November 2017
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5 qualities needed to practice polyamory: awareness, norm-breaking, security, energy, connection


icon: "queer (the logo for Transcending Boundaries Conference overlaid with the words "genderfree, queer, + trans / never a 1 or 0")"

I was talking with Topaz and spoke/realized something at the same time. I don't believe there are inherently polyamorous or inherently monogamous people. Whether or not you can practice polyamory depends on 5 things: awareness of polyamory, willingness to break social norms, how you get your sense of security, how much energy you have, and connections with people you resonate with in a romantic way.

awareness of polyamory
I daydreamed about having multiple romantic relationships from the time I was a little kid, but I didn't know that it was possible until many years later. I was 24 when I realized that ethical non-monogamy was possible and there were people who did it. My first polyamorous relationships were long distance because I had never met anyone local who I knew to be polyamorous.

willingness to break social norms
Breaking social norms was already normal to me, having rejected sexism and looksism, but it was not something I could do whole-heartedly because at the time I was married to someone who was very worried about what people would think. Not being able to be out ate at me. I did come out to my bioparent P, who treated my visiting lover the same as my spouse - but less than a month after that, P moved to another state so I still had no local people I was out to. My next few relationships were local and they were all out, which was a huge relief for me.

how you get your sense of security
My sense of security held me back in a lot of ways, because my first romantic relationship was a monogamous marriage and my securities had been built on a set of rules. I thought rules were how you built security; I had never witnessed any other model. We practiced polyamory for about 2 years with this makeshift rule-based model. As the rules failed to make me safe from hurt and failed to protect my spouse from fear, I shifted my marriage to an uncommitted lover relationship. This was partly because the rules that made it a marriage did not work for me any more, and partly because in my view of marriage if you don't have similar goals in life then you shouldn't be married and my life goals were no longer similar to my ex's. That didn't last because when my ex looked for an additional person to date, they found a monogamous person and promptly dumped me for that person.

After that I built my sense of security on my ability to recover from damage and maintain boundaries. I set boundaries for my safety rather than my security (for instance, requiring safer sex practices for certain acts with me, rather than for the relationship to continue). To set a boundary I considered what could cause me damage and how it could be mediated with the least interference with the other person's will. An example would be who my lover dates. I do not control the other person's choices, but I do control mine. So if my lover dates someone who I feel is damaging me directly or indirectly in a way that I cannot handle, I will put distance between me and my lover until I am no longer so damaged. I will inform them ahead of time so that they know what my action will be and can adjust if they wish, but I will not expect them to or try to convince them to. This has only happened once (after a first date), and after I told my lover what I was feeling they examined their interactions with that person and found that they were bad at consent and thus no longer desirable for dating.

Nowadays I put my security partly in my ability to recover and maintain boundaries, and partly in my loveweb -- my friends who I invest in. If I were to break up with someone, it would be painful (maybe devastating), but I know that I could rely on my friends to help me get through it, and eventually my ex-lover would be one of those friends. I do not emotionally invest in romantic relationships that will not be lifelong friendships (except maybe for Aurilion, because I have a weakness there). If I feel that they wouldn't stay my friend if we broke up, I won't date them because that makes me feel like they only want part of me and a very minor part at that.

how much energy you have
Next need is energy. I once broke up with three people at once because I did not have the energy that it would take to maintain those romances any more. It was almost too late: [TW: depression, suicidal thoughts]shortly after that I went into the worst depression of my life, where for three months all I could think about, every waking moment, was wanting to die. It took citalopram and at least a year to get out of that. Then once I emerged from depression I realized how bad my ADD was and began trying to get help -- which took at least 8 months. During those months I had no extra energy because I had to throw all of it into my schoolwork just to maintain that. I spent many days in unproductive hyperfocus and many days in panic and stress to the point of crying uncontrollably. But once I finally got medicated, I had energy! I felt alive! I could do things! I was still terribly stressed about money and school, so not all was well, but I had more ability. And I started actively looking for an additional person to date, because I want that in my life.

connections with people you resonate with in a romantic way
The first month of looking was fun -- then it rapidly became miserable. I couldn't find anyone at all who seemed both akin to me and available. After three months I decided to stop looking, since after all I have never met a love by searching for them (they have all found me). I do keep looking for new friends, but have met a lot of failure in that area as well. There have been a few people who I thought I might be interested in romantically, but nothing came of it. This is where I am now, a year after I gained the energy. I have the awareness, willingness, security, and energy, but not the connections. I yearn for them. Topaz suggested that I do more activities that will allow me to meet new people, which is a good idea except that that is SO HARD when my car is fragile and I have little money for gas and have no one to help me motivate to go by going with me -- it takes like 50 points of energy and it is likely to only give me back 20. If I met someone amazing it would probably give me 100 points, but that certainly not something I can count on.

