August 20, 2012 by aggiesez
My current relationship status (or lack thereof) baffles some people. How can I be poly when I’m not seeing anyone?
Wikipedia is a pretty decent starting point on this: Polyamory is “the practice, desire, or acceptance of having more than one intimate relationship at a time with the knowledge and consent of everyone involved.”
Notice: There is no minimum relationship requirement to get (or keep) your “poly badge.”
So if it’s not about fucking lots of people all the time, then what is being poly about?
In my case — and I’m speaking ONLY for myself here, not for any other poly folk — polyamory boils down to this:
I love having intimate relationships. In fact, I’m damn good at them. And I’ve learned through long experience that when my relationships are defined by exclusivity, they tend to get skewed in some pretty destructive ways, shrouded in red herring arguments, fine print, and accusations that dodge the real issues and leave behind a lot of ugly wreckage.
Not that poly relationships don’t get supremely screwy too — but at least when they crash and burn, that usually happens in ways that eventually make sense to me. I learn more from those experiences.
Monogamy certainly is a wonderful, positive value and practice for many people — especially when it’s chosen consciously with awareness of a range of options. It’s just not the right choice for me.
Like most other people, I tried doing the monogamy dance for many years because it’s the social default. But monogamy made it far too easy for me to put the cart before the horse; to prize form over substance.
During the decades I spent as a serial monogamist, I lulled myself into believing that all was well (or at least good enough) in my relationship as long as neither my partner nor I were fucking anyone else. I would cling too strongly to my relationship, rather than develop a strong core of independent emotional awareness and resilience.
For me, monogamy was autopilot — and it was an excuse to avoid doing the real work involved in having great, honest, vital relationships. And to avoid being the best person I really can be.
Why am I specifically poly rather than just open, or swinging, or dating around, or a cheater?
For me, the all-around honesty with everyone involved — the hallmark of polyamory — is crucial. Yes, that kind of communication is awkward, and often a pain in the ass. It takes a ton of practice, and no one ever gets it completely right. Still, I’ve learned it’s better to do it anyway, even when it sucks. Especially when it sucks.
Partly this approach works best for me because I’m such an abysmal liar. But mostly because my DNA screams that everyone involved in my relationships deserves to be sufficiently aware of what’s really going on to make their own informed decisions about whether and how to continue. If you don’t have real information, you can’t find good solutions — and you probably can’t adequately identify problems, either.
Also, the poly focus on relationships — rather than flings, recreational sex, murky “friends with benefits” situations, or firewalled “don’t ask, don’t tell” arrangements — resonates with my nature. Unfortunately, I was never good at casual sex. Believe me, there are plenty of times in my life (right now is one of them) when I wish I wasn’t like that. But I don’t think I’m quite there yet.
I’m no newbie to polyamory, but I am new to being single. I’ve spent nearly all of my adult life in an intimate relationship of one kind or another. I’ve almost always had at least one primary partner, boyfriend, husband, sweetie, lover, whatever. Until recently, when a long-term relationship ended suddenly.
Losing that relationship sucked. I treasured it; so much of what my former boyfriend and I shared was wonderful. But I’m fine with not being in a relationship — although I am open to dating, and have been meeting a lot of people. Yeah, it’s not yet a completely comfortable state for me, but I’m adapting to it. I only expand my comfort zone by venturing beyond it.
So: single is fine. Fortunately I’m damn good at autonomy, too.
At some point, when I want it, I’ll find one or more new relationships. For now I’m open to dating, but I’m in no rush to dive into a deeper relationship.
There is no requirement to be currently engaged in multiple relationships in order to be poly. You don’t get kicked out of the poly clubhouse for having no partners. Hell, you can even be celibate and poly. This is about your preferred approach to relationships if and when those relationships happen.
It’s a bit like my employment status: I’ve been full-time self-employed for many years. I have several clients, some of whom I’ve worked with for many years. I am not looking for, nor am I interested in, a full-time exclusive employee position. Not even as the CEO. That’s just not how I prefer to work, and it’s not how I provide the best value. I’m very happy and successful as an independent professional. As an employee, I was forever frustrated.
OK, here’s another metaphor: I could be the last living human on left earth after the zombie apocalypse and still be polyamorous. Although, since I’m not into necrophilia, I’d probably be completely out of luck on the relationship front… Which would suck, but probably not as bad as being a zombie.
But if I was a zombie, I might not care. Hmmmmm….