By: Stygean Hugh
The realization that my lack of clarification of my sexuality has come to me three times in recent days, over drinks with friends through open and honest conversations. However the lack of clarity is an issue that falls to rest in my lap, and as I had once pondered over on bad acid trip, I have a clear understanding that my idea of clarity or straightforwardness may not be aligned with others.
Actually, it first came to light years ago with my ex – fiancé, whom I will attempt to save face with and describe as bisexual having previously only homosexual relationships. We had a wonderful sex life, but a heavily one sided relationship. I was the bread winner, the only one working, and we were struggling to keep our heads above water. He would work, get a job work a few days, and then throw childish tear filled fits of rage when he realized I actually expected him to work every day and help with life’s expenses. He cared very little that I was doing it on my own, and he fully expected me to. Nary could he handle the responsibility of being a house husband. House work was also my job, I was told, since I was the woman. However, I was very aware I couldn’t do it on my own, and it was then that other men became attractive to me. An ex had come back in to the picture and his long held full time job, combined with the ability engage me in meaningful conversation made him all the sexier.
In my mind I had pondered for years the idea of polygamy, but with myself as the central figure and several men at my behest. I had always had two men in my life from any given time, even as a child I would have two male best friends. It was clear to me always that both guys would play a role in my intimate relationships. Often one would stimulate me intellectually while the other provided for my sexual needs. It was never that one man was able to do both, but was always that only the sexual partner would be deemed my boyfriend. It was internally discussed within myself that often the non-sexual friend served more recognized boyfriend traits such as quality time spent together socializing, dining out, getting high, whatever. Nearly never did my ‘boyfriend’ make an attempt to fulfill such emotional needs. For years from high school on, I pondered why it was like that or if others had such issues. By my mid-twenties, after years of supporting my fiancé, I was looking for something else while not sure I was ready to let go of the familiar.
My ex had once purposed the option of having an “open” relationship, something that at the time of proposal I was not ok with. I wasn’t sure how to speak openly about the terms and preferred to opt out. Yet with in the reemergence of my ex and the issues with the fiancé, I considered if the two of them couldn’t handle sharing my attention and affection. I longed to be a part of both lives, and much to my surprise, though very reluctantly, they both agreed.
However sex had not been an issue of discussion. When it did come up there seemed to be some assumption, or perhaps a hope, on the fiancé’s part that we would be having balls to wall orgies all the time. He even demanded that, implying I was somehow his property, the ex and I were only allowed to have sex under his watch and or participation. Again, issues that not only I wasn’t ok with, but also the third party was not ok with, as well as an indication of changes that I just wasn’t comfortable with transpiring in the mind of my fiancé. In truth, our relationship was unraveling, and my prototype attempt at a polyamorous relationship was falling apart.
My relationships have never been the same. When the ex and I got back together, after the fiancé’s reluctant defeat, I hoped and prayed that this was the relationship where a man could fulfill all my needs, social, sexual, intellectual, and financial, yet such was not the case. While the relationship was satisfactory for some time, his distaste for socializing with friends on a basic level wore heavily on my busy social schedule. I had to constantly turn down offers for double dates with coupled friends, go to work functions alone, and dedicate much of my free time at home. Not only was he suddenly socially retarded, he was also sexually restrictive. He became my Vanilla Missionary boyfriend, a far cry from the pornography influenced role swapping romps with the now ex-fiancé. It should be noted that he had some much deeper problems that manifested through his behavior, however it wasn’t long until I had my eye on two guys I worked with, both of whom I would have a ‘social’ relationship where they filled the roll of my boyfriend in public though I was still going home to Vanilla every night.
It highlighted the selfishness of both he and myself, a lack of compromise on his part to fulfill all my needs and thus a refusal on my part to just stop being so ‘needy.’ Relationships, be it monogamous or not, need a basic foundation of compromise in order to be happy and successful. We cannot under any circumstance undermine our partner’s needs because of our own insecurities. We must compromise so that love can grow and expand. To assume that one is just going to stop unwarranted behavior is completely selfish and can lead to abusive thoughts and behaviors. His refusal pushed me farther and farther in pursuing a second male figure in the picture, bringing accusations of cheating to light. He clearly was not ok with being in another three person relationship with me, although he didn’t want to split up, nor did he want to provide for my sexual or social needs. He simply expected me to do without.
