Sunday, July 06, 2014

Coming Out Of A Closet

This one may lose me some friends. I hope not, but still.  If that is the case, please know this before you read, and try to keep it in mind as you read: whether we have been friends for a month or for decades, I have valued your friendship. I hope that you can read this and incorporate it into your knowledge of me without too much prejudice. If you can’t, that’s okay. 


There comes a point when I have to announce who I really am. I have to step out of this closet. I’ve been in here for most of a lifetime and the air in here is stifling.

No, not the fabled closet where the gayfolk reside. That one is finally, at long last, starting to be ripped open from both sides. My closet’s off in a whole different room. Just like the gay closet, you probably know somebody besides me in this one. I am--we are--the few, the proud, the polyamorous.


Polyamory is a hybrid word deriving from Greek poly, “many”, and Latin amor, “love”. The word breaks a linguistic rule: properly speaking it should be multiamory or polyphilia. But then, being polyamorous breaks a cultural rule that’s much stronger. You’re not supposed to love more than one person at a time--in fact, depending on how strict your view of marriage is, you’re not supposed to love more than one person, ever, once the rings are exchanged.

That’s not how love works, in my experience. Most people love more than one person...the ones who claim to love only one are either lying or dangerous. Within the bounds of conventional marriage, when ‘other’ love crops up, you have some choices to make:

  1. You can manage/contain that ‘other’ love, which usually involves toning it down and removing most, if not all, physical expression. This is probably the most common approach. Depending on your marriage, it might still be considered ‘cheating’: many husbands and wives view their spouse’s opposite-gender friends with suspicion, even if there’s no sexual contact whatsoever It also places what I consider to be an artificial limit on love. I’ll talk about this later.
  2. You can “cheat” on your spouse. Not an advisable course of action, but very common. Almost always a preliminary step to
  3. You can leave your spouse and go be with the other love. Also common, and in my view, at least, a horrific overreaction.

Polyamory posits a fourth option:

4. You can incorporate other love(s) into your life, within parameters you set with your partner. 

These rules can mirror those of monogamy, only with more than two people involved (that’s called polyfidelity). They can regulate contact with other loves, ensuring the primacy of the marriage. They can do any number of things, not all of which have to do with sex.


I’ve written before on our society’s disturbing tendency to confuse sex and love. Those of my readers who have heard me say “I love you” to them need to pay particularly close attention to what I’m about to write.

In stepping out of this closet, I am NOT announcing to ANYONE reading this that I want to have sex with you. I want to make this perfectly clear. THIS GOES A HUNDREDFOLD if you’re in a committed monogamous relationship. Polyamory is not about breaking trust. What kind of expression of love is it if I hurt someone you love? That’s not love, it’s possessiveness, and I can assure you I haven’t a scrap of that in me.

Polyamory is also distinct from “swinging” least for me. Some swingers consider themselves poly and some polyfolk might call themselves swingers, but for me, swinging is primarily about sex and poly is primarily about love (which may include sex, but certainly doesn’t have to). This implies no judgment on swinging...I just don’t think it’s for me.

I’m also not making a judgment on monogamy. That’d be like a gay person suggesting it’s somehow morally wrong to be straight. This road I’m on is not for everyone. “Mine is not a better way; mine is only another way.” Poly won’t work for many people; as one friend said, “it sounds complicated”. It feels natural to me and it feels complicated and probably unnatural to my friend and THAT’S OKAY. 

I’ve come out to my closest friends already without incident. I’ve had unqualified expressions of support, which does my heart a world of good. Some have suggested they’ll have questions. I don’t doubt that.  Go ahead in Reddit-speak and AMA--ask me anything. I’ll answer according to your comfort level and I’ll do it privately, I think I have some interesting views on topics surrounding love. My views on jealousy, in particular, have broadened considerably of late, and I know that’s one of the first things people tend to ask...”aren’t you jealous”?

 Other friends kind of minimized it in their minds. Which *also* does my heart a world of good, because while “poly” is a very important part of who I am, it need not affect a friendship in any way. I think it’s just great if you can assimilate that into your knowledge of me without a hitch. If you’d rather not think about it...well, I *would* like to stress somehow that Poly Ken is nobody to be afraid of, but beyond that, I won’t bring it up if you don’t.

The last time I tried to step out of this here closet was twenty some odd years ago. I was told it was a phase I was living through. I was told I was greedy. I was told to grow up. I took that message to heart and tried to shut it off, or at least turn it down. I can do that latter--I’ve kept it on low for quite a long time--but doing so feels like I’m limiting something that’s integral to who I am. Well, that’s exactly what I’m doing. Limiting love.

Having grown up, I can say that polyamory is not a phase. Or if it is, it’s a lifelong phase.I shared my puppy loves in grade three. Through high school and beyond, I was forever looking for other partners for my partners (the poly term for that is “metamours”, which I think is a great word) they could experience the things I couldn’t give them myself. My first instinct with treasure of any kind is to share it, not to hoard it.
Greedy? Upon a whole lot of reflection, I think actually that to me,  monogamy is greedy. In monogamy, you are restricting your partner’s love to one person: you. If you fail to fulfill your partner in any way...tough. They’re stuck with you. How is that not greedy, keeping someone all to yourself? Especially if that person is so wonderful? That’s...odd. Not “bad” odd...I refuse to make that judgment, It just doesn’t seem to work for me. I have too much love in me, always have had, and I noticed long ago that the more I give, the more I have to give. 


Polyamory is a lovestyle that is consensual, not coercive. Whether it manifests as a group marriage, “friends with benefits” or anything in between, it is practiced in the open, with the full knowledge and consent of all involved. Some cultists might seek to dignify their behaviour by calling it polyamory, just like some unethical people might view polyamory as a license to cheat on their spouses. Doesn’t make it so.

It doesn’t mean a lack of privacy, either: indeed, beyond what I’m about to write I will not speak or write about applied polyamory in my own life without the express and explicit consent of Eva *and* anyone else involved. No names will be used, nothing incriminating described. Openness in love does not mean openness to all.
 I will say this, though: I am very happily married to a truly incredible woman...and I will stay that way.  

Strict monogamists may ask themselves what the value of a marriage is, if love is not exclusive. It’s a huge value, a value beyond price. Eva remains the most important person in my world, my touchstone, my rock. On October 14th, 2000, “with...all the words of my heart”, I married her and bound our lives together. Those binds are all the stronger after nearly fifteen years. They’ll grow stronger yet. 

But my love for my wife, as life-defining and powerful as it is, does not lessen my love for others and I am tired of pretending it does. The time to express that love is limited. But the love itself is not a limited resource for me. Or for Eva. This is a path we choose to walk together. It will have bumps: any path has bumps. But it also has practically endless possibilities. Polyamory: love without limits.


I’m sorry if any of this has offended you. I understand that it’s a difficult thing for many people to wrap their heads around. I welcome any questions you have, and will answer them truthfully while respecting the limits and boundaries of others. That is, after all, polyamory in practice.

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