Opening the Door: Polyamory is Part of the Conversation

One of the beliefs behind Global Glue Project is that the landscape of relationships is changing and that we can benefit from documenting and discussing these changes. The conversation that took place at the first Glue Talks indicates the truth behind this statement—the very definition of committed partnership is changing.

First of all, for those of you who asked for the highlights of the Creating Emotional Intimacy Glue Talk, know that this is the first of several blogs, as I can’t fit it all into one post.

You might think that a workshop series about The Secrets of Sticking Together, and the particular topic of Emotional Intimacy would stay focused on improving relationships as a couple, in a dyad. However, when an attendee brought up the topic of polyamory, there it was in the room, inescapable.

This is fitting. Polyamory has become a part of the relationship conversation in our culture and society, whereas just a few years ago I don’t think this was the case.

So let’s talk about it…

Polyamory. What is it? Good ole Merriam-Webster defines it as, “The state or practice of having more than one open romantic relationship at a time.” I think the key to this definition is “open.” We all know that infidelity is all too common, and affairs happen. They might go undetected, but affairs are slippery slopes and can either lead to a long slow decline of the relationship or complete collapse. The marriages that fall apart are victims of the betrayal, dishonesty, and jealousy. I admire those couples that recognize the affair as a symptom of a bigger issue, leading them to heal their relationship. If given the choice of polyamory or infidelity, give me openness vs. deceit.

My limited understanding of polyamory is that it is a relationship between two people who may have other partners, either jointly or separately (though usually the former) and that most polyamorous couples maintain a primary relationship. We recently filmed a polyamorous couple (Glue Film in the works), and the thing is they DO use the same tools we discussed the other night to create emotional intimacy and safety with each other. After eight years together, one of their agreements is that the other vets additional partners. They also reassure each other with words of security and attraction and make sure they protect and prioritize their time with each other; in short, they put each other first, even though others are involved. They are always open with each other.

Sticking together
Polyamory used to only be whispered about, but now it is part of the relationship conversation

Our speakers that night, Jeff Pincus and Rachel Cahn, both shared their lack of judgment on polyamory, other than the simple fact that adding more people adds complexity and complication. Intimate relationships tend to bring up all of our ‘stuff,’ and one way to heal our ‘stuff’ is to be with someone who we learn to trust and create safety with. When you attempt to have multiple relationships going at one time, that’s just a whole lot of ‘stuff’ to deal with, and the barrage of feelings can quickly become overwhelming to one or both members of the primary partnership.

My personal feeling is that we all have the right to choose what works. The caveat for me is that when children are involved, the children need to be protected. The particular polyamorous couple that we interviewed said they wouldn’t bring children into the mix. This opens up a larger conversation about monogamy. Some argue that humans commit to monogamy to raise children together, and question whether or not it is even natural for humans to be monogamous. Some scientists view both social and sexual monogamy in humans as a societal structure rather than a natural state.

Part of the beauty of creating a relationship is that two consenting adults produce whatever they want together, monogamous or otherwise. It appears that society is shifting its views on committed partnership, and there is less pressure on couples maintaining monogamous partnerships. I do think these polyamorous partnerships require incredibly high levels of maturity and skill to deal with the inevitable array of feelings and complicated conversations. It is a high level, but it differs only by degree, and not type, from traditional monogamous relationships. Whether the sexual status of your relationship is “open” or “closed” (or somewhere in between), the communication between partners always has to be open.

At the end of the Glue Talk, someone commented privately to me that she was a bit disappointed that the conversation included polyamory, but then she added, “Whether we like it or not, it is in fact part of the conversation.”

I personally want to believe that long-term monogamy and sexual satisfaction with the same partner over many years is possible, and that is exactly what we are going to talk about at the next Glue Talk: Sex, Better With Time, on Tuesday the 28th with sex therapist, Jenni Skyler. Join us! CLICK HERE for more information.

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