So, polyamory. It’s time to write an essay about this. It’s usually grossly misunderstood, and many people think it’s disgusting and immoral. Let’s try to dispel some illusions.
What is polyamory?
Polyamory is, quite simply, a philosophy about love. See it this way: you don’t choose only one parent to love. You don’t choose only one sibling to love. You don’t choose only one friend to love, and cling to them and never let them go. That’s now how love works in general.
So why would romantic love be any different?
The main idea is rejecting that. Rejecting that romantic love is exclusive, that you need to be satisfied with only one person forever, and that if they ever feel anything for someone else then you lose them forever. That’s what polyamory means.
So it doesn’t mean you’re afraid of commitment. It doesn’t mean you’re going to live a life of debauchery, going from bed to bed (not that there’s anything wrong with that, of course). It doesn’t even mean you’re going to be with more people! It just means that you reject the notion that romantic love is, necessarily, tied to only and exclusively one person.
So how does that work, then?
It really depends on each person. Once you realise that romantic love has no reason to be exclusive, a lot of other things follow.
First of all, being polyamorous doesn’t mean you’ll even be with more than one person. You can find yourself satisfied with one single person in the end! That happens, and it’s okay! You don’t have to have more partners if you don’t feel comfortable with that!
But many other important concepts come with embracing polyamory. For instance, the concept of possession is destroyed. You do not own your partners, nor they you. You do not get to tell them what they can or can’t do. You do not get to control their lives.
But how can a relationship work without that? Without some tacit agreement of what’s allowed and what isn’t? Well, in general, with communication. You can explain what you want, what your boundaries are, and what you expect. You explain your feelings and thoughts, and you both go from there.
And many models of relationship can exist. Sometimes you have a primary partner and a few secondary ones. Sometimes you have many equally “important” partners. Sometimes you have one partner but you have romantic/sexual encounters with other people. Sometimes you’re part of a V, where one person dates two other people who don’t date each other or anyone else; or a triangle, which is a V where those other two date each other.
And you’re not forced into any kind of relationship you don’t want, or aren’t comfortable with. You simply do what feels more natural, and you’re free to choose.
How do you deal with jealousy?
Jealousy is indeed hard to get rid of. But not impossible. And of course, you can just override it. How and why?
Well, see, jealousy usually is a kind of fear. Why are you jealous of your partner? Because you feel they will leave you if they meet someone else, usually. A more primal part can also whisper that the person is yours but of course you’re not an animal driven by instinct, right? People aren’t things, you don’t own them.
And why would you be afraid of them leaving you? If they didn’t want to be with you, if they didn’t love you, then it’s not some silly monoamorous binding that’s going to keep them with you. They’ll break up with you and go away, or they’ll use you as a comfortable chair. And of course you don’t want that.
But if they really do love you, then they can meet other people and they’ll still love you. They’ll still be with you. It’s not seeing other people that’s going to make them stop loving you. So you have to keep that in mind. You’ll still be with them, they’ll still love you, but they’ll also love other people. And isn’t that… well, great?
Compersion is a sort of ecstatic empathic feeling. It’s being genuinely and sincerely happy because of someone else’s happiness. It’s seeing that your lover is meeting someone new, is falling in love again, and being ecstatic about it. A person you love is happy! How joyous is that?
This is the aspect of polyamory that most people find absolutely baffling. It’s one thing to tolerate your significant others having other significant others, but actually celebrate it? No, that’s insane.
Except it’s really, really not. You can, in fact, hack your own mind into feeling compersion for your lovers. I know I feel it. I know people who didn’t but learned to. You just have to remember: they are not going to leave you! They love you, they want to be with you! It’s not some bogus rule or restriction that’s keeping them with you, it’s the fact that they want to be with you.
With me, that usually takes the form of *ahem* shipping. Yes, I ship real life people, shut up. I don’t currently have any partners but I have quite a few crushes. And you know what? When they tell me about their partners, or their own crushes, it’s awesome. I’m like, yeah, go get them! I get genuinely happy about it.
So try to imagine it. Try to do it. It certainly helps.
What kind of person wants to be polyamorous?
Given that the status quo is monoamory, why would anyone be polyamorous? I mean, if everyone else can do it, why can’t you, too?
First of all, that’s not true. Have you seen people who have a really hard time not cheating? And who have cheated but don’t actually want to leave their relationships? Yeah, so, guess what? Sometimes people are born polyamorous.
That’s really true. Sometimes, people just can’t actually be genuinely happy in a monoamorous relationship. They suffer, their relationships are crappy, they are never fulfilled, never happy. That exists.
And conversely, there are in fact many people that could not do polyamory. They really do only need one person, and cannot even imagine being with other people. That happens.
The vast majority of people, though, are somewhere in between. They go with monoamory because they’re used to it, but if they’re exposed to polyamory and feel up to it, they do it. Most people are that, indeed.
I, personally, was always polyamorous, even before I knew the concept. I didn’t know it, didn’t name it, but I never felt like being with only one person. If you ask my parents, when I was a child and a teenager I used to say that I would never ever marry anyone because it didn’t seem like it would make me happy. Now I’m kinda the opposite? I want to marry multiple people. I think it was for fundamentally the same reason: I never saw myself being happy with only one person forever.
So, how about you?
(Please read a continuation here.)
Previous post: Cheat at life
(End of rationality posts… for now.)