Polyamory: My Take?

Polyamory – it’s the new bi, man. Everyone’s doing it, so why aren’t you?
Oh, you haven’t heard? All right, then. Polyamory’s basically the “new” polygamy, ‘cept polygamy’s against the law, and since no one’s getting hitched, polyamory’s legal.
I’ve been asked, oh, a few times now to weigh in on the topic. So, you wanna know what I think? You really, really wanna know?
Yeah, me too. I can’t truly decide. Personally, that’s not a cookie I’m ever gonna sink my teeth into. It’s just not my taste of the month, and probably never, ever will be. I’m a one-guy gal, always have been.
But what do I think? Hmm. I’m torn. I think there are merits to both sides of the argument. Let’s start with the opposition, shall we? That’s always a fun ball to get rolling.
One of the things I absolutely loathe about our modern society is our inability to commit to anything, let alone anyone. We live in the On-Demand Age. Download the TV show you just watched, TiVO and pause. Single much? Log on to any chat site and find someone willing to cam with you, sans all the relationship bullshit. Hungry? Just around the corner there’s a 24-hour Mickey D’s drive-thru waiting to solve your woes.
We’re a society of spoiled brats. We want what we want and we want it when we want it. We honk our horns, rage our way down the street, ignore each other through our iPODS and portable DVD players, do whatever the hell we want, and seldom consider consequences.
And here’s a contingent of society saying, “Hey, let’s disconnect even more. I’ll get the sex I want when I want it, but I won’t have to actually, you know, be in, like, a ‘relationship’ type relationship.”
Is it really what we need? More disconnect? The easy way out?
Or is that oversimplifying what is, perhaps, one of the more ingenius ways of dealing with the stresses of modern living? Should you really have to decide between being with someone and being alone? Is the secret to balance found in distributing the weight more evenly, rather than off-setting it? Can you not have your cake and eat it, too?
There are those who argue that humans aren’t built for a lifelong commitment, so why are we trying to seek just one? Stats show the average pairbonding succeeds for only 4.5 years. Then what? Try it again, and fail again? Repeat the cycle of hurt? But is more cooks in the kitchen really a productive way of combatting that problem? Doesn’t a greater human element mean greater probability of arguing and hurt?
There are those who state that what they love best about polyamory is the not needing to be there for one person 24/7. I’m in an interesting situation where I’ve just met a great guy, and whammo, he busts his leg, and suddenly the dynamics of this new relationship have become far more complex than I could have foreseen just 48 hours ago. And that’s life. Me, I’m prepared to deal with that. Others, maybe not.
Relationships are hard. They take work. Lots of. When you spread that responsibility around, perhaps it takes some pressure off of you, but it also weakens the bonds you share, whether you want to admit it or not. I could absolutely relate to those who may have gone through hard marriages, who want the practicality and safety of being in a committed relationship, but never, ever want to be that solo go-to person again.
Hell, shit happens, and so does cynicism. Is polyamory cynical? No, I’m not saying that, but it’s certainly self-serving. But aren’t all relationships, to a degree? We wouldn’t be in them if we weren’t getting something out of it, don’t you think? With polyamory, there’s more control over what you’re getting out of it (and putting into it), and when, than is offered in nearly any other kind of relationship.
Control can be pretty attractive when the threat of being hurt enters the picture. Committing to one person, that’s giving a single soul an awful lot of power over yours. Opting to be one of seven women in a relationship with two men, on rotating shifts or however the hell you’ve managed to divvy your time, well, you know you’re one of a number, you know where you stand, and you know you can always pass and protect your own ass.
I don’t disapprove of polyamory, and sometimes I even get it. Maybe when I’m in my late 40s and love has fucked me around and I’m past needing whatever the hell it is a single, committed relationship gives me, maybe then I might drink that Kool-aid when it comes around.
But likely not. I may not be a fan of marriage, but I like commitment. I like knowing who’s going to be in my bed, and I like knowing all the little peccadilloes. I like not having to stack up against competition. I just like it. I don’t have a musical-chairs heart, and probably never will.
If you do, and you’re cool with it, then all the power to you.
Just don’t expect everyone to understand, and don’t get your panties in a bunch when they don’t, ’cause most won’t.

12 thoughts on “Polyamory: My Take?

  1. Thaϊs

    I thought polyamory [b]is[/b] about responsible committed relationships. You just don’t have to be torn when you have feelings for more than one person and have to give up the relationships with others. But pretty much every website I’ve looked at on polyamory emphasizes responsibility and commitment to your partners.

  2. myself

    I’m afraid I’m with you Steff, I can’t ever see myself in that sort of arrangement. Having to deal with one man at a time is just enough for me, thank you! Can’t imagine having to deal with more than that, or frankly, wanting to.

  3. Haaaaaaa

    I think there are ployamorphic(is that a word?)couples who are committed to each other and have a loving relationship. But let’s get real, this is nothing more than semi-permanent swinging. There are swingers who accomplish the same thing; they just don’t live under one roof. It reminds me of the hippie communes of the ’60’s.

  4. figleaf

    Great minds think alike, Steff. I was thinking about this last night as I was drifting off to sleep. I might or might not want to have sex with other people either for experience, or out of companionship, or out of mutual curiosity, but I’m only ever going to have amor, love, a meaningful partnership with one person. I’m perfectly comfortable with the idea that one can be in love with more than one person, that my compass could have more than one true North, but I’ve never experienced it.

    I think polyamory’s a great word for people who are truely partners with multiple partners. I’m less comfortable when that particular word is used blanket other forms of sleeping around.

    I’ll probably post about it if I can articulate about it better than that.

    So good post. Thanks for bringing it up.


