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Thursday, November 3, 2011

Am I POLY, or just HORNY?

You run a fantastic blog! Thanks for allowing us to ask these sensitive questions in safety and openness. :)

I read your excellent post on Open Relationships vs. Polyamory and, after examining my feelings and situation, I'm still uncertain as to where I fall.

I've been happily married for over two years. My wife is a delightful, open-minded and intelligent young woman who's made no qualms about identifying as bisexual with strongly lesbian tendencies. While I tend to identify as straight as I feel no physical attraction to men - there are some very handsome guys out there, sure, but I don't feel anywhere near as compelled by them as I am by women - I do feel strong attractions to women who aren't my wife. I used to chalk this up to either animal instinct or (in a few cases) old emotional attachments, but as time has gone on I've felt such things towards women I've had no past history with.

The other thing that belies the "it's just horniness" argument I keep trying to use on myself is that these ladies to whom I'm attracted invoke emotional reactions as well as sexual. Not the deep and abiding love I have for my wife, mind you, but the sort of bonds I forge with close friends. I care about them, delight in their triumphs and want to comfort them in their sorrow, make myself available to them and wish them every measure of happiness. In short: I'm not just looking for fuckbuddies.

I come from a very Christian upbringing. I still hold onto the barest of tenets of that faith - loving God, loving my neighbor and testing everything so I can hold on to what's good - so for a long time I've considered such impulses and feelings to be wrong. The more I embrace them, however, the more at peace I feel. I feel more comfortable in my own skin knowing that I make women happy, even if they're women who aren't my wife. I think this might be pointing me in a direction I've never considered. I may, in fact, be poly.

I feel strongly about freedom, about the rights of the LGBT community and how, especially in a country founded on liberty and a lack of persecution (in theory), people should be free to love, live and interact as they see fit as long as nobody's getting hurt. But I don't know exactly how to deal with this other than just going with my feelings. Have other polys had experiences like this, sort of a 'coming out of the closet' moment? Am I poly? Or am I just putting emotions behind normal straight horniness and overthinking the situation? I'd be interested to hear your thoughts.

Sincerely yours,
Confused And Restless

Dear CAR (No relation to K.I.T.T., right?):

Here's an interesting question for you in response to your question for us. Is our sexual orientation determined by our actions, or our feelings? If someone is born with a preference for homosexual eroticism, but never acts on it, are they "gay"? Conversely, could a straight person choose to have a homosexual experience, and still be "straight"?

If you believe that "being poly" means acting on your feelings, then you might not be, if you haven't done so. That might make you repressed, and possibly affect you psychologically
or manifest in other ways, but it doesn't make you polyamorous.

If however you believe that being poly means having emotionally-charged feelings for multiple people, then - yep, you're poly, regardless of how you might attempt to rationalize those feelings away. If you FEEL what you describe, you've proven that
you're capable of feeling that way. Of course, actually living a poly lifestyle and being in a poly relationship involves consistent honesty, openness, and communication between you and your partner/s - who knows whether or not you are or will in the future achieve that type of relationship? But the answer you're looking for within yourself, is yes.

And you're not alone. I think it's clear most humans are *born* poly. Most of us (here in the United States, at least) are socialized away from it from a young age by external ideals of what is expected of us regarding monogamous romantic relationships, and only some of us are able to re/connect with our natural ability to develop and maintain multiple relationships with lovers as well as nonromantic friends and family. It would be completely illogical to suggest that we have the innate ability to care deeply for many people in our lives, but somehow lose that ability when sex or romance is involved. It makes much more sense to look at polyamory as an inherent capacity, a plus to be nurtured rather than a negative to be repressed, without which we are in fact LIMITED to caring for one person at a time, not from choice but because we have no other options available to us. Many people see a poly mindset as an enlightened or enhanced one, which allows many more options than those who are biologically limited to monogamy. It's like having a Swiss Army knife at your disposal rather than a straight blade. (Make your own "gay blade" joke here, if you like.)

