Thanks for weighing in Joe and I agree with much that you said. You are in a unique situation since you are the only poly person I personally know who is in a cohabitating closed relationship amongst three people. Because James and I don’t live with any of our paramours, we don’t have that balancing factor you’ve described of not wanting to give in to any inclinations for less mature behavior because someone else who acts as a kind of moderating force is there. But, because we are so happy, content, and feel free to communicate honestly, we don’t have a lot of those inclinations in the first place any more.
I completely agree that poly is not perfect. We’ve had some bad experiences, but most of them were precipitated by people trying to live out monogamy constructs in a poly situation (getting possessive, feeling the need to lie rather than admit to being attracted to someone else, etc). There’s been just plain immaturity or in some cases narcissism. This is hardly surprising, since the prevailing culture doesn’t encourage people (men especially) to really work on this stuff (because to admit you need to work on yourself indicates vulnerability and that you are not fully in control — and in a dominance hierarchy, that is seen as weakness). It’s challenging to live in a society that doesn’t support who you are and how you live and I know this because I do it on several levels — not just related to relationship styles. But that’s another article in and of itself for another day.
I will say one thing that I completely agree with Joe — the hard part of living like this is not the day to day. Once you get used to complete honesty, transparency, and responsibility for your own emotions, there is a lot of deeper intimacy that comes with that. It’s a self-rewarding thing and because it feels so good to truly be that close and real, you want to do it more and more. It was the getting to this point that was hard, because we had so much deprogramming to do. It’s also the not being able to be entirely open with other people in our lives about how we live and who we love that is hard. It’s not because we are embarrassed or shy. We don’t talk about our lives to many people, because when we have in the past, it’s made other people very uncomfortable. They don’t know what to do with it because it is so, so outside of what is expected of people who present as mainstream. Most people are so programmed that to encounter anything else is very confronting. They aren’t able to say, “I didn’t realize that about you. Tell me more about what that’s like.” They just get a deer in the headlights look in their eyes and change the subject and then we all feel awkward.
I also really appreciated your comment about the different words for love. I didn’t articulate it as fully as I would have liked earlier, but married monogamy allows for pretty much one kind of love (cohabitating for life, most likely with children). Each one of my love relationships is very different from the others. And now we have someone new in our lives whom we care about and like a lot. We may grow to love him too, and that will also be it’s own unique kind of love, due to the circumstances and the people involved. And all of those are personal love. Then there’s less personal love as well. I grow to love many of my clients in a personal but non-romantic way, and I’ve also learned how to just love their humanity. And I learned how to truly experience that through learning to better understand my love for Nat, my other partner, at the same time I loved James.