But then, so is monogamy. So are relationships, in general. It is not the underlying structure of the relationship that makes it easier or harder, although admittedly poly and open relationships can be more complex, simply by virtue of having more relationships to manage. The difficulties one faces in managing healthy interpersonal relationships, and the skills one employs in overcoming those difficulties, are the same whether you are monogamous or poly or something in between.
In a recent chat, a friend told me that she had been catching up on my latest blogs. She was concerned about my recent emotional upheaval, and worried that I was unhappy in my relationships, that perhaps my dis-ease with W’s recent play date was an indication that I truly don’t want to be poly or in an open relationship in the way that I am. “Maybe,” she said, “you actually want a closed triad with your partners.”
The fact of the matter is that, during all this, W posited the same thing. Was the root of all this that I truly wanted a closed relationship with he and Ad?
There’s a knee-jerk part of me that doesn’t like that question, that immediately and instinctively denies the possibility. But the other part of me, the one that makes me stop and pay attention, to think about these kinds of questions, even if I don’t like them, forced me to do so. Even while everything in me was saying, “No!” and listing all the reasons why that is absurd, I had to let myself toss the question around and give it room to breathe. If I didn’t, then I would be just as bad as people that simply accept the one-man/one-woman paradigm without ever questioning if it’s right for themselves. It is only through thinking about, questioning it, that I can know if it truly is right for me.
But the conclusion that I came to is that nothing could be farther from the truth. Having difficulties dealing with my own insecurities and issues has absolutely nothing to do with wanting to change the structure of our relationship. It could mean that–oftentimes people realize, as did my reader in the last Question Time, that their discomfort is an indication of needing to change something within the relationship. That is true in monogamous and poly relationships. But far less often do you hear a monogamous person struggling with some personal peccadillo say that it is the monogamous relationship dynamic that must change, that must be at fault. When you’re non-monogamous, it’s just so easy (especially for outsiders) to blame the dynamic and decide that is what must be changed, rather than addressing the underlying issue in oneself.
Jealousy and insecurity are not poly-specific issues. Being monogamous would not necessarily mean that I would feel any more secure in myself. In fact, I would contend that being monogamous might even hinder the personal growth that I have experienced since I have embraced this lifestyle. It is only through forcing myself to acknowledge and examine my own failings in this regard that I have had the opportunity to address them. It is only through the love and support of my Others that I have found the strength to admit my weaknesses, and to strip my insecurities of their power over me (okay, I haven’t completely overcome them, but it’s a much closer thing than it was.) I am a better person because I have been forced to face these things about myself and work to overcome them. And I couldn’t do that from within the “safety” of a monogamous relationship. For me, emotional growth requires emotional risk.
Does it hurt sometimes? Hell, yes. Is it hard at times? Yep, it sure is. But would I want to change a thing? Not on your life. I want to love with an open heart. I want to give to them all that they have given to me. I want to honor where I am on this journey and where they are, even when it stings like fuck. Even in the midst of the darkest part of my turmoil last week, I never once wished that the girl W played with would not call him, would cancel. (Oh all right, maybe once, in a fit of self-pity, I may have said it.) But I never, truly, wanted her not to want to play with him. In fact I bent every psychic energy I had to willing her to call. Because I knew the pleasure he would get from it, and I want that for him more than anything. Even more than my own in-the-moment happiness.
Because in the end, while I may be unhappy with myself at times, I have never been happier or more fulfilled, felt more loved, cherished and supported in any other relationship in my life than I do in this one. Not once in all the crap that I was feeling last week did I want to alter the rules, boundaries or structure of our relationship. All I wanted to change how I felt, how I reacted. All I wanted was to be a better me, so that I could live up to this wonderful relationship that I have.