So, what is polyamory? Well, whenever I’m sitting in front of a computer trying to learn more about something, I inevitably turn to Wikipedia. the online encyclopedia edited by a veritable army of ubergeeks and learn-o-philes.
According to Wikipedia… Polyamory, in its broadest usage, is the practice or lifestyle of being in a loving intimate relationship with more than one person at the same time, with the full knowledge and consent of all partners involved. Persons who consider themselves emotionally suited to such relationships may define themselves as polyamorous or polysexual (a blanket term), often abbreviated to poly.
This is a pretty standard and agreeable definition of polyamory. So, why do I bring it up?
Well… truth be told… my heart is about as polyamorous as they come.
As I mentioned, I don’t currently have a partner. And in fact, I’m sure that I could be quite happy with a single “monogamous” partner if it were the right one. But in my heart of hearts, I feel that the love I have for others is too deep and too prolific to be confined to a single relationship. And my partner, whether “mono-amorous” or “polyamorous,” would have to understand and accept this. In fact, she’d almost certainly have to share these feelings to some degree in order to understand and accept my feelings fully.
Maybe that explains why I’m alone, eh? I haven’t even brought this topic up with most people in my life… but maybe they just sense a difference in how I express myself and aren’t on the same wavelength. I guess there aren’t very many polyamory-accepting, tree-hugging, spiritually-oriented, politically-minded, charming, compassionate, 18-37, single women living in Southern Illinois, eh? Dang nabbit… who’da thunk it? Maybe I can reel one in somehow from the West Coast, or find one hiding in the back woods of the Shawnee… anyway, back to the topic at hand.
There are many stereotypes about polyamory. Some people see it as just another term for promiscuity and proceed to get overly offended (or overly excited!). But this is not the case. Promiscuity just involves sex with multiple people… it doesn’t necessarily involve any sort of love, or commitment, or honesty, or interest in partners as human beings. Polyamory, on the other hand, is rooted in love. Some of these forms of love are very open and filled with unbridled sexual exploration, and some forms (i.e. polyfidelity) involve very committed or even exclusive relationships that just happen to involve more than two people.
I myself have never been in a polyamorous relationship. Hell… I’ve only been in a couple of “relationships” at all. But in my heart, I’ve felt polyamory — and no external moralizer is going to convince me that the love I feel in my heart is wrong.
After all, what’s wrong with polyamory? Some people freak out at the very mention of anything that may have a sexual component to it. But who is it hurting?
If you say that it’s defying “God’s Law”… then all that I can say is “I don’t know who appointed you God’s spokesperson, but I don’t subscribe to your religion.”
If you say that it’s hurting the people who share the love… then tell me, how so? They are open about their feelings and relationships, and they work together through any issues of jealousy, miscommunication, economic/legal complications, etc. that may arise. Otherwise, it wouldn’t be considered polyamory. I’ll admit that I’ve only had personal discussions with a few polyamorous friends about their open relationships, multiple-person marriages, poly-love outside of relationships, etc. But it seemed to me that they their love was just as true and deep as any monogamous love, and that they did a lot of learning and growing through the experience.
If you say that it’s hurting friends, family, loved ones, society, etc… then tell me, how so? Any claim I’ve seen along these lines can be easily resolved, either because it has no merit or because there is a simple enough solution out there.
So… polyamory’s out there, and people are engaging in many polyamorous relationships as we speak.
What does polyamory mean in my personal life? Well, it means that I love people! I love people very much… and in some cases, this develops into feelings of being “in love.” Some day, it may mean that I explore a polyamorous relationship that includes more than one partner. Or, it may just mean that I find a single partner who shares in my feelings along these lines. OR… it may just mean that I sit here at this computer for the next 80 years pouring my heart out on this blog without a lover of any sort by my side. Whichever of these may be the case, I see the love itself as a tremendous reward.
When I was younger, before I’d been involved in any relationship, I used to be tremendously jealous. I was never the sort of person to display that outwardly, except on rare and unfortunate occassions… but it would just eat me up inside to see someone I had feelings for share their life with another person. I still get twinges of that, of course… some twinges stronger than others. But on the whole, I have this tremendously liberating feeling of freedom… of openness… of fearlessness. My heart is overflowing with love… and I am free to feel that love for whoever I choose., regardless of whether or not “society” understands, or whether or not it is a “romantic relationship.”
