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.
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.