Polyamory (More than One Love)
Is it truly authentic, this idea that we are (or even can be) monogamous with our love?
The world would tell you that if your love is true, then it is consistent through time, and that true love is always stronger for this person than anyone else you experience. But is that realistic? Is it ever, actually, true for anyone? These are important questions for anyone who is determined to be true to their own heart. I have given them serious thought, and below are some of the ideas I have on the topic. Many have found the very structure of monogamous love to be restrictive in its demands. You may be one of them. I hope this brings a little clarity.
I will offer that emotional monogamy and sexual monogamy are two different things. You can have one without the other. If you find yourself in agreement with some of these ideas about emotional polyamory, it doesn't mean that you then have to open yourself up to multiple lovers. Then too, some people are open multiple sexual partners while clinging to emotional monogamy. I think of these people as swingers, rather than poly people.
I’ll also add that I am not suggesting that there is one right way to do it. Ultimately what is right is what works for you. You are not to blame for any of the thoughts, feelings, or desires which you experience, neither is anyone else. Shame is a human invention which has no basis in reality. Ironically, there is no shame in feeling shame either.
A Dreadfully Important Choice with Serious Consequences
When you have subscribed to a monogamous form of relationship, making the right choice in a partner becomes extraordinarily important. After all, it’s a choice that you make, and then forsake all others in order to cleave unto this chosen one. You’d better get it right! So, potential partners are passed over because they don’t measure up to the status of “The One.” You might find yourself thinking, Yes, I love this person. Yes, I am delighted to spend time with them. Yes, we might have a fulfilling relationship which lasts for the whole night, for days, weeks, months, years, but in my heart, I just can’t commit to loving them forever, or having children with them, or sharing a bank account with them (or whatever it is for you) therefore, I’d better say no now since I’ll probably find myself wanting to say no later. There is a tremendous irony in this. Monogamy is supposed to make it more likely that love will be present in our lives, and yet I’m suggesting that it often costs far more love than it provides.
Here and Now
Then, on the other hand, if what I’m seeking is to love and be loved, well first I might consider where and when that is likely to happen. The only place that love can happen is here, and the time frame that it happens in is now. We tend to lose sight of this, what with our minds which are so adept at processing abstract images, but it is impossible to love someone in the future, or the past for that matter. Love, real love, is a here and now phenomenon. I think Stephen Stills got it right when he suggested in a song, “Love the One You’re With.” That’s the only hope for having love present in your life. Then there is a wonderful boon to acquiescing to this: the person in front of your face is already here. You don’t have to go wasting your time looking for them. They’re here! The logistics have already been worked out.
Let me begin by acknowledging that even though I believe this, it may or may not be true. If it doesn’t seem true to you, then consider it a place to stand. Meaning you could just stand in the idea as if it were true and try looking at the world from this context. There are no mistakes in reality. If that’s true, then the most important person for me to be with, to be deeply related to, out of all of the people in the world, is the one in front of my face. Once upon a time, I declared that I am someone who loves, and God responded by sending me someone to love, and that person is here, now. So, let me honor the gift by opening my heart.
Lower your Standards and Find Romance
Since I’ve opened myself up to being poly I have had lovers that would have never come my way otherwise. Perhaps they had a different body type than I imagined my ideal partner would have, or had a funny voice, or maybe a lack of philosophical depth or perhaps we didn’t share the same goals in life. There are a seemingly endless number of criteria that we want in our “ideal” partner and so many of us have searched for a lifetime, without finding someone who measures up. We eventually come to some sort of compromise and make do with what we can get. That doesn’t sound very romantic does it? I would venture to say that this spirit of compromise and taking what you can get, is the basis of far more relationships than “having found the ideal partner.” But as long as we cling to the idea that having found the ideal partner is the proper basis for a worthwhile relationship, then we can’t help but feel that there is something missing when we have compromised.
