Polyamory – just the thought of the word can bring up so many emotions. Fear. Exhilaration. Duplicity. Abundance. Scarcity. Self-doubt. Self-love. Jealousy. Connection to your true self. No matter who you are, once you know what this word means (having multiple love relationships at the same time) you will likely have a reaction to it. The people I work with and the people that I know have all grappled with this at some point (and it’s usually ongoing).
Monogamy, or the opposite of polyamory – having only one love relationship at any given time, is far away from the most socially accepted form of relationship here in the US. I love that I live in a place that challenges that norm. The San Francisco Bay Area is one of a few places in the US that has a large population of people who practice relationships of many forms. Many people have multiple partners, and many people are involved in group relationships of a variety of styles. I have two partners – I am married to one, and the other is married to someone else. None of them date or see each other more than platonically, or even outside of the context of being around me. However, I have a friend who is living with three partners – he was dating one when they met the other couple and they quickly fell in love (admittedly in a variety of combinations – each relationship is a bit different in terms of connection) and they all live together now, quite happily. Many partnerships are raising children, each parental figure with a specific (or sometimes non-specific) role in the child’s life. Everyone is “doing polyamory” a little differently.
What I love about my polyamorous lifestyle is that I can really experience a depth of love and connection. I have surrounded myself with love and I do not think that I need to limit myself in the number of love or even sexual connections that I make. The people around me agree – we all support each other and the general notion that we can and should allow ourselves to be all that we are. Do we feel jealousy? Of course. Whenever that happens for us (and I go through periods where that can happen a LOT), we share our feelings and uncover what is triggering those feelings. Oftentimes, I’m feeling a lack of some kind – perhaps a lack of connection with that partner, or a lack of “specialness”. Other times, it’s insecurity – I sense that my partner is getting closer to another and that he will want to spend an inordinate amount of time with them, which would leave much less time for me and our family. Other times, I feel self-doubt – if my partner is interested in another, and that person is (so it seems) exponentially more interesting or very different or more [something that I wish that I was] than me, then perhaps I’m not good enough for my partner and he will get bored. In my heart, I know that these are simply fears. Big fears. Huge, overwhelming fears. But nonetheless, they are not part of the reality of our relationship, and I can choose to give in to them (which is really easy to do!) or I can choose to step away from them (which I usually need some help to do).
What I choose to do has been the crux of my journey for the last several years. There once was a time when I would stop at the negative feelings and jealousy and just wallow – for a loooooooonnng time. I would accept that as my reality and allow myself to be small. This felt good for a time, but I wasn’t feeling any satisfaction in my relationships and I knew that I could do better. It took a lot of therapy and coaching to get to the place where I could actually be better, though. Self-growth has been a huge part of my journey, also. In polyamorous relationships, it seems to be very difficult to hide your emotions and not talk about what’s bothering you. You matter to a lot more people in these relationships, either directly or indirectly, and everyone is committed to having a positive and healthy experience – which means that I needed to either get to know what I really needed or just get off the polyamory train altogether. I was too committed for that after a certain point and just needed to double down and dive in. I learned to identify my own needs, set boundaries around them, and ask for help. I’m so glad that I did, and I’m so glad that my child will grow up in a family with an extra abundance of love, affection, and guidance for her.
How about you? Have you explored polyamory, or thought about it? Have you had a positive or negative experience with it? Was it difficult for you to come out as polyamorous? Is your polyamory connected to another part of your identity? I’m curious about your experiences, see you in the comments.