Your thoughts as you describe them show you have the ability to develop and maintain multiple emotional relationships with different women, but you are also apparently concerned with what that might mean, for your intellect or for your faith. I think you already know which of those is likely to win in a fight over which "feels" right, but I personally don't believe the two can't healthily coexist. All I can tell you is you may still CHOOSE a monogamous path of action if you want to do so, but the fact you are feeling the way you describe tells me you are what you consider "poly". It remains now to be seen how and whether you act on it. Personally, I always recommend total honesty and communication with your loved ones regarding your feelings; it luckily sounds like you have a partner who would be supportive.

Michelle?

It certainly sounds like your wife would be receptive to the topic of polyamory since she's bisexual and presumably can understand how someone can find love in different people, even if she doesn't actually practice polyamory. And I applaud you for your impulse to spread happiness outside your marriage - the world needs more of that, always.

I was in a situation similar to yours in 2007. I was in a relationship with someone who was married, and we explored a triad together, which later turned into a "V." I chafed at being in this position until I discovered the poly community in New York and came out as poly in January 2008. That was when I got the vocabulary and the awareness that I was in a poly situation but still following a monogamous mindset; a dichotomy that was the source of my discomfort. I realized that in order to be happy, I had to align my beliefs with my reality as much as possible.

As Leon says, this is all about communication. Since you wrote to us, I figure you are looking for advice, so I suggest that the first thing you do is talk to your wife and find out her feelings about the possibility of opening your marriage. Your marriage is an agreement between the two of you, and it shouldn't be altered without mutual consent. So if you think about your marriage as an agreement, what exactly did you agree to? Sexual fidelity? Emotional exclusivity? Companionship? Eternal friendship? Ask yourself what your marriage means to you first and then ask her.

Then it's time to negotiate. Talk gently about what you want in your heart, for yourself and for her. Do either or both of you feel constrained by your marriage agreement? Maybe you're just looking for explicit permission to form close relationships with other women, and maybe she wants the same thing! Maybe it involves sex; maybe it doesn't. Start by figuring out what is the core of your existing relationship - what must be preserved to make you both feel safe and secure. What is the most important thing that you give one another? Whatever that is, make sure to protect it.

Beyond that, create a safe space for yourselves to talk about your hopes, dreams and fears. Establish up-front that nothing will happen without explicit agreement so you can talk freely without misunderstanding your intentions. Think about how you will feel if your wife starts dating a woman or another man - what would you need from her to keep your marriage strong? Make new agreements as you go, knowing that they can be renegotiated in the future so you can take things in small steps. For example, if you're both not ready to be poly, make an agreement to revisit the idea in six months, or a year. Ultimately, your marriage will be stronger if you both feel comfortable talking freely about things that maybe previously you thought were assumed. This is one way in which poly techniques can be useful for monogamous people.

All that said, as Leon pointed out, you can choose to follow a monogamous path after you've had this talk - maybe that will turn out to be the best option for both of you. But at least you will know that you made a CHOICE, rather than just assumptions or accepting the status quo.

If the two of you decide to explore poiyamory
together, I strongly encourage you to seek out resources to help your find your way, either from several books available, your local polyamory group chapter, or come to an Open Love NY event if you can travel. Every relationship is unique, but it's always good to see others' mistakes so you can avoid obvious pitfalls. Getting support for a lifestyle that is not always accepted by family and the larger community also increases your chances for success.

14 comments:

  1. well i dont understand people being in polyamory..well where's the problem with two people being with each others..yes there can be feelings but is there a need to act upon it for just romance and sex when you are already in a relationship with a beautiful partner..!!!

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  2. As we say throughout this blog, polyamory may not be for everyone. If you have a perfect partner and a perfect relationship situation; if you don't feel strongly about letting more chances at deep, meaningful and loving relationships pass you by; or if you forever accept the curtailments of a monogamous relationship in exchange for being with a certain person are some examples.

