Yesterday, I posted a link to an article "Is Polyamory a Choice?" I received a fair amount of attention from folks. One woman posted a trope I've heard many, many times:
"Poly is one of those ideas that sounds much better in theory than is possible in practice...."
I've heard this from my friends, my doctor, my therapist (yes, my therapist), the butcher, the baker, the candlestick maker... So many folks seem to feel that poly* is like the unicorn of relationships. Great in the abstract, but once you put the pedal to the metal, the car just won't go.
Where do these naysayers get the data on which to base this conclusion? Is it researched? Or is it just a part of "common knowledge?" I have to believe that at least some of them have, in fact, attempted poly* relationships - or maybe they called them "open." And, obviously, they didn't work out well, so they concluded that poly* = no go.
Here are my top three reasons why poly might not work for you (but may work for others):
You're Not Poly. If you're not polyamorous by orientation, by birth, by environmental shaping/raising, by inclination to share yourself and your partner with more than one person, etc, you may not be able to sustain a poly* relationship. You may find that you are really stretching yourself too thin to fit yourself into the poly* box and it's just not the right fit. You may dream of a relationship where you don't have to "worry" about who your mate is pairing up with in your absence. You may find a large amount of solace and comfort in knowing that your mate is exclusive with you - and this may bring you joy. In other words, you may be monogamous. (Ergo: Monogamous people can't necessarily choose to "go poly" any more than straight people can choose to go "gay.")
You're Not Disclosing. Poly* is not "cheating without the ramifications." Poly* is disclosing all your desires, your wishes, your feelings, your intentions to at least one, if not more people, at the same time. It is being open with yourself and with those in your life. It is inviting intimacy of a kind that is profound and vulnerable. It is investing time in yourself to discover your true motives and making sure that you are being responsible to the people you are involved with.
Do monogamous people do this work, too? Sometimes. Do some poly* people neglect this work? Sometimes. But in order to have a successful poly* relationship, near full disclosure to all the parties involved is the best practice, I've found. If this kind of disclosure feels alien to you, poly* may not be for you.
You Don't Trust Deeply Enough. I know. I've heard it said over and over that monogamous relationships require trust and that poly* relationships are about avoiding trust. Plain and simple: It's not true. Both types of relationships require a degree of trust and commitment that is profound and difficult to maintain, if you don't keep with it.
Think of it this way: when your monogamous mate goes out into the world, you have to trust that she is not going to start up a relationship with someone else. When your poly* mate goes out into the world, you have to trust that even if he starts up a relationship with someone else, he's going to keep your best interests at heart. Both take trust. Deep trust.
I would go so far as to say that poly* relationships require more trust than monogamous relationships because in the poly* dynamic, either mate may have their views expanded and broadened by someone who they think highly of. This could pose a threat to the original relationship. But it needn't. It could be a chance to grow, challenge, expand the relationship.
For those who think poly* is a choice, it certainly isn't a choice for everyone. Just as monogamy is not for everyone. I spent 15 months in a monogamous relationship and it was pretty foreign to me. I was confused about the boundaries and the expectations. I tried to talk them out with my partner, but she thought I was nuts for asking such "obvious" questions. We had more working against us than monogamy, but just my experience being monogamous for that short relationship gave me a very clear sense that I am, most definitely, polyamorous. Through and through.
Is poly* a choice? Some say yes. I say not for me!
I was born this way.