I love hearing people explain their “why.” This isn’t limited to relationship choices and why someone practices monogamy or ethical non-monogamy; it could be the reason that they go to the gym every day or decided to change religions. I just enjoy hearing others’ experiences and perspectives. It gives me insight into their lives and also my own choices, and sometimes inspires me to make a change. It also inspires me to be conscious about my choices – a concept I’ll be exploring some time in the future when I talk about conscious monogamy/non-monogamy.
I recently read an article where a person clearly articulates their reason for participating in open relationships for five years as well as their decision to currently practice monogamy. It intrigued me so much that I felt compelled to share a very small bit of my own early experiences discovering non-monogamy and my personal reasons why I won’t be deviating from this relationship model.
I wasn’t allowed to date until I was well into my teens, but the first inklings of my proclivity to non-monogamy were revealed in my first crushes. I have a notebook outlining, in detail, my crushes in middle school. After talking with friends about how I could only have one crush, I narrowed my crush quota down to two people. Then, being who I am, I made a chart of each of their pros and cons.
They tied. They had the exact same number of positive and negative traits, from my perspective. So what did I do?
I told both of them that I liked both of them and we coexisted peacefully in our pre-adolescent “like.” Hence, my first polyamorous relationships were formed. And throughout high school and the beginning of college, I continued to cultivate romantic relationships and deep emotional ties with multiple people at the same time, even if I was sometimes sexually monogamous. It just seemed to be the way I was wired, as it was not a conscious choice to fall in love all over the place.
As a matter of fact, in my last (and final) sexually-exclusive relationship, my partner told me that I was “emotionally promiscuous” and admitted that it bothered him. I had to agree with him – I love connections. That feeling of understanding a person, diving deep with them, going on the journey of discovery together (discovery of what, you say? Who knows? Learning what you’re searching for is half the fun!) is something I just crave with certain people, and I don’t like limiting that connection just because someone else outside of that relationship feels it isn’t “right.” Which leads me into my top 3 reasons for practicing polyamory:
1. One of my favorite parts of being non-monogamous is having the ability to explore connections and see where they lead, without having to define it too early or being absolutely certain of what it’s going to look like in the future. Hence, when someone who’s interested in me asks what I’m “looking for,” I never know how to answer. Maybe because the answer is almost always “nothing.” I don’t need anything, so I’m not “looking for” anything. I’m merely open to possibilities – to connections that eventually settle into what they are meant to be.
As such, I have this craving to feel free in my relationships. I like autonomy, and I need to have the ability to seek out other emotional, romantic, and physical relationships without that being interpreted as me not being committed to or not loving a partner. Exclusivity, whether it’s emotional or physical, is not a way I show my commitment.
[Sidebar: Of course, this has led to plenty of friction within my individual relationships. I’ve personally experienced relationships with people where it was easier for them to accept that I had an existing partner (.~who was clearly not meeting a need or else I wouldn’t be looking for another partner, right?.~), but it was hard for them to deal with me starting a new relationship (“Does that mean I’m inadequate? Because why else would she want a new partner?”). Also, I think a lot of initial strife in my relationships come from differing definitions of relationships and what they entail. When I say “relationships,” I mean all of them. Because I have a lot of relationships that blur the lines between emotional intimacy, physical touch, and romance.]
2. Polyamory allows me to fully practice my form of relationship anarchy. Just as a bit of background: unlike a lot of people that I know, I do not believe that relationship anarchy is a form of non-monogamy – it’s more about not elevating romance as the end-all, be-all of deep connection than it is about having multiple romantic relationships. I know people who are monogamous AND relationship anarchists. I talk a bit about my views on relationship anarchy in a previous post.
My romantic relationships/sexual entanglements are not inherently or automatically more important than my friendships. No one has blanket hierarchy (read: no one “always” comes first). Entitlement demands (“you have to do this because I was here first”) get an annoyed side eye from me. There’s freedom to express intimacy with someone as I and that person see fit (example: I display physical affection, like holding hands, with platonic friends regularly). Relationship escalator type events aren’t required to make me feel validated – I like designer relationships and defining the commitments within each one individually, creating successful relationships across a spectrum of emotional and entanglement intensity.
Because I believe that emotional, sexual, and entanglement intensity is on a spectrum, I don’t feel that a certain relationship is required to be a certain way or have a certain component for that relationship to be valid. All my relationships are valid, because if I put you on my calendar, you are important to me – whether you are family, friend (romantic or platonic), casual makeout partner, lover, romantic/sexual partner, or we’re in a flirtionship or situationship.
3. I’m not particularly interested in the relationship escalator – that is, the belief that a relationship must escalate in some way for it to be special and committed. Or that even if the relationship doesn’t follow a certain, strictly-prescribed progression, it has to have some major milestones that increase in intensity/entanglement in order for it to be considered “real.” (Thoughts of: “How will I know that my partner cares about me if we don’t have things to celebrate us or if there aren’t any markers to indicate that this is a Relationship™?”)
There are relationship escalator events that I have no desire to do at all. And there are other things that I don’t mind doing with partners (platonic or romantic or otherwise) as long as we are compatible – such as cohabiting, which I currently do with Daddy and my bestie. But I’m not looking at these events as a “level up.” They simply are. The “leveling up” you get is when you become one of my people.
Don’t get me wrong, I have milestones in my most of my relationships – anniversaries, places we’ve gone that were special, nicknames. But I haven’t had them in every relationship, they could be the same across the board for different relationships, and I don’t particularly need them in order to feel like I have an established, committed relationship. I have some very close friends that are constants in my life; I love them, am committed to them, have emotionally close ties to them – and I don’t doubt their love for me just because we don’t celebrate the day we became friends (although if we did, I’d put my all into planning it to celebrate our love because my friends have supported me through some real shit). I feel the exact same about my romantic relationships. I love having a day set aside for commemorating “us” and I get giddy thinking about how long we’ve been going at it (::snort::); but if we didn’t have an anniversary day set, I’d still celebrate that relationship and what it means to me.
Although there are plenty of people who practice polyamory who are very intent on riding the relationship escalator, I find that it’s easier to find people who aren’t as dedicated to it for every single relationship within the polyamorous world. Of course, I do run into folks who seem to think our relationship is arbitrary if we don’t do those things, but they are pretty easy to spot and wean out.
Back to my story – after that relationship mentioned previously ended (disastrously, but not as bad as my marriage), I told myself that that would be the last time I let someone limit how I interacted with others. Granted, I didn’t stop establishing and nurturing emotional connections with others just because that dude was uncomfortable, but I did dial back on them somewhat and I was sexually exclusive with him. And so, on my birthday that year I decided that no more would I allow an outside person govern my boundaries with other people – I would set my own boundaries and I would have relationships that were living works of art created by the people in them.
Now, I’m skipping through a lot of self reflection and growth that had to happen before I came to that conclusion. But, regardless of the non-monogamous and monogamish relationships I had had previously, that birthday would be the point that I would say I started practicing polyamory intentionally (albeit I didn’t come across the word “polyamory” until years later).
Best decision ever.