This is my monthly column about our life, life in a triad in general, or whatever rants & raves I feel like talking about at the time.
Previous editions of this column can be found in the Monthly Columns Archives.
Nature vs. Nurture
The most commonly agreed upon definition of the word polyamory, in part, is:
The practice or lifestyle of being part of more than one long-term, intimate, and (usually but not necessarily) sexual loving relationship at the same time, with the full knowledge and consent of all partners involved. Persons who consider themselves emotionally suited to such relationships may define themselves as polyamorous, often abbreviated to poly.
What's not commonly agreed upon, however, is exactly how someone "becomes" polyamorous. Some people believe that it's hard-wired into a person's very sexuality, while others feel that it's a life path to be chosen, much like one would choose a career or a home. I have a theory of my own, that reduces becoming poly to two distinctly different possibilities. I think it's entirely possible that a person is born with a pre-supposition that they will never be able to confine their love to one person, 'til death do they part. For these people, there can never be a "one true love". They require multiple loving relationships to feel completed, and this is something that they realize from their earliest days. For these people, they are polyamorous by nature.
Still others only begin to realize that they are polyamorous as they experience relationships throughout there lives. These people try to confine themselves to monogamy their entire lives, only to realize that it just doesn't work for them. They get married and settle down with one person, but over time they begin to realize that this one person just doesn't fulfill all of their needs. They seek out extramarital affairs, but not because they don't love or desire their spouse. They seek out these affairs in search of that something more that they seem to be lacking in their current relationship. These people become polyamorous through their own growth and development. Through nurture.
So is it nature or nurture? You decide.
I think that many, many people are polyamorous by nature. This is hard to quantify, though, due to the taboo that society places on this type of relationship. In today's society, it is far more acceptable to have extramarital affairs then it is to openly love more than one person. Because of this, many people living in poly lifestyles do so in extremely closeted and protective environments. Those are just the ones who are strong enough to seek out this lifestyle. For every person who chooses to make themselves truly happy by allowing themselves to love more than one person, there are probably three to five other people who will never know the joy of poly because they are afraid of societal reactions and pressures.
I'm starting to believe that the "free love" movement that swept the world in the 1960's and 1970's (more commonly known as swinging) was born from something much deeper then a simple desire for sex with multiple partners. Sex without love, while I'm sure it can exist, can't usually be sustained for long periods of time. We are emotional beings, and as such we develop feelings and attachments that can't always be denied. I also feel that it's entirely possible for someone to live a good part of their lives in monogamous relationships, only to have a personal epiphany somewhere along the way. I, myself, didn't discover the fantastic possibilities of polyamory until I was 34 years old. I do, however, believe that I've been polyamorous my entire life. I was married for five years when I was younger, but throughout that marriage I was always looking for something else. I had a series of affairs during that marriage, but even then I had no idea what that was saying about me. I really never knew how to classify what I was doing as anything more then cheating. Sure, that's what it was, but had I known of the possibilities of polyamory I might have been able to live differently. That's not to say that my wife would have been on board with that thought process, but it could have been something to explore had I known then what I know now.
Many people feel that someone can't just suddenly "become" poly at a mid point in there lives, but I disagree. I truly believe that someone can be polyamorous by nature, but never allow that side of their sexuality to evolve until they realize that the possibilities do exist.
Throughout the polyamory community, I hear about more and more (previously monogamous) married couples that are exploring the possibilities of loving more than one person honestly and openly. It should be noted, however, that most of the couples I have heard about have one thing in common. An existing relationship with their spouse that is strong, honest, and open. These aren't people simply seeking out extramarital affairs for their own personal gratification, but people looking to expand upon their already solid foundation of marriage by opening their relationship up to other similiar minded folks. Using polyamory as an attempt to repair a failing relationship is a recipe for disaster. The idea that a married couple can add multiple partners to their relationship and still maintain a happy, healthy relationship with each other is frightening and unfathomable to many. Many others, however, have started to discover the possibilities of polyamory, and in this discovery are realizing that this is what they've been missing in their relationship.
One couple I have come to know got started in their polyamorous journey through casual sex. They talked about opening their relationship, they established some ground rules, and started the process of seeking out like minded people for the sole purpose of sexual gratification. Over time, however, the wife found herself in love with the person they had added into their sex life, and has since entered into a polyfidelitous relationship with that man. She still loves her husband very much, but she has found a secondary love that is distinctly different from his. She has found in this man the same thing many other people discover. Her lover offers things in her relationship that her husband can't, while at the same time her husband provides her with things that her lover can't. This is, in my opinion, a perfect example of becoming polyamorous through nurture. Together they are growing and strengthening not only their marriage, but their own personalities. The idea that one person can be our "one true love" is something many folks are starting to discover as a falsehood. The possibilities of nurturing your relationship, expanding and growing it into something much more, are extremely rewarding if you can balance out all of the scales and make it work.
So does a person "become" polyamorous by nature or nurture? I don't have all the answers by any means. I'm in no way saying that these are the only two possibilities that exist, but they are two distinctly different thought processes on the subject. I'm sure that there are other pathways to polyamory out there. This is just my own personal thought process on how one might make this journey. No matter which path you choose, the rewards are many if you can make the journey in a happy, healthy manner.
~ Chias, April 28, 2006
folks have read this article.