Sunday, January 22, 2017

I Beg To Differ!

I am still getting fundamentally misunderstood.

Not by those nearest and dearest to me: by definition, those people understand what I am about. But people on the periphery have made some wilfully ignorant and frankly insulting remarks about the way I live and love.

Still seething from being completely misread last night, I happened to stumble on an old article called

"Why Polyamory Just Doesn't Work".



Such a short, pithy article, that comes across more as an advertorial for the authors' books and seminars. They seem to be 'relationship experts'...which is all well and good, but it should give you an idea of the clients they deal with. Who goes to a relationship expert to say "everything in my love life is going swimmingly, not a single problem in sight?" That's like a mechanic suggesting you should never buy a car because, well, every car she sees in her shop has something wrong with it.

Let's look at the 'arguments' they muster.

First, they say that "it doesn't work in generating the depth of intimacy two people can generate in a committed relationship". The condescension, the deliberate choice of words here, rubs me all kinds of wrong way.
Let me tell you about intimacy. First, let's remove the connotation you probably have, that intimacy is sexual. It isn't. Sex can be, and often is, a SYMPTOM of intimacy, but I'm here to assure you that intimacy exists without sexual expression.
Depth of intimacy. People come to me and within short order they have told me intimate details of their lives to whom few, sometimes no, other people are privy. I don't ask for these details, but I do strive -- always -- to foster an environment in which the sharing of them is encouraged. I do this by means of empathetic listening, the sharing of my own intimate details, and never, ever judging. In short, what I'm going for here is unconditional acceptance.
Keep that attitude in mind for long enough and you find it grows into unconditional love, a growing-closer, a cherishing each person for all that they are.
That's depth of intimacy, and it doesn't magically dissipate just because it's shared. In fact, it can easily grow. Imagine baring your heart to two, or three people who love you. Imagine the healing, the strengthening, that takes place when more than one person concentrates on being unconditionally there for you.

Yes, it's taxing. Sometimes even for me, and the openness and size of my heart has been often noticed and remarked upon. Helping two people through anxiety attacks simultaneously is challenging. Doing that while exchanging sweet somethings with a third and fourth is supremely challenging, and stretches me to my working limit.
But you know what?
I LIVE for this. This is why I'm here, this is what I'm meant to do. This, and convincing others that they too can love and be loved. I'm not special. Check that: I am special, but I'm no more special than you or anyone else is.

So, Mr. and Mrs. Relationship Expert, don't presume to talk down to me about depth of intimacy. I suspect I know at least as much as you do on the topic.

And commitment? How dare you imply that only two people can be committed to each other? It barely merits a rebuttal. One wonders if this couple has kids, and if so, if they're only committed to one of them. Never mind that: how can you POSSIBLY be committed to raising even a single child together and ALSO be committed to each other? Let alone committed to your respective and mutual friends, your siblings, your parents, stop, stop, this is clearly impossible. ONE commitment only.

The next strawman they bring up against polyamory is jealousy. I have deconstructed jealousy here and won't repeat myself.

I feel jealousy. I used to think I came without that gene installed, but it turns out I lacked for triggers. My triggers fire when I can't have an experience with a partner that another partner routinely has. Three things to note here:

  • By "experience" I mean the most boring, everyday life things like shopping together. Sleeping together is a big one, too--and here I'm talking literal sleep, not what you're thinking when you hear 'sleep together'. 
  • I do not feel sexual jealousy. Period. Never have, doubt I ever will. 
  • Third thing: the difference between can't and haven't yet. If I get to shop, or sleep, or do housework, or whatever, with my partner on occasion, it utterly and totally ceases to bother me that anyone else gets that experience as well. 
And what do I do with jealousy? I process it--that's one thing they got right, the use of the verb 'to process', that's a very common poly phrase. I recognize that my jealousy is a choice I'm making, and it's almost certainly the wrong choice to make. I determine why it's the wrong choice (usually because I'm feeling insecure, and my insecurity is not in fact warranted)...and once I've processed that, I'm fine.

What I DO NOT do is blame MY jealousy on my partner or my metamour. I haven't had cause to do that yet: my insecurities have not been warranted. In other words, after that first heartbreaking veto,  I've been treated with respect every step of the way so far. My jealousies have thus been irrational, and relatively easy to work through. It bothers me that the same ones recur, but it becomes easier each time to dismiss them. Mostly, in my case, it's by turning can't into haven't yet.

This is, I'm convinced, the proper way to deal with jealousy. Time and energy to process? Yes, some. In my case, not much.  Is it time that detracts somehow from a relationship? No. I'll either process it silently on my own (and I can do that while attending to anything or anyone), or, at most, it'll be a quick check: "I'm feeling a little insecure because of ____". "Oh, sweetie, you shouldn't. It's entirely circumstantial and I love you." Maybe one more exchange and problem solved. Through the kind of healthy communication that marks any relationship, mono OR poly. 

I don't even know what "emotional-acting out and other complications involving children" means. I've seen a lot more of whatever that might be from monogamous men just lately, to be honest. Man-children. If the authors here are referring to actual children, again they're completely misreading polyamory.  

I have spoken to many poly people, living in various arrangements, who have children at home. The other parters become 'aunts' and 'uncles', or are referred to by name. Children, unencumbered by a lifetime of society drilling into them that only two people can care about each other and them, tend to respond very well to any number of people caring about each other and them. Whodathunkit?

I don't have kids, but from what I've been able to determine, the secret to happy, well adjusted parenting can be expressed very similarly no matter what the family dynamic is. If both/all parent figures are stable and loving towards each other and the child(ren), said child(ren) will most likely grow into stable, loving adults. If your relationship with each other and your kids is marked by drama, acrimony and emotional neglect, it really doesn't matter how many people are included in 'each other': you have a serious problem. 

The last "problem" they cite is the actual time and skill it takes to communicate effectively. Which is ridiculous, because they even admit that any relationship requires this. Here's a little secret: much of the added communication time and energy with a new partner is expended up front. Here's how we work, here's how we propose you'd work with us, and most critically, how would you prefer us to work with you. (Never, ever forget that all partners have feelings, desires and concerns of their own.) Lots of extra time and energy required if your new partner has had no prior exposure to poly...but even then, some mono people take to this like a stream to an ocean. 
Then there's little ironings-out that happen as the relationship builds, but again, that's ongoing in any relationship.
Successful people at any kind of relationship have three traits: empathy, communication skill, and an understanding of their own emotions and needs. Adding 'extra' people (I don't like that word, for reasons that should be obvious) CAN be challenging, but it doesn't have to be. It can blow up in your face, spectacularly, but it sure doesn't have to. In short: polyamory not only can work: in my own experience, it DOES. Very, very well.

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