This entry is meant as a personal reflection. I do not set out to prescribe universal prescriptions or recommendations. And, because the content of this post might be seen as controversial to some readers, I am not going to discuss much beyond theory. Polyamory, in my iteration, is the relationship paradigm for me, and in this post I will explain why:
Polyamory encourages honesty specifically in the areas where monogamy tends to stifle honesty. In my first marriage I operated with the understanding that lusting after or desiring another married woman was tantamount to adultery and infidelity. Because I was a “good Christian,” I dared never confess to any wandering affections or lusts. In fact, I was quite proud of the fact that I maintained the image that I was idiosyncratically impeccable, never allowing my eyes to wander. However, the reality of my male humanity was always present. I did and do often find myself noticing attractive anatomy, and I did and do sometimes find myself drawn to others emotionally. However, instead of lying about this and claiming to my wife an artificial, dishonest singularity, I tell her the full, liberating truth. I tell her when I find someone else attractive. Now, mind you, I don’t tell her every time I entertain a lingering gaze. There is a balance, and I can reflect on this another time.
Set for Failure: “One-and-Only” Expectations
Cultural developments in the Victorian era placed an emphasis on the importance of romantic love as the foundation of marriage. Contrast this basis with somewhat more traditional societies where arranged marriages both did not require romance at the outset or allow for one or both participants to express choice. The Victorian emphasis on romantic love and free choice in spouse selection were both positive developments and specifically betterments toward the achievement of a more egalitarian society. However, the focus on romantic love in spousal selection also lead to the romanticized idea of “soul mates” and romantic destiny in which one person is envisioned as one’s romantic all-in-all, an end to all desire, and the fulfillment of all of one’s emotional and physical needs. I don’t accept the cultural “soul mate” narrative. I don’t believe that I can be for my wife the end-all of all her needs and potentials. Frankly, I don’t believe that any group of individuals can accomplish this for me or my wife, but I do believe that such can be accomplished better within the company of other loving, romantic, fulfilling relationships. I will be who I am to my wife, and I expect the same of her.
Zero-Sum Love Games
When my youngest son was born the love that my wife and I had toward our first-born son did not dissipate. Spousal love is different than parental love, but this analogy holds. When I feel the energy of attraction to someone who is not my wife, my love for my wife does not need to diminish. Yes, the romantic love and eros that I feel for my wife will ebb and wane, and this would happen whether we were monogamous or polyamorous; however, the feelings I have for someone else do not translate into a need to abandon the wonderful love relationship and the beautiful relationship history that I share with my wife. In fact, when we let go and let another be, the love return can be great. “Cast your bread upon the waters, for after many days you will find it again…”
I love my wife. I have never loved a woman more than I love my wife. Love can be a creative force, and creative love grows in vulnerability through granting autonomy-rich space. I enjoy granting my wife time and space for her to pursue her interests and to do activities she enjoys. Likewise, I have enjoyed granting similar opportunities for her in relationships of various types. It is because I love my wife and believe in the strength of our relationship that I am willing to be vulnerable. I am willing to expose myself to jealousy and the feelings of insecurity that can accompany polyamory because I feel that our love will cultivate excellence and tread new ground.
I am not advocating for irresponsible hedonism or relationship-free sexuality, but this is the only life I will live. There is nothing to look forward to consciously after I pass. Why limit myself by someone else’s narrative? Why live my life by boundary stones set in a bygone era? I am setting my own narratives, limits, and horizons.
The above reasons do not exhaust my personal thinking on polyamory. And, as noted at the outset, these are not meant to be universals. These are my personal reflections.