  5. Knattyb

    I think the main problem with addressing this issue as such is the lack of a clear definition of polyamory, or what a polyamorous relationship entails. I could easily tell within the first paragraph that the “ployamory” you’re talking about is not the same polyamory that I believe.

    I will only speak of my personally beliefs here, but I believe that a simple definition of what it is to be polyamorous would be: the ability to love or feel strongly towards one or more person/s at the same time.

    The concepts of disconnection and competition were brought up along with a few other misconceptions. All I will say on the topic is that it takes considerably more work and communication to open up to possible multiples of individuals than it takes with one. More conversations are made, more barriers broken and with no less risk of hurt and rejection.

    I harbour no delusions that some people take on ployamory with less thought and commitment than this, but I think that those people would likely enter into a single relationship with no less disregard and callowness.

  6. Justin

    Steff, you’ve conflated polyamory with swinging. Anyone who’s sincerely into polyamory (I’m not, but once dated a married woman who’s husband knew about me) will be the first to tell you that it’s not about getting more sex. The fact that some swingers adopt the lingo to add a veneer of respectability to their predations shouldn’t fool you.

    To me, the open question is whether or not one can be polyamorous in a well-adjusted way. I suspect that very few can, and that a large portion of the polyamorous community is made up of those who are covering for deeper problems by enteraining radical concepts. I’ve met more than a few people who flit from one fringe community to another, staying one step ahead of their own internal paradoxes by learning new mantras.

    That says nothing about polyamory itself, but a lot about the sort of people you’re likely to run into.

  7. scribe called steff

    I don’t really have the time to tackle all the comments in one fell swoop, but lemme say this–

    I know what swinging is, and I know what polyamory is — I know the latter is a COMMITTED relationship between a group of people. I realize that.

    When I say “more sex” I mean more along the lines of a variety thereof with more than one regular partner, not sleeping around.

    I realize I’ve only skimmed the surface of the above, but the reason I linked to a resource of Polyamory was I didn’t want to do a whole “Polyamory for Dummies” schtick, since that’s covered by others in a better way than I could.

    But Justin, I like what you’ve said about folks avoiding deeper issues by flitting from one fringe community to another. I ABSOLUTELY AGREE.

    I think far too many people try to rearrange their life with extreme social lifestyles rather than getting down to the nitty-gritty about what they do or do not need to deal with emotionally.

    It’s too easy to adopt social styles to mask your own issues, and I find it far more common than I wish it was. Then *I* get judged for being the “non-open” person. No, I’m open, I’m just not needing to fill any gaps. That’s all.

    I think I might do a secondary posting on this tomorrow rather than tackling all the comments. It’s a big topic.

    Keep the comments comin’ though. Gives me food for thought.

    Anyhow, back to my shit. 🙂 Got a vat of shepherd’s pie stewing. Yum!

  8. anna

    Poly seems scary. As a conecpt and an idea it seems overwhelming and unrealistic. I never would have considered poly as the lifestyle for me, but when I start looking at the life that I lead–commited to both a boy and a girl–it turns out that poly may just be the right word.

    Yet I still find Poly a scary and intimidating word. But to be honest, I feel that way about labels in general.

    Just the $0.02 of a girl who is discovering poly just may be her way of life, though she never would have imagined it.


  9. Haaaaaaa

    I re-read your post and then all the great comments. My first reaction to the post was to write my opinions on polyamory. I wonder, though, if your post also has to do with an underlying discomfort about where the world is heading on many fronts. I have that discomfort too.

    The points you make on the “convenient” society have been on my mind. I am going to post about that on my beginner’s blog. I hope you don’t mind if I refernence and link to you in my post.

  10. chelsea girl

    Yeah, Steff, I hate to be the recurrent voice of “but,” but I’m not with you 100% here.

    I don’t believe that polyamory is the territory of the cynical. Nor do I , one of those forty-somethings scarred by love, believe that polyamory is something one comes to only when one accepts the inevitable and sad truth that one cannot find the One.

    I believe that people who choose polyamory–whether for a moment or an eon–do it because it is the system that makes sense to them. A polyamorist is not a cheater. A polyamorist is a person who is open and honest with his or her partners and with him or herself. In a lot of ways, this kind of openness and honesty is exactly what you purport on this blog.

    I myself can’t see a relationship wherein I sleep with other people and my partner does the same, but I do know myself well enough that I can’t promise monogamy and stick to it. My solution is to find a partner with whom I can experiment together. Other people’s solutions are different–I know one couple who has just celebrated their ten-year anniversary and they are happy, committed and loving polyamorists. The don’t tell each other every last detail, but they do know enough about one another’s activities that there’s no deceit.

    Relationships are hard. They are motherfucking hard, and if they weren’t, we wouldn’t need all those Julia Roberts movies and Stevie Wonder songs telling us they’re not. If something’s not for you, that’s groovy, but don’t assume that those people who choose a different way of life than you do have chosen it because they find their relationships disposable or because they are too cynical to enter into the kind of monogamous relationship that appeals to you.

  11. RoyB

    I think if someone is unwilling to deal with their “issues”, that relationships ARE hard. But, I’ve been in a committed relationship for almost 25 years, and I can tell you that it has been hard AT TIMES, but mostly, it has been easy, safe, and FUN. In the rough spots, we always needed to look at our own crap, and both of us were honest enough with ourselves and each other to admit this and get it done.

    My parents were “married” for 12 years, but played around and caused themselves and each other unbelievable pain. I wouldn’t really call it Polyamory, since there was so much lying and deceit, but it makes me not want to go there myself. But, being a firm believer in freedom, I don’t have a problem with other people doing what works for them.

    Excellent reading as always, Steff. 🙂

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