Q: “So how does an analytical pragmatic idealist become poly?” (Taken from a message to me on OKCupid.)
A: The short answer is, probably the same way anyone else does. At some point, I realized that monogamy didn’t work for me and chose to live my life in a way that made sense to me, even if it doesn’t to the rest of the world.
The long answer is more complex, of course.
As for the “analytical pragmatic idealism,” I think that comes more into play in how I approach living poly than in how I made the choice, but I’ll tackle that in a bit.
First of all, I don’t think someone “becomes” poly. Being poly is who you are. Acting on it is a choice. I didn’t become poly by choosing to live my life poly. I always was poly, I just chose to live monogamously during certain periods (or I was unaware that there were any other options.) Living monogamously doesn’t change the fact that I am poly, just as having only male lovers doesn’t change the fact that I am bisexual, or having vanilla sex doesn’t change the fact that I am kinky.
His question is really more of a nuts & bolts question, I think, and the one that I see asked on the Fetlife boards and get asked myself a lot, though perhaps not in those exact words. “I don’t think monogamy suits me; I’m not happy living monogamously. How do I “become” poly?”
No one can really answer that question for another. For me, once I realized that I could not be happy any other way, I had to bring it up to my (now) ex. And yeah, he became an ex, because he couldn’t be happy living any way but monogamously.
It was a horrible choice to have to make: stay in a marriage that was basically good, with a man I loved and had raised three children with; or risk everything by confessing that I wasn’t satisfied in this one, key way. Monogamy really is at the heart of society’s ideal of marriage, and by even suggesting that I wanted something different–even if I could have chosen to stay monogamous after I’d brought it up–would change everything. Once you say, “I want the freedom to love others,” “I want the freedom to have sex with others,” or “I love someone else,” you have changed your relationship forever. There’s no going back.
Think about that a moment. If you have an established monogamous relationship, by trying to “become poly” you could very well be risking your relationship. Are you willing to make that choice?
Obviously I can’t tell you how to “become poly.” That’s a decision only you can make for yourself, a risk you have to decide to take.
There are some excellent resources out there if you choose to go that route, however. I didn’t know about any of the excellent books on alternative relationships when I broached the subject to my ex. Others weren’t even written yet. The Ethical Slut, Opening Up are two I can personally recommend. Another, Sex at Dawn, has recently been making the rounds and getting a lot of good reviews in the poly world, although I haven’t read it so can’t personally recommend it.
I’d also recommend finding local poly groups and talking to people that actually live a poly lifestyle. It’s easy to imagine what life as a poly might be like–talking to folks that have done it and are doing it can be enormously enlightening.
On a more personal note, I do think that those three self-descriptors that he picked up on in my OKC profile inform how I live poly.
Being an idealist, I believe that life should be a certain way…we should all be able to live in a way that (barring damaging others) is right for ourselves, regardless of what society or religion or others want of/for us. In my ideal world we are free to love who we want, in whatever way we want.
Being analytical, I looked at my life and the choices I had made up to that point, and made specific changes to my life in order to live it in a way that was right and good and healthy for me. The result was, yes, there were people hurt. My ex. Friends of ours that had cared for us as a couple. My kids… Yes, the divorce was hard on them. But I fervently believe that they are better human beings for having a parent that made a conscious choice to live a happy, fulfilled life, and for seeing a successful poly relationship in action. I believe that they will be able to make, if not better, at least more informed choices about how to live their own lives.
Being a pragmatist, I looked at my options and arranged my life in very specific ways to meet those needs. I realize that reality doesn’t always live up to my ideals, but I choose to live my life with as much self-determination as I can, changing what I have the power to in order to live my life in a way that more closely aligns with those ideals–but I am also able to accept that there are going to be things that I can’t change or affect.
For the rest of my Poly Q&A posts, go here.
If you have a question you’d like to ask, leave a message here or feel free to email me at piecesof jade at gmail dot com.