    As for understanding poly people, let me illustrate with a fable of sorts. Pretend that you woke up one day and you find out that 99% of the world decided every adult may only have one parent. It quickly became commonplace for people to choose either their father or mother to be the "official" parent and all children, upon reaching 21 years of age, had to declare which parent would maintain the bond for the remainder of their lives. Siblings would divy up mothers and fathers so each would have one parent.

    With such overwhelming public consensus, laws are swiftly passed to favor "one-parent" citizens and to outlaw the practice of adults having two official parents on the basis that the anyone with TWO parents is both greedy and unnatural. But you and your parents, who are from our reality, want to maintain your family bond so you do so secretly, devising complicated schedules so they are not seen arriving at your house together. You continually catch yourself talking about only your mom (or dad) rather than "parents" when talking about weekend plans with co-workers.

    You carefully seek out the like-minded 1% and form support groups to bemoan the public attitudes that make your beliefs outcast among society and outside the protection of law. You wish things could go back to the way things were. And it's the same with polyamory: it's not a new idea. In many other cultures and at different times in history, multiple relationships were the norm, not the outlier.

    So the best way to explain "why polyamory?" is to say there is no problem with just two people being in a relationship. The problem becomes when that's the ONLY choice presented as acceptable and desirable for society. Some people want to create non-nuclear families with more than two adults, joined by bonds of love and commitment. This might be their path to lasting happiness. If that's the case, the need is for them to be understood as not right or wrong, but different.

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  3. Where's the *like* button on this thing???

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  4. well its ok...
    but the law with one parent can never exist..because a child is born by the cooperation of a male and a female...thats how god created life..
    and we live in a free country so why the need of so many support groups..no one is harming anyone...
    and polyamory is not for everyone..or would say only for a handful of people..because it is normal that people will nevr want to share their special ones..people close to their lives with others..then isnt polyamorourous people horny..???
    this doesnt mean society or people disliking it are selfish or rude..
    now u are rooting for this cause..will in the nxt few days u will root even for incestuous people..just because people have the right to do anything...???

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  5. Wonderful advice, Leon and Mischa! Keep 'em comin'. :)

    Anon, if the blog runners don't mind, I'll respond to your post point by point:

    > but the law with one parent can never exist..because a child is born by the cooperation of a male and a female...thats how god created life..
    You make three separate points here, two of which are frequently incorrect and one that is debatable. 1. The law Mischa suggested in her parable (which, note, was simply used as a metaphor for the poly situation in the U.S.A.) will almost certainly not be suggested or passed in Congress in the reality in which we live, but laws that normalise the living situations of the majority are frequently passed by Congress, so in the reality suggested by Mischa, it would certainly be possible.
    2. Children are frequently born through the cooperation of two individuals whose gonads correspond to what we frequently consider 'male' and 'female', but the beauty of modern technology is that sex and reproduction have been effectively separated and there are a number of people who choose to a) have sex without reproducing or b) reproduce through artificial means. It's brilliant.
    3. I make no claims on whether or not god created life through copulative reproduction, but I will say that no law should ever be passed for religious reasons, the proclivities of our lawmakers notwithstanding.

    >and we live in a free country so why the need of so many support groups..no one is harming anyone...
    The very act of declaring one way of life as normal and another as other is harmful to the people being othered. Furthermore, there are numerous laws (e.g. tax laws, adoption laws) supporting two-parent nuclear families which harm by exclusion any family that does not fit that norm. This doesn't just harm polyamorous people, but other non-traditional households: chosen families, extended families, etc. And that's not including the harassment that members of non-traditional families often suffer at the hands of the people who have declared themselves ‘normal’ and ‘right’.

    >and polyamory is not for everyone..or would say only for a handful of people..because it is normal that people will nevr want to share their special ones..people close to their lives with others..then isnt polyamorourous people horny..???
this doesnt mean society or people disliking it are selfish or rude..
    I’m actually having some trouble parsing this particular point, but from what I understand you are suggesting that because polyamorous people are horny, “society or people disliking [polyamory]” are not being selfish or rude. Well, I haven’t done any studies on the incidence of horniness in the polyamorous community, but I have anecdotal evidence of a number of people with low sex drives and even some people identifying asexual who nonetheless identify as polyamory. I also know a lot of monogamous people with remarkably high sex drives. People who choose to live polyamorously frequently do it for reasons other than sex.