I still consider myself to be practicing polyamory, because I do not structure my relationship in a monogamous way or use monogamous rules. I actually identify as a relationship anarchist (a sorta-kinda subset of polyamory), because I do not decide which relationships get the most time, energy, or other resources; I let the situation lead me. I deliberately invest in my friendships, which may move in and out of romance based on the situation. Kylei is someone who I would definitely be dating if they were available, but so many parts of the situation make it almost impossible. Maybe next year I will have so much extra energy from finishing school that I will be able to spend the extra doing lots of the driving and planning, which is what it would take to make the situation work. As it is, there are romantic parts to our friendship, but we do not spend enough time communicating for me to feel romantic in a continuous way.

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Comments
topaznebula ══╣╠══
I read and liked this post, and it's something I would like to reread at least once over because I want to think on these five things more.
zvezda ══╣╠══
Meeting new people is always a great recommendation, but so difficult in practice. I feel like the older we get, the harder it is to connect with people. Meeting people can almost feel like a chore when you are seeking it out.

I have no experience with polyamorous relationships. I do not believe they would work for me, in part because of my jealous nature, but also because I have trouble letting many people close to me. I have felt alone most of my life, but I am fortunate to have someone at long last that takes away that sensation. I can't imagine multiple people could break that barrier, at least not at the same time. But then again, this is me, and I know I am very different from others!

I enjoyed reading this post. :)
jmillfades ══╣╠══
Reading your entry got me thinking about the polyamorous relationship that my husband and I are in. He's romantically involved with her, I am not, she's becoming one of my best friends though so there is emotional involvement, but I do not love her in the sense that he does. Sometimes I want to be selfish and find a person that I can also be with in that way, but than I wake up and realize I'm not up for another romantic relationship. I don't have the energy to put up with someone the way I put up with my husband!! It makes me realize that being in a relationship with someone is work, it's not easy, you literally have to work on it everyday like a job...and this one is enough for me. Great entry!!
webgirluk ══╣pic#124969441╠══
I relate to many of your thoughts over romantic relationships. Whilst I've never had a polyamorous relationship, I do definitely relate to the idea as for me, I'm a bit anti marriage and see it as too restrictive in ways. I agree it's not an inherent thing and being very non conventional in my thinking allows me to see so many shades of grey in every life situation, really. People get married, mostly as social norms state "that's what people do" but too many get on and do it without perhaps questioning if there are other alternatives. I can relate to why many people would find one relationship too limiting when different people bring different things to our lives as we do theirs although as well, often not the same things are valued. I think the reason I haven't considered being polyamorous in general is due to the idea that friendships I seek are to be ideally so close that the only difference between them is sex and I prefer to be exclusive with someone over actual sexual stuff but as well I think romantic bit more than friends type of relationships can exist too, the areas are blurry.

I hear you over connection. I have posted in the long distant past over grieving for people I'll never meet and I'd be smiling so much if someone invented the app that actually connects people together who are meant to be in an easy, honest and effortless way. Imagine something that actually led us on the path to the people in the world we connect with most?
webgirluk ══╣╠══
Oh, I forgot to add as well that I too won't consider romantic relationships with people who wouldn't in the long run remain with me as a close friend after although my reasons differ to yours. Having said that, one choice I made I felt confident with did remove me from his life so he could "move on" when I really thought I got this right so I suppose people could surprise in the other direction.

Who is Aurilion and what makes for their weakness?

b00kl0ver ══╣╠══
on communication, social justice, intimacy, consent, friendship & other relationships, spirituality, gender, queerness, & dreams. Expect to find curse words, nudity, (occasionally explicit) talk of sex, and angry ranting, but NEVER slurs or sexually violent language. I use TW when I am aware of the need and on request.
Expect to find curse words, nudity, (occasionally explicit) talk of sex, and angry ranting, but NEVER slurs or sexually violent language. I use TW when I am aware of the need and on request.