Love and Neediness
by Somerset

Somerset is a man in his seventies who has only recently begun to search for compatible women for open relationships. He prefers sexual variety and treasures his independence. This series, Polyamorous Possibilities, is the sequel to his Potentially Polyamorous series exploring open relationships. Both this series as well as the first one are archived for reference.

“You’re full of BS. You haven’t even begun to know me, so how can you possibly say you love me!” Reluctantly, I agree with Shirley.

I had been enjoying a sexual relationship with her, and she with me, while neither of us really knew anything of substance about the other. We had come together almost entirely upon the basis of trust, mutual attraction, and need. To say that I loved her or, even more preposterously, that I was in-love with her, was BS, to say the least! I had been making seductive overtures based upon social expectations, not upon a real, down-to-earth personal reaction.

A scene from the film Out of Africa makes the point. In that movie the white hunter (Robert Redford), discussing the nature of animal sexuality with Karen Blixen (Meryl Streep), says to her, “He wants it, she wants it, so they do it!”

The news that I was "full of BS" came to me as a profound shock. It suggested to me that I needed to re-examine some generally accepted societal norms. Among the questions I asked myself was this one: “Are animal responses more valid, more honest, more realistic than our cultural conditioning, our moral principles, may suggest?”

My re-examination began with another look at the definitions of love provided by way of our Greek heritage: concepts defined by eros, philia, agape, and storge (see What is it among these definitions that are common to all of them? The answer, it seemed to me, is this: in one way or another we love other persons because they serve and satisfy some of our human needs.

My re-examination continued as I remembered ideas expressed by Abraham Maslow in his “hierarchy of needs” (see ),

As already noted, Kigma suggests that we are “intuitively drawn to the person who has what we don’t have, what we lost, what got hurt, or was never developed in childhood. And we establish a relationship with someone and stay connected to that person because we want to develop that missing component in ourselves.”

Willard F. Harley, Jr., writing in His Needs, Her Needs, (1986), identified and highlighted the different needs of men and women, as he sees these to be. Women, he said, give priority to affection, conversation, honesty and openness, financial support, and family commitment. Men, he said, give priority to sexual fulfillment, recreational companionship, an attractive spouse, domestic support, and admiration. I am in general agreement with these observations although I feel that these priorities are merging as women become more independent and men become more sensitive.

Intellectual observations of this sort are all very well, but what relevance, if any, do they have for Shirley and for me -- today -- now? What needs do I have that Shirley tends to fill? What needs does Shirley have that a relationship with me helps to fill for her?

I can answer only for myself. I feel a need to be able to share parts of my life with Shirley and with other people in what I conceive to be a state of altruistic harmony, under conditions of situation ethics. I’ll explain those concepts shortly. Among my preferences, that state of being includes a lifestyle that embraces the possibility of having sexual relationships with a few compatible women who will provide me with a variety of companionship and sexual experience without expecting me to give up my independence. Shirley is making it possible for me to begin to experience that state, with herself as my first partner in what may turn out to be my network of lovers, just as I may become a member of her similar network.

What do I mean by a state of altruistic harmony? Webster defines altruism as “unselfish interest in the welfare of others”, and harmony as “a pleasing arrangement of parts”. By combining these words I’ve coined a phrase to describe a lifestyle that I would prefer, one in which people respect the preferences of others, harmoniously. I recognize that this way of life begins by respecting my own preferences, too. Polyamory presents an alternative to a more common, politically correct lifestyle -- one often concerned with serving more discordant, more selfish interests.

Situation ethics is a term devised by Joseph Fletcher to support the notion that circumstances alter cases. He believes that the only absolute, universal principle is love, by which he means agape. His thesis is that all thoughts and actions are acceptable if they serve agape, as interpreted by the Christian religion. I agree, but with the reservation that I’d add eros to the mix and stipulate that agape and eros need not be confined within a Christian context. What living ethically, situationally, within a polyamorous framework, suggests to me is that the love which members seek to share with one another needs to be judged, not by commonly accepted mores (the fixed, morally binding customs of an ideology, such as Christianity), but bffy ethics (universally accepted standards) modified, appropriately, by the unique situations within which each member lives.

The polyamorous lifestyle appears to me to offer opportunities to express myself sexually, emotionally, and spiritually in non-exclusive ways. One way in which I suggest Polyamorous Percolations could be additionally helpful might be to provide introductory services for its members -- introducing potentially compatible members in much the same way as dating services and clubs, such as New Horizons, do now.

Finding lovers comes, of course, with risks. I’ll examine some of those in my next article.