POLYAMOR-WHAT?

A disclaimer to start with: I have no lived knowledge or experience of polyamory besides knowing one or two people who have been in polyamorous relationships. This post is about challenging our comfort boxes.

I’m writing about it, or actually, inspired by it, after being sent this article from the Guardian. A friend sent it to me in the middle of Saturday afternoon, as I lay on my sofa watching the second or third film of the day – it was a tough week, so I decided to have a mindless and sofa-bound weekend. The title caught my attention immediately, and since the movie wasn’t that exciting, I paused and started reading it. Within the first paragraph, I began experiencing metaphorical heart palpitations, and I actually felt my body temperature become hotter. I kept reading it paragraph by paragraph, experiencing a variety of uncomfortable feelings and sensations, almost quitting the article altogether at least 3 times, and feeling absolutely challenged by its content. Obviously, me being me, my first question was “what is bothering me so much about this article?” I mean, I’ve read and heard far more shocking things, and yet, there I was, wanting to talk about it to someone, seeing what they thought, if they had felt the same level of discomfort that I had.

I’ve said a few times over the many posts I’ve written over time that relationships are the bane of my life. Romantic relationships, specifically. I actually think I’m quite a good friend, and work colleague, for instance. But when it comes to romance, dating, and being with someone in that manner, it often feels like whatever switch operates that part of me, gets switched off as soon as I meet someone. In fact, my return to therapy back in March was spurred, not by the massive change in career direction and early-30s existential crisis, but by relationships. You see, over the years, there has been a particular kind of person that I tend to attract into my life: men in relationships. Boyfriends, husbands, I’ve received proposals from tons of them. Often, they’ll only confess to their extra-marital escapades after the escapade has taken place. However, it had been a while since this had happened, and then in February, at a friend’s party, there I was again. Same script, different cast. This one in particular, really stirred something at my core, and after all these months, I still don’t know quite why that was. A part of me understands the spiritual principle of “like attracts like”, the very famous law of attraction, and whilst I understood that if I was attracting unavailable men, then I must also be unavailable, I just didn’t understand why exactly. I mean, I do deeply feel that I want to be with someone, so what was the block?

Six months later, I feel that I am in a slightly different space. My therapist, bless him, has been consistently and lovingly challenging, and has really helped me to see many things from a different perspective, including the many why’s and how’s of my blockages with regards to romantic partners. Most of them run extremely deep, as they are almost as old as I am, and are therefore harder and slower to change or shift. Awareness is always the first step, but the staircase is long. I am, however, more open, less rigid, and more willing to question what I think are my personal beliefs, but really are my collective beliefs. As I mentioned last week, after we receive many of our social and cultural scripts from our parents and elders, we then become our own righteous upholders of those scripts.

And so, as I read this article about polyamory, I realised that the internal discomfort I was experiencing was really a battle between my new-found openness and the very old scripts which I was taught growing up, and which I have been upholding on my own without question. Well, this article certainly made me question a few things, but it also excited me. First of all, I was extremely impressed and in awe at the emotional maturity of all those that were interviewed. If I recall correctly, they were younger than me, and were navigating relationships in ways which my heart and mind were finding difficult to follow or understand. Their emotional maturity was apparent in the way they described their boundaries, routines, and responsibilities within their relationships. I was particularly impressed by their description of their sense of responsibility regarding emotional exchanges and intimacy, and how certain, and very tricky conversations, had to be had in order for the continuous balance of their connection to be maintained.

This is the foundation of all relationships: open, honest, consistent communication about every person’s wellbeing, so that the love and desire that might have initially brought people together may continue to grow. Relationships are difficult because even though we may have all received the same social and cultural scripts, we also may have drawn slightly different conclusions from them, based on our life experiences. This means, that different people will think of open and honest communication in slightly different ways. I mean, I absolutely believe in absolute honesty in relationships, but do I think that if I don’t do this myself, that I’ll get it from someone else? Absolutely not! This is what makes things difficult: we want things that we are often afraid to do or be, ourselves. Can I expect someone to completely open up to me, if I don’t completely open up to them? Vulnerability is part of authenticity.

One other thing that the article made me think about was the potential of polyamory on a more macrocosm level. If you think about it, polyamory breaks away from most systems currently ruling societies and cultures around the globe. Its fluidity of being with people of different genders and sexualities, goes against all the binaries by which our world is structured around. I jokingly said this to someone, but I also think it’s true: perhaps polyamory is the antidote to patriarchy and binary structures of gender and sexuality. It also represents a form of relationship which includes the sharing of time, space, energy, and emotions, at its core, and thus a more egalitarian, less hierarchical type of relationship. Its central unit is more expansive, perhaps more complex, but also has more boundaries and protections, and most likely much more freedom, since relational dynamics are often communicated between all those involved. This is the paradox of freedom: in order to exist without causing harm, it requires strong, healthy boundaries. This is what every therapist knows to be true, and that’s why we’re often rigid with time, or contact outside of clinical hours. The professional boundaries enable the personal freedom to express and explore. In the case of polyamory, it seems that the many boundaries also enable freedom in all aspects of the relationship.

Read the article, let it percolate, and let me know how it felt!

Until next week!