In a society which hates and suppresses sex in all but the most rigidly controlled circumstances, many would-be-polyamorists go through a terrible process of trying to meet others expectations. They are unaware that it is their nature to love more than one simultaneously and that this an acceptable choice to make; for in the world's (and usually their own) eyes, they are already sinners. In trying to fit their round polyamorous selves into a monogamous square hole, they will ultimately fail and repeat a pattern of guilt and self loathing which contributes further to lower their self esteem. Their obvious failures and misery are compounded by the disgust of their peers, parents and often even their friends.
I know, because it happened to me. And it was hell.
Raised in the christian ideal where the highest pinnacle of womanhood is a an immaculate virgin, I knew that my nature and inclination was spurned as dirty, disgusting and whorish even before I acted upon it. Of course, at first no one did know of it but me, but my more 'loving' tendencies revealed themselves early on. And in an effort to precipitate the inevitable rejection from others, I took on more lovers than even I ever wanted, often despising myself for doing so and despairing that I would ever have a future with any man. After all who would want a sinner and a whore?
Then I fell madly in love and got married. It wasn't long though before I had to admit it, to him and to myself.
'I can't do it.' I said. 'I can't be faithful.'
'Then you can't love me'. Said my husband.
'But I do. I do love you. I'd die for you. I want to spend my life with you.' I replied with tears in my eyes.
'As long as you want to connect to other men then I guess I am not the right one.' He said.
The world would have you believe this. The world would prevent two people from being together who love each other because they also love and love to be with others.
Last weekend saw a mercy dash overseas to comfort a monogamous friend who is going through a bad break up. As part of the 'break up therapy', along with drinking too much, sitting around in our pyjamas and unravelling where it all went wrong with brilliant hindsight, we watched an entire season of Sex And The City. Every episode was dedicated to finding 'the one', dealing with the inability to commit, cheating & betrayal and the struggle to change people into something they really weren't.
As we watched and took lessons from the hell that is the monogamous struggle for the perfect relationship, the one and only, I threw up. It wasn't just the hangover... The reminder of the fear, anxiety, and utter shame I had felt for years from living and trying to live up to a monogamous paradigm was brought up quite literally in the form of the pizza I had eaten at 2am the night before. Memories of my mother dragging me to my knees kicking and screaming to pray for my morals when she discovered I'd lost my virginity, boys chanting 'slut' outside the school cafeteria, and a boyfriend physically beating me for my 'sexual depravity'.
There is a question mark over whether polyamorous people can actively live in a monogamous state. Whether 'polyamory' is a lifestyle choice or a hard-wired predisposition. But to me it doesn't really matter. When I remember the skin-tearing gut twisting anxiety I felt when making the choice to live half a life or experience the guilt and shame of being considered a slut with no prospect of love in my future, I know deep down that I can never be with a man who cannot accept and embrace me for me, however it came about.
Since embracing my true nature I have had few long term 'spices' (plural in polyamory terminology for 'spouse'). But being in an open relationship, I know when I do meet and connect with others, I can act on it. And when I do (however long it lasts) I am still loved by the ones I am already with. But most importantly, by myself.
First published on Multiple Match.com