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Relationships and Community
Hmmm. If you “come out of the broom closet” when you publicly identify yourself as a pagan, what do you come out of when you publicly identify yourself as being polyamorous? At one point I ran across someone advocating saying that we’ve come out of the parrot cage, but that image is highly unappealing to me. In fact, it gives me a mental image of someone with guano on his feet.1
In any case, here I am. I think of relationship orientation as being similar to sexual orientation. Some people are wired for monoamory,2 some for polyamory, and some of us are birelational—we can go either way. I’ve been happily monoamorous at times. I’ve also been happily and responsibly non-monoamorous. I’m birelational.
When I refer to polyamory, I’m not talking about swinging, promiscuity, or pursuing recreational sex. I don’t condemn people who are into those things, but I’m not and I never have been. I am talking about having significant loving relationships with more than one person at a time in an honest and open fashion. I am talking about making conscious, express commitments that do or do not include exclusivity, and living up to those commitments.
Polyamory is not, for me, primarily about sex. It is about connections, about community, about achieving intimacy on much more than a physical level. Sex is good, nice, lovely, and can be one kind of intimacy. It isn’t the most important part of relationship for me. To be blunt, it’s easy to just get laid, but building relationships takes more work and is more rewarding in the long run as far as I’m concerned.
Sam and I were both polyamorous and involved with other people when we met each other, but were monoamorous in practice for about four years as we built our relationship. We simply didn’t have the time or energy to have relationships of any real depth with other people while we were initially blending our families. Then we opened our relationship up to other people, with a very specific written agreement in place to protect our primary relationship and our family.
I believe that having more than two adults in a family can be a very healthy way of living for both adults and children. There are families in which three or more adults are raising children together, and those children are very well-adjusted and secure in having more than two parents.
I’m happiest when all of my Significant Others (SOs) are at least friends with each other, and I’m friends with their SOs. There have been times when some of my SOs were also in relationship with each other, so that we were actually in what Dr. Deborah Anapol calls an intimate network. Of course, finding partners who are not only compatible with yourself but also get along well with any other partner you already have adds a significant amount of complexity to starting new relationships in this kind of paradigm. Some people don’t have any contact with their partner’s OSOs, so I suppose that isn’t much of an issue for them.
I am very cautious about bringing a new person into my life, although things are simpler now that I am single and (especially) now that I no longer have a minor child. When Sam and I were together with our three children, though, there were many factors to be considered: where each of us was emotionally at any given moment, how our family as a whole was doing, how we were doing as a couple, how each of our children were doing, who the potential new SO was, etc. Yes, we did occasionally bring new people into our lives, very carefully, but there was no revolving door into our family life. There isn’t one into my personal life now, either, nor will there ever be.
I am involved in a local poly group, because while I am not actively looking for additional partners I do enjoy the company of like-minded folks. While there’s a lot of diversity within the poly community, in general I’ve found that it’s full of people who respect, accept, and even celebrate that diversity. Poly folks tend to be fairly intelligent and creative, and obviously wouldn’t be poly if they weren’t willing and able to question society’s default assumptions on some subjects. They’re often extraordinary in many ways.
This little piece of my web site actually exists in hopes of leading more people to question assumptions. The fact that Sam and I were a couple, that we were a man and a woman in a committed relationship, did not necessarily mean that we were heterosexual and monoamorous. That isn’t the only way to be in relationship. There are other options. Also, the fact that we were polyamorous did’t mean that we were promiscuous (in fact, we were far more conservative about such things than many of our monoamorous acquaintances).
One of the disturbing assumptions I’ve observed among polyfolk is that if you are poly, you have to have more than one SO or you somehow lose your poly card. Nope. If a bisexual man currently has one lover, that doesn’t mean he’s suddenly heterosexual or homosexual. He is still bisexual. The fact that someone is currently involved with one or even no SOs doesn’t mean that he is she isn’t polyamorous anymore, just as the fact that someone is poly doesn’t mean that he or she has to have other lovers, either.
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1 Parrots are traditionally called Polly, though, so parrots are often used to identify poly people.
2 I deliberately use monoamory rather than monogamy, because I am not talking about marriages as much as loves.