The ribbon above represents support for polyamory, a lifestyle choice wherein
all parties involved consent to an equitable and loving relationship involving
more than two people. Polyamory does not equate with orgy, but more with what
was once called polygamy. As an author, I have written several books involving
polyamorous relationships, although at the time I wrote them, I'd never heard
of the term. However, never did I expect to find myself involved in such a
relationship. But I did and I'd like to try to explain it from my point of
view— as both an "arm" and a "pivot" in a polyamorous relationship. Perhaps
my story will help someone else find the love of their life— or better yet,
stop them from losing the love of their life.|
"Arm" is the term used for one of the people loved by the "pivot", who is the one who loves more than one person at the same time. It is possible to be both an arm and a pivot at the same time. Despite all intellectual beliefs I held regarding polyamory, the emotional reality was very different, vividly demonstrating the difference to me between knowing and understanding. Knowing can come from anywhere, like you reading this page. Understanding can only come from experiencing what it is you know.
The ability to love more than one person is demonstrated for us and by us all through our lives. Our parents tell us they love each of their children with all their heart...that they don't have a "favorite". That if asked to choose which they'd save if they could only save one, they would be unable to make such a choice. We are told we're supposed to love our siblings equally as well as love our parents equally. Most of us in this country are brought up in the Judeo-Christian belief system, which teaches that God loves each and every one of us equally...the sinner as much as the saint.
Yet when it comes to our intimate relationships, we are suddenly told that this is wrong. That the only way we can show someone how much we truly love them is to love ONLY them. I wonder how many marriages fall apart because a man who still loves his wife suddenly finds himself in love with another woman too. The husband is torn, the wife hurt and the other woman fearful...all because of the long-held belief that it is impossible to love more than one person with all your heart at the same time.
If we look to the friendships in our lives, we will see that we have friends that we enjoy being with in social situations. We have friends we like to do athletic things with. Friends that we call up for some intellectual conversation. Friends whose shoulders we can cry on and in whom we can confide our deepest feelings. Each of these friends fills a different need in our lives and rarely do we find a friend who can fill all those needs all the time.
Just as we have different friends to meet the different needs in our lives, so it is in a polyamorous relationship. Yes, it is on a more personal and intimate level, but the principle is the same. Each of those involved fulfills a need that the other is unable or maybe unwilling to fulfill. In some cases, those needs are very clear and easily defined, relatively speaking. For example, a female pivot having both a male and female lover. An intimate relationship with a male is much different on all levels (physically, emotionally, spiritually) than an intimate relationship with a female. In other cases, those needs are much harder to define, as when a pivot has 2 male or 2 female lovers. In such cases, it might be helpful to think of it along the same lines as a parent of two children. If the first child fills the need to parent, then why the second child? Aside from perhaps filling a need the parent might think the first child will have (ie, they don't want the first child to grow up an only child), most parents would probably be hard pressed to tell you what specific need that second child fills. Yet at the same time, once that second child is a part of their lives, the thought of NOT having either child in their lives is unbearable. The second child has touched a part of the heart that even the parent was unaware existed until the child found it, touched it and opened it.
There are other pluses to multiple monogamous relationships. Should one partner have a bad day, there are two (or more) adults to talk to. With children involved, there are multiple adults to listen to them, to moderate disputes, etc. If all parties live in the same house, there is the option of always having at least one adult home for the kids. And if all work or there are no kids, the added income(s) will make life easier on all involved.
The above few paragraphs were a way of expressing what I know about polyamory. Trying to express what I now understand might prove a bit more difficult. But I will try. [NOTE: The relationship of which I speak is now a part of my past, but rather than go through and change the wording in the whole story (which would only confuse an already confusing situation since I'm trying to protect identities), I'm just going to let the story read as I wrote it several yeas ago and add this little note of explanation instead.]
Despite the fact that I knew of my love's OL (OL=Other Lover) upon entering into my relationship with her, and despite my spiritual beliefs (which are detailed elsewhere on this HP), there was a great deal of jealousy I had for her OL. Despite circumstances that made all but one of their contacts over the past year "long distance" (ie, either phone or internet), and despite that fact that our contacts were mostly face to face, I was consumed with jealousy each time they had contact with each other. It was not until I became a pivot also, and found myself facing what for me was unexpected jealousy on her part, that I finally took a very close look at why I had been jealous.
