Polyamory

As much as I loathe Wikipedia, I want to start with their definition, because it indicates the complexity.

polyamory (from Greek πολύ poly, “many, several”, and Latin amor, “love”) is the practice of or desire for intimate relationships with more than one partner, with the knowledge of all partners. It has been described as “consensual, ethical, and responsible non-monogamy”.


Both Greek and Latin roots? No wonder people have such difficulty understanding. Most people define polyamory by what it is not, an inefficient way to convey meaning, but polyamorists tend to over explain, part of trying relentlessly to make sure everyone is on the same page. I like Merriam Webster’s definition better

 

polyamory

plural

polyamories

  1. :  the state or practice of having more than one open romantic relationship at a time

This removes “intimacy” and replaces it with “romantic,” there are always misunderstandings around intimacy, which I have discussed recently. My opinion is that many people repress their sexuality, in most cases understanding very little about their own bodies. When faced with the subject of other people’s bodies the imagination runs wild, unfettered by common sense. H.L Mencken defined Puritanism as “The haunting fear that someone, somewhere, may be happy,” I might add, “and being not, the ensuing envy.”
My interest in polyamory came on the heels of three emotionally devastating relationships. I had been happily monogamous, in some instances fiercely so. I was jealous of the young men Emma allowed to flirt with her, which prompted her to toy with my emotional responses even more. When she died I tried to move forward in monogamy, recognizing the importance of communication. Next wife had little interest in communication (she was the one who would literally put her fingers in her ears to avoid hearing things she did not agree with), but she did say something as she was leaving that resonated. She commented about how difficult it was to love me. Her statement made no sense on its own, but was similar to something a woman between my second and third wives had said. The next relationship I had went much the same way, with Nancy saying “Loving you is hard” and then blaming me for her seizures because she was “too stressed out from lying to me.” It was all starting to make sense, so when the next girlfriend took $2,000 and went to Japan to see her grandson, I didn’t find it as disturbing as I should have. I didn’t even mind when she contacted me out of the blue about a year later, acting as if nothing had happened, I just told her I couldn’t see her anymore. I no longer expected honest communication.

I had decided the best way to reduce stress was to stop expecting fidelity, no one could ever blame me for causing them seizures again. I certainly did not expect what I found. When I met Samantha I knew she had other men in her life. There was nothing to hide. A month later I fell, suffering Traumatic Brain Injury as well as several other injuries. Samantha took a month off work to care for me, showing more devotion and care than most of my monogamous partners had ever shown. She has encouraged me to go out with other women, and I have, I just don’t have the desire for multiple partners. I’ve had drinks with one of her suitors, he invited us to come over for New Years Eve last year.

Most explanations of polyamory are centered on what polyamory is not. Part of that is because there are so many ways to be poly. There is no one right way, but there are several wrong ways. As I said earlier, poly people tend to over explain, often creating new terms so rapidly it is difficult to keep up. Sometimes they try so hard to be all-inclusive they can’t be followed, which is why Sam and I created a group for mature poly people. I think we’ve kicked four people out of the group, three for inappropriate advances, another for trying to tell everyone the right way to be poly, implying they were wrong. Our defining blurb includes “My poly may not be your poly, but part of the exercise is accepting that however we choose to live, we are all still poly. No shaming or denouncing the formats we have chosen. We all have opinions, display the level of respect with which you wish to be treated.” Our group presently has over three hundred members, several whom have told me our group is the only place they feel comfortable being themselves.

The universal rules of polyamory are centered in honesty. You do not get involved in a new relationship without talking with your partners about it. My relationship naturally carried that to “No secrets.” Polyamory is not to be confused with “Swinging,” or meaningless one night stands; sexuality is rarely confused with intimacy; having multiple partners does not mean having them simultaneously. One of the most common, and least appreciated, aspects of polyamory are “Unicorn Hunters,” people looking to add a third partner (usually female) to an existing relationship, for any number of reasons. People are not objects you take from a shelf to use until you tire of them, they are not a spice with which you can spice up your marriage. There are plenty of multi-partner households, but actively looking to “add a person” is unseemly.

Some polyamorous relationships are asexual, simply warm romantic relationships. The focus is on communication, not sexual activity (can I say that enough?). Of course, if you want to produce a television show about polyamory, sex still sells. It just doesn’t tell the story. Or it tells the wrong story. There are enough false stories about polyamory that we become a bit defensive, but the fact is, there are many ways to be polyamorous, so we don’t have a comprehensive argument. One difficulty is dating, the phrase “I’m in an open relationship” has been used by adulterers so many times that OKCupid, a large dating web site, has an accommodation for people who are polyamorous. You can link your profile to your partners profiles, there is no question that your partner(s) knows what is going on. Cheating is just as distasteful to poly folk as mono folk, because polyamory is about loving, not conquering.

I have been surprised by the people who show up at poly events, but then, I’m there. Polyamorous people come from every walk of life, every income bracket, and every political leaning. You may be surprised I am poly. It is a part of my life, not all of it.

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4 comments on “Polyamory

  1. Mari Collier says:

    To each his own, but that would not be for me. I simply could not handle that situation, especially when I was younger and still lost my temper. My husband would never have accepted that either. It seems we found the right combination.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Mike R says:

    “The universal rules of polyamory are centered in honesty.” I can’t to with a sexual situation, but assuming it was not sexual, I think I’d end up with a train wreck just waiting to happen. You are rare in your honesty, Blake. Relationships between two people are difficult–I can’t imagine the complexity of three or more.

    Polyamory seems to be a growing trend. I suspect it is because so many people have been hurt by committed relationships, and perhaps aren’t happy with option of being single and not involved in a romantic relationship.

    I’m limited by my Christian beliefs, of course. But even without those aside, I have a hard time finding people who have any real understanding of the complexity of love. Sometimes I think it is partly a problem with the English language. We love ice cream. And we love our wives. And we love our dogs. And we love a hot shower. And we love our mothers. Makes me want to scream out with Tina Turner, “What’s Love Got to Do With It?”

    The ancient Greeks had their problems, but I value their ability to at least attempt to do a better job of defining types of love, i.e., agápe, éros, philía, and storgē. And I think that the only place that one can find all four in one is a committed marital relationship between a man and a woman, but that’s just my opinion. I had the last three in my marriage for decades, but when my wife came to faith in Christ, I began to experience all four. Imperfectly, of course. We’re both sinners, so we fall short.

    You have had some real emotional losses, and especially the loss of your closest wife to death, so I would be wrong to think that I can relate. I can only look at myself. I’m not an easy person to get along with, as I’m eccentric and more full of guile than I would like to admit. Add to that some serious judgement problems. So I’m not very wise in the choice of companions. I finally ended up with a woman who looks past my many flaws and has stuck with me through the thick of it. Sometimes I wonder if it is because she was raised in an entirely different culture (Asian). It wasn’t because I made a good choice. I was lucky in spite of my best efforts to mess up my life.

    That said, I’ve gotten myself pretty damaged a few times in life. Usually because I was naive, on top of my other problems. I thought if I was committed, they would be, too. In the end, it seemed like I kept ending up with women who had different agendas.

    My only hope is that you aren’t damaged or hurt. You wear your heart on your lapel. (I mean that as a complement and not a criticism).

    Liked by 1 person

    • kblakecash says:

      The opportunity for damage and pain exist in any relationship, less so in a realistic poly relationship, but dreamers trapped in the illusions of young love exist in every permutation. The poly community even has an acronym for it (surprise!), NRE or New Relationship Euphoria.

      I would say you made a good choice, or a good choice was made for you. You found what works for you.

      Liked by 1 person

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