Sunday, 5 October 2014

But what does it *feel* like?

I feel like I need to try and explain being poly somehow. I mean, I don't feel obligated or anything. I am what I am. I don't have to explain it to expect respect. But I would like more people to understand and respect poly people, and hope that for people who are considering poly for themselves I can be of some help. Sooo.... this might be a meandering and ultimately confusing post, but let's give it a go.

Firstly: the way I feel, the things I believe and my personal practices are my own. I will try to point out how some other poly people I know or whose work I've read may differ from or support my own views, but pretty much these are my own views. I would encourage the curious to read as many poly blogs and faqs as you can find.

Secondly, and super-importantly: I do not think polyamory is "better" than monogamy, polygamy, polyandry or your great-aunt Muriel's slightly dubious relationship with her aspidistra. I tend not to be a fan of polygamy as practiced in many countries, including my own, because it can perpetuate gender imbalances and create abusive situations. As a concept practiced among informed and mutually consenting adults, polygamy is not evil. No relationship style that is consensual and strives for honesty is evil, or wrong, or better than any other.

It is perfectly possibly to choose a poly lifestyle because it is philosophically attractive and/ or practically expedient. In the first case, many people are drawn to poly because they reject notions of 'ownership' over their romantic partners. In the second, I know a number of people who first explored poly because they were in long distance relationships, which they didn't want to end but which were unable to provide for their day-to-day needs. The point is, it's not like you're born under some mystic star and that's why you're poly.

And yet. And yet for me that's exactly how it feels. When I first started reading about poly, years of feeling confused, depressed, unable to properly manage relationships, suddenly became illuminated. I had berated myself for not finding "enough" from the people I'd been with. I'd struggled with the fact that I always seemed to be in a relationship, even when I felt I needed some singleton time. I'd found myself again and again developing "intense" friendships that went beyond what was expected of me when I was in another relationship. All of these things confused and upset me. When I started to understand that it's ok that my brain and heart are drawn to multiple relationships, so much changed. I felt stronger and more secure in myself. I was able to self-examine, try to understand myself and my motivations, and try to explain them better to those I care about. I was able to be more open to talking about relationship issues and problems without being on the defensive. I'd avoided all of these things before because I felt that I was at heart a bad person. I'm not. I may be different to you, or to other people. I may approach things in a different way. But I put a great deal of time, effort and love into my relationships, just as someone in a monogamous relationship would. Maybe more, because I'm very aware now of what it takes. You can't be lazy about relationships when you're poly. You shouldn't be lazy about relationships, no matter how you do them. Being active in my relationships can be tiring sometimes, but part of being active means I get to acknowledge that.

Let me illustrate that so it makes more sense. One thing I do is message both boyfriends and both girlfriends at least twice a day. Usually I say good morning to everyone (once I'm functionally awake), and I say goodnight before I go to bed. I'm also available to any of them if they need to message or talk to me during the day. Sometimes, I'm just tired, and emotionally overloaded, and even the good morning message feels like too much for me. I take a deep breath, and then make sure they all know how I'm feeling. Quick message. Like: "Sorry darlings. I'm exhausted and it's a busy day. Don't be expecting too much from me." And (surprise!) not only do they not feel neglected by my unavailability, I get a lot of support and love to help me replenish my energy supplies. Win! (BTW: I don't *always* do this. I make mistakes. Sometimes I'm sulky or in a really bad mood and I just leave my phone in my room or something. But I know it's better for me, and for those I care about, if I work to get it right.)

Yeah, this post is totally meandering all over the place. But I'm ok with it for now. Hitting publish.

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