Tuesday, April 01, 2008

Why Poly?

I'm sure a lot of people read my blog and all the polyamorous articles and stuff and think I've advocating the lifestyle. Personally, I feel that everyone is poly by nature, and it's society that has conditioned us toward monogamy. There's a recent article in the New York Times Science Times section that quotes an author of a book titled, "The Myth of Monogamy" that says the only 100 percent monogamous animal on the planet is a parasitic flatworm that lives in the gills of freshwater fish.

In Most Species, Faithfulness Is a Fantasy - March 18, 2008

This makes sense to me because most of us grow up in families where we are encouraged to love both parents, any number of siblings, half-siblings, uncles, aunts, cousins, multiple grandparents, etc. And it's obviously natural to have more than a single offspring and love them all equally. So the concept of loving many people equally and without favoring one over the other is ingrained in us from birth, and then suddenly when we get to be young adults, the rules change and we are required to choose a single person (just one!) that we will love as our partner/mate for the remainder of our lives. Naturally there are evolutionary imperatives that favor monogamy when it comes to having and raising children, but even those I believe are partially influenced by culture. Personally, I think the high divorce rate is a pretty compelling argument against the "naturalness" of monogamy.

All that being said, I'm not saying poly is the answer to relationship troubles. On the contrary, being poly is HARD. There are probably just as many, if not more poly breakups as there are among mono folks, from a percentage standpoint (obviously the total pool is a lot smaller). Poly requires a lot more communication and twice or three times the level of commitment than being a serial monogamist, where you're only dealing with one relationship at a time. And although I feel poly is the more "natural" state of being than monogamy, it's also completely contrary to 99.9% of the population's most deeply held beliefs about the nature of romantic love and the nuclear family.

Last night was the latest of a long line of train wrecks in my poly world, and I'm working on recovering from it. It's too personal to share details, but suffice to say I learned a valuable lesson: you have to be sure about what you really want, you have to communicate it clearly, always balance your needs and the needs of others, and if you're not sure about anything, then keep it to yourself before you stir up the pot until you are sure.

Being poly is like taking an advanced course in relationship skills. It's not for everyone. I'm not 100 percent sure it's right for me. But like a lot of people who enter the poly world, we do it because it fits our situation. We find ourselves in love with more than one person, or in love with someone who's in love with someone else, and we're not willing to throw that love away. So we either embrace our "poly-ness" or we reject it and move on. One thing I don't think works is to try and have it both ways, to believe in monogamy but act polyamourously. That course of action is only going to postpone the inevitable dissolution of the relationship with a lot more hurt and trauma than ending it quick and decisively.

Polyfolk are the people who are okay with breaking society's rules, especially if we're not hurting anyone to do so. We just want to live the way we must in order to be happy, even if everyone else thinks what we're doing is "wrong" or that we're crazy. I've broken societal taboos in the recent past - a lot of us have. We just have to have the courage to be ourselves, no matter what. It's a lesson I've already learned from hard experience.