Commitment!

Image courtesy of Dynamite Imagery / FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Image courtesy of Dynamite Imagery / FreeDigitalPhotos.net

The title of my post today should make it pretty clear what I’ll be focusing on – that sticky wicket called commitment. As I mentioned in one of my first blog posts, a common question that my monogamous friends ask me is:  are you poly because you’re afraid of commitment? I answered that question in that post, but I’m going to delve much deeper today into what commitment really is.

First, let me say that I’m going to be writing about commitment in a much larger sense. I’m going to examine commitment as it transcends polyamory and monogamy. So often, we talk about being in a “committed relationship.”  In much of monogamous society, that is code for “exclusive.” But, as I’ve discussed previously, commitment isn’t about exclusivity. I can be committed to several friends all at once – being committed to one friend doesn’t mean I can’t also be committed to another. Commitment, like love, isn’t a finite resource that gets used up once we’ve made a commitment to a person.

To me, commitment means exhibiting a deep care and devotion to another person. This care and devotion can be exhibited by spending time with that person, sharing woes and heartaches with that person, celebrating successes and triumphs with that person, and/or simple gestures of affection. A hug is a great way to show your commitment to another person through physical contact. And depending on the intimacy level between you and the person you’re committed to, cuddling, holding hands, kissing and sexual contact might also be ways to show commitment.

Oh, and one more thing: I love everybody I’m committed to.

That is, I am committed to all of my friends. And I love all of my friends. The love I feel for each and every one of these friends is unique, like a snowflake.  Yes, I see love and commitment as intertwined very closely.

And I think that many of my friends, both poly and monogamous alike would agree with me. For our close friends, we would do almost anything. They are like family. The love we feel for them brings us closer, strengthening the commitment we have. So hey, monogamous person reading my blog right now – you love many people. And not just your family and romantic partner. You love your friends. You are showing the power of infinite love every time you express that commitment to your friends. And the love you feel for one friend doesn’t necessarily diminish the love you feel for your other friends, or for your romantic partner, or for your family. Because each of those “loves” is different – the snowflake effect, as I mentioned earlier.

We poly-mers just take this a step further, and open up the possibilities that the love and commitment we feel doesn’t have to be limited to just platonic friends. That we can form intimate/romantic/sexual bonds with multiple people, love those people, and be committed to them.  And these relationships might all be very different. Some poly people seek out very serious, long term relationships. Some poly people seek out relationships that might fulfill needs (sexual, emotional, intellectual) that another partner doesn’t meet. Some poly people desire companionship – a special friend to have a cuddly-Netlfix night with. But all of these poly people have in common a close relationship to those that they’re involved with – a commitment that comes with love.

Now, I’m not necessarily talking about that “falling in love” kind of love, though that may be the case for some people. Recently, on a Facebook discussion group, we were talking about how some people are “in love” with some of their partners, but just have sexual relationships with others. Upon further exploration, most of the people that self-identify as having “casual” sexual relationships are actually friends with those people. And since we are committed to our friends, and often love our friends, in a way, these aren’t casual relationships.

To be clear, to me a casual relationship is one in which neither side has any feelings whatsoever for the other – they’re just there only for sexual gratification, not for a kind of connection beyond that. I would call those Fuck Buddies (FB). I don’t think this is a bad thing, but I don’t put FB under the realm of poly, because there is not a commitment of any kind in those types of relationships. I think that many of my poly friends might be engaging in a FWB (Friends with Benefits) setup – but at the heart of that term is still the word friend, which I think establishes a level of care that goes beyond just sex.

Much of what I’ve discussed in this post is truly a case of semantics. Some of my poly friends would (and actually have) disagreed with my definitions. I entirely respect the viewpoints of my fellow poly-pals,but ultimately I think we need to come to agreement on what we’re talking about.  I think that using common terminology is important, so that when we communicate with the monogamous world, we are all on the same page.  One of my goals with this blog is to raise awareness of the polyamory orientation among the monogamous. This is a crucial step in gaining acceptance, which then builds a bridge to equal rights for those in poly relationships. Word choice may not seem like much, but in the end it’s so very important in the battle of public perception.

So, go forth and love the people in your life. Honor your commitment to them. Give them a hug today – and tell ’em Patrick sent ya!

This entry was posted in Advice, Poly issues, Relationship Dynamics and tagged , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

6 Responses to Commitment!

  1. lexxiblue says:

    I do agree that wording, unfortunately, it’s important to create acceptance. Thank you.

  2. lexxiblue says:

    Reblogged this on lexxiblue and commented:
    Very interesting point of view on commitment in a poly world.

  3. I am committed to people, places, times, things, agendas, beliefs, myself, anything else I left out. Commitment isn’t just a relational thing. I am very committed to the people I love, my family, my lovers, my friends.

    Someone who is afraid of commitment would be someone who doesn’t like to plan or make promises they aren’t sure they can keep. Who goes with the wind, probably has a job that they can come or go. But deep down everyone is committed to something.

