Sometimes, poly IS hard

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.

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10 Responses to Sometimes, poly IS hard

  1. Nicoya says:

    I love the point that when something goes wrong in a poly or otherwise “open” relationship, the polyamorousness or openness gets the blame. When a “typical” relationship struggles, it’s never monogamy’s fault. That’s something to keep in mind…sometimes, relationships just don’t work; sometimes, the partners don’t listen to each other’s needs; sometimes, people mess up. It has little to do with open or closed.

  2. piecesofjade says:

    Yeah, this is something that I just don’t get. I DO recognize that having multiple relationships can exacerbate issues and can make things more complex, but that doesn’t mean being poly itself is to blame.

  3. Good for you through working out the issues and insecurities that YOU had! Self growth is always such an empowering process!

  4. Polyamory provides many opportunities for discomfort and growth. If you think of yourself as a fulcrum and your relationships as levers, those levers act on your pivot points simultaneously rather than serially, which tends to increase the pressure. People who do not have both good communication skills and the habit of self-examination tend to reach the conclusion that the problem is with “poly” rather than within themselves. But for many of us, that multiplicity of leverage points accelerates inevitable realizations — that the “problem” is the little voice in our heads that stirs up insecurities and jealousies. It’s about that part of us that wants to control everything it can, and the illusion of control is much easier to maintain in dyad relationships. For me, the beauty of polyamory is that I face things that make me uncomfortable more often than I otherwise would — which makes me examine why exactly I am uncomfortable, and thus spurs me to grow, both as a person, and as a member of my communities, small and large. I”m excited that you’ve arrived where you are. It is a good place to be. You’ve put your melancholy to good use.

  5. Kyle says:

    I think it’s really great that you recognized the need to let that uncomfortable question have some space, to breathe. As you said, the stuff we push down and try to deny gains strength and momentum. If we open up to those questions and give them some time, they’ll be what they should truly be and not monsters growing in the dark.

    In any relationship structure, there are challenges, as you pointed out. I agree with you, that for me, being in a poly/open relationship structure is the best. I agree with Kayar that since transitioning my monogamous relationship to an open/poly one, I’ve had much more opportunity for growth.. sometimes very painful, but over all very beneficial.

  6. Emerald says:

    I found this a really beautiful post, and like Nicoya, the offering about monogamy not usually being noted as “to blame” about relationship challenges in that structure while in a non-monogamous setting it seems frequently first pointed to resonated with me a lot. I have recognized and pointed out the same thing a number of times.

    Congratulations and thank you indeed for your willingness to examine yourself — that goes for those who responded in the comments as well!

    Best,
    Emerald

  7. Inferno says:

    “Jealousy and insecurity are not poly-specific issues.”
    They are human issues that the vast majority of people must learn to deal with at some time or another in life.
    Poly does make it hard to ignore such emotions however… while monogamy allows people to plow over the subject and ignore inner working.
    When a person opens up to the ‘more’ that person must also self examine on a regular basis.

  8. […] Sometimes, poly IS hard 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. (tags: polyamory relationships mlf) […]

  9. […] Sometimes poly IS hard – 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. […]

  10. […] Sometimes poly IS hard – 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. […]

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