By themselves, people are weird, but by the old gods are they ever weirder when they are plunged into a relationship situation. Suddenly, you are under the surveillance and scrutiny of another person (or set of persons), and that makes you continuously evaluate yourself. Relationships are crazy, and this remains just as true for monogamous, male/female partnerships, as it does for polyamorous relationships, any and all genders in the mix. It’s a myth that one kind of relationship is more difficult than the other; it boils down mostly to the individual, and why specifically you desire one type of extended mating ritual to another.
In a recent article in Salon, Angi Becker Stevens proves how well a polyamorous relationship can function (she being part of a triforce of romance, with her as the middle element), but how much discomfort she still receives from outside parties in regards to her decision to be polyamorous. Many folks see polyamorous relationships as crazy sex octagons (these people most likely of the same ilk as serial monogamists that also still believe same sex marriage is a sin), and still others simply disagree with it, but openly I might add. Stevens recounts how well her husband, boyfriend, and daughter all plan to live harmoniously under one roof (her daughter thinks its awesome cause there’s more love to go around), and the comments to such a lovely article suggest that what sounds overtly like domestic bliss is actually some kind of sin fest. Weird, huh?
Like any sexual relationship, the business of organizing it should be up to the individuals within the confines of the thing, not the rest of society. That sure is correct. But, in my travels I’ve come across people who, in their polyamorous practices, become rather defensive over their seeming otherness, valuing their polyamory over what other individuals in their romantic pairing or tripling (or quadrupling, if you are an organizational and sexual wizard) might think. Once I encountered a human who said they’d never date a monogamist based on their romantic beliefs. The monogamists who fervently (like jerks, a lot) defend their monogamy begin to look pretty similar to their polyamorous counterparts; both are labeling themselves with a flawed system.
Stevens writes from a peculiar place, as she is very, very successful. I’d be interested to see her husband’s thought process, which seemed to go from jealousy to acceptance, just as a curiosity. One of the comments on the site was about how this woman seems indulgent in her quest for a whole lotta love (I love you, Led Zeppelin), and although I disagree with that premise academically (some people are wired to love more than one person), I can imagine that the husband, upon learning of his wife’s polyamorous intent, wasn’t all that amused. I’m impressed that the triangle plus child works, I really am, but this as a role model for polyamory is a mite tenuous.
Polyamory and monogamy both function well only when good, good, goddamn great communication is achieved. You don’t have to reveal every shred of yourself, but you have to honestly divulge what you want to your partner(s), or else the polyamorous intention, say, will seem like cheating to the other parties involved. A polyamorous relationship works when desires are respected on all ends of the relationship. And if one of the parties is not ok with the desire to practice polyamory, the correct way of dealing with it is to hash it out respecting both views, not trying to force one type of sexual, romantic dynamic onto the situation. If you are into poly, and your partner is not, it’s not actually a moral argument or anything, but maybe an impending breakup (not a bad thing, really, more like saving each other from opposing viewpoints that do in fact compose your embedded romantic expectations).
Basically, if you find yourself evaluating your romantic preferences, and find that your current situation does not fulfill them, it’s up to you to reconcile the feelings. The government can’t decide for you, nor can culture on the whole. Aligning with one system of sexing and being sexed (also, love and all that) is limiting, and can change depending on who you’re with. You may be in love with two people, and that’s totally fine, or be in love with one, and that’s also awesome.
Accept that we are mysterious and weird, and sometimes unable to fit into boxes, especially the ones we make for ourselves (the supposed freedom of poly is also a box, and actually just as difficult to manage because there is the whole double management going on). Love is a necessary, beautiful thing, but is weird and dangerous and has to be maintained and tethered, regardless of what kind of love is being practiced.