In the last post, “Polyamory”, I went into the theory or philosophy about polyamorous relationships. I didn’t talk much about my own experience, or about polyamorous relationships in practise. Let me get a bit more nitty-gritty now.
My Experiences With Polyamorous Relationships
Like with sooo many things, I was introduced to the concept of polyamorous relationships by Steve Pavlina. (Am I beginning to sound like a broken record? I’m sorry, Steve is just that good. Among other things, this blog would unequivocally not exist if it weren’t for him). I read his first article on polyamory at just about the time when I was entering into my first romantic relationship and already finding some problems with it.
I’m a very very loving person, and very romantic, too. So I don’t have a problem entering into relationships and having quite intense connections in them. However, since the first relationship I had I had been struggling with the tendency to be limited by our ideas about what a relationship had to look like. Particularly, my partners would interpret the intensity of my love in a particular way, and I felt obliged to play a certain role along with expressing that love. With intensity there had to be exclusivity (of course), a romantic idea of destiny or the rightness of our romantic connection, and a long future of being together.
I say I felt obliged, but I was also unsure about my ideas so part of me thought that that was how things had to work, as well. Without a firm base to stand on anywhere else, I attempted to fit my intensity into the standard relationship model. This made for some passionate but short relationships, cause it didn’t work, and the intensity only served to bring up the roadblocks earlier. In retrospect, this was to become a pattern of serial monogamy.
I loved each of my partners truly and deeply. I just didn’t know how to interpret that love, what meaning to give it, so I just went with the exclusivity, destiny, and eternity package deal. Some part of me still believed in that stuff, and it didn’t help that it was absolutely taboo to bring up any doubts with it with my partner.
It was kind of a mess, cause the intensity brought things quickly to a point where exclusivity, destiny, and eternity were just assumed, and I hated the sort of conflict I’d get into by challenging that. I didn’t like the idea that I might be alone forever if I didn’t man up and push through any problems I had with monogamy. So I shoved my inner conflict down where neither me nor my partner could find it, did my best to hide any inconsistencies, and suffered through.
For me at least it feels like I was doing a sort of doublethink rather like you need to do in a religion. I had an investment in reality being a certain way, so there were some inconsistencies in my thinking I just couldn’t sort out. As I always do, I tried – inviting conflict into my relationships – but until I had the bravery to finally admit and accept and assimilate the truth, I have to say my thinking was cloudy and illogical regarding all of this. I knew I just couldn’t pursue a train of thought too far down certain avenues. Doing so would have a real-life impact on my stability and that of my partner. So on some level I more or less intentionally dumbed myself down.
One particular relationship I had served to help awaken me to a polyamorous relationship understanding, eventually. It was with Iris, who is without a doubt the woman who I’ve been most intensely in love with so far.
The relationship itself was a case study in some of the problems of monogamy, and some of the problems I myself had with relationships, independent of only monogamy. I became rather possessive, and very fearful of losing her (which is the same thing, I think). I myself interpreted the huge intensity of feeling I had for her with the exclusivity, destiny, and eternity framework, at least to some extent. I had the idea we were “meant” to be together and couldn’t see things any other way.
I mean I think I still had polyamory somewhere in my mind while I was going through all this, but not having come to terms with it fully, all I knew is I wanted to be with Iris, and that inside the standard relationship framework that meant exclusivity, destiny, and eternity with her, and therefore, by god I wanted exclusivity, destiny, and eternity. Better to have a lot of joy and some limitation than no joy and no limitation… right?
In the end I got burnt pretty badly, and I think I spent pretty much a whole year getting over that. Getting over her.
I wasn’t interested in being alone just because I was grieving for someone, and so this year spanned two serious monogamous relationships.
When I met the first of those two women, the trauma I’d had from Iris was still fresh in my mind. I was still crying about it very often, still dreaming about her almost every night and waking up crying. Perhaps illogically, I wanted my partner at the time to help comfort me. It didn’t feel like that should have been a problem, because I still loved her too. Does it show that I’m just not made out for monogamy?
I struggled with my doublethink here and eventually the relationship collapsed under my inability to hold up the charade of exclusivity, destiny and eternity with my then current partner. That, however, wasn’t before I had fought rather a lot with my feelings about Iris, and to some extent I’d repressed them. I thought it was rather sad when, to appease my partner, I managed to stop dreaming about Iris, because at that point my dreams were the only time I had with her and they had given me such a bittersweet joy when they happened.
I later got into my last serious relationship so far, with Roser, and the same thing happened. In order to appease Roser I had to stop thinking and talking about Iris. For me it’s hard to think about something and not want to talk about it, at least with the partner who I’m supposed to be sharing my life with. So I pushed my feelings under, squashed them, tried to kill them. I feel it was very much a form of violence against myself.
And one or two different days, in a bout of rebellion, I wanted to leave Roser to be with Iris, but that didn’t feel right, either. For one thing, I probably couldn’t be with Iris even if I tried. For another, I loved Roser. I did, I did! I was really, truly, deeply in love with Roser. I just resented having to kill my feelings for someone else who also really mattered to me. It felt like a sacrilege.
I made other smaller sacrifices to make this relationship run smoothly. I stopped being with a lover I had, which was okay as it was nothing more than friends-with-benefits, and I also had to stop a love relationship I had over the internet with someone, which hurts me more. Certainly, long-distance relationships are never as satisfying as real life relationships, but I was in love with that person, and I was set on seeing her sometime when I could.
