Today’s beautiful, insightful post is written by Vlad Dolezal from Alive With Passion. If you only read one thing from MsMorphosis this week, please let it be this.
When I interviewed Vlad about his coaching business that he runs largely through his website on Blogging Fearlessly, I couldn’t help but ask him about his polyamorous lifestyle (which I had noticed on his blog). You guys probably think I’m, for some reason, really struggling with monogamy. The funny thing is, I’m not. I’m in a great monogamous relationship and I can honestly say that I’ve never really been tempted to be with anyone else since I met him. Even after a series of emails with famous blogger and polyamorist Steve Pavlina, I understood it rationally but was able to confidently say that it’s just not for me. Maybe that will change one day, but that isn’t why I’m pondering it today.
Polyamory is the idea that you can have relationships with more than one person at once – either emotional, sexual, or both. I enjoy talking to polyamorous people mostly because their lifestyle is just so unfathomable to my emotional, Italian, territorial self. I can’t imagine being able to cope with the jealousy of knowing I was “sharing” my partner. So, I love learning from polyamorous people how they let go in relationships and cope with jealousy to the extent that would be necessary to maintain these sorts of relationships. I feel like if I can apply some of that wisdom and grace to my own relationship, it would be a lot smoother sailing and, in the end, a much more fulfilling ride.
Back in February, I had a Skype call with Jen (the great MsMorphosis). We talked about all sorts of things, including polyamory. And she asked me if I could write a guest post here, to share a perspective on polyamory from someone who actively lives that way.
It’s April now, and I see that it’s still a lively topic around here. So I figured I would finally stop twiddling my thumbs, get off my bum and write this post! (Metaphorically get off my bum. I do write sitting down.)
It’s actually a bit funny to see Jen struggle with the whole polyamory idea. Because I can see that while it makes sense to her on a logical level, she isn’t especially comfortable with it emotionally. In fact, I’d wager that in the end, she’ll pick monogamy.
I guess that’s the first point I’d like to make today. You are not a being of pure logic. I, for instance, love to walk around barefoot, or be naked on a nudist beach. It makes me feel free. It’s not logical, but that doesn’t make it any less important. And with relationships, things also come down to feelings, not logic.
Some people will prefer monogamy, in the end. Some people will prefer polyamory.
But just because right now monogamy feels like a safe, familiar thing, while polyamory is this weird alien idea that only freaks do, that doesn’t mean you will be happiest in a monogamous relationship. Only when you know what both of them are really like (and maybe give it a try yourself), will you be able to decide.
So, I’m not here today to tell you that monogamy is stupid.
I’m here to tell you that automatically accepting monogamy without thinking about it for yourself is stupid. Relationships are a big part of your life. It pays off to take the time to figure out what works best for you.
And since we here at MsMorphosis love thinking fearlessly (it’s right up there in the header!) let’s put away preconceived notions, and boldly consider the idea of polyamory!
To help you with that, I’m going to give you a perspective on what polyamory actually is like. Because chances are, you have a heap of misconceptions, whether you got them from people who are just ignorant, or from people who deliberately vindicate alternative lifestyles.
What is a polyamorous relationship?
There are a lot of different approaches to polyamory.
Firstly, there are people who simply have regular sex with several people in parallel, without much commitment to any of them. This is no different from being single, so I won’t focus on that today.
Then there are people who have one main partner and casual sex with other people on the side. But they make an agreement that they won’t have any emotional intimacy with the other people (that isn’t always as easy as it sounds in principle). You probably know this as an “open relationship”. You might not be super-comfortable with the idea, but it’s probably not horribly far away from things you can imagine.
And then there are people who embrace polyamory in its full scope, and have more than one loving, long-term relationship at once. (I’m one of these strange people.)
I’d say this is by far the most interesting and exciting form of polyamory. And it’s where the word itself comes from. It’s a combination of poly, meaning more than one, and amor, meaning love. So, literally loving more than one person.
That’s the fundamental idea of polyamory. That love is not a limited resource, and just because you love two people doesn’t mean that you love any one of them less. Think about it this way – who do you love more, your mother, or your partner?
You love them both, in different ways.
And similarly, you can have more than one loving romantic relationship at a time.
Of course, while love is unlimited, time and energy are limited. In the end, it’s up to you to decide how you will spend your time. Most polyamorous people prefer to spend the majority of their time with one or two partners, because that’s what brings them most happiness.
I personally have the time and energy for two full, deep relationships at once. I would not be able to have a third one and give them all the amount of attention they deserve.
Also, central to any type of polyamorous relationship is honesty and communication. Everybody involved knows what’s going on, and is okay with it.
Now, if you’re halfway reasonable, the above paragraph by itself is probably enough for you to be fine with polyamory for other people.
But the much more interesting question is – why would you ever consider polyamory for yourself?
Why polyamory rocks
Obviously, there’s the chance to be in more than one relationship at a time. But that’s not all there is to polyamory. There are a lot more benefits that aren’t as obvious at first sight.
Let’s say you meet a great guy (or a great girl, if you swing that way). You hit it off, have some fantastic dates, are madly into each other.
Why would you ever want to let them see other people? Why not agree to be exclusive with each other?
