same passions as you?

For those with strongly diverse desires and passions, polyamory offers support, understanding,and play within a committed context. The freedom to share interests and plan activities openly with co-lovers differs from the concept of cheating, swinging, or serial monogamy.

Polyamory maintains several values, including trust, honesty, loyalty, respect, transparency, communication, non-possessiveness, boundaries and agreements. Simply put, each partners is accepted, not merely tolerated. Partners are open and receptive to the needs and desires of the other, honoring the agreements between them all. Secretive meetings and relationships are frowned upon as outside of the value system.

The structure of relationship will look different from one group to another. Some manage to maintain  equality between lovers but more than not (in my experience) one lover is primary, another secondary and the next tertiary. It seemed as long as each had a primary lover there was enough space/freedom to move amongst one another freely. When there was a single primary for co-lovers the division of time and attention became an issue.

Polyamorous relationships come with the same jealousies and insecurities as any other relationship. Generally, jealousy is viewed as an issue to be discussed and overcome, especially as this is one area that can destroy the relationship. At times this is most evident when co-lovers share the content of their activities with each other. It is important to notice how the partner’s life is enhanced and joy expanded.  Jealousy can lead to power struggles when two co-lovers collude against or in conjunction with each other, dismissing the presence or opinion of a third.

Absent lovers, through break-up, relocation, or lifestyle shift affect the dynamic of the whole. Having lived in the fashion of mutual satisfaction the void is palatable. The reorganization of priorities around time, space and attention can rock the entire balance; and  adjustment may be outside of the previous relationship commitments.

This is especially true when that turn of events points toward monogamy - that belief that we can be “All for One” and that another will be the “One for All.” In this instance,  we are looking toward a single person to fulfill the needs and desires that were once spread amongst a few. Imagine the one being settled into a quiet home life. What of those times the other dreams of dancing the night away? Who will wander the backwoods through hill and dale with the one  when the chosen partner is skittish about bugs and sticks, and the dark? What kinds of concessions are each willing to make to meet the needs and desires of the other? At what point do we dismiss our own desires for the sake of the relationship? And how do we forget what was once so easy and delightful? Will the love and commitment of one be enough?

As hard as it can be for the partner who feels like sacrifices are being made, it is equally challenging to face that it is impossible to satisfy needs that were once met by many - or at least more than one. This ignites an entirely new set of insecurities, that if not tempered immediately, become the fuel for discord as time goes on, creating an exit in the relationship.

The very structure of the polyamory allows the freedom of exploration, with an opening to welcome a new person into the relationship, sexually and/or emotionally without the fear of losing the primary relationship. Closing the exit refers to releasing and letting go of any ideas, thoughts, behaviors or actions that serve as a way out of the relationship. Rather than being a promise, it is a commitment extending months, perhaps years along the monogamous relationship. While additional relationships may be the door, memories serve as windows; thoughts and ideas as cracks and crevices.

Monogamy requires a rewiring of the circuitry of sharing life, time and experience together. Each partners must except the past, understanding its joy and challenge, while openly embracing the same in the present. This depth of honesty offers greater hope for the monogamous couple than merely dismissing what has come before.

In my experience, while knowledge of the past was clearly discussed, the lack of acknowledgement of how polyamory served our lives left us open to massive hurt as we attempted negotiation with just the two of us. We were so completely different in our interest, ideas, and understandings that even as we deeply loved and longed to live and grow together, we were constantly distracted by what was not going well. What I missed at times was not the other personality, but the shared energy and experiences.

As I grow older, I am opening to this possibility again - polyamory, not monogamy. I deeply appreciate my time and space, but imagine enjoying the shared energy and experience of another, who has another.

Let’s add this to the list of promises to myself.

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