Successful Polyamory, or Poly vs. Amory
As requested, below is the revised, non-rant, moderate profanity version of Poly vs. Amory.
Here’s the thing.
I’ve learned so much in the past two years. I’ve learned some harsh realities, and I’ve learned some painful truths about human nature. My theory on how to build a successful, committed, loving relationship has also been confirmed, mostly because how very many people I see who are miserably failing at doing just that.
I’ve been happily married for twelve years. My husband and I have been through some very difficult and traumatic times over the past few years, especially this past year since the betrayal and rape by a deeply trusted lover, and we are only stronger and more in love because of it.
I know how to establish and maintain a loving, open, honest, and committed romantic relationship. So does he. Turns out, that is very, very rare indeed.
As some fellow burners recently put it:
“there are a thousand or more ways to be loving with someone — sex is the easy part. It’s being creative enough to actively commit to being a loving person on a multitude of levels (cuddling, holding, listening, the exchange of inspiration and so on) that separates you from the norm.”
The word “polyamory,” and its derivatives, has lost all meaning. It has been said, ad nauseum, that if you ask three different poly people the definition of poly, you will get three different answers. And it’s true because relationships are as unique as the individuals in them. What works for one couple/triad/quad, may not work for another. Still, all the definitions, I had naively thought, were in the same ballpark of ethically establishing and maintaining multiple loving, committed relationships with honesty, openness, and integrity.
I was so very, very, very wrong.
Its most basic meaning is “many loves,” but even that is no longer accurate in many, many cases. One can find definitions of polyamory in many places, like Wikipedia, LoveMore.com, and even on DateHookUp.com, just to name a few. Although every definition I can find on polyamory emphasizes the honesty, openness, ethics, integrity, commitment, and love, my experience is that the bulk of people who identify as polyamorous are not practicing these basic principals.
The word polyamory has come to mean any type of non-monogamy, ethical or not, as I’ve learned, and this deeply saddens me. If a word has too many meanings, then it has no meaning at all. A rose by another other name may smell as sweet, but when I say the word “rose,” you know the type of flower I’m talking about. If I say “rose” and I mean “steaming pile of dog shit,” that rose doesn’t smell as sweet, because it’s not really a rose. It’s a steaming pile of dog shit. You can throw up gorilla dust, beat your manly chest, spout spiritual-sounding words about radical inclusion, and demand that it is a rose and “your truth,” but the reality is that it’s still a steaming pile of dog shit. Even if you call it a rose.
Language is a highly ineffective way to communicate ideas, thoughts, and emotions, but it is the best method we have most of the time. If our words lose meaning by having too many definitions, how can we effectively communicate things that are as important as love, honestly, and integrity? How can we share our heart and soul, body and mind with another human being if when I say “deep intimacy,” I mean deep intimacy, but when he says “deep intimacy” he means lots-of-orgasms-until-I-tire-of-you-and-want-something-new? When I say “love” I mean love, and when he says “love” he means I’ll-fuck-you-until-something-more-perfect-and-less-scary-comes-along? When I say “polyamory” I mean deeply committed, open and honest, loving relationships, and when he says “poly” he means building a harem where he can fuck multiple women without responsibility or emotional investment.
So, I’m reclaiming the word polyamory, at least for the purposes of this article.
Polyamory is the pursuit and maintenance of multiple loving, open, honest, and committed romantic relationships between highly ethical people who focus on integrity, honesty, communication, emotional investment, compassion, understanding, patience, mutual respect, and love.
Love Breeds Love
Desire Breeds Desire.
My husband and I have been polyamorous for about seven years, roughly half of our marriage. However, I’ve learned that not everyone has the same definition of polyamory as we do…well, as those people who are actually and successfully practicing a polyamory lifestyle do.
Most people who love to call themselves (and hide behind) “poly” are really focused on quantity rather than quality. Hmmm…I CAN have more than one girlfriend/lover/SO…so I’m going to have three! Because, let’s see, I’ve never been able to make a relationship with one woman work long term, so I’m going to try with three! That’s the ticket! That’s the answer! That’s where I’ve been going wrong for the past 15 years!
Most people I’ve met in the Austin poly community are not practicing polyamory. They’re dating. They go from several short-term relationships to several short-term relationships, none lasting more than 3-6 months.
HELLO! NOT POLYAMORY.
That’s dating! And not dating very successfully because they keep ending.
Or, the other kind of people I’ve found are players, predators, sex addicts, or people who have such “taboo kinks,” they have slipped past “kinks” into sexual perversions, like incest and animals. I’ve written more about this in a post called Positively Sex Positive.
Mostly, though, I’ve met players and boys masquerading as men, and some monsters masquerading as humans. The polyamorous community attracts the predators because we’re a group of open, honest, trusting women who like sex (and are open about that). It’s a feeding frenzy for parasites, narcissists, psychopaths, and other such predators. This is similar to what happened during the “free love” movement of the sixties. It was beautiful, at the beginning, and then the predators took over. The same thing is happening in polyamory, and they will win (I’d argue they already have) if we don’t act like true communities and keep them out.
