Keeping It Simple – Respect & Honesty in Polyamory
Upon deciding to follow through with non-monogamy, the question of how came up. The two most important factors were also the most obvious: respect and honestly. These go without saying and should be the foundation of any relationship, especially one with the potential complications of non-monogamy. Love is not enough. We’ve all seen toxic couples who can’t get along for 10 minutes but also can’t bear to be apart. They can’t stand each other but can’t live without each other. They can’t communicate and often can’t even be honest with themselves about what they need, let alone their partners.
Having the respect and honesty foundation already in place was half the battle for us; the rest was detail. We opened with the question of what our goal in attempting non-monogamy was. Why do this, if everything is so great? Well, because we both believe that it’s one fuck of a heavy load, being someone’s reason to live and only means of affection and companionship and had reached the point of being capable of admitting to ourselves and each other that yes, we were intrigued by the idea of opening ourselves to the world and exploring new social connections, be they romantic or otherwise. Releasing each other from the restrictions of monogamy and stating plainly “I trust you to always value and respect our relationship and home life” was the most logical way to go about doing so.
Recognizing the potential for problems, not the least of which would stem from the massive step of allowing ourselves to open emotionally to others, we hypothesized for weeks. We blue-skied. We played “What If?” trying to anticipate what could set off negative triggers.
What we came to realize is that any of the potential problems we were trying to anticipate in advance could happen whether we remained monogamous or not. What if we stay together 15 years and then suddenly meet a new “love of our life” at the goddamn grocery store? What if Joe hires someone he clicks like with, spends 5 days a week working with and then he decides he’s done with me and runs off with her? What if one of us ends up in a random conversation, then finds ourselves wildly attracted to each other and start texting and calling each other? Oh, wait. That’s already happened.
Was locking up each others genitals and forbidding contact with the opposite sex going to insulate us from any of this? Oops, except wait: I’m bisexual. So we’d also have to lock me away from every other member of my own gender because yeah, I could totally fall for a chick, make friends, fall in love and run off with her.
The modern model of monogamy believes social and romantic isolation will ensure faithfulness and enduring love. Except it doesn’t fucking work. For every time monos loftily claim “most open relationships end in breakups because it’s just wrong” (and they’re always 100% certain of this even though they’ve never tried it) I could baldly state the same for monogamy: most end in breakups too. Or cheating. Or misery. For every five mono couples most of us know, two are probably cheating, two will divorce and the other will simply endure in hatred, waiting only for any offspring to grow up and leave the nest so they can then leave each other.
How is this model of relationship any more successful than the totally subversive idea of admitting to each other honestly and respectfully that “Yeah, you know what? I love you but am sometimes still attracted to others and would enjoy the company of new, interesting people. But at the end of the day, I’m going to come home and crawl into bed with you, curl up on your chest and sleep happily and contentedly and still love you in the morning”?
How the fuck else do we explain the all-too-common case of the married cheater who is out there messing about, with no idea how it happened, but still validly and genuinely in love with his or her spouse and family? This social meme is so common it’s no longer even a joke. What it is, is a sad situation for people who are usually still basically good but are fumbling about trying to fulfill some need they hardly know how to identify. We hear of this. It happens.
And before you cry out for numbers or statistics, fuck off. Use some common sense and think about it. YOU KNOW PEOPLE WHO DO THIS. Right now. So do I.
The idea of polyamory to us was simple. So we kept the details simple. Currently our only real non-negotiable guideline prohibits overnights, and even that may someday end up on the table. Our time together is our time together remains valued and happy. Our home is our place. We don’t see our lovers here, where we reconnect and strengthen our bond or sometimes just do weird, mundane household crap that in itself ends up strengthening our bond because it’s OUR boring, mundane crap. It all has meaning because it’s all ours.
This applies to our polylovers as well. When we’re with them, we and employ the same respect, focus and privacy. There is no voyeuristic aspect in this for Joe and I. Nobody’s running home to spew of who did what to where and how great it was. Joe’s time with L and my time with A is private. Sure, we talk about how things are and will sometimes share an anecdote but rarely more than that.
Honesty and respect for everyone in our lives and all our relationships. I cannot fathom the stories and dramas I see on the web on forums and in discussion communities about how “complicated” it all is. The only complications we’ve encountered stemmed from time management issues: somebody ended up getting less attention and care because the effort to be fair and respectful slipped. Maybe a text conversation ran late when we should be snuggling in bed. Maybe one or the other or both of us ended up a too distracted by the allure of New Relationship Energy: those early days in a romance when things are going so constantly, amazingly perfectly well and you can hardly bear to think of anything else.
All this can trigger jealousy and abandonment fears. And if it happens, we take our fears to each other, comfort each other and work harder to remain conscious of the fact that while our polylovers are fascinating, sexy people we value, we remain the biggest part of each others lives. When all is said and done and these people perhaps move on (as they almost certainly will), he and I will still be there for each other. Simple. Between us lies years of connection, commitment and history. This remains the earth beneath my feet, simplifying all else despite the joys and temptations of polyamory.