Let me put it to you this way. A few years ago, I met a woman who I feel a tremendous, life-altering, spiritually transformative love for. I feel like she’s the first person I ever really, truly, deeply fell in love with — body, mind, heart, and spirit. She also feels a deep spiritual connection with me… but since she has a long-term relationship that she’s apparently decided to go the distance with, she didn’t even really give romantic possibilities between us any real consideration. She only has eyes for him…
I can say no more about this for obvious reasons… but suffice it to say that it was a challenge and a half to come to terms with this reality! I feel like my life has lead me through a series of challenging experiences in order to teach me to let go of my jealousy and possessiveness… and this was the peak. I’d had an interest in polyamory for years… but this experience battered my defense mechanisms of jealousy, etc. so thoroughly that they simply surrendered unconditionally. I surrendered it all to love, and hoped that it would turn out for the best… and in so doing, my heart blossomed like a great big rose, and all of the love that I’d been so afraid to truly feel came flooding back into my body.
Now, with my heart open, I’ve felt more freedom and love in the past few months than I’ve ever felt before in my entire life. During the past year or so, while I was still dealing with this other love situation, I fell quite thoroughly in love with someone else in my life (also “unavailable”! ARGH!), and felt no conflict whatsoever between these two loves. I simply love them each in a different way… and my love is in no way diminished by this. True love is never divided… it can only multiply!
Really, polyamory has helped to complete a process that was already underway in me — namely, letting go of my inhibitions about loving humanity in general. For me, anyway, the two processes have gone hand in hand — letting go of my fear/control issues in the romantic arena, and letting go of them in the platonic arena. Even when I come across someone who makes me feel very angry, or very sad, or very frightened, or very frustrated, I feel this deep and remarkable love for them. I see their defense mechanisms… and I see my own defenses rising in response… and yet deep down, I feel my humanity, and their humanity, and a great love for this muddled but heartfelt misadventure that we call human existence. It’s been quite a blessing to stay in touch with this state of conscious love more often (and more deeply) as a result of the healing I’ve done in my love life.
So, polyamory has been a huge healing force in my life, even without a “romantic and/or sexual relationship” (they’re not the same thing, boys and girls!!!) to experience it in. But what does this mean for society as a whole?
Well, I think that a big segment of the counter-culture of the 60s was more than a little naivein assuming that “free love” was a simple and inherently revolutionary form of social relationship. In practice, when things go sour, the same power dynamics from monogamous relationships can just be expanded or even amplified in the presence of multiple people. But when things go well, polyamory can be an incredibly empowering and liberating experience. And the more people feel empowered and liberated, the less they’ll support any form of authoritarianism.
Let me restate and re-emphasis that last thought for a moment: yes, indeed, the vast majority of people who are free and empowered will never choose to embrace or even tolerate authoritarianism or fascism of any kind. Therefore, what’s good for the heart (and the sex life!) is good for the revolution.
Does this mean that I think everyone should be polyamorous? Not necessarily! I feel that everyone who truly desires in their heart to be free should explore the issue and discover for themself what they truly feel. But if they ultimately do desire the exclusive focus on a single partner, then by all means, they are welcome to it. All that I ask is that they afford “the polyamorous community” the same freedom of choice in our own love lives.
Does this mean that I think polyamory is inherently revolutionary? Well… yes and no. On a personal level, I feel that it inherently challenges some of the most disempowering forms of jealousy, fear, etc. that most of us carry around in our bodies, minds, and hearts. But just because it challenges those things doesn’t mean that it automatically succeeds in releasing them, or that monogamy can’t be used in a similar revolutionary manner.
AND… polyamory can certainly be co-opted away from offering any sort of broader challenge to the controlling relationships that dominate the public sphere. It can be incorporated into the dominant paradigm as a “lifestyle choice” that has no echoes of public liberation movements. In fact, I can see it now… Valentine’s Day 2010 commercials:
“You’ve bought another diamond for your primary partner… but what about the others in your life who you love? Go out to the mall today and buy 10 more boxes of chocolate before it’s too late!”
But having said all of that… I feel that for the people who do choose polyamory, it can be a positive experience for them and an overall gain for society as a whole. More love is good, right? And the more free and empowered people feel in their personal lives, the less prone they are to the swaying arguments of fascists. (Check out the Mass Psychology of Fascism by Wilhelm Reich if you haven’t already.)
So, whether complete monogamy is your cup of tea, or some form of polyamory is what your heart yearns for… hopefully we can all agree that love is a good thing, and that all of us who are consenting adults should be free to pursue whatever forms of love amongst ourselves that we feel will be good for ourselves, each other, and the planet.
With that said, I’m off to demonstrate some love for myself by not staying up any later than I already have! Thank you as always for reading, and I look forward to any feedback you may have to share. (Feel free to disagree, too… I encourage and actually hope for respectful dialog among those who embrace and those who shun polyamory. But if your response is belligerent or threatening, then don’t be surprised if I scatter it back into the digital ether….)