The odd thing about love is that it isn’t finite. Love is actually rather exponential in nature, in that the more we love, the more we practice loving and learn how to love, the more abundant it becomes as we reinforce patterns of behavior which are loving behaviors. We shouldn’t hoard love, we shouldn’t smother it, control it, nor stifle it. We should allow it to play freely amongst others who love as we love, and we should extend freedom in love to others who love differently than we love.
In monogamy, I missed out on a lot of things about my partners, largely because I shut myself and the relationships I was in off to such things, usually by default, and turned away from them — things like my partners’ deep and real desire to, say, sleep with other people or develop a different kind of relationship dynamic than the one I offered. These were very real parts of my partner that I ignored, and beyond that, some of the most authentic and real parts of those people.
I closed myself off to the parts of my partners that I was afraid of and lost any sense of interaction or engagement with those massive pieces of my partners’ lives because of it. My fear conquered me, so I conquered my fear, and thankfully, I don’t have to live that way anymore.
Recently, the excellent and very-well-respected Medium writer, Emma Austin, raised some questions about polyamory and the place of the deeply romantic personality type in poly relationships, in her appropriately-titled Can a Hopeless Romantic Be Polyamorous?
Are polyamorous dynamics possible for romantic people? I think they are, and I subscribe to this identity of the romantic, so I decided to type of a piece from my inner-world of experience and witnessing the experiences of others, so that I may clarify some of these questions for the newly-embarking poly people out there.
The fact is, polyamory is the most romantic thing I’ve ever done, so if you’re a romantic who’s been considering polyamory, I’m here to tell you that it might be for you. The magic is contained in the little moments, little moments which may not be obvious from the outside, or maybe missed entirely; for some of these moments I suggest checking out my story Polyamory and Valentine’s Day: The Joy of Sharing.
Knowing Who Our Lovers Truly Are
If we truly want to be romantic in our relationships with others, we must love them on the deepest level for who they are — not the virtual-reality version, not the facade that we want to see of them, but them as they are in themselves, their goals, their ideas, their thoughts and feelings, their dreams, their emotions, and yes, their sexual and romantic desires — even when those desires don’t include us. To love someone, we must love all of them.
I’m not saying that monogamous people can’t be loving or romantic, they certainly can, but in my experience, most dynamics of monogamy were such that both partners shielded themselves from the reality that was the other partners’ sexual and romantic liberty.
Monogamous people can be very loving and romantic, but they can’t be wholly loving and romantic until they accept the parts of their partners that desire other things that aren’t them, at which point, facilitating those desires, those dreams, and those want to become manifest in reality, is no longer monogamy, so long as that person is capable of building an emotional connection with another person outside of the duo, and those are the dreams and desires in question.
I’m actually convinced that my years as a monogamous man deprived me of most of the humanity of those partners I was monogamous with — monogamy shuts off our fundamental human desires for sex, romance, variety, etc., and makes them taboo, but through poly, I’ve been able to understand my partner in those needs without reference to myself.
In polyamory, I’ve seen my girlfriend go through all of the waves of emotion possible from the third-party perspective, I wasn’t involved, and I got to know her more intimately through that process, everything from sex to frustration, from disappointment to surprise, all of those emotions aren’t emotions that I myself have the monopoly of the illusion of control over.
Liberty and Love:
Love and liberty go hand-in-hand, and I believe that force and coercion are tactics which are antithetical to the nature of both romance and love. Seduction, on the other hand, is much, much more appropriate, which is why many in our culture tend to view love as more effeminate — which is often just their way of saying that women are usually better at it. A brief aside, I believe that much of our cultural rejection of femininity is evidence of the threatening power of femininity — see Polyamory and the Sexual Revolution of Women.
When it comes to loving, we must love a free person, not an unfree object, and the moment that control or ownership enters the picture, we no longer love another as freely being themselves, but a curtailed version of themselves. No love can be truly romantic if it’s carried out under the pretense of obligation.
No matter how slight the discrepancy between who our partners are naturally, and what we see by turning our blinders towards the aspects of our partners that make us uncomfortable, that discrepancy is always going to be present, and, like a crack in a slab of concrete, will only get larger and more magnified throughout time as pressure falls down upon the relationship.
If I can’t bring myself to face the fact that my partner might have sexual desires — desires that they’d like to pursue in reality — and still love them for this, do I really love them wholly?
In polyamory, we aren’t asking our partners, “Shut off your desires for everything or anyone that doesn’t involve me!” and that’s where the romance lies — polyamory isn’t either/or, either you devote yourself to me or only me, or I won’t have this, it’s accepting of who our partners are as they are naturally, and for what they desire naturally.
Beyond this, I have always appreciated a sexually and romantically liberated woman, because I’ve known deep down inside that when liberated people choose us to be their partners, they do so unconditionally because they’ve chosen us freely among other possibilities.
Polyamory and The Seduction of Femininity
I’d actually like to suggest that polyamory is, in a very real way, more feminine than masculine, and it always will be, and it is so because of our cultural views of control, domination, ownership, and social roles instilled in us as respective sexes at an early age.
Polyamory, for many people, both men, and women, is an expression of feminine traits, like a rebuke of the idea of force, violence, and power as a method of obtaining affection and romance, and an embrace in more subtle traits, like intellect, caring, supporting nurture, and compassion.
