Tuesday, May 4, 2010

Is poly "harder" than mono?

This has been a question bandied about in various forums, asked of me, and one that people seem to have pretty strong opinions about. While there are a variety of positions available, let's just take a look at a few points.

On the one hand, within mono relationships, there are pressures to satisfy most/all the needs of one's partner, and not usually as many resources for personal growth. There's also a lot of societal reinforcement in the positive direction to be part of a "traditional" monogamous setup. Perceived safety is part of the package, predictability, perhaps even ownership. It's supported by the law of the land, practiced (poorly or well) by the majority of the population in this country, even within less mainstream communities, like GLBTQ, and touted by the majority of mainstream religions, most mental health professionals, and Hollywood as the way to go.

Really, the question that we may want to consider is why _isn't_ poly harder than mono? While things can be more complex within poly relationships, it is often purely because there are more factors (people) to track and more opportunities for miscommunication to occur. Here we have a choice in living and loving that receives next to zero support from society at large, if not active antipathy, and yet more and more people are moving this direction, coming out, writing, talking, and sharing their experiences, thoughts, and feelings about open relationship structures!

So why do poly relationships end? Mostly for the same reasons that mono relationships end. For me, as I go through the process of changing the way that PG and I relate to each other, I am very grateful for the skills, relationships and community available to me because I live and love poly. There are skills that, while I may have learned them eventually in a mono relationship, I've had much more opportunity to practice and grow with as a poly person.

Poly is like serving concurrent sentences, minus the orange jumpsuits, plus lots of consensual sex: In my 34 years, I've spent 27 years in relationships of a significant nature. No, I haven't been dating since I was 7, but I have been privileged to share my life with others for that long all together. It might not be directly equivalent, but it's certainly more relationship time/skills/experience than I would have gotten as a mono person by this age, no matter how aggressively I put time and energy into that single relationship.

Here is why I still think it's "easier" to be poly: When something comes up, I have the tools in the toolbox to work it through, even if it is darned complex. There are times where I look at a situation and feel a period of despair, that it's too much to handle, too hard, and then a little piece falls into place, and a lover shares a piece of wisdom with me that helps something else become clearer, maybe I am able to identify an underlying issue, then draw a parallel to a previous set of circumstances, and pretty soon the snowball is rolling down the hill without me pushing it the whole way. I'm just flat out better resourced than I would be otherwise.

So, even with what can feel like the whole world telling me I'm crazy to being doing something so very "hard", I am happy to be poly, because, for me, it's the gift to myself that keeps on giving.


Anonymous said...

I agree with you about the tools! So many people have been taught to be secretive and keep their feelings inside instead of telling the truth. They develop walls around their souls instead of cleaning and maintaining them. Souls are like bicycles (or cars). If you ride them often and keep them well tuned, you can see the world and go many places. However, if you leave them in your garage for years and only take them out on special occasions, they will fail to work when you need them most. I learned that while visiting my best friend. Maybe I am spoiled for having bicycle mechanics in the family, or perhaps every family should have a good mechanic.

lynelle said...

for me, polyamory IS harder for some of the reasons you mentioned ~ there are more people, time, emotions, logistics, and aspects of LIFE to juggle and balance. there are more relationship people to communicate with, a higher quantity of people to risk mis-communications in ways that matter, and more conversations to have, or at least consider about what, how, and if we share polyamory aspects with kids, relatives, friends, etc. connectedly, there's more need for me to consider public perceptions, possible disapproval.

there's more need for me to consider "structure" options for what i create, and for what i might join. (emotional exclusivity or hierarchy are not a good fit for me.) there's more people and hearts to consider for possible ripples of my decisions and actions ~ especially kids ~ ack!

there's more reasons and opportunities for me to be triggered and to figure out whose baggage it is, and how i want to tackle that. even though i usually choose to tackle it internally (with extra hugs and reassurance if it's available), topics come up that were not applicable for me in monogamy, so polyamory is a significantly higher work load for me in so many ways.
however, for me, in monogamy or polyamory, i never committed emotional exclusivity, and i've never had relationships to meet needs exactly. so in my case, those were not challenges for me in monogamy.

for me, in both relationship styles, i seek people with similar life principles and philosophies as a basis for best-friend-ness. from there, romantic interest might or might not develop, but either way, the similarities in how we think and feel about things has often led to mutually contributing to the joy in each other's lives. thus, for me, it's not so much about meeting needs as it is about adding to the happiness in each other's lives, simply by being who we are.

interests and hobbies will differ, yet in monogamy or polyamory, i often have a circle of close friends/loves that includes people who also enjoy doing some of the things i enjoy, so there's usually a way for me to have someone join me for activities i want to do. that was no less true for me in monogamy than it is in polyamory, so for me, in both styles, my "needs" were easily met.
for me, relationships and people interactions have always been my passion, even before i was dating, even during monogamy. i love figuring out the what, why, and *how* to improve how i interact. so for me, developing a relationship toolbox has been an ongoing part of my life and who i am, with time and life situations adding to my toolbox along the way.

polyamory *does* provide more opportunities for me to practice using those tools with people who are more likely to be affected by my actions because there is a closeness beyond just close friendship. my decisions, communications, and actions in polyamory connections are more likely to have a deeper affect than it might with a platonic friend. yet in spite of the higher risk for negative ripples, there's also more opportunity for good ripples, and the polyamory offers some community resources and wisdom that have added to my toolbox ~ gifts I can use with romantic and platonic connections in my life.

a poly counselor i was seeing shared that in her experience, 80-90% of "poly" relationship issues are actually regular relationship issues, not specific to polyamory. yet since people who are choosing polyamory have often (not always, unfortunately!) seemed to be more introspective about their relationships, perhaps that explains my perception of more relationship resources being available in the polyamorous community...?
yet even with all that goodness, for me, it's a separate question. is polyamory harder for me? YES. are there benefits that make it worth the extra work? *very* yes, or i wouldn't be doing this.