Let me give you a couple of reasons:
- True love and commitment are in no danger from a polyamorous relationship. In fact, polyamory makes them stronger!
Imagine you were walking in a savannah. You come across a huge lion – a magnificent, strong beast with a shining mane and teeth that would make an alligator cry with envy.
You make friends with the lion, and get him to come along with you for a while. But then you get worried that maybe the lion will leave you. So you put a collar on him, and a leash, and keep him close.
The lion walks with you. Occasionally, he goes as far as the leash will stretch, and tugs on it a bit to test the limits. Then he comes back to you.
A day passes.
Then a week.
And you start to wonder. Does the lion really want to be with you? Did you chain such a magnificent beast because you wanted him to keep you company, without wondering what he wants? Would he bolt immediately if you removed the leash?
Now imagine that you removed the leash… and the lion stayed right by your side, because he truly enjoyed your company. Then, the next day, he would go running off to chase down a gazelle, and drink from a river. You would get really worried that he’s gone forever and that you’ll be alone in the savannah again. But a few hours later, the lion would come back, with a happy grin, and water dripping from his fur, and shake it off at you playfully.
That’s what polyamory feels like when you first start.
You are afraid. You think you’ll be losing something great. You think you’re making a mistake.
But then you come out at the other end. You notice that your partner is still with you. And in fact, you feel closer to each other.
Because now you are both free to go running off and see other people. And yet you don’t. Most of the time, you still choose to be with each other, because that’s what you most want to be doing at that point in time.
You’re not together because of a promise, or out of a sense of guilt. You’re together because you truly, absolutely love spending time with each other – and it feels great!
Now, yes, there’s a chance that when you open up a relationship, your partner will immediately run off and starts spending most of their time with other people. That means they were dying to get out and you weren’t right for each other anyway. You find out a lot sooner than if you had stuck in a sinking relationship for another couple of months.
Polyamory makes strong relationships stronger, and breaks down broken relationships faster.
- You will not be forcing one person to be your EVERYTHING
Nobody will ever have 100% of what you’re looking for in a long-term relationship. If you’re lucky, you’ll hit maybe 85%.
Now, in a monogamous relationship, people often put undue pressure on their partner. They ask them to change and become something they’re not, to fulfill all their partner’s needs.
In a polyamorous relationship, you can just let a person be who they are. Yes, of course you will both change some things when you get in a relationship. But if there are some things that are important to you that your partner can’t provide, it doesn’t mean you have to either go without them or force your partner into something they’re not comfortable with. If you love dressing in a furry bunny suit from time to time and get it on, and your partner is not into that, you have other options.
- When you meet someone amazing, you are free to pursue that relationship to its full depth.
I already mentioned that different people approach polyamory differently. I personally have no great desire to have sex with lots of women. I enjoy the depth of a connection, not the amount of them.
But when I do meet someone amazing, I like to see where that relationship goes. The communication, the late night talks, the laughs and long walks. And to me, sex is part of the natural progression and deeper intimacy, as you explore your connection with the other person.
Some people like the idea of polyamory for the ability to have sex with lots of people. That’s fine.
But I find that the majority of people I talk to really enjoy having a deep relationship with one person, rather than a shallow one with many.
With polyamory, you are free to have such a relationship with more than one person. You don’t have to break off something great with one person if you want a similar type of intimacy with another person. You can explore each relationship to its full potential – which brings me to my last point.
- You are free to let each relationship be what it is
Another great thing about polyamory is that when you first start dating a person, you’re not checking to see if they’re “the one”.
If you’re monogamous, you will probably always be checking each person for how they fit your long-term goals in life. Marriage, having kids, traveling around the world – whatever your long-term goals might be.
But when you’re polyamorous, you are free to have more than one loving, deep relationship at a time.
This gives you the freedom to let each relationship unravel at its own pace, instead of trying to sift through relationships, and discarding each one as soon as you find out they’re not “the one”, because you can only have one at a time.
You will find that each relationship is unique, and you can let it just be what it is.
For example, I know two women who have a great, loving relationship of over 10 years. And while each of them has shared a flat with one or more partners over the years, the two of them have never lived together. They just feel that this wouldn’t work for them – and that’s okay.
Polyamory and you
Hopefully, by now you’re considering the idea of polyamory, and wondering if it would fit your own life or not.
Maybe you will end up deciding that you prefer monogamy, after all. That’s okay. As long as you take the time to think it through, and make sure you’re deciding for your own reasons, rather than because it’s the social norm, that’s fine.
But quite likely, you’re not sure yet. You probably have a thousand and one questions going through your head.
If so, please leave a comment below! I am here to answer any questions you have about polyamory.
And finally – don’t be afraid to communicate. If you already have a partner with whom you agreed to be exclusive, but are also interested in polyamory – talk to them! If they’re a great match for you, they will be happy to talk to you about things that are on your mind. And whether or not the two of you decide to give polyamory a shot, you will feel closer to each other by talking about it.
Alright! Let’s talk about polyamory. What would you like to know?
Vlad Dolezal writes Alive With Passion – a blog about living your life in a way that makes you feel deeply, passionately alive. This often involves thinking for yourself and rejecting social norms that don’t make sense to you. So if you’re into that kind of thing, check out his blog!