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The ethics of polyamory

The term ‘polyamory’ is one of those that occasionally crops up in public view; usually to shame it, I find. I don’t know if it’s because I follow a lot of ‘alternative thinking’ and LGBT-friendly websites that it comes up more, but even in these places it can often become a point of contention amongst commenters.

The word itself comes from the greek “poly” – meaning many or several – and the latin “amor”, meaning love. So literally, “many loves”. It is a misnomer in this type of relationship that it just means sleeping around, when it can be much more. It can, depending on the relationship agreement mean just that – or it can mean the formation of more than one meaningful partnership. There is no one common formula for polyamory to exist; but typically the idea of sexual and relational exclusivity is rejected.

I’ve been with Rich now for about 8 years and in that time our partnership has taken on many different forms, including this. I’m not 100% sure where we’re at now but it more or less equates to licking our wounds after one traumatic experience after another.

In most ideal situations, these relationships are built on trust, loyalty, boundaries and the ability to feel happy when a partner is happy with someone else (compersion); parallel to this is the need to overcome jealousy and the idea of possessiveness. In an ideal world this is great, but this is not my experience of it, I regret to say.

We started identifying as poly in 2010, which took some adjusting to (it was my idea, before anyone asks!). My partner has ‘played’ briefly with a few people but otherwise has made no other connections, whereas I have formed complete secondary relationships, in the main, all of which have fallen to dust. With the exception of one partnership – which tipped me into near-obsession, jealousy and made me behave VERY strangely, causing him to lie, become elusive and eventually leave, immediately starting to date my ‘friend’. Most other partners I have had have been new to the idea of polyamory and have been the cause of the break-up. 9 times out of 10, this has resulted in them wanting me to leave Rich in order to continue, forcing me to break emotional ties and free myself and them from inevitable heartbreak. But even those experienced in this world don’t always know how to conduct themselves either; my latest interest was a prime example of this, only telling his partner about me when they were on the verge of breaking up; something long overdue as it was badly affecting his wife and something I called him out on after she spent an evening at mine crying.

We are still learning, I think. I’m not sure either of us are interested in returning to this world after some of the worst experiences including abuse, rage, rape, jealousy, broken boundaries and countless tears, from both of us. It doesn’t feel right anymore. That’s not to say that this kind of relationship doesn’t work, though, as it certainly does with the right people. I can think of two dear friends of mine that married two years ago, who navigate the poly world beautifully with love and trust. I know of others that have spent a lifetime together, raised families and written books about the situation. It’s not unheard of for this to work but it does appear to be a rare beast.

From where I stand, I write this somewhat damaged and broken and trying to concentrate on Rich. As a result of the last six years of misconduct I feel unable to have sex with him, which is probably one of the first times I’ve typed this out. I feel like I’ve failed him on so many levels. We’re both having counselling and perhaps soon couples therapy to regain what we’ve lost.
So for now, it’s time to return to ‘us’ and maybe I’ll have a more positive account for you all some day.

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