Oddly enough though, in this upside down and backwards world, making do with what you can get is romantic. When I separated myself from the story of “Ideal partner” based relationship, I found that there was a spontaneous experience of love for the one sharing her time with me at the moment. Of course, that experience is always dynamic and changing. Sometimes it occurs as stronger or weaker, more or less exciting, but that’s just the nature of phenomenal experience. What happened is I let go of the thought that I knew what someone I could love looked like and opened to what was present in the moment. As long as you are holding out for someone who isn’t here, romance doesn’t have a chance. Suddenly, through my allowance, my potential lover doesn’t have to rise to such a high standard. The wonderful thing about this, is that when you relax your standards, there is a far larger pool of potential lovers to choose from, yea! Now I’m not suggesting that you give up on having what is truly important you in a partner. I am suggesting that you may find that your standards are naturally, more allowing if you aren’t going to be stuck with this person forever. You may even find yourself being more compassionate and generous about whom you share yourself with. There are countless thousands of us who feel deprived of loving, tender, contact with another. Just look around you. Maybe you’d be willing to share yourself more freely if there wasn’t an expectation that such sharing was only appropriate if you were heading to some form of special relationship.
I was in a nine month long course one time, with a group of one hundred or so people, and we were having a discussion where people began to voice their dissatisfaction with how little sex they were getting. I looked around and noticed that there was a pretty equal balance of men and women in this group. What was the fucking problem? (pun intended). Of course the problem was these people were looking for sex with someone who wasn’t there. That’s hopeless. It’s impossible to have sex with someone who isn’t here.
We’ve been taught that the secret to having a wonderful romantic relationship is to find someone who is really special, and who also thinks that we are really special, and then the two of us form a monogamous bond and have a really special relationship. This bond excludes all others. We even have words for this in our wedding ceremony. “Do you promise to cleave unto her/him, forsaking all others?” Of course, something in us quickly recognizes that this is doesn’t make much sense. “You mean I’m supposed to forsake my friends, my parents, my children?” How could this be loving?
While well intentioned, this idea of having a special relationship is fundamentally flawed. In order for something to be special, it must first be separate. Well, what if separation is an illusion? I say that’s the truth of it. If separation is an illusion, there is no such thing as a special relationship. Or, paradoxically, we could say that there is only one special relationship, and it is with everyone and everything.
When you set about building your relationship on separation, you’re adopting a very risky enterprise. No wonder the domain of our romantic relationships is such a devastated wasteland. We were trying to create love out of separation, and separation is contrary to the fundamental nature of love.
By opening your heart, to love as it appears in this moment, you may indeed find yourself loving on a deeper, more intimate, level than when you cling to the separation which emotional monogamy demands. I maintained monogamy. If you can embrace freedom for your partner, without feeling threatened if you find that they are openly attracted to or excited by another, imagine the possibility for feeling peace, in a situation where danger seemed to lurk. Imagine loving someone enough to risk losing them. For many of us, it is a huge leap of courage, but it also has a huge payoff, freedom. Is this freedom important enough to take the risk? That’s the question, and only you can answer it. Is it important to you that your partner feel free in having what you want? Is it so important that you never feel threatened, that you would toss them into prison for your feeling of safety.
Now that’s loving… to say, “Honey, I love you so much that I want you to have what you want, even if it doesn’t include me.” That’s holding someone with an open hand. My report is that introducing this level of freedom into your relationships, actually opens the space for love to be there. This love goes far deeper than possessively clinging to a form of love which seeks to protect itself and exclude others.
One of the other wonderful side-benefits of this being present in relationship(s) is that you don’t have to ever wonder if she (he) is here because she genuinely wants to be, or rather, she is here out of some sense of obligation and honor. How yucky is that? To know that your partner doesn’t actually want to be with you at this time, they’re just honoring some obligation. If I had a prayer, it would be “God, spare me from obligated love.” It’s a farce. Obligated love is hypocritical. It is the homage that lies pay to the truth, that fear pays to love.
How many men could honestly say that being in love with their primary partner leaves them without any attraction to, or interest in other women? Granted you could probably find multitudes who are willing to suppress or hide the attraction they feel. My thinking is that they do this, primarily because they think they don’t have a choice in the matter. They want to continue with their lover and they know the rules. It takes courage to tell the truth, and take what you get. You have to be willing to lose. By the way, that is my definition of power: telling the truth, and taking what you get.
That brings up another aspect of this idea. When you have more than one love in your life, you naturally feel more secure that love will continue to be in your life, because your experience of love is no longer dependent upon the whims of one particular person. If one of your loves is feeling grumpy, or is putting in lots of extra hours at work, or even enjoying time with someone else, you rest easier, knowing that there are other opportunities to get the connection and intimacy that you desire. We actually remove the scarcity principle and feel more peaceful as a result.
