In Defence of Polyfidelity

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Hello dear readers! Sorry it’s been far too long once again. I have a really good excuse this time! Grad school totally ate my life! If you’re still here, thank you for your patience and loyal readership. Anyway. Onto today’s topic.

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Poly: many or several.

Fidelity: faithfulness, commitment.

I’m lately finding myself very much in a polyfidelitous stage of life – that is, I’m happy with the partners I have (currently my beloved Nomad and my sweeties S and A) and not seeking or open to any new ones. This is also a conscious decision, thought through and made because I believe it is the best thing for me and my general health and wellbeing.

Polyfidelity is looked down upon – tacitly if not explicitly – by some corners of the polyamorous community. In my experience, the implication seems to be that if one is not open at all times or available for new relationships, then one is less poly as a result. Because poly is about openness and exploring new relationships, isn’t it? Well…. except when it isn’t.

My current situation is partly a necessity, a matter of limited time and energy resources – I am a slave to my education and this, with three years of a Masters programme and then plans for a PhD ahead of me, isn’t changing any time soon. I also have a full time job, as well as personal creative, activist and fitness projects to work on, lots of hobbies… and I like to eat, sleep and have dates with my partners occasionally, too! I think another relationship at this time would be a sure-fire recipe to turn the Jess into a full-on blathering wreck of insanity.  Polyfidelity is a wonderful way to make sure my current relationships get the time and energy they need to function happily and healthily, and to ensure that I am personally fulfilled romantically, while the barrier to anything new developing means I can forget about dating new people and focus upon the things which more urgently require my time and attention.

When I was nineteen and new to the “scene,” I tried really hard to be a Good Proper Polyamorous Open Relationship Type Person by doing a lot of fooling around with a lot of people with whom I was horribly incompatible. ‘Cause that’s what poly people do, right? We’re all so Enlightened and Evolved and Sex Positive that we have casual sex all over the place.  Sure – except for those of us who don’t. It took me a long time to learn that not enjoying casual sex and not being able to disentangle sex and love from one another does not mean that I am less polyamorous or less capable of having a fulfilling love and sex life. I just had to learn which methods of practising love and sex worked for me.

I tried really hard to be a proud slut like I thought I was supposed to. It didn’t work. Now I am working on being a proud “prude” instead. (I put prude in inverted commas because it’s a word that has been used to put me down many times, but which I am trying to reclaim and take pride in.) The voices in my head that tell me I’m Doing It All Bad And Wrong still raise their ugly heads occasionally, but I am getting better at silencing them. I am Happy. My partners, to the best of my knowledge, are happy with me. I am not doing anything unethical. Anything else be damned. Those are the only considerations that are important here.

People say of us polyfidelitous folks things like ‘that’s basically just monogamy with more people.’ Thing is, I don’t buy into this recent trend among polyamorists of bashing monogamy. There are actually – and I probably shouldn’t admit this on a polyamory blog – a lot of trappings of traditional monogamy that I really admire. I don’t think that in order to be radical and intentional with our relationships that we need to discard absolutely all traditions and conventions. We just need to pick and choose the ones which work for us personally, and discard the rest. And for me, believing in ‘traditionally romantic’ things like happy endings and love which lasts a lifetime tends to lead me to the sorts of relationships I desire and helps me to grow into the kind of person that I want to be. (On the other hand, the notions that this kind of love can only exist with one person ever, or that True Love never requires work, are unhelpful and don’t tally up with my experience of the world, so I reject those bits. Isn’t it cool that we get to choose?)

I’ll tell you a secret. When I was eighteen and first coming out of the closet as bisexual and beginning to understand that non-monogamy was an option, I had this recurring fantasy of coming home every night to my husband and my wife. It was the typical, overly-romanticised domestic bliss… just with three instead of two. I may have grown up a lot since then and my wants and desires and dreams matured somewhat from that little dream, but there are common themes which are present even in what I want and strive to build today.

Despite what a lot of polyamory nay-sayers assume, I am a hardcore believer in long-term commitment. I very much admire my parents’ marriage of 25 years – even though marital monogamy isn’t a path I’d choose for myself, their love and commitment to each other, their family and their shared life is truly awe-inspiring. On the more poly side of things, my dear Nomad and my wonderful poly-sis Chesh have been together for close to twenty years, most of that time polyamorous, and have stuck by one another through thick and thin. I admire love which endures and lasts in all its forms, and I place very high value on commitment and longevity of relationships. When I get together with someone, my intention is that it will be long term. I don’t ‘do’ quick flings. For me personally (and this isn’t a more generic value judgement) I simply don’t see the point. I value intentional community, family, tribe and that wonderful thing which has been so elusive in my life until recently… security. I just want those things potentially with more than just one person, that’s all.

