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Polyamory Is About You - Not Just Your Relationships
Now that polyamory is entering the mainstream world, people need to start recognizing polyamory as a relationship orientation rather than a mere lifestyle choice. In reality, having multiple relationships is a consequence of being polyamorous. You don’t need someone else in your life to identify as polyamorous. It’s a feature of your individuality that shines through your relationships.
Yes, it’s a decision to act out on polyamorous desires. But nobody “decides” that their heart has room for more than 1 romantic partner. Polyamory is more about your love-style than your life style. Yet for some reason, I notice that people don't understand the concept of being poly as much as doing poly. As such, too many people make polyamory about everyone else except for people who identify as poly In the poly web communities I belong to, I don’t see people joining to inquire about solo poly by name or by description anywhere near as often as I see people requesting help with finding a girlfriend to transform their couple into a triad. Too many people are defining polyamory by our partners rather than our individuality. Polyamory as a relationship orientation has yet to enter non-monogamous cultural conversation on a widespread level.
Once I started actively identifying as a relationship anarchist, I quickly learned that people tended to have a much easier time with “getting” polyamory than they did with understanding relationship anarchy. Self-identifying as a relationship anarchist usually turns into extended explanations and discussions for me. Not all situations afford that kind of time. Even worse, people still seem not to get relationship anarchy despite my best efforts to explain it in concise, relatable ways. Because of this, I’m more likely to tell someone I’m poly before I tell them I’m a relationship anarchist.
I’ve noticed that people see me as an individual when I tell them I’m a relationship anarchist. But when I tell them I’m polyamorous, they don’t see me as a polyamorous individual. They see me as a person in a polyamorous relationship. They view me as a party involved in a non-monogamous relationship if I tell them I’m polyamorous and have a long-term partner. Whenever I explain relationship anarchy to other people, they initially mistake it for some kind of ideology I’ve committed to modeling all of my relationships after. But the truth is that relationship anarchy is an important part of my natural state of being. Relationship anarchy even encompasses aspects of myself that have extended beyond the realm of polyamory for as long as I've been forming relationships. When I first discovered relationship anarchy, I felt like I finally understood what made me so different from everyone else, including other poly people. I never felt right using terms like “secondary” to describe my partners and I could never choose just 1 best friend. My love never seemed to conform to hierarchies, social scripts, or any other prescriptive features that feel far too forced to come naturally to me. So while talking about relationship anarchy takes more “work,” they conceive of my identity on the terms of my individuality by the end of our conversation, not as something my partner and I decided to do to our relationship.
Over time, I’ve become used to explaining polyamory to people. I’m sure to say that I’m a polyamorous person, not just a person in a polyamorous relationship. When non-poly people find out that I’m polyamorous, they’re usually amazed by the fact that I’ve been in a functional and long-term polyamorous relationship. So amazed, I can’t help but feel that many people miss out on the fact that it’s more about me as a person rather than about me as a romantic partner.
When I wrote for “Polyamory Commands Intimacy, Not Just a Fling” for Luna Luna, I noted how “many newbies embark upon their poly journey with pure intentions; others mistake our permanent lifestyle for whatever they wish would fulfill their temporary and misguided desires.” I wasn’t surprised when I began to receive fair criticism about the word choices involved. Though I must make this clear: I didn't choose the article's title. As a relationship anarchist, I don't think love really "commands" anything. But my usage of the words “permanent lifestyle” to explain polyamory was an attempt to get readers to conceive of polyamory as it is: a relationship orientation. But by doing so, I accidentally framed polyamory as a set of actions and behaviors rather than a fixed trait. Polyamory starts with an individual. Their partners come into the picture after the fact.
Dan Savage has caused controversy by claiming that “poly is not a sexual identity.” In response, Anita Wagner of Practical Polyamory posed that because “many polyamorists express themselves differently sexually, i.e. with more than one person at a time,” polyamory isn’t considered a “proper” sexual orientation, then it should be understood as more of “sexual relationship orientation or sexual relationship identity.” Personally, I’ve always conceived of polyamory in the context of my identity rather than the context of my relationships alone, sexual or not. For me, it feels like a relationship orientation. I've always been a relationship anarchist, but I've had to peel away at internalized mononormativity in order to truly liberate my heart and body from oppressive beliefs.
I’ve always been the kind of person whose mere presence invites unsolicited confessions from strangers, so I often find myself giving out polyamory advice. Many people confide in me about their non-monogamous desires, including people who are already in monogamous relationships. Many people have secretly admitted to me that they had poly hearts, but could not bring themselves to act live in accordance with their heart’s desires. When I ask these people why they choose to not embrace their poly identity, they all give me different answers that boil down to a fear of being different. A lot of them are afraid of rejection from their social and professional circles because being othered by Society is serious business. Yet they tend not to do that in cases which involve an openly-cheating parent. Other times, they’re afraid that their love lives will disintegrate into bedlam and upheaval. Sometimes, they feel that exploring that side of themselves requires too much effort and perhaps even sacrifice. Not only is it a drastic change from the lives most people know, but many people equate polyamory with the death of a functional life as they might know it. As an out-and-about poly person, I am sympathetic towards their reasons and respect their decisions. Still, their mindset further demonstrates the divide between being in a polyamorous relationship instead of a polyamorous individual.
Wake up, World: Polyamory is more about whom we are rather than whom we’re dating.
#Real #GhiaVitale #RelationshipAnarchistCookbook #Polyamory #LoveStyleNotLifestyle #FreeTheLove
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