January 2, 2014

Confessions of a Failed Polyamorist.

Over the past couple of months, I have written a few pieces discussing why I feel monogamy is the best choice for me.

No matter how hard I try to point out that I am only talking about myself and have no problem with what others choose, it seems inevitable that someone gets offended. Fair enough, I suppose—not everyone is going to going to agree with me.

Still, a question I’m often asked is how do I know that polyamory is not for me? Have I ever tried it?

To the surprise of many, the answer is yes, I have. Many years ago while finishing up my last year as an undergraduate, I was a practicing polyamorous woman. Granted, at the time I did not know and it took me years to realize, but looking back it’s clear that I was.

In a nutshell, I had just come out of a nearly two year relationship with a fellow student and was single again. For about six months or so, I dated three men at the same time. I was totally upfront with each of them and since I attended a small college, we all knew each other in some capacity. Eventually, though, I ended up pairing off with just one who, ironically, was the only one who was not dating someone else during the period of time I was seeing multiple people.

It wasn’t so much that I picked monogamy but rather, monogamy picked me.

Still, when I look back, it was a learning experience. At the very least, it taught me what I wanted and even more importantly, what I did not want in a relationship.

While this is only my own experience and I am in no way saying that all polyamorous couplings are doomed, here is why it ultimately did not end up being a good fit for me.

1. Time issues.

When I look back at my youth, I often marvel at how much free time I had. No kids, no pets, no full-time job—these were the joys of my college experience. With that said, it was still hard to find time to see all three.

It takes time to really get to know anyone, be it a new friend or a new lover. Time was something none of us had a lot of.

After a while, just trying to find time to spend with each of them became tedious which is not something most people strive for in any sort of relationship. As a result, it’s no surprise that I experience the following detailed in my second point.

2. Less intimacy and sex.

This is often a surprise to many, but I actually had far less sex and intimacy when I was dating three men at once than when I was in a one-on-one relationship. (In fact, I didn’t even have sex with one of them.) While time played a huge role in this, a lot of it had to do with the fact that I didn’t feel really committed to any of them.

The fact is: that kind of commitment I am talking about only comes to me after I have spent a lot of one-on-one time with someone. I couldn’t really do that with all of them. (See number one.) As a result, it was surprisingly boring for the most part which is something few people associate with polyamory.

Along with less intimacy and sex there was also number three…

3. Intimacy issues.

It’s probably not surprising that all three of us had commitment issues. While some polyamorous have said that their arrangements have lead to great closeness and intimacy, in my case it was quite the opposite. In fact, I would go so far to say that polyamory allowed us to remain distant and avoid the deep intimacy stuff that we all dreaded because it could lead to being hurt.

That isn’t to say that there weren’t feelings of friendship and appreciation, because there were, but any sort of deeper intimacy was lacking.

4. Complication issues.

While this wasn’t the biggest issue by far, explaining my polyamorous relationships to others could get complicated in an amazingly short amount of time. Even some of my most open-minded of friends would get genuinely confused when I mentioned that I was involved with three people at once.

Many assumed that meant we were all having sex with each other. (We weren’t. ) They also thought that this meant that I was into swinging and group sex. (Nope. Never participated in either.)

Also, while it’s a staple of sitcoms and jokes for people to accidentally mistake one lover for another—call them by the wrong name in conversation or even worse, a moment of passion—I can say point-blank it isn’t nearly as humorous as it’s portrayed. In fact, it’s actually pretty awkward when that happens and even the most open-minded person is probably going to get insulted.

In any case, my experiment in polyamory ultimately came to an end with each of us going our separate, monogamous ways, and I never looked back.

In the end, I have no regrets over my experience. I am not ashamed that I tried it.

However, like Bikram yoga, folk dancing and other things I have tried, it just wasn’t for me.

While some may argue that I didn’t give it a fair shot or that my experience is in no way typical, I was content to leave my one experience behind me and return to monogamy. While the latter is certainly not without its problems, it did end up ultimately being the best fit for me which should ultimately be the end goal of any relationship: finding what works for you rather than someone else.


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Editor: Catherine Monkman

Photo: Wikimedia Commons

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