In my own defense, due to my openness of the other nonsexual relationship, I denied any cheating. I simply had a different ‘public’ boyfriend I went out with than the one I lived with. This tension at home pushed me in to a place where I was researching and exploring theories behind cheating, the stigma attached to it and the validity of situations such as mine. It is a widely held belief that that the cheater is the root and doer of all evil in such situations. I will always contest this because of my own experiences.
The widely held belief, at least by those who have been hurt by cheating, is that there is never a situation when cheating is ok. But those people don’t take in to consideration the varying factors of why adultery occurs or the conditions that nurture such behavior. We have all had that relationship that just wasn’t working for us, but was working great for the other party. We attempt to break it off, we attempt to explain why we are unhappy. But they can change, they exclaim in a fit of rage. Or, what about all the things you do?! they accuse.
Some of them threaten self-harm, an ugly and abusive threat. They’ll kill themselves if you go, they cannot live without you. Or worse, they threaten you. Such unhealthy behavior on their part is rarely ever sighted by those who feel jilted by the cheater. It’s ignored by them that the cheater stayed in a harmful, unhealthy relationship with that person out of fear, berated in to a relationship that no longer served them by one who couldn’t let go.
In the research I have done on the topic, few cheaters admitted to doing so simply for the thrill or just because the opportunity presented itself. Many of them stayed for reasons mentioned above, or for the sake of children involved. We are not talking about those who cheat multiple times with multiple people and lie and conceal their behaviors. Right now we are talking about people who cheat on their spouse because they are unhappy.
However statistical research from infadelityfacts.com suggest that when polled, 74% of men would cheat when given the chance if they knew they wouldn’t get caught versus 68% of women. While those numbers suggest duality on the subject, you’ll never find a jilted lover who will admit that just maybe it was their bad and irreconcilable behavior that pushed their partner in to the arms of another. I blame this on the trending lack of self-responsibility that is socially prevalent in conjunction with the need to place blame through finger pointing.
I see a catch 22 with these people. A claim that their feelings and abusive relationship saving tactics are far more acceptable than someone who has a lover or secret relationship on the side. It seems to be ok to hurt and emotionally threaten your loved one so they don’t leave, but I don’t see that as love. That’s abuse. Maybe that’s just me. This was however a recurring them in articles about why people cheat.
And what if it’s not secret? I never kept my other relationship a secret from Vanilla. Nor was it sexual. Was it still cheating? According to research, it can be. It’s called emotional cheating and it occurs when there is an emotional detachment from the physical relationship that is then put upon the third partner. If anything I was guilty of that. I had become totally predisposed to other guy, who in my mind was at that point treating me better all around, but wouldn’t sleep with me. He insisted that we had to keep it clean, and though I wasn’t happy about it, I agreed, if it made him feel better about our situation, I could also live with that.
When questioned by either of them I always tried to explain that in my relationships, there were always at least two people I partnered with, only one of which I would be sexually exclusive with, but that exclusion didn’t diminish the intimate feelings I had towards both. Dick certainly didn’t sway me toward one or the other. They remained equally important to me. I loved them both, and the thought of being without either of them filled me with dread. Eventually both those relationships fell apart, although, Vanilla is still an active part of my life. Since, I have been very open about my relationship preferences with those who have shown me interest. I consider my self polyamorous, I tell them. I also offer a clause that allows them to try to provide for me all of my relationship needs if they wish. The idea behind this is that maybe, for fate’s sake, there is one single man out there capable of giving me all those things, it’s a possibility I must remain open to.
Before I get in to details and personal rules, we need to talk about monogamy and the contrived and incorrect social standard it has come to represent. There seems to be a widely held belief that humans are monogamous, a clear testament to the misunderstanding or loose translation of the term. It commonly understood that monogamy is simply the maintaining of a relationship without philandering, but it is much more rigid than that. Dictionary.com defines monogamy in three ways; 1. Marriage with only one person at a time. 2. Zoology. The practice of having only one mate. 3. The practice of marrying only once during life. In doing research for this blog, much to my despair, I found very few examples in the animal kingdom that I could include here. In discussion I often site eagles and penguins as most monogamous, but that seems to be truer for swans than penguins, but never the less the argument remains.
For mammals, we’re quite old when we become sexually active when compared to our wild counterparts, not becoming sexually active in normal situations until our teens, were as most animals become sexually mature within months of their birth. Yet at very young ages we become sexually aware; we have a good grasp on if we like one sex or the other, or both. We develop crushes, though unsure of what to do with those feelings or how to manage them, at incredibly young ages. No matter the argument from youth we are attracted to each other with little understanding of that instinct. In the truest since of the term, I like to suggest that we are all born polyamorous. Its only with age that we try to lose that notion and morph in to a monogamous being. We have all liked Joey, but also liked Bobby a little bit too.