Besides the effect upon you and your peace of mind, think of your lover. If you could cause her (him) to feel secure and content that love will be there in her life, whether you are there or not, then (s)he will have more peace of mind. Isn’t that a gift worth giving? Isn’t that what we attempt to give with our promises of monogamy, the security that love will be there when you need it? You can easily imagine how your partner might feel far more relaxed about your occasional angst, or even absence, if (s)he knew that this would not threaten her ability to have loving relatedness be present in her/his life. This could have a wonderful impact on the freedom and allowance (s)he is willing to grant you. It’s easier to have space for another’s issues, if I know that those issues aren’t going to threaten my access to love.
Conditional vs. Unconditional
Most of what passes for love these days, imposes expectations and conditions. Conditional "love" is not really love. Yes, I know that flies in the face of the romantic mythology on this planet, and I stand by the statement. Conditional love says, “I love you… unless you displease me.” Love says, “I love you… and there’s nothing you can do about it.” Conditional love is out to get something. Unconditional love is out to give something. Conditional love comes from a context of emptiness and lack. Love comes from fullness, and the absence of lack.
I knew this about love, a long time ago. That’s why I had this lingering uneasiness in my long-term committed relationships. The agreement was that she would love me, but if I ever found another woman more attractive than she, and she got wind of it, I was in trouble. If I ever acted on that attraction, it created the serious threat that I would lose the relationship. Somewhere inside me, I knew that this meant I wasn’t actually being loved. It was a negotiated settlement. What I wanted was to be close to her, approved of and accepted by her, and I was willing to sell out to get it. Two egos were attempting to get what they wanted from each other and a deal was struck, but love was not part of the bargain. Of course it wasn’t. Love wasn’t part of the bargain because the dirty little secret is that egos don’t love, they want something. Love is not a part of the ego’s job description. If you are dealing with an ego, you will not be genuinely loved. I guarantee it.
A human being seeking to find love is akin to a fish seeking to find water. It is not necessary to seek after love, when love is what you are. I’m speaking of you, the Being, beyond your identity. There is nothing you need to do to find love, because love is right here, right now. Love is what you are made out of. All that is necessary is to discover and unravel what it is that stands between you and the awareness of love. That’s it. Once you do that, you will know beyond the shadow of a doubt, that there is plenty of love in the world. There’s plenty of love for you. There’s plenty of love from you. There’s plenty of love for everyone you know. Love has forgotten no one.
Love is Like a Box of Chocolates
My friend Andrea recently posed the question, “If you were given a box of chocolates, and these chocolates were easily a hundred times better than any other chocolates on the planet, would you hoard them and eat them all yourself? Or would you share them with others.” ‘Great question! I will suggest that your answer to will be predictive of the love and happiness present in your life.
Love & Freedom
If someone I love comes to me and tells me that she has fallen in love with another, I get excited, literally. I get excited because I know what love is, and I want that for her, and I want it for the one that she is loving. While this may sound extraordinarily generous on my part, I have a trump card in my pocket. You see, I know that there is only one Being in the entire Cosmos: one Being, many faces. Separation is an illusion. It is a trick of the mind. It doesn’t exist in Reality. There is no one that my partner could withhold her love from, but me. There is no one that she could give her love to, but me. The only question is, do I want her love to flow freely or not? She gives her love to someone else, and I receive it. This is my direct experience, not some fluffy little air-headed theory. And if she should become so fascinated with her new love that she no longer spends time with me, so be it. I’ll be fine. She may be able to remove herself from my life but she cannot prevent my access to my Beloved. That would be impossible, because my Beloved is found at every turn.
Feast or Famine
With egoic love it’s always some form of famine or another. If not now, just wait a little while. When your foundation for love is the depth of your Being, there is no shortage of love in the world. And for one who doesn’t love, there is never enough love in the world. Their heart feels to them like a black hole which swallows up, and renders meaningless, the love which comes their way. It can’t be otherwise, because the love you experience in the world is a reflection of your own heart.
I imagine that the most expanded experience of love you can have is where there is no limit or boundary upon your love. Everyone is welcome in your heart, and they are welcome in spite of whomever they may love. So, yes, my report is that having more loves is more loving, and my encouragement is that you test this out for yourself and see what you find.
~ Carson Boyd