People in the polyamorous scene often say how it is full of gentleness, honesty and consideration for others’ feelings. It could be a breath of fresh air compared to the mainstream dating world where you may have no idea of people’s intentions (and certainly can’t ask), and people seem so keen, yet disappear without a trace after sex. How refreshing to have everything out in the open; fully-informed decisions with no nasty surprises.
There is no one single way to do polyamory. That’s the joy of it. You can just see what feels right for you, then it’s a case of finding other people who want to join your journey. And everyone shares the objective of finding fulfilling and satisfying intimacy. Polyamory gives you the opportunity to truly explore your sexual identity – to really consider what you would like, what roles, scenarios or juxtapositions of power might make you feel good or turn you on.
Of course it’s not always easy. You might particularly like one person and find yourself wanting to see them more. However much you trust that their affection and fondness is real, it might still be hard to know that someone else will receive it too. But this is remedied by finding someone else to balance it out. People in the polyamorous scene are exercising this self-control; finding a way to moderate their appetite in the interests of a greater good, so to speak.
Polyamorous people tend to say that monogamy wasn’t for them because long-term exclusive relationships become stagnant and lose passion. They make you too ‘in each other’s pockets’ – too much like brother and sister. So is monogamy outdated? Would we all be happier if we embraced this other way?
When you begin to date someone, they have a strangeness to you which, when combined with reciprocal desire, makes every exchange or contact exhilarating. That’s the famous spark. Yeah it feels damn good. But if we examine the nature of that feeling, part of its power derives from insecurity. Not having something, and longing for it, makes the idea of it far more exciting than actually having it. You hope that you are on the brink of something. It is because you do not yet ‘own’ that thing that you want it so, and every encounter is a tantalising taste of your deepest desire.
A polyamorous lifestyle maintains the spark forever – via that feeling of separateness and strangeness (if you follow my thinking here), like a relationship stuck at the beginning. Should we be chasing life’s thrills? Drugs feel good too but we can’t do them 24/7 (well, most of us don’t). Hedonism can be destabilising. If you fall, it’s a long way down. And it takes quite an effort to maintain that high, even though the place it takes your mind to can be so stimulating, and give you what feels like a whole new perspective on life.
Polyamory helps you keep your identity and full control over your life. I see the appeal of that. But is polyamory the only way to achieve it? We have choices about the way we operate in a relationship. There are degrees to which it might become clingy, claustrophobic and passionless.
It seems a little odd not to let a relationship grow. Moving on from the ‘spark’ phase has its advantages. Obviously in practical terms, to share a life with one other person means that they will always be there, fully-integrated into your world so that they understand it and you can depend on them anytime. When the spark is gone and a person ceases to have that strangeness and separateness, you can really see them for what they are, and you learn something vital about the human condition. For instance, it is an opportunity to see what men and women are, i.e. just people. You have the opportunity to move past your idea of a person and see the real thing.
No one is the un-real thing that they appear from afar. If we can let go of wanting a person to be as good as the idea we originally had about them, we give them the space to be themselves and we learn to truly value them. Conversely, by fully acknowledging that a partner isn’t the superstar answer-to-all-your-problems that first excited you, you become more self-sufficient and learn to live in harmonious companionship, making plenty of space for you and your needs. This is what a healthy relationship looks like.
Polyamory does have some important lessons for us: that we have a responsibility to ourselves and our partner to remain fully conscious in our relationship. We should not forget our sexual selves – we should think about what we would like and explore new ways to enjoy each other. We have a responsibility to create space between ourselves and our partner; to push them to do separate things, and to pull away ourselves, making space for separate identities. And we have a responsibility to regulate our day-to-day behaviour – to let the other person do and see things their way; respect them and not get embroiled in trivia. Be the best you can be and it will help your partner to be the best they can be also.