In a slightly cruel twist of fate I’ve seen the roles reversed with that girl. First, I broke off most contact with her to be with Roser. Then, when I stopped being with Roser, and thought to try and recover my long distance relationship, I found that my long-distance-ex was now in a monogamous relationship herself, and once again the free flow of love energy between us was blocked. Again, from a different perspective, I’ve seen how monogamy cuts off a true expression between people, and I don’t like it.
After breaking up with Roser, and going through the ambiguous last month of back-and-forth with her, it wasn’t long before I started connecting with new people and even falling in love – though this time I’m rather less romantic with the idea of being in love and would rather say “feeling intense love with someone”, as it has less cultural baggage, less notions about what such a relationship has to look like. I’m much less attached to the outcome of any one relationship, and have taken to the perspective of cultivating love in my life as a whole, rather than love with any one individual. I’ve noticed that as I’ve done so, my life has filled up with loads of love, from all sorts of sources, often without me needing to look for it. Some of it has been romantic, some of it wouldn’t be defined that way, but all of it has been very satisfying. I’m really happy about this.
As a separate yet connected goal, I’ve chosen to look for partners to have sex with and have found some success in this arena. Though it’s often connected with romantic feeling, I have to admit that I just generally wanna fuck and sometimes I’m not all that spiritual about it. I think that’s okay.
By the way, I’m not all that attached to having lots of partners. As I said in my last post, polyamory, for me, was fundamentally about the principle and freedom of the thing, about not being constrained, about being true to myself, and about the sacredness of love. Secondarily it might have also had something to do with being empowered to get as much sex as I want and not being prisoner to my partner’s libido or my partner’s time constraints, though that would never have been enough to make me change on its own.
I do believe that relationships are wonderful when you can go deep into them and I’d love to have a primary relationship with someone at some point if it works out that way, or perhaps just two primary relationships I went deep into, or something like that. Actually, I kind of wonder, amusingly, if my love life will eventually settle down and appear a little more normal, at least on the surface. Still, for the moment having the freedom means using the freedom, partly for practical reasons – I don’t have anyone who’d be compatible as a primary right now – and partly because I want to explore what this freedom means and to really come to terms with it.
Polyamory In Practise
Now, one of the big blocks I’ve had to exploring a polyamorous relationship style was working out how to go about it. Before I made the commitment to polyamory, I assumed that a polyamorous relationship could just appear in your life in the same way a monogamous relationship does. I guess sometimes this is true, but in general I find you need to go out and look for people to meet who are polyamorous.
When you go into a monogamous relationship while having some inclination towards polyamorous relationships, as I had done, it’s pretty hard to expect a harmonious result to come of that. Some people will come to their own ideas about polyamory in time, but you can’t force them, and most people will never be interested in polyamorous relationships. The bottom line is you need to go out and look for polyamorous people to meet, otherwise your chances of making something happen are much lower.
The internet has been a wonderful tool in this regard. I’ve met people through Facebook and OKCupid (a dating site which is poly-friendly) and things have come of those connections. I’ve also started going to local polyamory meetups. So far I haven’t connected romantically with anyone from these, unless you count someone who I met through Facebook first, but I’ve made a lot of good friends and the meetups themselves have been very fun.
The great thing about polyamorous people is that they are already filtered for open-mindedness and non-conformity and have a strong tendency towards being interested in all sorts of forms of personal growth. So, while I have a hard time meeting people I like on a relationship level just on the street or whatever, I don’t find it hard at all when I’m mixing with the polyamorous crowd. There are a lot of vegetarians and vegans among them, as well as a lot of spiritually inclined people, and even quite a lot of indigos. This is wonderful because if there was the same proportion of indigos in the polyamorous crowd as in the general population (about 1 in 1000) I’d die before I found anyone. As it is it works out very nicely. It’s much easier than I thought it would be at the start. I just need to look specifically for polyamorous people to meet and make good use of the internet.
So things have been going very well over here. I’ve been having a lot of fun and a lot of fulfilment and a lot of learning experiences. Despite most people’s complete lack of understanding why I’d sacrifice such a wonderful relationship with Roser for this, I haven’t looked back once. Which isn’t to say I haven’t cried for her, even when I wasn’t lonely at all. My grief still comes out once or twice, after dreaming about her or when a song connects me with an emotional reality. But now that’s mostly clear. Despite occasional moments of sadness, I’m not sad in my life in general at all, in fact I’m doing better than ever right now, and it’s still improving and building in this incredible rocket-propelled virtuous cycle and I couldn’t wish for anything more beautiful.
There’s a happy ending on the other side of this story, too. Just as fast as I’ve found fulfilment in my way, it seems Roser found a really lovely person to be with. I’ve seen them as a couple and I can say in all sincerity that I’m really happy they’re together. It looks like they’ll be really good together and I think that’s wonderful.
I intend to keep developing my romantic life, meet more wonderful souls to connect romantically with and have sex with – if possible both of those things with the same person. I also intend to keep growing in love and keep finding myself. I think I have a lot of self-exploration to do here. I look forward to experiencing a future version of myself that is deeply mature, very emotionally stable and very clear. Someone who “gets it” at a deep level, who can cut through all of the confusion about love relationships like a knife and have profoundly no-bullshit interactions in all of his relationships.
Cause there’s a lot of confusion out there. I’m gonna kick its ass.