“When/How did you know you were polyamorous?”
This is one of the most common questions that I get from my monogamous friends. I didn’t include it in my first batch of “Commonly Asked Questions” (Part One of which you can find here), because it’s really far too long and complex to relegate to a small blurb of an answer. A lot of this is going to come down to my philosophy on what polyamory really is.
So let me take a step back. What is polyamory? To me, it’s loving multiple people. That’s the literal definition of it. Many loves. I find it amusing that the analog to this word for those who don’t identify with polyamory is monogamy. The Greek translation of this is “one marriage.” Notice that love is not even part of the term. Now, I’m not suggesting that my monogamous friends and readers don’t love their partners – but the origin of the word doesn’t revolve around love, it revolves around a religious institution. (That’s why I suggest we should use monoamoury to describe those singular loving folks!).
But wait, you tell me, polyamory can’t just be loving multiple people – because everybody loves more than one person, right? We love our parents, we love our best friends, we love our siblings…we love lots of people, not just those we’re romantically involved with, right? Yep. That’s right. We ALL love multiple people. We ALL live a life of polyamory. And I know, I know, now it sounds like I’m just playing word games with you. I’m not trying to create a semantic argument implying that EVERYBODY is the same. But I am saying that yes, EVERYBODY IS the same. We all love. And none of us control WHO we love.
I happen to love, in a romantic way, more than one person. Many of my male friends, including one of my dear mentors, happen to love other men. Some of my best female friends happen to love women. Why? Because we do. That’s why. We just do. None of us chose to love the people we love – it’s just this innate feeling we have. And we feel the same way that a monogamous person feels.
So my monogamous reader, imagine somebody that you currently love romantically, or have loved romantically in the past. Think about WHY you love that person – it’s probably a lot of factors. Now, imagine trying to not love that person. Imagine being told that you are no longer allowed to love that person. Can you just shut those feelings of love “off” – (like a lightswitch – thanks Book of Mormon!)? I’ve never talked to a single person who can simply stop loving another person with just a simple decision. Why? Because we don’t really choose who we love – we just love.
So, what is polyamory? It’s embracing love apart from societal norms. I would argue one of the biggest societal norms out there is that everybody should “settle down, get married and have kids.” Settle down and get married has the implication of monogamy, though I know plenty of families where that is not the case! But many of our religious institutions and mass media outlets tell us that monogamy is not only the norm, it’s the only way to be, to find true happiness. That we are “incomplete” without the one person that we can spend our life with. That we just need to find that “right one.”
Those who identify with polyamory have discovered a pretty big fallacy in the thinking that there is “one” person who will be everything you’ve ever needed. I also know some monogamous people who have identified this fallacy, and have adjusted their relationships accordingly. But the overwhelming majority of monogamous people I come into contact with seem to still be living under the impression that they are a failure if the partner they found isn’t that perfect person – that somehow, THEY have failed. But remember, this is an impossible standard. It’s a Hollywood happy ending that simply doesn’t exist.
So, we return to the question – why am I polyamorous? When did I become polyamorous? I believe that I am poly because I just am. I believe that I’ve been poly my whole life, but just never had a word for it. As I’ve mentioned before, I didn’t even know what the word meant until two years ago!
I look forward to a time when we don’t need to define ourselves by whether we love men or women or one or many. That the subject of equality isn’t even an issue, it’s just a foregone conclusion. A time when our religious beliefs don’t interfere with our ability to just be happy. A time when we’re not having to hide a large part of ourselves from the world. Maybe I won’t live to see this time happen. But I sincerely believe we’re on that path. We continue to make leaps and bounds forward, away from ignorance and fear. The discovery of knowledge brings us ever closer to a world of safety and happiness for all. I live in that world, and am so happy to be here!