    I would like to question this: “this doesn’t mean society or people disliking it are selfish or rude”. What does it mean, then? What are you afraid of? If poly people get to live happily and are accepted in society, what will it do to you and your relationships?

    >now u are rooting for this cause..will in the nxt few days u will root even for incestuous people..just because people have the right to do anything...???
    I would like to link you to this.

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  6. the leaky pen,
    no modern technology can even be at the level of natural reproduction...the beauty god has created...comparing them is actaully being foolish..
    now because you start making new kinds of relationships...laws cannot be changed according to your wish as you want..
    harrasment from traditional families???what kind can you explain??
    yes people are polyamourous for a wide number of reasons...but do you think the reasons are valid enough???
    i have no problem with polyamory or people with such relationships..but saying it to be the superior form or true form...doesnt make any sense..
    and you havnt even answered my question on sharing...why will people already comitted to a relationship go for polyamory...unless they have a problem within themselves??
    i knew you will give this link..but to be on the records...during recognition of gay relationships...people feared even for poly relationships..!!how do you know years later these wont happen???

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    1. >no modern technology can even be at the level of natural reproduction...the beauty god has created...comparing them is actaully being foolish..

      I'm not sure how we got on the unrelated topic of reproduction... but, if this is a discussion about what is "natural/normal" vs "unnatural/other" with regard to committed relationships... well, we could go on for awhile. It's well documented that the current cultural blueprint around committed relationships (lifelong monogamous pair-bonding and legal marriage) was specifically conceived of and cultivated over many years as a strategy to deal with a variety of issues... mostly revolving around ownership of property, and title/class/rank, and the need that was created to guarantee paternity as a way to deal with inheritance. That's a gross oversimplification, of course... for instance, I also didn't address how marriage was also conceived as a way to subjugate women, strip them of basic human rights/freedoms, and turn them into little more than baby factories. But, I'll leave that for another day.

      My point is, marriage is an invention... albeit an invention of some merit given the historical content in which it was created... and, as many of those old merits continue to become obsolete, marriage are beginning to wake up to the realization that binary marriage is a *choice*, and no longer a requirement, in the modern age.

      And that, my friend, is really where I'm trying to go with this. Monogamous marriage is a choice... and it can be a very strong choice for many, many people if entered into in an empowered way. But, to call that "normal" is going into dangerous territory. I'm sure there are many aspects of your chosen lifestyle (or even how you were born) that, depending on where you live (or even right in your hometown), put you outside the norm and clearly in the box labeled "other".

      One of the big reason I chose a polyamorous life is that I never felt comfortable with the idea of suppressing genuinely mutual feelings of physical attraction and/or romantic love toward others simply because that didn't fit into the local cultural blueprint. For me, it *is* natural.

      So, to segue into another of your points...

      >i have no problem with polyamory or people with such relationships..but saying it to be the superior form or true form...doesnt make any sense..

      I'm not sure if anyone here is arguing that polyamory is a superior or more true form of relationship. You have choices in this day and age... Make the superior choice for *you*...

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  7. Looks like most of the points brought up have already been addressed by others, and quite eloquently, but I would like to ask Anonymous a question, just so I can understand a little better the nature of the concern.

    Do you believe people should have freedom to act as they believe and feel in their private lives and relationships, as long as all participants are consenting adults? If not, is this because of a personal belief YOU have that such behavior is wrong?

    It might be wrong (or at least not right) for you in your lifestyle, Anonymous, but that doesn't mean it's wrong for others, or more importantly it's "wrong" universally. Throughout history, philosophers have described the existence and content of "natural law" which exists outside of manmade law and ethics: for example, even if there were no law on the books against murder, most people would understand that killing another person without justification would violate natural law and be therefore wrong. Many religions and traditions over the last two millennia have added their concepts of "right and wrong" to our ethical code, and while sometimes it is easy to tell the difference between what may be genuinely wrong for everyone (like murder), wrong for people who follow a particular religion (like kosher Jews eating pork), and things appropriate for a given time in history which may no longer apply in modern society (human or animal sacrifices, for example, or public beheadings), sometimes it is not. For example, how do we know whether or not it is "wrong" for people to to drink alcohol? What about drinking alcohol in public? What about sharing it with your teenager?