I had been naive to think that someone calling themselves polyamorous was really interested in multiple, open and honest, loving, committed relationships. That they were, at the very least, honest. Yes, very naive indeed.
Turns out, that there are just as many, if not more, people who are jumping on the polyamory bandwagon in order to “play” around with multiple partners without ever taking responsibility. Some people even coerce their spouse/partner into polyamory or threaten them with abandonment if they don’t “consent.”
Not okay. Not ethical. Not honest.
These people will say all the right, enlightened words, establish (read: feign) intimacy, and surf on the delicious New Relationship Energy (NRE) for a few months, but then they will cast their lover aside without a second thought because they’ve already found someone even newer and more exciting. These people are often incapable of commitment, which, as my husband once so wisely put it, is the reason they are not already in a committed relationship. Or, as many a broken-heart has relayed to me, people will use polyamory as a way to cheat on their spouses, having something “fun” on the side, but the person on the side doesn’t realize it because that poly person used all those lovely polyamorous words about honesty and intimacy and infinite love, etc.
Turns out, it was about getting laid, nothing more. It was about finding something easy, no responsibility, fun, casual, temporary. Unfortunately for many, this leads to the horrible devastation of not only being cast aside but realizing that you’ve been deceived by someone who trumpets the importance of honesty and integrity.
This is NOT POLYAMORY.
Commitment takes emotional investment and support. One might have to face some uncomfortable feelings from time to time and be responsible for their emotions, and, just as importantly, be responsible TO the relationship. Even when it’s not fun. Even when it brings up fears and insecurities. Even when it means you must sacrifice what you want to do in that moment for the good of the relationship or to further understanding.
The Austin Poly Community does have a few truly polyamorous families who are doing it well. And by well, I mean successfully.
They are open. Honest. Respectful. Loving. Supportive.
They commit and invest in their relationships.
They might have casual sex on the side from time to time, but it’s after their current relationships are firmly established and secure. Because, after all, it’s about MORE LOVE…not more sex. And the few times you need to fulfill that biological need with someone different, then be honest about that.
Never lie to get laid. How disgusting.
There is absolutely nothing wrong with casual sex or casual relationships. Nothing at all. Just be self-aware enough about what you want/what you can offer and honest (and courageous) enough to communicate that effectively. Always practice after-care with integrity and respect.
The most successful polyamorous relationships focus much more on the “amorous” part of the word, less on the “poly” part. It’s about LOVE! It’s all about LOVE! Real love, the kind that requires emotional investment and compromise and communication and compassion. Not the ooh-you-make-my-genitals-feel-good-and-are-so-much-fun-with-all-the-orgasms love. Real love. Real relationships.
Relationships take effort. Investment. Time and energy to solidify.
So, if you claim to be poly, think about this…
If you want to be poly, think about this…
Take. One. Relationship. At. A. Time.
When your first relationship has a solid foundation (and I mean SOLID foundation), the kind that takes at least a year, if not more, to establish, then look for a second one.
This is not a race to see who can have the biggest harem. And, btw, if you’re building a harem. YOU’RE NOT POLY! You’re a misogynist and a predator who sees women as life support systems for their pussies.
Romantic relationships contain drama (how I’ve come to loathe that word). It’s built in. Everyone has their insecurities and their baggage. Everyone has their idiosyncracies. It takes time to build a solid foundation and learn how to communicate with each other. Build trust. Establish and maintain intimacy. Minimize and handle inevitable conflicts (HELLO AGAIN! ROMANTIC RELATIONSHIP!). Ease through misunderstandings. Manage fears and insecurities on both sides. Get to a level of comfort and security in yourselves and each other and the third entity between you: the relationship.
THEN — open up to dating others, and I’m not talking about casual sex unless that’s specifically what you’re both looking for. If it is, be very honest about that. Because polyamory means multiple, loving, committed relationships, or the pursuit thereof. Set clearly defined rules, at least at the beginning, and don’t break them, or that will damage the trust you just spent a year building. Once you meet someone you think you can form a deeper relationship with, close off dating others. Focus on solidifying that second relationship while maintaining the first. FOR ANOTHER YEAR!
Insecurities will pop up. Jealousies (and yes, they don’t magically disappear when you label yourself polyamorous). Misunderstandings.
Give yourself time to learn about, develop, and nurture this other love while maintaining the first one. Commit yourself to making it work, for, again (and I repeat myself so much because so so so so many just don’t get it) HEALTHY RELATIONSHIPS REQUIRE EFFORT, INVESTMENT, and RESPONSIBILITY!
After the second is solidified and the first is stronger than before, and you still have extra time/needs, then look for a third. But always remember, finding another significant other isn’t about finding someone BETTER, it’s about increasing the love and the desire among your poly family. It’s about ensuring that everyone you love FEELS loved, not ignored or pushed to the side or replaced.
