Tuesday, November 22, 2011
What have I stepped in?
I frequently hear people talking about new or potential new, partners and questioning either the satisfaction they expect to derive from the relationship, or the durability. Often there are other factors involved such as SO's, privacy, or even lifestyle. The conversations usually end with the person saying something like "I don't have anything to lose, right?" or "Why not, it couldn't hurt to try, right?” While I can't argue with those sentiments, because I do believe very strongly in taking chances and following your heart, I believe there is a fine line that many don't recognize. That line is drawn between putting yourself out there, taking a chance on love, and entering into a relationship you are fairly certain will end in failure or flames.
Another aspect to the question, and one that may help explain the concept, is ethics. Just because you can screw that hot chick (or hot stud), should you? The same question applies without the sexual aspect; just because you can have a relationship with someone, who may or may not be viewing the relationship from a different perspective, should you?
Let me give you an example. Recently I found myself in an intimate situation with a friend. We enjoyed ourselves and had a good time. I found afterwards that our physical interaction had ignited better conversations and a connection we hadn't experienced before. My friend also began dropping hints that she may be interested in more than just a friendship going forward. It was clear to me that we could easily try to have more than a friendship so I sat down to think about it for a minute. What I realized was that although I enjoy our friendship, and had enjoyed the "play-time" we had experienced, I didn't feel enough for my friend to explore a more emotional relationship, let alone was I feeling "love" in the context of a romantic relationship. I ask myself, "Why not?” Maybe I could develop those feelings; maybe the relationship could be great. I then ask myself; would taking the chance be ethical? My friend is obviously looking for a romantic relationship but if I was just "taking a chance" would we be on the same page with our intentions? I don't think so which for me doesn't feel ethical. In the end although I could have the relationship, or try to have it, I don't feel it would be fair to her since we would be looking at the relationship from different perspectives.
This is where things can get a bit sticky and controversial. I could have sat down with my friend and explained my position. We could have talked about how we may be approaching a relationship from different directions. And we may have agreed to try anyway. Assuming my friend was honest, and didn't let emotion cloud her thoughts, we might have found a workable path for us both. And honestly, there is nothing wrong with that. What I did at that point was consider the possibilities if we could find a workable path. The feeling that remained for me was that even if we could give it a try I honestly didn't see myself loving her the way she was hoping I would. Final answer; it didn't feel like it would be fair to her.
Another aspect of the question that I mentioned above are outside factors such as SO's. Let's try another example. I have a friend who fell quickly in love with a married man she knows. (His marriage is openly polyamorous by the way). Their relationship went well until my friend began to integrate more deeply into her new SO's marriage and create a relationship with the wife. That is when my friend found out, to be blunt, the wife is a loon. (I know the wife personally and have been the focus of her loony behavior so this isn't conjecture or second-hand information). My friend quickly began to struggle with how her SO was treated by his wife. She wanted to interject herself and help her new SO stand up for himself against his loony wife. Her feelings opened a big can of worms to be sure. Was it her place to intercede in their relationship? Would it be ethical for her to do so? The question I posed to my friend was this; Poly people enjoy the variety of multiple relationships. It sounds as if you are imparting your morality and ethics on your new SO. If he is happy with his marriage what right do you have to interfere? And if you can't be involved with him without interfering, should you be involved with him?
For me the answer to that question is No. If I can't have a relationship with someone and accept how differently their other relationships function then I shouldn't be in a relationship with that person. To do so would create a lot of stress for both of us and in reality, I would want to change them. Always a dangerous proposal in my opinion. Could I remain in a relationship with that design? Sure. I could work on "fixing" what I see as problems. But does it really make sense? Not at all.
Polyamory inherently includes the possibility of multiple relationships. Freedom to be involved with others is awesome and can be heady so say the least. But with that freedom comes the need to act responsibly, both to you and to others. I believe that Polyamory opens us up to multiple relationship possibilities which require us to take a deeper look at those possibilities and realistically determine if they make sense. The flip side is that dismissing a potential relationship because it isn't a great fit doesn't diminish the ability to still have multiple relationships. Maybe a better, simpler way, to say it is this; quality is more satisfying than quantity. Which would you rather have, 1 or 2 awesome relationships or 4-5 mediocre relationships? Personally I would rather have the awesome relationships which still allow me time to explore other awesome relationships whereas overloading myself with mediocre relationships is a time suck that ends up limiting me to those mediocre relationships.
Quality not quantity, ethics and morality, and knowledge of self. In my mind those are the things that can make Polyamory not just successful, but satisfyingly beautiful as well.
Love well friends,