I discovered that the root of all my jealousy was fear: fear of losing her to her OL. That fear arose because I compared myself to her OL, gauging how well I could meet all her needs vs. how well her OL could meet all her needs. My own insecurities and feelings of inadequacy constantly put me on the "short end". It was only when I realized that there was no way I could fulfill all her needs, and accepted that it was okay for it to be that way, that I was able to face those fears. And when I did, the jealousy was gone. But that took over a year, even given my beliefs on polyamory and love.
In any relationship, there are compromises. (And please keep in mind there is a big difference between a compromise and denial of a need.) There are even going to be times when one partner must give up something completely. Times when there is only an either/or choice, and one must sacrifice what s/he wants and the other will get what s/he wants. The way around that in most instances is that the next time a similar situation arises, the one who sacrificed last time is the one to get what s/he wants this time. The situation becomes a bit more complicated in a polyamorous relationship because there are at least three needs to be met, adding to the probability that one will go unmet. In most cases, though, a compromise can be made.
However, there are some instances when that is not possible. In my own case, those I love do not believe in polyamory. (While the story above might lead one to a different conclusion, any attempt to clarify would involve an attempt on my part to express their feelings, and that is not something I will do. This is about MY feelings and MY views.) It has presented a very deep spiritual dilemma for me. I do not believe I have the right to even attempt to "convert" anyone to my beliefs. I will explain my beliefs and "debate" them with someone as long as they want to listen. After that, the choice is theirs. But in my particular situation, and in any polyamorous relationship, the only way it can work is if all parties agree to the situation. The only way that can happen is if both my loves come to believe in polyamory. I am constantly questioning whether my discussions with them are selfishly motivated, because the only way I can get what I want is for them to change what they believe. For me, it is impossible for me to look to my future and not see myself with both my loves at my side. (I tried it once and it was not a pretty sight. But the experience gave me a much better appreciation of the depths of darkness that can overwhelm the soul. I made it back this time, but I'm not sure I could make it back a second time. It certainly opened my eyes to the strength of those who fight this kind of despair on a regular basis. Not to mention the fact that is showed me my own lack of strength since I did not make it back alone.) At this point in time, the future I see is no more than a dream. A hope I cannot survive without. I question whether I have the right to ask my loves to attempt to deal with this situation. To live with the knowledge that if one is not part of my life, the other cannot ever fill that void. But to make it a "both or neither" would remove their choice from the equation, something I also do not believe I have the right to do.
What I do know is that I don't know how to choose between my two loves, anymore than I could choose between my two children. Nor do I know how to stop loving. How to rid myself of the desire to have both my loves in my life. I'm having a great deal of difficulty dealing with the fact that one part of me is so happy to have what I have, while another part of me is so empty because of what I have lost. I am at a loss to explain exactly what needs one fills that the other cannot and my inability to communicate that to my loves has created that void...that emptiness. The hope I have of someday having both my loves in my life is all I have to fill that void at this point in time. And I wonder if that hope will be enough to allow me to be happy with what I do have. I wonder if it is not enough if I will lose even what I do have. I suppose I will find out in time.
I do know a few other things. That the love I feel for my loves will never end. It is a love that will transcend time and distance and even death. I know that if I cannot have what I want in this lifetime, I will have it in a future lifetime. And I know that I am prepared to wait that long. To be loved by them is well worth the wait.
The words from I Corinthians 13:4-8 are as appropriate here as in any loving relationship. "Love suffers long and is kind: Love does not envy; love does not parade itself, is not puffed up; does not behave rudely, does not seek its own, is not provoked, thinks no evil; does not rejoice in iniquity, but rejoices in the truth; bears all things, hopes all things, endures all things. Love never fails."
Now a second note...
I have learned that loving someone does not always mean being able to be with them. Not when they make choices that are unhealthy for you. As selfish as it sounds, it is necessary to make sure that your own needs are met in a relationship, because unless you do, you're not able to be the best partner you can be. My one love moved on— and my desire to be with her is gone. She has made a choice to be someone I have no desire to be with. The woman I loved was the one behind the mask. She chose to wear the mask so I choose not to be part of her life. I am still with my "other" love...she and I have been married now for about 2 1/2 years as I add this in June, 2001. I have also learned that the emptiness goes when you fill it with unconditional love and stop worrying about what the future holds.
If anyone has any questions for me about being in a polyamorous relationship, please feel free to email me. I'll be happy to answer your questions either on this page or by return email.