Thursday, 1 November 2007

Polyamorous Pretensions

I have had cause to ponder polyamory recently.

Wikipedia gives this definition:

Polyamory (from Greek πολυ (poly, literally “multiple”) and Latin amor (literally “love”) is the desire, practice, or acceptance of having more than one loving, intimate relationship at a time with the full knowledge and consent of everyone involved.

I have seen slightly different interpretations on my travels through cyberspace, but this seems a fair summary. I am particularly interested in the "full knowledge and consent of everyone involved" bit. As some of the self-proclaimed polyamorous types I have been reading about on their blogs seem to fall down a bit on that last one.

Some seem to think that although they have a wife who believes she is in a monogamous relationship, as long as their lovers know about each other, that means they are polyamorous and not just shagging around.

Then there are those who bully, coerce or just plain nag their partners into "consent". These poor sods often acquiesce because they feel that any part of their loved one is better than losing the relationship altogether. Inside they burn with jealousy and insecurity, and the cruellest part is that the partner pushing for polyamory knows this. They are perfectly aware that their partner's natural preference would be monogamy, but nuts to them, their desires are the ones that need fulfilling most. Their bollocks might just swell up, explode and kill them if they don't get to explore their needs with other people. Or their emotional growth will be stunted. And you wouldn't want that on your conscience, would you? No, you must encourage them to be free, to be who they must be, even if it means you must become someone you no longer recognise.

In many instances the "amor" facet has been lost, with the "poly" taking precedence. There is a difference between forging a loving relationship with more than one person and getting your hand up the skirt of as many internet conquests as you can.

Oh, it fair makes my blood boil.

Still, I shall finish on a positive. Someone who does put the amor into polyamory is Curvaceous Dee. The love and respect she has for her lovers, and they for her, comes across in a way that is conspicuously absent from other faux-poly blogs. She doesn't claim it runs smoothly all the time, but hers is one of the better examples of how polyamory can work. Read and learn, pretenders to the poly throne.


Marcelle Manhattan said...

I have never been one for polyamory myself, but I had some close friends in grad school who made it work rather well. I think to do it right, though, you have to like monogamy as a concept. And yes, that sounds strange; but I think you have to enjoy the construct of a monogamous relationship and be willing to apply it to several partners. I do not enjoy monogamy or "being in a relationship," so I think that's why I won't be poly anytime soon. But I'm in agreement; Curvacious Dee's blog is quite good.

Luka said...

Hello Marcelle! Nice to see you here. Yes, I have heard the term "polyfidelity" in use, which is kind of monogamy for more than 2 players. I doubt I have the wherewithal to make polyamory work for me either, which is why I am so fascinated by those who can.

Curvaceous Dee said...

Luka, thank you so much for your kind words, and compliments! You are right - polyamory doesn't always run smoothly any more than monogamy does, but I am finding my life and loves a delight.

I think it's unfair on everyone involved to only show the positives (much like sex - there can be positive and negative and I think blogs are stronger for showing both), so I'm glad that writing down the hard times is interesting and helpful for others.

Incidentally, I'm on holiday with my brother at the moment, overseas, and - this is a downside - missing not just my dear Apollo, but also Adonis, Aphrodite, Demeter, and Medea... I'm just not getting enough hugs, you know?

xx Dee

bittersweet me said...

Luka, I declare you are a Public Service (in the best possible way).

Justification is a pitiful thing, and claiming polyamory while a spouse is oblivious is surely scrapping the bottom of the barrel.

Hats (or knickers) off to those who truly succeed, and likewise to those who embrace monogamy. The rest of us will have our lovers and enjoy them for the simple pleasures we receive.

Anonymous Boxer said...

Honestly, I'm just too lazy to consider all of the work. I can barely manage to remember my husband's birthday, etc. Much less remembering who likes what done to what part of the body.

But, for those that delve into this, I have no problem. The older I get the more I realize, life isn't black and white and time is short.

Anita Wagner said...

Yeah, the poly/mono relationship dynamic is a tough one. I moderate a support list for poly people with mono partners, and some of the best lessons learned there come from the mono partners present. There is something about a discussion with someone in one's partner's position that is especially productive, since there is less personal dynamic present.

