[Let me apologize up front for the length, when I recently discovered what I feel I am had a name – and a community – my heart opened up and this is the first place I’m pouring it into:]
I am a 38-year old white hetero male with an unfortunate history of relationships who has lived the mono lifestyle out of fear and confusion for decades. I have felt myself to be what I now know is polyamorous most of my life but I have also had a hard time articulating my beliefs/inclinations about relationships to others and have been judged harshly by (most) of the few people I have ventured to share those beliefs with. So when I discovered you all . . .
. . . Oh-Emm-Gee, WOW. That was my first reaction when I came across this site and headed right into this thread. I'm utterly flabbergasted. I'm also realizing that for a person who has prided himself on being able to boldly proclaim his beliefs about every fundamental topic (religion, existence, politics, etc.) I have kept my poly nature very close to myself and have outwardly (shamefully?) lived as if I am mono all my life (is there a poly-closet?).
I don't know if it's because I just felt odd about my beliefs internally (upon my own reflection) or because I felt odd for external reasons (yielding to the oppressive majority or yielding to the threat of ostracizing I felt after the few times I began to share my beliefs about my views on intimacy) or both. But I lived a lie. Now, after reading the well-articulated and honest and heartfelt thoughts on the subject from many of you all, I feel SOOO relieved that MY subjective version of how I want to live and love is objectively validated (not simply because there are others who live/love this way, but because such a large group of very intelligent and thoughtful, nay, philosophical, people who I know I would respect hold these same beliefs).
I didn't want to think I was that odd. I didn't think it was crazy to wonder why we humans relish what variety offers in so many aspects of life (food, music, careers - shit, almost everything!), yet one of the two most assumed fundamental aspects of human-ness, love (the other being cortex-sentience), MUST be shackled to a format that locks people together two-by-two for life (huh?) regardless of how individuals wish to love and lust. This was utterly baffling to me in my teens and twenties. But even more baffling was how absolutely widespread this notion was (and is) accepted (oh the power of inculcation!). I don't want to beat up on mono; in fact the discussions over why most people identify as mono have been enlightening and I don’t see it as so “bad” anymore (as long as it’s honest, self-reflected mono). I’m also very impressed with how respectful, inquisitive, open-minded and even empathetic you all are towards an overwhelming majority view that is so hostile to our way of seeing relationships. I've held parts of these discussions in my head too. It's just real nice to see others discussing/arguing these topics I felt so alone in contemplating for so long.
I was raised in a hodgepodge-religious family (mormon, jewish, catholic, buddhist and atheist, I know, sounds like the beginning of a bad joke). I was with my first girlfriend for 9 years, then a year-and-a-half of dating then my current relationship of 11 years, which will be coming to an end soon.
I never attempted anything but mono. I was raised to believe in what I now call the "conveyer belt" view of life: finish high school, go on to a higher education, meet a "nice woman", marry her, make babies and money, go to church and worship, teach those kids how to ride the conveyer belt themselves one day and then die, having being "faithful" to the wife for life.
I understood the efficacy of the pattern (the meme of mono has been honed over thousands of years, with each generation of leaders defining relationships to encourage notions of “safety” and “stability” in a way considered important to avoid the uncertainty and even chaos threatened in once-very small and biologically-connected clan-communities, with the unfortunate vestiges of such thinking inherited to this day). There is, of course, a natural explanation for the prevalence of mono (and its continued acculturation) too, namely our basic feelings of jealously/insecurity/ownership associated with our relationships. But I started to wonder why I could separate my urges from these notions drilled into me from childhood.
At the same time, I was also questioning my faith, and when I saw that institutions (like formal religion) could have easily been invented solely by humans rather than inspired by something divine, I began to question the institutions themselves, and even the tenets those institutions were based upon. God, marriage, even the biological imperative of children, all became mere options for me rather than the givens I had been trained to accept. This wasn't as simple as I'm making it sound. Acculturation is powerful (arguably evolved in our very complex brains) and it took more than paradigm shifting but actual cognitive dissonance to see the world entirely differently, but I'm so glad it happened.
With these revelations also came my reconsideration of monogamy. The notion that we are all to be simply paired like Noah's animals on an ark called Earth became silly. People love all kinds of people all different kinds of ways all during their lives, and circumstances dictate that a least some of these various loves MUST overlap along the timeline (including the in-love types of love!). I began to disdain the social construct and what I saw as extreme self-insecurity that is “Mono.” (I am learning now after reading/learning more that mono can be healthy if made freely and honestly without coming from a place of religious/social constraint). Back then I felt it could not have been that our nature is so illogical, but more likely that the mono hey-you-one-at-time, please, philosophy of finding a mate was more likely DECIDED and TAUGHT to each generation. So, I thought about it long and hard, and a couple “truths” emerged for me:
- Most people fall in love more than once during their lifetimes;
- We don't control who we fall in love with, it’s a FEELING not a CHOICE;
- We don't control when we fall in love;
- Life is super short and limiting relationships to one and one only by definition halts the possibility of discovering new and/or stronger/different love
I considered these facts and compared them to everything I had been taught about the "importance" of monogamy and decided that the benefits (reality?) of being polyamorous substantially outweighed the benefits of monogamy. WHAT NOW, I thought.
I told my first girlfriend about my newfound views and not surprisingly she was hostile to it (monogamous to the core). Moreover, someone I had known all my life started to affect me romantically (but she was too young, middle teens). I thought I had my confirmation by having feelings for two women at the same time, but I slowly realized I had never really been in love with my girlfriend so we broke up. The young girl and I also lost touch (more on her later).
I began professional school at this point and began dating like crazy, with varying degrees of (emotional and/or physical intimate) success. I found the first person I knew for sure I was in love with during this time and we became very close but romance for me was never in her deck of cards. It was extremely painful and I broke off our relationship in its entirety because it hurt too much even to be in the same room as her.
I then met my current girlfriend, who I thought I was falling in love with but by the time I realized I wasn't, it was too late: she suffers from a serious mental illness and my leaving her would have destroyed her (and all the professional goals she had worked so hard all her life for) so I've spent years staying with her (unhappy and unfulfilled) to help her get better enough to be without me, which is finally happening. I also have never told her about my poly tendencies but will after I'm formally out of the picture. This relationship is currently winding down, like a marriageless divorce. (Just in time to discover and begin exploring the poly community?)
However, to make things worse (for me), that young girl I had known all my life who lost touch with me came back into my life recently and I realized very quickly those romantic feelings I was having when she was young were real and I am head-over-heels in love with her. She has, unfortunately, jumped on the conveyer belt (husband, kids, house, the whole 9 yards) and I don't know if she has any poly tendencies (I'm deathly afraid to ask). She agrees that we have a “special” kind of love and she care about me a lot, but I don’t think it goes beyond that because she seems very happy in the life she built while I was out of her picture. I think about her with the joy of love and the heavy remorse of unrequited love in my heart every day
[or should I say NRE and depression at the same time?] So this is my history with love.
Now I'm not the type of person that loves lightly. When I fall in love, it's for real and it's forever. So I'm stuck in a place now where I've spent 20 years (more than 1/2 my life) with 2 women whom I loved but wasn't in love with, and am (still) in love with 2 other women, both of whom were unattainable for various reasons. I know I have to move on and I'm really looking forward to getting out there and meeting some like-minded people like you all, and hopefully finding women who see the world as I do (before I could even articulate poly, I thought the idea of a female archetype such as what I now know as polyamorous was simply a myth!!!!!). Thank you all so much for expressing your beliefs, thoughts and advice. I feel MUCH less alone in the world now . . .