Tools of War in Love
Sometimes I don’t know what to say when someone asks me how I came about my choices, mostly I just feel the way I do and act on it. When your spouse/partner in life feels the same it certainly helps. Denying who and what you are is a struggle I’m sure many closeted homosexuals understand quite well. I wouldn’t compare the struggles of the poly community to theirs in terms of hardship, but the state of mind to hide your true self from friends, family, general community is similar. Neither can openly express themselves in many places and situations for fear of reprisal in one form or another. I can say I’m not open with my family about my choices simply out of not wanting to deal with the arguments that would ensue. Their approval in what I do tends to vary as their beliefs are rooted heavily in a religious upbringing. While their upbringing wasn’t forced on me, the ‘odd’ choice here or there I still catch flak about. Interestingly enough, I think they’d be more ok with me being Gay than wishing to have a polyamorous relationship.
I have always relied on the definition of cheating in a relationship being that of a lack of consent, or simply the secrecy and/or lying, of what one person in a relationship was doing. Honesty is a core piece of any relationship, personal or professional. The occasional white lies (“Do I look fat in this dress?” for instance) not withstanding, I have always simply asked for Honesty in my relationships. Sometimes these truths have been a bit brutal to handle, but often the lies used to cover the truth hurt more. I was cheated on once when I was younger by a girl I’d always liked. We chose to have a relationship at one point in school, only to have it end because of her guilt she was intimate with another guy. Not only was the act covered up with a lie, but the who/what/where/when/why of it all was too. Complex lies are difficult to concoct, let alone keep straight. It didn’t take long for the truth to come out, by that point the damage to our relationship had been done. Things were never the same between us and our friendship suffered because of it.
By contrast, the most honest relationship I had before my marriage was entirely transparent. While there was still pain in the truth of everything we did (and everything we did to each other), we remain friends to this day. We were spiteful and terrible to each other, and while I look back and realize we were both idiots for the way we chose to act toward each other — the honesty of our actions was reassuring and helped us repair/discuss how we felt overall. Ultimately we chose to never be intimate with each other again, but this was a process that took several years and would not have been possible had we spent our years together lying to each other — and more importantly, to ourselves.
Even now, after embracing a polyamorous lifestyle, there are simply some people which intimacy is more of a chasm than a line in regards to difficulty to cross. Simply being able to have, or capable of, more than one relationship is not an indication you should. You need to be as honest with yourself as you are your partners, either current or prospective. If one person can satisfy your every need, then I wish all the glory and power to you. Not every person is fulfilled by a single partner, and this isn’t something that should be seen as a weakness — in either party. I might feel fulfilled with my wife and/or one other, whereas she might need more than me or more than one other. These are personal feelings to each person and as long as your standing relationships don’t begin to suffer, I don’t see a problem with these feelings. The issue is always honesty and communication between all involved.
The only external conflict, if you’re maintaining the honesty of your relationships, should be that of consent. Comfort of the people involved is an issue. A given couple may have vastly different comfort levels in regards to polyamory. While one may feel ok with their partner being with as many other people as they wish — the other might not. These are talks that should happen and be handled lovingly, and with understanding, from both parties. Especially when a relationship is just starting a life of polyamory, the fears I’ve spoken of previously are very large and very real. Often it simply comes down to letting it happen. You can’t fear speculation, only the fact of a situation. Being afraid your spouse might leave you, or love you less (or you them), before anything of the sort has happened is largely irrational. No one has ever accused love of being rational, however, and the fact you have these fears can also verify your love as well.
I choose not to be worried about things until they happen. At that point I can reflect personally on how I feel, and if it comes to pass that the situation made me uncomfortable — I talk to my spouse or significant other about it. My discomfort might simply be an error in my own perception of the situation, but if not then at least my concerns are in the open. If those concerns strain your relationship, then the lifestyle may not be for you. I believe that every relationship will be tested in such a manner at some point. It’s not something to fear, just a fact of love. If love truly conquers all, then the first step is to provide something to conquer. Communication and honesty are certainly the tools by which Love can conquer, so why intentionally be unprepared for those challenges?