Good food for thought, Cleo.
I definitely see ALL relationships, and especially love relationships, as tools for personal growth. I have long believed that relationships, whether poly or mono, are meant to teach us about ourselves. Polyamorous relationships are not unique in that, although anytime you go against the tide and live unconventionally, it can be a wake-up call if one was previously asleep at the wheel. But we don't learn much about dealing with people and the world if we shut ourselves off from others, like hermits, so any relationship is a learning opportunity and a challenging call to come alive and express who we are. And if we look at relationships as teachers, even the crappy collegial relationships we have at work with people we'd never choose to be around if it were up to us, there is so much more possibility in life! In love and romantic relationships, if we learn something about who we are and get to know ourselves better, discover how to be with others and how to love, then there is no such thing as a failed relationship. Even the ones that don't last long and are fraught with pain and confusion teach us something if we are willing to look for the lesson(s) it brought us.
I was like you growing up, in that I was bullied and teased a lot. A LOT. And ostracized. I had very low self-esteem, and felt awkward and stupid. Rather than retreat, however, my way of coping was through sex. My first time was when I was 14 and, throughout my teens and even into my thirties, I relied on my "sex appeal" and attractiveness as a sex partner to feel I had value. So, for me, relationships have been challenging in finding out why anyone would want to be with me beyond wanting to fuck me. When a lover or potential lover engages in intelligent discussion with me, I feel more appreciated than if they just want to have sex with me.
Don't get me wrong - I have also learned a lot about my sexuality and identity as a sexual being along the way, and reconnected with the lusty part of myself in a more healthy way after my husband and I separated and I started dating again for the first time, after being monogamous with my ex for over 12 years.
Speaking specifically about polyamory -- I think that, as an approach to relationships, it has taught me how to figure out exactly what I want. Being that I want to manage more than one love relationship, I have needed to express myself about why that is and what I want, and that in itself has forced me to ask deep questions and look at what satisfies and fulfills me. And I keep learning about emotional risk - by that I mean, how much is too much and too little, for me personally. So, yes, a lot of personal growth has come out of my choice to embrace polyamory/ethical non-monogamy. Of course, I am sure my questioning and self-discovery would still have happened if I had chosen to remain monogamous in my dating life after marriage, but in different ways. I have always been a seeker. However, polyamory has been, and I am sure will continue to be, a very stimulating and enriching path for my life. Thanks for a great topic for discussion.
Last edited by nycindie; 08-15-2012 at 05:56 PM.