Polyamory Isn't All About You
Hi there. I'm Wes. You might know me as Gina's husband, or as Ginny's boyfriend. I probably won't post very often, but I will when I find the time. My posts will probably feature my personal philosophy, and possibly legal issues if anything interesting comes up.
Today, I want to talk about why anyone who is really in love ought to be polyamorous. First, let's clarify what I mean by "polyamory." When I talk about a polyamorous relationship, what I mean is a relationship that doesn't have rules against either partner pursuing other sexual or romantic relationships. You can be polyamorous without dating more than one person. The important thing is that there is no formal or informal agreement between partners to be exclusive, and each partner enthusiastically consents to the other seeing other people.
I talk about polyamory a lot. When I mention it, people generally say "I could never do that. I'm too jealous." or some variation thereof. When pressed, it becomes clear that, generally, though people would like to be able to date more than one person in a vacuum, people don't think it would be worth the emotional pain of having their partner be "unfaithful," and the strain that it would put on the existing relationship, with resulting stress, animosity, fighting, etc. All of which is a big pain in the ass.
This, I submit, is the wrong way to look at it. The most convincing reason, to me, to be polyamorous, has nothing to do with what *I* want for myself. The convincing argument is this: I love my partners. For brevity's sake, I'll just talk about Gina, my wife, as she was the only one I was with when we decided to be polyamorous, but were I to rethink my decision today, all of this would apply equally to Jessie and Ginny. To be monogamous would be to say to Gina "if you develop a sexual or romantic interest in someone other than me, I want you to ignore or suppress those feelings," because exploring them would hurt me. Put simpler, it would be saying "If you get what you want, that is bad for me." Monogamy, like all rules in a relationship, sets the two partners against each other. For one to gain, the other must lose.
I wanted to be polyamorous because I wanted Gina to have the things that she wanted. I wanted what makes her happy to also make me happy, even if it sometimes inflames my insecurities. That's what love is, to me. So I don't look the decision to be polyamorous in terms of what I'm getting out of it (though I'm getting a lot). I look at it in terms of what it means to love someone. I don't understand how a person can claim to love his partner, but still seek to prevent his partner from gaining happiness in the "wrong" way.
To this, people often say "well, neither of us want to see anyone else." Which is great, if it's true. But if your partner isn't interested in seeing anyone else, then you don't need an exclusivity agreement. It would be completely meaningless. The only reason to agree to be monogamous by rule is because you anticipate the situation in which one of you wants to date someone else. There are four possible scenarios:
Explicitly Monogamous Relationship:
1. Neither partner wants to see anyone else --> monogamy!
2. One or both partners want to see someone else --> forced monogamy, with all of the nasty implications described above
3. Neither partner wants to see anyone else --> monogamy!
4. One or both partners want to see someone else --> they do!
As you can see, if neither partner wants to see someone else, the results for an explicitly monogamous couple and a polyamorous couple are exactly the same, and no exclusivity agreement is required.
People (often people who aren't in relationships yet) also often say "I want to meet someone who only wants me. That's a condition of my having an intimate relationship with someone." They tend to phrase this in terms of values or compatibility, as in "I only want to date people who share my values." And while people can set whatever goals they like, by explicitly agreeing to be monogamous, partners are still limiting each other's future desires in the way I described. Almost everyone feels desire for someone other than their primary partner at some point, and it's a mug's game to try to predict if you will or won't, when you're talking about a long-term relationship. Also, If you really meet someone who doesn't want anyone else, you don't need the agreement. The agreement only matters if one or both partners want to see someone else.
So next time you think about polyamory, and you're tempted to say "I could never do that," I urge you to think about why not. If you truly love your partner (or will truly love your theoretical future partner), isn't it the only thing that makes sense?