    What qualifies as 'wrong', if anything does, changes constantly as society evolves. Luckily, most people who think for themselves in our society in the United States, as well as our court system, are of the mind that adults should be free to do as they see fit in their personal lives, as long as they don't negatively affect other people outside those lives. It is hard to conceive of anything that falls within this rule of thumb, that can universally be called 'wrong' by fair-minded people, and many laws previously in conflict are changing (removing restrictions on interracial marriage, for example, or homosexuality) to reflect this modern policy of personal autonomy.

    Anonymous, if you're still reading, perhaps what you think of as "wrong" is merely your own personal beliefs (my guess is these are due to your own religious convictions, but perhaps not) - and no matter how strongly YOU believe in them, there's a problem with you expecting to impose your belief system on others. Our societal freedoms mean that you are entitled to your own personal beliefs about right and wrong, and you have the freedom to engage in all forms of legal behavior (or to refrain from doing so) as part of your right to life, liberty, and your personal pursuit of happiness.

    But so does everyone else.

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  8. well...sorry but was too long...dont want to go in the historical way..
    brian,
    because you are on the poly side you will not understand the normality of mono relationship...i m not telling it as the only path for people...believe it or not it is normal...nobody unless problematic go for poly...
    any valid reasons guys...?????
    well on saying about my choice..
    i do not follow what society does..i follow my own way...even if my hometown,parents,people may be mono or poly
    wel i have not written anywhere to suppress feelings due to societal presure...your feelings of love and romance for multiple people may not be natural..but is natural to you because you feel unsatisfied being with a single person...no such desires even evolve if your love and affection to a person is true..
    monogamy never needed any support groups...y poly then???
    and now the situation is that mono people are being harassed by polys

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  9. no..i have no such belief actually...if people want to follow something privately in their lives...no prob...
    but publicity of this in the wrong sense...is what i dont agree..
    poly relationship...a type in which a person cannot find one person to fulfill their needs...why there is a comparison with mono...the eternity,purity, deepness,purity,love is far far ahead...being with each other in love...with no sharing...it self gives a beautiful meaning...it does not lacks anything..
    everything we do does not make it right..as in some of your examples...
    its an universal belief..

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  10. leon
    no..i have no such belief actually...if people want to follow something privately in their lives...no prob...
    but publicity of this in the wrong sense...is what i dont agree..
    poly relationship...a type in which a person cannot find one person to fulfill their needs...why there is a comparison with mono...the eternity,purity, deepness,purity,love is far far ahead...being with each other in love...with no sharing...it self gives a beautiful meaning...it does not lacks anything..
    everything we do does not make it right..as in some of your examples...
    its an universal belief..

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  11. Anon, I would like to briefly address your points:

    now the situation is that mono people are being harassed by polys

    We are not harassing you. This is a poly advice blog, and we are trying to get you to see the poly viewpoint. If you feel harassed, please feel free to ignore us.

    because you are on the poly side you will not understand the normality of mono relationship...i m not telling it as the only path for people...believe it or not it is normal

    We all understand that monogamy is practiced by the majority of people. From a statistical definition, that makes it “normal.” It does not, however, mean it’s the right choice for everyone. By your argument, since you are on the monogamy side you will not understand the reasons for polyamory unless you try it. But most poly people grew up monogamous, so we’re generally going to make more informed choices than people who have never tried polyamory.

    nobody unless problematic go for poly...

    So, you’re saying that all polyamorous people are problematic. That’s a sweeping insult to a lot of people you don’t know. Notice that we are not saying anything about monogamous people in general, other than they might not be making the most informed relationship choices, which is a fact.

    monogamy never needed any support groups...y poly then???