Control and ownership are often seen as male concepts in our world, and love, attraction, and seduction as feminine concepts, and here is not the place to debate the validity of these cultural notions, but there is no doubting that they are very real. Liberty in love has been smitten since the outset since men needed a way to maintain power over their lovers.
Romance, if it is to remain true, must take place outside of the framework of control and coercion — it must be freely chosen in order to be romantic love, otherwise, it’s pure and inauthentic submission.
I don’t bring this up to start a debate about culture or the sexes, but romance too is a very feminine trait in our cultural framework, so what I am suggesting is that if you subscribe to the ideals of effeminate romance, you’ll likely enjoy those aspects of polyamory, the aspects like attracting our partners rather than controlling them or guilt-tripping them. These are staples of our polyamorous relationships, and why I personally subscribe to the dynamic. I’d rather not control my partner and I’d rather not have a partner who wants to be controlled, I’d much rather attract and live cooperatively, peacefully, and communally.
Polyamory Isn’t Utility
Many people outside of polyamorous dynamics view it as a weird anomaly and outgrowth of an otherwise normally “healthy” framework of monogamy. I too fell into this dynamic before I became the poly person I am today. I assumed that people generally tried monogamy and failed, and as their flames of passion and romance burnt out, they clung to each other as they embraced the sex of other people in hopes that they would reignite some long-dead spark that’s been missing for quite some time.
One massive misnomer that non-poly people seem to frequently get wrong is the belief from the viewpoint of the monogamous framework that we ‘allow’ our partners additional emotional and romantic bonds with other people. I think if you asked most successfully polyamorous people, the word ‘allow’ is antithetical to everything we’re trying to do — I support my girlfriend having a husband and he supports her having a boyfriend, but nobody allows another person anything in any way.
They often view us as losing control or passion from within the framework of controlled passion…as I’ve said elsewhere, in my relationship, we three often get asked, “So who takes priority in the poly situation, between the two men, who’s the most important?”
This misses the point —the point is that we may love different people differently because we are free to do so, and we often don’t subscribe to a hierarchical view of love, which I’d argue is antithetical to the nature of love itself.
That’s like asking which you are going to choose to sustain your life, food or water, and choosing one or the other is simply antithetical to any idea of human life — this is the framework of control we seek to escape, and there is romance in that, in supporting our partners flourishing in all aspects of their lives, rather than just the aspects in which we are the center. This selflessness is patently romantic.
This simply isn’t the reality. This reduces polyamory to a mere fixing of monogamy, and that’s not why people do it most often, and definitely not why successful people do it. Polyamory isn’t a patch to preexisting monogamy, it’s a dynamic unto itself, complete with different experiences and modes of romance which aren’t found in monogamy. The point of polyamory is to not be monogamous, and in that, are the categorical rejections of things like controlling, possessive love, the illusion of ownership, etc.
Polyamory Isn’t Detachment — It’s The Opposite
Polyamory, defined as the love and emotional connection with more than one partner, by definition precludes detachment — you can’t be detached and be polyamorous, someone with two romantic partners, one an uncaring and cold partner, the other warm and rife with feelings of romance, sounds to me more like a transition out of a decaying romance and into a new, vibrant one, and the people involved simply don’t want to admit that yet. And, I think that’s how most people who don’t understand polyamory view it, myself included at one point, and that was definitely inaccurate, to say the least.
I would take a bullet for my girlfriend in a classic Shakespearean fashion, and by extension, I would take a bullet for her husband as well, so that they may live on their relationship without me. That’s love. And that’s the reality I live in every single day. We connect on the most romantic of levels, and I’ll admit, at first I thought poly was sort of devoid of a deep connection, kind of a “do whatever you want and I don’t care,” sort of thing, but how wrong I was — painfully and undeniably wrong.
Our love is intensified in its unison, not diminished, because love is not an individual or selfish endeavor — and that’s an important concept, for me.
I care about them both undyingly, a depth of friendship and mutual goals that I never thought I’d share with another man, and there’s something beautiful in that. In a very real way, if we’re to say that we care about her happiness, then by extension, his happiness must also be real and important in our daily lives. To view the others in our poly dynamics as challengers or competition is to simultaneously not care about who our partner that we claim to care about cares about — that’s like saying we love our partners, but we don’t love their dreams.
That’s what real attachment looks like — that’s what real love looks like. This is undeniably romantic beyond anything I could have formerly imagined.
In my experience, this is how polyamory allows us a flexibility to build attachment in a deeper way in ways that most monogamy does not, because contributions to the greater whole are necessitated without the pretense that we need a reward from them from our partner — the idea that I must receive in order to give romantically goes right out the window with an additional partner, and we give for the good and well-being of others by necessity.
Loving others differently does not take away from someone’s love for us in any way, because love isn’t a finite resource, but a passion and process to be nurtured and embraced so that it may flourish and grow. It’s not that we don’t care about our partner's desires for others, it’s that we do care and choose to be supportive rather than feel threatened, because polyamory is not an either/or equation, because love isn’t an either/or equation.
© 2019; Joe Duncan. All Rights Reserved