Deciphering the panic

I have been thinking about polyamory for a while now. However, I don’t mean in the context of my blog posts on the subject. I have been thinking of polyamory and what it means to me personally. For almost a year now, I have had one relationship. Last December I wrote about how I could still be polyamorous whilst being in a single relationship, and in January I pondered further what being poly means to me. I wrote on the end of the piece that “whether or not I choose to refer to myself as polyamorous, I shall always choose an ethical brand of non-monogamy”… and that was definitely the start of me wondering whether or not polyamory really is my thing. If I don’t want a relationship or any intimate physical contact with anyone other than my primary partner, where does that leave me? Certainly not in a position where I want to talk about polyamory on a personal level, so that meant the publication of Arianne Cohen’s piece in The Guardian last weekend was not the best of timing. To say I panicked was something of an understatement.

People now want to talk about it with me, but I just want time to work it all out for myself. I certainly don’t want to be a poster girl for polyamory when I’m not even sure it’s my thing any more. How can I explain that to someone when they don’t understand the concept in the first place? When they don’t know that polyamory is one of many forms of non-monogamy? How can I show that poly folk are caring, open and honest, when all they can see is a woman “sharing her boyfriend”? Without the emotional energy to figure out what I want from relationships these days, how can I even begin to explain it to other people? I spoke to Arianne in August last year and could not have imagined how much my feelings on the subject would change in eight months. The panic has now gone, but so has the desire. I just don’t know what to say any more.

I am very happy with my relationship but was naive to think that talking to a journalist about our unusual set up would be treated as anything other than an ‘example’ of polyamory. I’m not an example of anything other than… me. And anyone who knows me will tell you that I’m a work in progress.

Image via stevebkennedy‘s Flickr photostream.

11 thoughts on “Deciphering the panic

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  1. I think the naive people are those that think they are 'finished'. We are all works in progress. The interview was a snapshot in time and I hope that no-one who read it would presume that nothing would've changed since then (or will change again in the future).

    I wonder if there is a possibility of overthinking this? If you are happy now that's all that really matters. Life will throw things in your path and you will adjust accordingly.

    Anyway. I think you can talk about polyamory as you have experienced it. Doesn't matter if it isn't what you want for your life right now.

    I know that, personally, I have learned a lot from reading your thoughts on all aspects of open relationships, non-monogamy, polyamory and everything else that goes with those things.

    Keep sight of the good stuff in your life (there is a lot of it!)

  2. Gosh, thoughts are with you, must be a difficult set of feelings with which to deal. I had a slightly similar thing when suddenly I was a poster child for bisexuality* for a bit and was still working out what it meant to me. I wanted to be a Good Role Model and an Example of Modern Queeritude, but I wasn't sure of anything!

    My only advice is to stay true to yourself and don't feel you need to pretend or Perform A Role of any sort. We're too often led to believe that sexuality and relationship choices are set in stone and IMHO the more people who point out the shifting sands the better.

    I hope this whole adventure turns out positive for thee.

    F x

    * In a -lot- less intense way, mind

  3. *squeeze*

    That's the trouble with labels; they start out as an easy way of summarising a paragraph of information into one quick word, just for ease of conversation, but can end up trapping you. Sorry to hear all this. Your relationship is amazing; you have friends and family who adore you; you have exciting plans and goals… All the 'poster girl for polyamory' stuff will die down, and you'll be left with all the awesome you had to start with – plus a bit extra from weathering the media ๐Ÿ™‚

  4. It's never easy but give yourself a huge amount of credit for actually spending the time working through this all. Most people just go through life never thinking but just accepting everything that's told to them.

    Personally I define as poly although I'm single, have been single for a long while and don't really even have sex anymore; I still define as poly.

    Think I may have mentioned this before but a lesbian friend of mine was told a while ago that if she's single, she's not a lesbian. She's only a lesbian if she's in an active sexual relationship with another woman. This is clearly ridiculous but the point is that you are truly defined by the definition you choose rather than somebody else's perceptions of your actions.

    Poly, monogamous, neither or all of the above are simply labels that we can use to help communicate to others part of what we're about; they shouldn't be something we attempt to squeeze into and used to define us.

  5. “And anyone who knows me will tell you that I'm a work in progress.”

    Arn't we all though, in same way or other?

    Anyone who thinks they are complete or finished needs a reality check or possibly sympathy for being so shut of from themselves they no longer want to grow and change, or even know that it is possible.

    I think it is OK to not be sure, what would not be OK would be to pretend that you were sure…that only leads to a false smile and hidden heart ache. Being open enough to say.. I don't know but I intend to find out is in my opinion a very healthy way to be.


  6. Talking about your own private life is always unsettling, just like reading a poem you wrote (or sharing a first kiss!) to someone you care about. Hopefully this moment of catharsis will allow you to scale new heights in terms of creativity and self-confidence.

    Your bravery outweighs any prejudicial associations, and hopefully someone out there will read your words and realise that “normality” is subjective.

  7. “If I don't want a relationship or any intimate physical contact with anyone other than my primary partner, where does that leave me?”

    Would you be open to acting on it if such a desire arose? As Beth said, a lesbian is still a lesbian even if she is single, and I'd add even if she doesn't currently want to have a relationship with anyone!

    Sorry that this has been a tumultuous time for you, and has thrown up troubling feelings. But perhaps, if you're getting everything you want from your current relationship and friendships, that's something to be celebrated!


  8. @Gordon – Overthinking this? I reckon I probably am! You're right that I can still talk about poly because I've experienced it, so I guess I need to toughen up and work out what exactly I'm comfortable discussing.

    @Fenn – You're right, I want to be a good role model, but I don't feel that I am right now. No matter how many times you say “ALL relationships are shitty at times”, people will still blame it on the poly stuff. I like the idea of you being a poster child for bisexuality though ๐Ÿ™‚

    @Beth – Yeah, the thinking has been useful, even if it's been a bit ouchy on my brain at times.

    @MoreThanNuclear –
    Would I be open to acting on it if such a desire arose? You know, I'm not sure any more. Hence the intense ponderings!

    To everyone who's commented, thank you so much for your kind words. It's good to know I'm not alone in the being 'unfinished' thing and that I know so many lovely and understanding people (in real life and on the internet). Today is a new day and things are looking brighter ๐Ÿ™‚

  9. At university they are constantly drumming into us that we don't need 'resolve' difficulty, but simply understand and explore it. It seems like you're grasping your difficulty quite well.

    I wrote about non-monogamy yesterday, just because for the first time in my life it feels like an option for me… and I'm treading carefully, but what I realised reading your piece above is that if this is what you want, you don't have to be actively involved with more than one person in order to be non-mongamous. If you're open to it then you are; and if you don't want to be non-monogamous then you don't have to be. But your relationship still is, and that makes you more than qualified to discuss it. If you want to.

    It's kind of a terrible simile, but… I don't have to be fucking boys ALL THE TIME to know that I'm straight. Know what I mean?

  10. We don't need 'resolve' difficulty – I should use that as a mantra ๐Ÿ™‚

    You are 100% correct with the sexuality simile though. Your orientation isn't directly linked to having sex. I guess that's why some people view polyamory as an orientation! And I now understand why some people hate labels so much. They are very restrictive.

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