    Monogamy does have support groups, and they are much larger than poly groups; so large in fact that it's no surprise you don't recognize them. They're called churches, coffee klatches, rotary clubs, infidelity recovery counseling, every friend and relative who encourages us to find "the one": they are all part of one big support group for monogamy. The only reason poly support groups exist is to counter, in some small way, the overwhelming and omnipresent support for monogamy that is pervasive in our society.

    publicity of this in the wrong sense...is what i dont agree..

    So, you think poly isn't wrong, it's only wrong to talk about it? This is basically the same as the anti-gay "don't ask don't tell" policy recently overturned by the U.S. military. Your preference to be monogamous is not curtailed by people exercising their free speech rights to talk about polyamory, and it certainly doesn't justify censoring polyamory.

    but is natural to you because you feel unsatisfied being with a single person...no such desires even evolve if your love and affection to a person is true.. being with each other in love...with no sharing...it self gives a beautiful meaning...it does not lacks anything..

    Not all polys feel unsatisfied being with one person. Being poly might mean being with someone who themselves has other partners. Seeing your partner happy with other partners, instead of being jealous and/or possessive, is a core tenet of polyamory. We call it “compersion” or “frubble” – it’s the happiness you feel when your partner is made happy by someone else.

    Your definition of “true” love, one that is so strong and pure that both partners never have any desires for other people for the rest of their lives, is extremely rare at best and for most people, a pleasant fiction (as evidenced by current divorce rates and publicly visible instances of infidelity in society). But more to the point – no one should make the mistake of defining what love is “true love” and what is not for anyone other than themselves.

    For polys, sharing is what gives love its beautiful meaning. We believe love does not have to be contained, hoarded or restricted. We believe in the core sentiment of the saying, “if you love someone, set them free.” Just as you believe that the greatest love exists in the absence of desire for other people, we believe the greatest love exists when there is freedom to love. The difference appears to be that we believe there's room in the world for many kinds of "true" love and not just one.

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  12. Anon: Could you maybe try writing actual sentences, and perhaps re-reading your posts at least once before you put them up there. So far you have about a 50% chance of one of your replies being coherent, and perhaps this argument would go more smoothly if the folks responding back to you could actually understand the points you are trying to make and not have to guess at them. Also, just wondering, how did you end up on a poly advice blog anyway, when you seem very staunchly monogamous and anti-polyamorous?

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  13. well i m not a poly nor a mono..so i am not supporting any of them...
    by harassing i didnt mean you people...you are better than others..
    i am not insulting any relationship..
    but any of the following reasons due to which people follow polyamory if valid and normal i would want to know...please..
    by problematic i didnt mean mental sickness...but understanding the relation he/she is in...
    there is no need to counter...let people who want to support monogamy support it and poly people support polyamory...
    people can talk about it but preference of one over the other is unfair..
    the term which you told about poly..is poly love type...not romantic love..
    if people had wanted to stay with one partner...then they should not have cheated on them just to fulfill their desires...is their a strong need for love after being in a relationship with someone.???.cant they be content with emotional needs being fulfilled by friendship..???and jealousy and possessiveness can also be better handled in a better way...
    and practically poly can't also reduce divorce rates..people have to create strong bonds within their relationship for success.
    we change the definition of true love which best fits our life..this simply doesnt change its natural form..
    """sharing is caring"""" this phase just only does not fits in romantic love..its a type of love in which we feel content with the special one we chose...otherwise people had lived with the single status and just dated..but still not to bring two or more people in life..
    yes love can also be bst felt when set free..you will start to realise who is actaully made for you..



    veronikal...
    i am sorry i myself felt their are huge mistakes...and i have not been able to explain my points clear to people..actually i am getting very less time.....but next time i would surely...
    secondly i have explained that i m neither poly nor mono...nor i m supporting any..i may be anti to both..
    welll by your line it seems you are anti mono...as well as many...atleast should have given pros and cons of both relationships..!

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