Susannah Summer’s guest post muses about polyamory as a sexual orientation and/or a lifestyle.
Born this way- Polyamorous as an orientation vs. life-style choice
About a year ago, after months of anguish and fighting every time my partner brought up the prospect of another female, I came to the realization that I needed to ask him to close our relationship. I have been under a tremendous amount of stress for about 3 years now. Last year around this time, a particularly bad crisis hit my business that required I muscle every ounce of my emotional, spiritual and physical strength to fight it. I began working 12 hour days– every day. I went 7 months this past year without a day off. It was hard.
Lucky for me, my wonderful partner understood and could perceive that I was correct in my assessment that I currently do not have the emotional depth and fortitude to actively practice polyamory and he agreed to the closure. For how long? Good question. We do not know. YIKES! DOES THIS MEAN WE ARE NOT REALLY POLY??
We have had several discussions lately about why being poly is harder for me– I’m much older and lived in a monogamous marriage for 18 years, whereas he’s been practicing polyamory since the age of 14 and has NEVER been monogamous; I grew up in a very strict, conservative home where I was told that sex is a sin outside of marriage whereas he was handed pornographic novels at age 13 by his liberal thinking mother–” Here son, read this!” A number of factors have led us to very different places on the poly spectrum.
I recently had an epiphany moment when having a conversation with a transgender friend about whether or not being trans is a “choice” or if transgender people are just born that way. We were discussing my friend’s daughter, who has been exhibiting signs of being trans since she was only 2 years old. Now as a 9 year-old, she looks, acts and dresses like a boy. She/he has been my most convincing piece of evidence that being transgender IS NOT A CHOICE for some people. It is who they are. I realize I may be stepping on the line of not being PC here, folks….please have mercy on me if I’m using words that are offensive to you. This conversation about my friend’s daughter led me to say, “Oh, my God….J was born this way!”.
My friend laughed at the way my face lit up as the thought of polyamory being an orientation struck me. It made me consider my own ideas about poly? Is this my orientation or is this more of a lifestyle choice for me following the stifling experience I had in a long-term marriage?
I know that I was NOT born poly. I had never heard that word before I was 41. I knew as a college student that I liked men– a lot– and I often had more than one partner, all of whom knew of one another and a couple were even friends. But, I thought I was a slut. I thought this because I had been told that this is what girls who slept around were. When I left my marriage about 4 years ago, I told my first partner (who happened to be J) that I would not be monogamous with him. But, it was a lifestyle choice for me. J could never be happy in a long-term monogamous marriage like the one I had for so long. However, that is not true for me, even now. I could just as easily be happy in a monogamous marriage/long-term relationship if that situation were presented to me and I decided to go for it.
So, where does this leave us?
I think with more questions than answers at this point:
*If one member of a poly couple/triad or more has a poly orientation but the other(s) do not, what will this mean for their relationship? What challenges will they face? How will they deal with them? Is their relationship destined to fail?
*How can the orientation poly person help the life-style poly person better navigate the poly world? Is the orientation poly person inherently more capable of higher functioning in a poly relationship- i.e. less jealousy, more open to the benefits of being polyamorous?
For now, J has agreed to our closure. But, I feel guilty about it. I struggle with my feelings around this almost every day. I want to be okay with him experiencing meaningful relationships with others. I want to trust him enough to let him make his own decisions and not have them be hindered by what I feel I can or cannot handle emotionally. I want to be happy for him when he expresses interest in someone else he’s met.
So, what do I do? For myself? For my own understanding and growth?
What does he do? Just wait? Help me find ways to de-stress and find more balance in my life so I can become more emotionally stable?
DOES THIS MEAN WE ARE NOT POLY?
I believe the answer to that is no.
We want this for our lives and we hope that someday soon we can re-open our relationship. But, for now, we need to keep each of us healthy and that requires this sacrifice. For this time. For this place. And that’s just how it is.