Last week I reviewed a few episodes of the Showtime series “Polyamory”, which sparked a bigger question in me–who are the real women involved in these relationships?
Does this show fairly represent the lifestyle?
I went and did some research on the topic.
Reading the Wikipedia definition of polyamory, I was reminded of a friend who’d once described her marriage as “open”. I emailed her and said something along the lines of, “dissect your marriage and relationships out in email for me, k? Thankseverso!”
She actually did, and her reply fascinated me. Especially the part where she wrote, “I think it’s unrealistic to expect one person to be everything to you, for life. I think that a lot of the time, the only reason cheating causes so much pain is the secrecy and lies, and clinging to the idea that one person should always be enough. Also, I have a serious problem with the idea that someone can tell me what to do with my vagina. It’s my body. I will share it occasionally, but under my own terms. In our Western culture, marriage between a man and a woman has traditionally been used to secure money, property and to strengthen political ties. Men have a wife who’s the mother of their children, and then they have their mistresses. So this really should not seem so radical.”
This got me thinking: Why is the idea so radical? I mean, really who gives a damn how many spouses and lovers someone else has? As long as none of those are already spoken for, that is, but if not, who cares? So I asked my editor, “Who cares and why?” She replied, (paraphrased) “How should I know? Go find out!”
Then the first episode of Polyamory came on, and I watched it. I had a nightmare that night.
My husband Randy had taken up with a woman from down the street and I kept walking in on them kissing, hugging and generally behaving like a loving couple.
It’s not the first “Randy’s cheating on me!” nightmare I’ve ever had, nor will it be the last, but it was the first one in which my dream self was supposed to be okay with it. The nightmare culminated in Randy informing the two of us that he was being sent to Jamaica for the weekend for work and wanted her to come along. I was heartbroken. I woke up in tears and knew that I would never be able to be poly-anything in this lifetime.
I turned to two other friends for their opinions. The first has been living in a polyamorous lifestyle for longer than I’ve known her; the second is a deeply religious stay-at-home-mother who somehow manages to not be judgy or proselytize-y.
My poly friend’s description perfectly matches the definition: married couple, each with a loved one to whom they aren’t married. They’re devoted to each other, and while their respective lovers may come and go, the marriage is stable and solid. They have enough respect for each other and the marriage that if one or the other of them starts to have issues with the poly side of things, they both break until they’re both ready to start it up again. She says she feels she has so much love to give that sharing it with others, male or female, keeps her from drowning her husband in it.
They started out swinging with other couples, but for her, it isn’t just about sex or exploring her bisexuality; it is about love. She says the subject is taboo because people believe you can only truly love one person at a time and they can’t be convinced otherwise.
My religious friend says, “In our former ‘faith group’ (they are now Christians) we knew a couple of different groups who were polyamorous. So I could tell you flat-out from my observation of them – Christianity completely aside – it doesn’t seem to ever work out well. Somebody always gets jealous, somebody always feels that they aren’t getting enough attention, or they are putting in more work than someone else. Basically, it’s all the little things in a one-on-one relationship that just get magnified by however many more people you add to the mix.”
However, she continues, “In several places in the Old Testament, you see examples where Godly men have more than one wife (that’s more polygamy than polyamory, but it’s plural and there aren’t any examples of women with multiple husbands or ‘love whomever you choose’). In almost every situation, you end up seeing a complication that arises out of that situation. Jealousy on the part of the first wife who couldn’t have a child against the woman who ends up bearing one for the husband is of course the most frequent.
After all, we are human. Who of us could say we wouldn’t feel that way? I know I would. But what we find more liberally sprinkled throughout the Old and New Testaments is God’s view for us on marriage, which is that it is best between one woman and one man, and that it is a COVENANT relationship.”
Personally, I think the idea is so radical, even more than homosexuality, because unlike homosexuality, all of us can relate to it.
I can’t relate to my gay or lesbian friends on that level because I can’t comprehend being romantically or sexually attracted to a woman. I can’t comprehend sharing my soul with a woman. I know it happens; I see it literally every day, but I can’t comprehend it on a visceral level of myself.
But, I can comprehend being cheated on, by gods! I can comprehend having another woman in my man’s bed. Because it has happened, of course. Not with Randy, but who hasn’t been cheated on at least once?
We equate poly with being cheated on and who wants to feel that way ever again? We can’t imagine not feeling betrayed, hurt and neglected.
The idea of Randy screwing another woman makes my stomach hurt. The idea of Randy loving another woman makes me nauseated.
And how would that look from someone else’s perspective? Like a greedy jerk who can’t keep his hands out of the cookie jar and somehow managed to get permission to keep the cookie jar in his lap. Judgment: he’s a lying, manipulative greedy jerk and those women are idiots who need to see a shrink!
I think it takes a special kind of heart that can open to more than one romantic, soul-deep love at a time. I just think most of us don’t have that, and with typical human shortsightedness, most of us aren’t capable of grasping that something we can’t comprehend could be just as real as what we have.
I want to thank the three lovely ladies who opened up their lives and beliefs to me for this story. I encourage each of you to create a posting account – you can use any name you like – to answer questions from our readers or elaborate on your experiences, or even yell at me if you think I misrepresented you.