These writings contain my experiences and opinions. The opinions are personal in nature, not professional. I am not a professional; I have no degree. These are the insights I have gleaned from living four years in a polyamorous relationship.

Previous editions of this column can be found in the Monthly Columns Archives.

And So It Goes

Several board topics lately have led me in the direction of my present topic, and that topic is, "If our poly relationship doesn’t work out, does that mean we failed?" So many people see the end of a relationship as a failure. People on the outside of a poly relationship definitely see its demise as a failure—a failure due to the nature of the poly relationship. That’s pretty sad, but what’s even sadder to me is that people inside of the poly community look at an ended relationship the same way—a failure due to the fact that it was a poly relationship in the first place.

In April of 2004, my quad imploded, exploded, and fell to pieces. It was a very traumatic time for all of us. I turned to my dearest friend, back home, for support. This man was my teacher when I was in high school; he was my mentor, and I totally looked up to him. He was my colleague when I started teaching at said high school, and as peers, we became fast and tight friends. He was a short term lover after my divorce, and he was never anything but supportive to me in all of my endeavors and lifestyle decisions. To this day, he’s the only person, outside of my family, who I trust with everything.

This dear friend, this man who loves me and understands me and wants me to be happy said to me, "What did you expect living that kind of lifestyle?" I was totally taken aback by that statement. I said, "How can you blame the break-up of this relationship on the fact that it was poly? You didn’t blame my divorce on the fact that it was monogamous." He replied, "No I blame the break-up of your marriage on the fact that your ex-husband was a violent lunatic who wouldn’t take his Lithium." Okay then, from the outside looking in, the conclusion seems to be that when a monogamous relationship ends, there are reasons for that ending, and they have nothing to do with being monogamous. However, when a poly relationship ends, it has failed due to the fact that there were multiple partners.

You know, that’s societal programming at its finest, right there, and even we, in the poly community, fall prey to it. When you are in a poly relationship that’s not working out, I suggest that you boil it down to its simplest form. For example, in my case the mental dialog went kind of like this:

C is leaving. A isn’t giving him any more chances; she’s more or less kicking him out. Maybe (friend) was right. What did I expect anyway? How was a ‘marriage’ with four people supposed to work out anyway? Wait a minute. Let’s look at this from a more "common" point of view. If A and C had been in a monogamous relationship, would it have worked out? Oh heck no. He’s too controlling, too un-accepting of who she is; he’s too intolerant of what she wants. If C and I had been in a monogamous relationship, would it have worked out? Not just no, but hell no. There are too many differences. I don’t like the macho controlling type, especially when they pretend to know everything. He’s too ‘simple’ for me. We have nothing in common.

When you look at the people involved as individual components, as opposed to one big unit, you will usually see that the ending of the relationship had nothing to do with the poly-ness of the relationship. Rather, it had to do with the personalities (or the goals or the desires, etc.) of the people involved being incompatible. Poly relationships end for the same reasons that monogamous relationships end.

Now, as for the idea of "failure", I totally balk at that. My quad did end, but I don’t believe that any of us failed. Once again, this is an idea that needs to be broken down and looked at in a somewhat simpler way:

Was there love in the relationship?
Even though a relationship comes to an end, something where there was once love can never be classified as a failure.

Did you learn anything?
If you learned anything at all from the relationship, from tiny little things about yourself to some huge epiphany, then it can’t possibly be classified as a failure. Living (and loving) is definitely about learning and growing.

Did you laugh?
Life is a serious matter, and there’s far too little laughter in the world. No matter how something ends, in any situation where there was ever laughter, there is no failure.

Was there intimacy?
Intimacy is a precious commodity in today’s fast paced society. Even if the intimacy is over now, anyplace where there was once intimacy cannot be classified as a failure.

Were there good times?
I understand that it hurts when the good times are over, but if there were ever good times, then they were precious. The good times are the threads that sew together the bright spots in our lives. All too often, those good times are too few and too far between, so anywhere there was ever good time, there can be no failure.

And so it goes…
We’ve got to make clear, to ourselves, the difference between failing and simply moving on. As for everyone else, it really doesn’t matter what they think anyway.

PolyAnna; August 11, 2005

PolyAnna is a contributing writer as well as a member of this online Community. She can be contacted here or through our message board Forums.


folks have read this article.