A Thousand Arms to Hug Your Soul
I read an amazing book called Redefining Our Relationships: Guidelines for Responsible Open Relationships by Wendy-O Matik. It was an enlightening and informative take on how to manage a variety of polyamorous scenarios. In the book, there was one line which I believe should be broadcast from the mountaintops, the front page of the daily news, and all the addictively devoured sources of crap on the internet. Here is one of Matik’s most poignant contributions to the Unwritten Commandments of the Polyamory Bible:
“There should be more than one place to get a hug.”
Absolute truth and brilliance. As children, we have many sources of emotional warmth. Mother. Father. Siblings. Grandparents. Aunts, uncles, cousins, etc. But as we grow older, it seems that we are not privileged with continued access to the comfort zones we are all too eager to escape to when the big, bad world hurts us (and you KNOW it will. Repeatedly. Seemingly for pure shits and giggles, at times…) So, when and why do we shift out of this state of generosity? As a society, why do we see it as “weak” or a “failure” or having a “problem”, whether mild or psychological, if we confess to reaching a point of personal dysfunction. Hell, it seems the term “mid-life crisis” is a North American rite of passage. And what is the typical response to this destined destabilization of the human soul? Buy a motorcycle, a sports car, or a yacht. Spend money. Find some capitalist escape mechanism and then shut the fuck up because almost everyone hates their job, right?
“Mid-life crisis” is generally understood to be an epidemic suffered by men, and women who are far too often relegated to (suffering from a quarter-life crisis, and) deferring their aspirations while working some socially acceptable career for a woman “like her” (all-too-often not sexual or intellectual), then hopefully finding the socially approved success of being a wife/mother who puts her husband’s and children’s needs (and dreams) before her own. So we have millions of innocent, law-abiding citizens who are being punished by not doing what they love to do, as life herds them on to a treadmill towards existential oblivion. Does that overwhelming malaise and inevitable despair parallel their love and sex lives? The better question is: how can it NOT?
So here we are – a chaotic society with far too many depressed, cynical, hope-starved individuals without emotional, spiritual, and/or economical support – and the lurking spectre over all of that unfulfillment – SEXUAL support!
Welcome to the privileges of polyamory.
Whether it’s through a multi-layered tapestry of open-minded lovers, uniquely bonded friends, friends with benefits, intriguing acquaintances, mature ex-lovers, or friends of poly friends, polyamory often provides more places to find love, support, and understanding than monogamy’s traditional frameworks, boundaries and limitations. And yes, being a polyamorist DOES limit one’s options as there is only a small percentage of North Americans who openly identify as polyamorous. Yet, the same relationship system that amputates one’s options for partners also provides an extended network of unique beings who act as emotional and sexual safety nets. They will support you during inevitable upsets – when you start something with someone, and you discover that you had them… up until you said the word “poly”. Then they never called back.
When you’re looking for a job, do you only submit one resume to one company? Hell, no. You hand out resumes to every place you want to work, as well as to places whose overall benefits interest you just enough. When you want to buy something, do you only shop at one store? No. You shop around to find the best price. Do you feel like you’re cheating when you buy something from one store and find out it’s a better deal elsewhere? No. Exploring one’s options in life is not selfish or evil. The only problem arises if you promised the cashier at the first store that you would buy something but left and bought it elsewhere without having the consideration of telling the first cashier. Whether in love or anywhere else in life, honoring one’s word and maintaining integrity is arguably the well worth the effort.
I’ve always liked this comparison: monogamous dating is like a job interview. There is a undefined area which monogamous daters take refuge in. Does dating mean that you’re fucking or just hanging out together? You haven’t kissed yet, and it’s the third date? Are you dating other people simultaneously? Are you fucking them or being intimate in general? Do you disclose this information to dating prospects? If you’re not boyfriend-girlfriend, are you required to share details of outside dating, aka “sex partner job applicants”? These questions ALWAYS gave me trouble understanding dating concepts within a monogamous framework. Dating DOES provide more than one source of relationship interest with its flexible structure of connecting to others. So why is it okay to have more than one source of happiness while we’re dating, but once we select a date, we’re no longer allowed to enjoy the benefits of options?
Is tasting that one ripe fruit really worth losing the bountiful harvest you have been cultivating your whole life?
That’s a choice people around the world are forced to make, time and time again. Many of us share this experience: close friends find monogamous lovers, and all of a sudden, we don’t see them much anymore… at least until they break up. And whether they choose what their heart wants, or what society tells them they want, the question of “how many people am I openly and freely allowed to reach with my happiness?” is the ultimate issue.
How many people are you allowed to love, and how many people are you allowed to touch? In traditional monogamy, the answer is always ONE. (Unless you cheat, which turns the relationship into a non-consensual polyamorous relationship, which is absolutely unhealthy.) But how many people are you allowed to love in polyamory? As many as your beautiful little heart can handle. And how many people are you allowed to touch? As many as you’re emotionally responsible to.
And there’s the rub.
Polyamory dreams of its participants living in a world where, if you’re honest with every pair of lips, there is nothing wrong with having more than one place to get a kiss.
Always in Love,