Long-Distance Poly Love: No rules, no hierarchy
Hi all, I'm new here. Thanks for listening.
I'm falling in love with someone who lives in another state; he's also falling in love with me. It's still fairly new -- we've been seeing each other for seven months -- but we talk almost every day and visit each other every three or four weeks. He's seeing other people right now; I'm not.
I've been polyamorous for most of my adult life, but I can't say it's ever been easy for me -- it just always seemed easier than monogamy. My best experience was in a three-way relationship where my lovers and I were best friends and each of us was madly in love with the other two. I think polyamory at it's best, for me, creates community amongst lovers -- I dream of settling down with a few people, some day, never just one. But my other polyamory experiences have been various shades of terrible, mostly because my partners and I didn't really know how to be good for one another. Rules were broken, hearts were broken, drama was endlessly processed, I was exhausted. Before I met my current love, I was curious to see what monogamy might look like. What a relief it would be, I imagined, for it just to be the two of us!
Of course I ended up falling for my current love, who is decidedly polyamorous. In many ways our relationship is the finest in my life. We share a deep respect for one another, incredible sex, honest intimacy, and generally adore one another and want the best for each other. He made it clear early on that he only does polyamory, and that he's trying to do it differently than I ever have. Without rules, without primary or secondary partners. Each relationship separate, unable to determine the course of any of the others. This model seems a little risky to me, but I already know that making rules about other romances doesn't work for me - rules never kept me or my partners from loving the wrong people. And what is love without risk? My lover has told me he'd like to be partners with me at some point - but that he wants to build toward that slowly, as he's recently out of a long partnership. I'm willing to explore this model of polyamory because it's important to him and new to me, and I know I want to build a life with him. Despite the long distance our connection feels strong and vibrant.
But there is something that makes me a little uneasy.
I don't know how to be in love with someone and not be their primary partner. I find myself jealous of the lover that lives in his city, who gets to see him several times a week. I respect their bond and I'm glad that it feels sweet and supportive to both of them - but I also see it as a relationship that might prevent him from ever building a life with me. I've only met her once; she's not in our community. She prefers not to know much about his other relationships; he hasn't told her that he and I are falling in love. This is her first poly relationship, and she isn't seeing anyone else. I keep feeling like he has a secret life, or that I'm a secret. I'm struggling with my desire to come first, to make our relationship public, to have "rights" of some kind, in a non-hierarchical scenario like this. I also know that even if he and I declared ourselves "partners" tomorrow, that wouldn't change the geography of our situation -- he'd still be seeing more of her than me (he and I haven't talked yet about one of us eventually relocating). This jealousy and doubt mostly comes up for me on rare nights like tonight when he hasn't made enough time to connect with me recently, and has a date with her. But when it does come up, it feels like a punch in the gut.
Does anyone else have experience doing this style of polyamory? Also, how can you tell the difference between jealousy that arises in the normal course of working out polyamory and jealousy that's a sign that there's something wrong with your situation? I've considered finding another lover to try to balance the situation, but I can't get interested in the people I'm meeting. I'm worried this issue might break what could otherwise be a long, fulfilling relationship. I'd love to hear from people who've been in similar situations, thanks!
LDRs can be challenging, and I think it just makes sense not to be bogged down with rules in a long-distance arrangement, since it would only make it more difficult. Dealing with the distance is usually enough of a trial.
A lot of people engage in poly relationships without rules. However, that does not necessarily mean that they don't have agreements (say, to always use condoms, or to call at certain times, for instance). In general, I think that the people who eschew rules feel that having rules is fear-based, that they will only get involved with people they trust, and that no amount of rules will make a dishonorable person act honorably -- so it's all about being with people whom you know well enough to trust that they will behave decently. Of course, there are the less than honorable people who don't want to be tied down by rules just so they can go and do whatever the hell they want with no consideration for their partners, but it seems obvious that is not the case here.
Also, I think that when you don't have a long list of rules, it requires even more communication than if you do. It seems to me, the issues with people who have long lists of rules seem usually to center around breaking those rules. And most of their communications revolve around the rules, re-negotiations, damage control, suspicions, indignation, and that sort of thing. Whereas if you're not always dealing with rules, your communications can be more about the meat and potatoes: your needs, wants, feelings, goals, deeply felt emotions, and so on.
I love what sagency said about this is in another thread:
That all being said, having a set of negotiated rules can give people a sense of security. So, rules work well for some people, and they keep them in place for years and years. But I think it will be an exciting challenge for you not to have rules.
As far as not having any primary designation and feeling jealous... well, you asked how one can tell whether or not the jealousy you feel could be "a sign that there's something wrong with your situation." Hmm, I'm not sure jealousy is ever really an indicator of something wrong "out there." I think it is always sitting on top of other emotions and a sign of something not right "in here." In other words, it tells you there is stuff you need to work on inside of you, things like fear and insecurity. In fact, I would caution anyone to never let their jealousy guide them in any decision. For me, it always helps to step back and drill down through each level of my feelings to understand what is at the base of the jealousy. "Why do I feel this way?" "So what if such-and-such happened?" "What would it mean if blablabla?" Eventually, I reach a place where I can see things with more objectivity, and there is relief from the jealousy. But I tend not to be a very jealous person anyway, so I know it can be harder to do all that for some people for whom jealousy is a more constant habitual reaction.
I think having an additional lover will help a lot! As Mae West said, "the best way to get over a man is to get under another one." Well, you don't want to get over your man, but another lover could help you get over the jealousy. See how nice it is that you don't have rules?? You have the freedom to look for and be with another without "getting permission" first!
Lots of poly people feel no need for hierarchy. It is possible! Many people who are "solo poly" choose not to use primary/secondary labels, or prefer to have co-primaries. If you feel like reading other threads, there is one about the different ways you can live poly as a solo person, a large part of which addresses not having a primary, here:
Solo poly people - what's your ideal?
and this master thread on the topic:
Primary/Secondary: Merged Threads, General Discussion / Debate.
You can also do a search for the word "primary" and see what comes up.
I realized my insecurity had less to do with polyamory and more to do with the diminished quality of time we'd spent together recently--and needing to further clarify how we each wanted the relationship to progress, and at what pace. The jealousy I felt about his in-town lover was really about wishing he and I could spend more time together. This also all came up as several of my closest friends (and recent ex-lovers) in my hometown have been leaving town or coupling off and are less available to me--it's good to notice how important all these relationships are!
Your post was helpful, as were the links you provided. It's really valuable reading other people's stories. I had a good conversation with my lover recently, and I've decided to spend more time focusing on my world here and the people I do get to see everyday--and keeping an eye out for another romance--while holding on to my deep connection with my lover.
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