  4. curiously skeptical says:

    My grandparents were committed and deeply in love, and monogamous for 64 and 60 years, faithful until death. They were parted entirely against their wills.
    My parents are committed and loving, monogamous for 54 years and counting. They’ve faced just about every challenge life can throw at you, and remain strong and faithful to each other.
    My marriage, 21 years and counting, is facing a challenge none of them had every considered, my husband wants other partners. I honestly don’t know if we’re going to survive this.
    I understand commitment to friends, but I also know if it comes to who gets my deepest commitment, who comes first in my heart, who’s side I would run too first, it would be my husband, not my friends. And they know and support this because they have their own families who take priority. With him taking other lovers, falling in love with other women, I’ll always question his commitment to me. Faithfulness falls, is commitment far behind? If I need him, and he’s in the arms of someone else, completely wrapped up in them, devoted to them, would he come? Or am I on my own until he decides it’s my turn? I see a lot of poly relationships that claim longevity at 7, 10, maybe 20 years, but mostly short-term experiences. Lots of leaving lovers.

    I hate this.

    • I’m very sorry for the pain you’re feeling. Polyamory, in my opinion – and mine isn’t shared by the entire poly community – is about ETHICAL non-monogamy. I capitalized the word ETHICAL because it’s the most important component of what being non-monogamous should be about – again, in my opinion. So I have to ask – have you shared your unhappiness with your husband – that is shared in a very direct and clear way? I mean SUPER direct. I find that a lot of the time, people who’ve been together for years assume that the other person should just KNOW when the other is feeling sad, unhappy, hurt. But we honestly put blinders on to the pain of our partners, especially when we’re doing something we think is “right” or “Ok.”

      Ok, so assuming you have had this very direct communication about how much this situation pains you, and assuming you husband is still going about his non-monogamy, I would argue that this is not polyamory. Because your husband isn’t being ethical. He’s taking a course of action that is hurting you. IF you’ve told him this hurts you, and he keeps doing it, then he’s now hurting you on purpose. That’s the opposite of ethical. That’s wrong. And though he’s not “cheating,” what he’s doing is terribly wrong.

      Some people aren’t compatible in a long term way. I think that in today’s world, the only way for two people to stay truly monogamous is for both of them to have a very low sex drive. In my experience reading and talking to people, those with any kind of a moderate (or more) sex drive need some variety in their lives, or they find themselves straying away.

      We have to face facts. The time when your parents and grandparents got married were very different times. VERY different. Divorce was rare. When people got married 50 years ago, they truly believed they were making a lifelong commitment. And they were making that commitment in a sex-negative culture. A culture where sex was shamed. Where enjoying sex was verboten. But now, we live in a sex positive culture. And sexual compatibility is very important to us. Now, I don’t know your situation. But I do know that the vast majority of people who are together for multiple years no longer have the same sex life they did when they first met. When people first start dating and being sexual, they have sex many times per week. Then as time goes on, the “newness” of the sex wears off, and they start having sex less an less. If a couple who has been married 20 years is still having sex once a week, that’s a lot! Yet, we remain sexual creatures. We still want it. We just don’t want it with the same person we’ve been having it with for that many years. Human nature is to seek out variety – in the foods we eat, the music we listen to, the activities we engage in, the movies we watch, the friends we spend time with. Very few people like doing/eating/listening to the same thing day in and day out. It’s just not in our nature. Both biological and sociological evidence backs this up.

      It sounds like your husband is putting his own needs above yours. He’s hurting you on purpose. He’s acting unethically. If he’s not willing to tend to your needs, then I would say it’s time to move on from this relationship. But before making that decision, make the choice clear to him. If you’re truly not flexible on non-monogamy and he’s insistent on continuing with non-monogamy, you’re just not compatible.

    • I just read this. I am sorry your husband is so inconsiderate of your feelings. Commitment and faithfulness are two very different things.

      I have been with my husband for going on 18 years. We have been married 13 of those years and I have been in a committed relationship with another man for 2 years. I can count my sex partners on one hand, and I have children which takes SERIOUS commitment. My eldest is 10. The other three are my step children, my husband with his lover who is just under a year and my lover’s with his wife which are 7 and 4. I am 31.

      I think the problem with Marriage today is we throw things out when they are broken. You have no idea if there were extra marital affairs in your grandparents or parents marriages. They were much better at keeping that drama to themself. They didn’t have facebook. They also didn’t have the temptation we have now. People had more class then. They didn’t divorce back then either so if there were problems in the marriage they worked hard on them.

      All this being said I think monogamy does work for some people. Your husband is obviously not one of them. My husband and I both got together very young and we both cheated one time before realizing we were non monogamous. ONCE. It hurt us too much, both of us to be dishonest and to hurt the other and it always hurts when you are being betrayed. He is a serial cheater which is different than being polyamorous. You do not hurt people you love. You are ethical always to them and if you mess up once you do your damnest to make it up to them.

      If he hasn’t cheated and just asked for other partners consider yourself lucky and watch for it because he may already be cheating. If you cannot yourself be convinced that you can love more than one person at a time but he needs that then you are NOT compatible. As for longevity, some people prefer short term relationships, but many people I know in poly (my sister is a priestess, knows many people who follow different forms of life) have been married to their primary partners for eons and beeing in other relationships that actually are older than their marriage or following behing it by a few years and are VERY much in love and committed to one another.

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