On being poly

Along with all the other weird shit about me, I identify as polyamorous. This means that I believe that it’s perfectly possible and acceptable to have romantic and sexual relationships with more than one person at the same time.

My other blog (now defunct) was focused on this facet of my identity. To me, at the time, polyamory was still new and “shiny.” How marvelous, I thought, to be able to simply date who I chose, and not be limited by society’s outdated mores!

Since then, the “new sparkly” has worn off, the “kid in a candy store” phase has passed, and poly is the “new normal.” But… I’m still poly; it wasn’t just a phase (sorry, Mom).

I grew up, probably, with the idea of polyamory firmly planted in my head as a sort of utopian ideal. I am a bit of a geek, and I grew up reading Robert Heinlein, among others. His idea of a “nest” of adults all living and loving together… to me, this seemed so much more reasonable and sensible than “one man, one woman, and a shit ton of jealousy and insecurity.” Given how prevalent infidelity was, given how miserable jealousy makes us feel, shouldn’t we just adapt to our own nature and decide how to live with it? Polyamory — although I didn’t have the word for it, back then — just made sense.

Fast forward, a bit. I was quite a late bloomer, romantically and sexually. I didn’t lose my virginity until I was 21 and didn’t start dating regularly until I was 30. I didn’t start having regular, enjoyable sex until I was in my 40’s. The reason for all this is the subject of another post, but it’s good to remember that I’m an extremely late bloomer, so in some senses I’m still an adolescent.

Due to medical issues, I didn’t have much sexual desire until my mid 30’s, so sexual infidelity wasn’t much of a problem. Then, when it was resolved and I started dating regularly, staying “faithful” became a problem. It’s not that I wouldn’t care about (or love) the person I was with… it’s that I’d be so tempted to sleep with someone else just to “see what it was like.” Remember — late bloomer; I have been still learning, still experimenting. Lo and behold, I discovered that I’m actually rather good at sex (at least, so I’ve been told)… which simply fueled my desire to have more experiences with more varied partners.

After several affairs — one night stands with non-partners, really, not protracted affairs — I realized that the shame of behaving that way was worse than the fleeting pleasure I gained. For a while, I thought I just wasn’t cut out to be in a relationship, and then I learned about polyamory. It was simply people who refused to define monogamy as the only acceptable relationship pattern. In short, these people saw no inherent conflict in dating (and, yes, sleeping with) multiple people at the same time. Oh, sure, you have to be especially careful about, say, STD’s when you’ve got more than one partner, but that’s just a practical issue, not a fundamental moral issue. It felt like a confirmation of my long-held ideals of how adult relationships should work, as given to me by Heinlein.

When I first “came out” as poly, I went a bit nutso, dating and sleeping with as many people as I could. I can honestly say that, as a result of this time, all of the items on my sexual “bucket list” have been checked off. And it was fun — no regrets. I got into things — really into them. I preached the gospel of poly to everyone I knew. I even started a local poly meetup group which is still running to this day, under new management (I got tired of running it). I truly saw myself as the “Seattle poly guy” — evangelizing all things poly.

But this phase was also incredibly draining. It was emotionally exhausting. You see, a lot of poly folks are very, very damaged. Many people might argue that I fall into that category (and I’m not sure I’d argue back!) but the bottom line is that there are sadly many people who are polyamorists because of unresolved issues with love and sexuality. The problem with getting involved with seriously damaged people is that, well, they’re damaged. And relationships with severely damaged people… don’t tend to end well. So I got hurt. A lot.

So, since then, I’ve backed off from my “all poly, all the time” mode of being, quite a bit. I no longer preach the gospel of poly to everyone; if someone is curious, and asks, I will tell them how I see things and give them a few books to read, but otherwise I’ll leave it up to them to decide. I am no longer frantically pursuing new partners with the desperation of a junky looking for nuggets of crack in the carpet. I am doing a better job of separating my self-worth from who wants to date me or who wants to fuck me.

And right now, since I’m working on my sobriety, I’m not dating anybody. I’m not fucking anybody. And that’s okay, although the lack of sex is getting to me, so I may have to end my dry spell before too long (I just turned down a liaison with a lovely 19 year old young lady who wanted to meet and “have fun” because it just felt… too complicated, even if you ignore the age difference!)

But don’t get me wrong… I’m still poly. Even considering that I’m no longer the “Seattle poly guy,” even considering that I’m not dating, and I’m not having sex… I’m still poly. I can’t change that about myself.

It’s just who I am.

 

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