We are going to continue to frequently see instances of people in monogamous relationships who come to realize that polyamory is a more appropriate option they didn't know they had when they got married. Some handle it more lovingly than others. It's hard on both partners when this happens, but I think it's important to be able to live a life that is authentic to who we are, so long as we do so with as much love and consideration for those who may be hurt as we can. I wouldn't expect a poly partner to stay mono with me if that no longer fit their needs - people and their needs change, as do relationships. The idea that marriage = the right to enforce the status quo for decades under 'til death-do-us-part monogamy is one of its problems for many people.

The options for a poly/mono couple are few, and none of them satisfies both parties. The reality of it, though, is that many people commit to monogamy because they are told they have no choice if they want love, companionship, to have a family, and so forth. But cultural and evolutionary anthropologists make a convincing case for the likelihood that humans are biologically predisposed to pair bond, but not exclusively.

I'm not defending those who cheat or abuse their partners and call it polyamory - gawd no. They give we ethical polyfolk a bad name!

Yes, Dee sets a great example. :)

Luka said...

Dee - you are very welcome. Missing your loves must be hard, but think of the all engulfing hugfest you will have upon your return!

Me - Anyone who can find love - monogamous, polyamorous, whatever -and manage to be happy without hurting others, has my respect.

Anonymous Boxer - yes, life is so full I am amazed people manage as many relationships as they do.

Anita - hello, and welcome. I agree, more people are going to be exploring options that simply weren't possible for previous generations. Your point about love and consideration is one that resonates most with me and is key to making any relationship work.

EmmaK said...

I wish I could love many at the same time...but am not capable of it unfortunately. Like Marcelle says you have to be into monogamy to start with before you can go polyamory...I am into a serious monogamous relationship, that's my ultimate state, being with someone who totally worships me....but I think one sometimes wants to go poly because monogamy gets boring. but one can't have one's cake and eat it I reckon!!

Luka said...

Emma - I can love many people at the same time, I am just not so good at the non-jealousy part of the deal. It isn't logical or fair, but there it is.

Anita Wagner said...

Luka, as it happens, I teach a workshop on jealousy and have spent a lot of time focusing on that issue - what poly people don't?? (Smile) It seems to be useful to many people struggling wiht jealousy. There is a meaty handout available on my website under "Downloadables". You might want to look over the other documents - one is guidelines for opening a mono relationship.

Website is

Luka said...

Anita - I shall certainly go and take a look. I would love to hear how others manage that green eyed monster. Thank you.

having my cake said...

Good grief, Im learning a lot today. Id actually started typing a post asking questions about all these labels and how I discover that one of the answers is the Poly/Mono relationship.

As Emmak said, some people want to experience poly because mono can get a little stale but I think that can be because one partner restricts the dynamic of the relationship in terms of experimentation. As per my blog title, I would like to hope that one day it will be possible to have my cake and eat it within a monogamous relationship, altho Im not completely discounting the occasional threesome.

However, Im with Luka on the jealousy front because Im not sure I could sit by and watch my man attend to someone else and I certainly couldnt sit at home knowing that he was attending to someone else.

If a husband/partner suddenly announced that he didnt want to lose me but he fancied getting jiggy with someone else who wanted to experiment with something that intrigued him but in which I was not interested, Im not sure how I would cope. In some ways I think I would rather not know, especially if that knowledge was going to affect the dynamic of our relationship.

If there were children involved, then I would definitely rather that my husband/partner maintained his happiness by pursuing what he needed to do without my knowledge (with the proviso that he took the utmost care with regard to preserving both of our future good health) if it meant preserving the appearance of a relatively happy marriage for the sake of the children... but then, I guess, Im biased :)

Curvaceous Dee said...

There are some really interesting conversations and thoughts coming up in the comments here - Luka, you've started something here, methinks!

Incidentally, the idea of an all-engulfing hugfest is very appealing to me. Right now I have to settle for text messages and hugs from my brother instead :)

xx Dee

Ms Robinson said...

I am just coming to the realisation that although I think I want a permananet relationship I may need more than one. This, ironically enough, is borne out of needing to protect myself. Strange? Perhaps.

Luka said...

Cake - it is a tricky one, as I find it all too easy to love more than one person simultaneously. I have never understood those who treat love like a limited resource. However, I have this unreasonable jealous streak that does not want my loved ones to love anyone else *more* than they love me. It is totally unreasonaqble and immune to logic. I am working on it, though. Your point about being happier not to know has particular relevance to my personal situation.

Dee - yes, it has been revelatory in some ways. I'm glad you have text messages and brotherly hugs to keep you ticking over until the hugfest proper!

Ms R - No, not strange, I think I do exactly that. Unless I am strange. (Quiet at the back!)