Where does the widely held practice of monogamy actually come from? Is it religious? Is there a rule in the bible somewhere that claims we must only be with one person forever? Well, there is that one commandment, “Thou shalt not covet thy neighbor’s wife.” That can be left for another debate. The facts on monogamy are limited as it turns out. There is no clear history of the practice and science has taken it on in study after study, coming up empty handed every time.
In an article from time.com, an estimated 5% or less of mammals are actually monogamous. Social Monogamy, as practiced by humans, is described as a mated pair who work together to meet basic needs, is even rarer with in the monogamous community. This does lend credence to my suggestion that monogamy is human habit not human nature. A study of 2500 mammals published in the Journal of Science would agree with me. Their finding suggested that such long term mating takes place when females have more solitary habits and express aggression or intolerance towards other females, but also suggests that it could be due to the scarcity of resources. Two mouths to feed is easier than more. Their nutritional needs preceded their sexual needs and a somewhat lazy approach to family rearing was adopted. It’s simply easier and practical to be monogamous than not. However it is also important to add the Journal of Science article shied away from a definite conclusion and relayed that the human species is far more complicated than the mammals studied and to that some consideration should be applied.
On the contrary, an opposing study that monitored the behavior of monogamous primates suggested that there may be an evolutionary purpose for the practice, suggesting that monogamy stemmed form the primal instinct to further lineage through protecting the family, as opposed to the suggestion that many mates produced more off spring. The study hypothesized that there was some primal understanding of inbreeding, suggesting that primates began balancing the gene pool early on. One female mate was easier to protect from other invading primates who wished to mate with her. This however also seems to suggest some laziness and practicality. Its easier to protect one female than two. Less work. This also only holds water if the believer also believes in the evolutionary theory that we came from monkeys. It seems both studies leave it up in the air, and that there is no true answer for the origins of the notions of monogamy.
As it turns out, in the animal kingdom, even amongst the hardiest monogamists there is room for infidelity, which causes me to postulate that there really is no such thing. These facts point me in a direction to theorize if it could possibly evolve from the need to separate ourselves from the animals in the pursuit of civilization. Much like the once taboo rear entry sexual positions were too animalistic to be practiced and then banned by the prude and religious we are trying to oppress a natural desire to mate with as many as we can. But alas, belief lies in the eye of the beholder, and no one answer holds true for all of us.
From the time we become sexually driven, even before we are sexually active, we covet everything under the sun we find attractive. We date a number of individuals before we find one to cling to, and when we cling to that person, we don’t necessarily stop being attracted to others. Monogamy suggests a “‘til death do us part’ relationship, an occurrence so rare, as boosted by a 50+% divorce rate, that it almost seems a joke that we include it in our wedding vows. Furthermore when those rare occasions occur where one partner dies, it is even rarer that the surviving partner never shacks up with another person again. But still we call this conditional relationship hopping monogamy. To me it sounds more like oppressed polyamory.
BUT WAIT! I hear you screaming. Polyamory suggests that you’re with more than one person at a time! Well yes, and no. Monogamy suggests you are with only one person for life, so is it safe to assume that any other lovers in the span of a life time is polyamory? I would say that yes, it is, in a loose nontraditional sense of the idea.
There seems to be a bit of confusion regarding poly-relationships, and even as someone who practices a form of it, for myself I’m a bit perplexed. Right now America is seeing a wide spread sexual revolution, not much different than that of the 60s and 70s, though it isn’t as publicized as it could be. We are in the passionate throws of a hook up generation. Women are making a good effort to break the binds of slut shaming to become more open about their sexual practices in an effort to abolish the notion that the number of partners we’ve had somehow diminishes our worth or purity then subsequently defines us as women. On the contrary, this has had a somewhat adverse effect on males, and though for some conquest and concur in numbers still holds true, many of my personal male friends who I discussed the pretense of this blog with, admitted that there is a change amongst them that implies men are aware that the number of their sexual partners should be fewer. More of my male friends are seeking out partners with whom they can settle down and have families, while many of my female friends are looking to break away from that.