It’s about MORE LOVE.
Always, more love.
If you don’t have time/energy/capacity to manage, maintain, nurture, and grow one or two relationships, plus your job, plus your kids, plus time for yourself and your friends – WHY DO YOU WANT ANOTHER? It’s a recipe for disaster and heartache on many levels.
You don’t date someone for three months and say, “Okay, ‘primary’ – check. We’re ‘solid,’ so who’s next?”
Fuck that. You’re not solid after three months. You’re barely starting. And if you run at the first sign of struggle, then, guess what, YOU’RE NOT POLY!
If you find yourself saying “I want to be able to do what I want when I want without responsibility or accountability,” then you’re not poly.
The last two years have been difficult, as you all have seen from reading this blog, especially the past year. Do you really think my marriage could’ve survived (let alone thrived and gotten stronger) if it hadn’t been quite literally unshakable?
News flash: healthy, loving relationships are not easy.
If you find yourself looking for “easy,” you’re not poly and you’re not self-aware enough to even consider having a successful relationship, let alone relationships. If you find yourself saying “I don’t do drama,” again…not poly. Human relationships contain drama: emotions, insecurities, fears, communications. Talking about “drama” is a form of gaslighting. It shames people into keeping their feelings bottled up for fear of creating “drama,” when what they’re feeling is natural. A dislike or intolerance of “drama” is a huge red flag. It points to a person who is emotionally immature and likely emotionally unavailable. It points to a person who wants “easy” and is unwilling or unable to commit or invest in a relationship. Also, in my experience, those who are screaming “DRAMA!” are normally the ones causing most of it.
And for those of you looking for you 100%-genuinely-happy-all-the-time-easy-no-drama-or-responsibility-perfect love? Grow the fuck up. There is no such thing. When you are a perfect partner, you’ll find your fairy tale perfect love. And let me tell you, mister, you’ve got a long way to go.
(Disclaimers: I’m a heterosexual woman, so I’ve based this on my experience. Yes, I know that women also abuse and manipulate and lie. I know that men can be raped. I know that women rape. I know that women exploit men, too. If I were to clarify with each statement that it could refer to a man or woman, cis man/cis woman, gay or straight, same sex or mixed gender, he or she, then the meaning would get lost in the rhetoric. Please feel free to change pronouns to fit your situation and/or preferences. Again, language isn’t perfect and it’s generally not terribly effective, but until we master telepathy, it’s all we have. Please don’t batter me with pronoun/gender issues. I’m writing from my experience, so I use the pronouns to reflect that, but ultimately I’m talking about types of people, no matter what their gender or sexual preference.
I am well aware that some relationships don’t work out for various reasons. I’m not talking about those here. I’m talking about people who are habitual users and abusers who hide behind “poly.” I’m talking about people who are incapable of commitment, and they know it, but aren’t honest enough to own that and break heart after heart. Again, being hurt and disappointed after the end of a relationship is normal and acceptable, being destroyed, devastated, and shattered after the end of a relationship because of abuse and/or cruel treatment is not acceptable. It’s not necessary, and it’s usually due to selfish people not taking the time to care for their loved ones, people who rush off to the next NRE fix, leaving their former lovers feeling used and discarded. No excuse for that. Ever.
Also, I speak of the Austin Poly Community because that is the community, and I use that word very loosely, that I have the most experience with. I have seen some similarities and (happily) some great differences in the San Francisco community thus far; however, I’m still not at a place in my healing to get very involved in any romantic or sexual relationship, or even be around people talking about those things. I’ve heard from friends I’ve made here that some of these same issues are prevalent in San Francisco. I’ve read countless accounts of rape and sexual assault in other “sex-positive” communities across the nation, so I’m guessing that Austin is not unique in these issues, although I do have it on good authority from a very well-connected sex-positive speaker and teacher that Austin in particular has serious blinders up around the issues of sexual assault and rape, moreso than other communities, to the point they refuse to even discuss the possibility or address known issues within their community. This is very much my experience with that group. The number of people who are casually dating and calling themselves “poly” are also prevalent in that Austin group. So many looking for that “perfect” love. It’s dehumanizing and cruel and delusional.)
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~ by omgrey on November 7, 2012.
Posted in Romance & Relationships
Tags: austin poly community, austin poly rapist, austin polyamorous community, austin polyamory, author, bdsm, broken heart, commitment, commitmentphobia, communication, community, community responsibility, fear, genital herpes, grief, healing, heartbroken, herpes, honesty, hook up, infidelity, intimacy, love, miscommunication, misogyny, non-monogamy, o.m. grey, olivia grey, open, open marriage, passion, polyamory, rape, rape survivor, relationship advice, relationships, romance, sex, sex positive, sexual assault, sexual predator, sexually transmitted disease, sexually transmitted infection, shattered, std, sti