And at the moment I am finding fulfilment and the deep sense of security and belonging that I need in the fact that my personal romantic sphere is closed. My heart is full of love and joy with the people already in it. And, for the time being, that’s that. Because, for me, polyamory has never been about being open at all times. It has always been about sharing my life and all of my love and commitment with the people I love and the people I choose to build my logical family with.

I should say that my choosing to be polyfidelitous does not mean that I require my partners to be so. However, I do tend to gravitate towards people who appear to be capable of a high level of commitment and consistency and don’t have a very fast and frequent turnover of partners. (When you’re poly and a hopeless romantic hoping for a happy ending, the person you’re courting being in a stable 15-year relationship is really damn attractive!)

Of course I don’t mean to say I am closed off forever and ever for the rest of my life amen. I try not to make sweeping generalisations (though, as my Beloved will attest, I am really bad at this!) because they hardly ever turn out to be true. But this is where I am now. And y’know what? It’s pretty damn nice.

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8 thoughts on “In Defence of Polyfidelity

  1. Lyndsay says:

    Good post! I am not officially polyfidelitious but I basically am. Now I hesitate to tell people I’ve recently met that I’m poly because of the stereotypes about poly people (crazy about sex etc) but I’ve only been with one new person in years.

  2. Nomad says:

    Nice post, hon! *smile*

    I agree with you about how we shouldn’t be bashing monogamy. I have nothing against monogamy and consider it a valid choice; I simply object to a culture that basically presents it as the ONLY valid choice. I have known many lovely monogamous people who — knowing there are other options — have chosen to be monogamous. It would be highly arrogant and presumptuous of me to tell them how to run their relationships. Actually, it would be as bad as all the mono people who have told me how to run mine.

    Happy to see you blogging again, Love! Rest well, and I will see you tomorrow, my darling!

  3. ggPuppetLady says:

    Yes, great post; I think it’s really important to own what you want, & practice what suits you & your beloveds best. Let other people stress about ‘the correct labels’!
    Cheers, gabrielle in Australia :)

  4. amuletts says:

    Polyamory is having loving relationships with more than one partner, which is what you are doing. Polyamory is *not* adding partners to infinity! And, well, that becomes enormously impractical (‘Polysaturated’).

    I get what you are saying here and I think there’s a problem with ‘polyamory’ being equated to ‘open relationship’. People think if it’s ‘open’ you should have an open doors policy. Of course there are people who are ‘open’ AND Poly, as there are people who are Swingers and Poly, but they are separate things and not at all dependent on each other.

    I like that people have said to you ‘that’s basically just monogamy with more people.’ Sounds like they’ve got it! Polyamory is not nearly as wild & depraved as people think it is XD

  5. Byghan says:

    Good for you for saying that you have what you need right now whilst still acknowledging the other options are out there for you and others.
    It wasn’t obvious to my wife that I could mean both my commitment to her for the rest of my life and that I had another love in my life.
    I am very happy with my wife of 10 years and boy of 5 years and I am not looking for anything else. Call it polyfi or anything you like, it makes me happy

  6. kerran says:

    Heh… I find it interesting that I’ve actually used “it’s basically just monogamy with more than one person” when trying to explain the concept of polyamory to other people. The idea of using it as a complaint or criticism just seems a bit daft.

    That said, it doesn’t matter what you do or what you’re into, there will *always* be people who insist that unless you fit their definition of the one true way then you’re somehow a lesser enthusiast.

    Hell, I was told last night to uninstall a game from my computer because I clearly wasn’t taking my pixel based tank. combat seriously enough, and should leave the game to the “dedicated fans”

    Guess that’s just humans for you.

  7. Larissa Lee says:

    Great post! I also practice polyfidelity, and my household is just an XL-sized family.

  8. Thel says:

    I just stumbled across this post and am almost literally vibrating, it resonates so strongly with me. I’ve spent years feeling like my inability to disentangle sex from love is a (bad) remnant from my conservative religious upbringing, something I need to keep working to shed, something I could change if I kept trying to be a proud slut like I’m supposed to be. Only in the last few months have I begun to decide that it’s okay for me to be this way even in the context of structuring my (hypothetical) relationships in an ethically non-monogamous way. Granted, it makes this period of singlehood a little deflating, with casual sex not exactly a comfort, but it feels more authentically ME, and poly judgment be damned. Thank you for writing this.

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