When I am open about my ability to love more than one person at a time inquisitors are shocked but intrigued. They are also shocked to learn that I will often become celibate for the sake of equality in my relationships. I often use the analogy of ice cream to explain my position. Let’s just say that every Tuesday for forty years you go to Baskin Robins to get a scoop of ice cream. The freezer boasts 31 flavors to choose from, and though you covet all the other ice cream flavors, every Tuesday you get a scoop of vanilla. For 40 years. Only vanilla. You desire to taste the vast array of flavors, but you promised yourself or the ice cream you would never stray from vanilla. I know, its only ice cream. But I cannot imagine limiting myself to the company of one single man for all of my life. With billions of men in the world, why should I limit myself to only one? Man flavors seem limitless, and while vanilla is great in all its aspects, and occasional scoop of java won’t kill me.
As I sited early on, a handful of friends have asked me about my polyamorous ways. There seems to be some confusion amongst them about what it entails and some serious misconceptions about it. But before I get in to what it entails for me, I want to address what it doesn’t. The biggest misconception people like to bring up is the idea that it is purely for sexual needs. I disagree completely. As I expressed through my own volition of regular celibacy, for me it is never about sex. I do not equate sex with love. That can be left for another post as too many people, women especially, are misled from an early age, again placing their worth on their ‘purity,’ that sex somehow equals love. As a teen I was especially chaste while employing a motto that you don’t fuck those you love. The word fuck has a plethora definitions, none of which are particularly positive, so it was always perplexing to me that ‘fucking’ was a synonymous word for sex, but sex was equated to love. So I lived by the creed that we shouldn’t fuck those we love, not to say we couldn’t express love through sex. The word Polyamory or Polyamorous needs to be evaluated as well. Poly, as many of you know, has Greek roots and means essentially more than one. Amour has Latin, not French roots, and translates to love. Amour does not translate to sex. Polyamory translates to ‘many loves’ not ‘many fucks.’ And here in lies the problem.
Too many people are calling themselves “Poly” and are simply using it as justification to fuck as much as possible. They have it twisted. That since that love is sex is already misleading enough, it doesn’t also need to be shit on by a horny generation of confused yet righteous people. Sure, fuck all you want, but don’t get promiscuity confused with polyamory. They two are not interchangeable. There seems to be a focus as well on the inequality of the situation. Everyone is caught up with a ‘main’ or ‘primary’ partner. Such labels only open the doors to hard feelings due to the suggestion that all parties aren’t equal. Equality is a basic no brainer in a polyamorous situation. Everyone needs to be on board and in agreement with the situation. It never feels good knowing you are someone’s number 2. If you can’t empathize with your partner’s feelings, you probably shouldn’t be in a relationship at all, let alone a multi-partner relationship.
My rules are strict and are presented at the first mention of interest. “Do you have a boyfriend?” is often answered with, “a few.” Followed by, “I’m always looking for applicants in to the man harem.” There’s a few cons I can see being a problem for the uninitiated. Men are naturally competitive. To have all my boyfriends around each other can often give rise to a combative energy, and this situation alone has led to some concluding that I must simply like the attention of men fighting over me. Nothing can be further from the truth, and as my once fiancé would testify, you will get your pink slip for fighting with the others. Each of my boyfriends serves a purpose, a rough amalgamation, but true none the less. One might spend money on me while the other gives me his time and conversation as another takes me on dates. My policy of honesty has been quite progressive over the years.
Don’t get me wrong, some don’t take to it. There have been plenty of men who walked away from their chance to be with me because they couldn’t have me all to themselves, and for that I am thankful. Its evidence that they would never be able to accept me for who I am, and for who I am I make no apologies. The fundamentals of any relationship should be honesty and the ability to accept and therefore love a person for all they are, flaws and all. It’s those little imperfections that give us our unique quality, that make us stand out from each other. There are also those who gave it a good shot but it wasn’t for them. For some the idea of sharing is taboo, and that’s fine too.
As a rising trend, if you are considering a life of polyamory take a good long look at yourself before you attempt to bring in a third person or date multiple people at once. Ask yourself, am I ok with my current partner or would be partner dating other people if I want to date other people? Am I a jealous person? Can I handle the emotional stress? (There will be emotional stress.)
For a lot of my friends, I make it look it easy, and that is the root of why so many people are intrigued with my life style. I make it look fun and glamorous, but that isn’t always the case. There have been countless tears and heart ache. There has even been regret. But from a grass is greener position, it must be considered that the life style is not for everyone and actions matter in meaningful relationships. Remember to always do what you do and never apologize for who or what you are. Be true to your self first.