I’ve just started to explore the world of polyamory. Before all else, I want to say that I am experimenting, and I am one person — I in no way speak for the polyamorous community as a whole.
During my first relationship, which was very brief, I realized that all of my desires for sexual and romantic relationships with other people did not lessen, let alone go away, because I had a girlfriend. We didn’t date long enough to really talk about what we “were,” and I didn’t really have opportunities to be with other people, so it never became an issue while we were dating. I did realize that I would be upfront with the next person I dated and tell them that monogamy wasn’t a given for me — that it took time and was a “down the road if ever” sort of thing.
The reasons people enter into polyamorous relationships vary. Some are polyamorous or monogamous as an identity. My recent ex just couldn’t conceptualize loving more than one person; others can’t conceptualize a one-on-one commitment that excludes engagements with other people. As far as “who I am,” I could really do either type of relationship. I’ve just thought a lot about what it means to be “with” someone. “Being together” for me requires knowing that I am important to that person. If other people are also important, it doesn’t really bother me. Willingness to avoid feelings and sex with other people is very far down on my list of important relationship factors. I need a lot of attention and affection, and if I have those things, I don’t really care what’s being given to anyone else.
One thing I’ve learned (okay, I already knew this starting out, but it’s been reinforced),is that polyamory does not work if all partners aren’t into it. Monogamy is really important to some people, and being poly is really important to others. Attempting to be part of a polyamorous or a monogamous relationship just for another person when it feels deeply wrong is a really, really bad idea. In one of my relationships I wanted to be polyamorous and my partner wanted to be monogamous, at least at that point in our lives. We both tried it each other’s way, even though we were sure of the way we wanted our relationship to work. It resulted in both of us being hurt frequently, either way we tried it.
I feel stifled in monogamous relationships. I learned that what I want is someone who isn’t scared of losing me. I want someone who will talk to me when they’re jealous so we can work through it. I want a relationship where we are both happy to share each other, knowing that each other’s love is not finite, so we won’t lose anything by our partner seeing someone else. I want monogamy to be something we discuss after being together for awhile, comfortable with each other, and decide on, if we decide on it, because it’s what we both truly want.
I know that polyamory can work, especially if all partners are enthusiastic about it. I know people in happy open relationships. I have friends in an open marriage. They’re very sexual, so they don’t “use up” their sexual energy on anyone. They have a lot of love and energy, so they don’t use up their affection, either. I, too, have a high sex drive and a lot of love and social energy, and when I’ve tried to give it all to one person, it felt like trying to pour an entire box of cereal into a kid’s drinking glass. It simply didn’t work.
I also want to mention that jealousy isn’t absent in polyamorous relationships; it’s just handled differently. I think that generally, jealousy is fear that you’re losing your place in someone’s life, that you’re going to be less important, that someone else is replacing you. If being reassured that their place hasn’t changed and they’re not replaced, nor will they be, doesn’t stop a person from wanting me all to themselves, it’s possessiveness — not jealousy, in my opinion, and I don’t want to date a possessive person anyway. I do not want anyone to take it as a given that they get to “have” me because I spend time with them. Just like talking to someone on a dating site for five minutes doesn’t entitle them to pictures of me, dating someone for a few weeks or months or years doesn’t entitle them to control over my body and my feelings. For me, nothing does.
I may want a monogamous relationship one day, if I stop having the energy or sex drive or time for more than one person, or if I find someone who somehow fills all of my needs just right. I’m not ruling it out. But for now, I just really want to assert to those I’m dating that it isn’t a given. A person doesn’t own me when I tell them I have feelings for them. They don’t own me when I tell them they’re most important to me. They don’t own me even if I marry them. I am always mine, and what I choose to do with me is my decision. How much I choose to share with anyone is my decision, and all either of us, my partners and I, can hope is that we’ll want to share a pretty equal amount of time, love, and energy with one another.
Written by Zeinah Zaki
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