Thursday, July 5, 2012

Struggling for Acceptance and Nonjudgment in the Poly Community

There's an ugly little truth in the polamorous world.  Things aren't always as perfect as they seem.  My boyfriend is getting divorced.  My primary relationship with the Mister is struggling, for reasons totally unrelated to what is going on with my other partners.  In fact the trouble in my marriage has nothing to do with polyamory at all.  Yes, outside relationships do come up in the course of the arguing, but the core of what is wrong is completely unrelated to having an open marriage.

So, we come to something I've noticed in the past month or two.  There is this tendency in the poly community to pretend that poly relationships, especially poly marriages, are sunshine and puppies all the time.  And they just aren't.  Poly relationships are just that... relationships.  People get hurt.  People grow apart.  People do stupid things.  Relationships are work, and they are hard, and sometimes the cost to benefit ratio stops working in the direction you want it to.

The Mister and I, I don't know what will happen.  My lover and his wife, they couldn't work it out.  The boys and I have had our share of bumps and relationship bruises.  This doesn't make us failures.  This doesn't make us unworthy of being seen and heard and read.  This doesn't disqualify us from using the label polyamorous.  This makes us human. Just because you are poly and unmarried, just because you are poly and your primary relationship failed, does NOT make you less than those whose primaries are successful.  

I think the poly community is missing out on a huge opportunity to hear the stories that no one wants to acknowledge.  Sometimes we fail.  Sometimes we fall.  And every time we do it we learn something new about ourselves and what we need in our relationships.  Just because we do so doesn't mean that we are bad people or that we can't lean on the shoulders of our other lovers.  It doesn't give anyone outside the failing relationship the right to judge you for what they think you have or have not done.  The amount of information out there about being polyamorous or nonmonogamous is so small, and pretending that every poly relationship is perfect all of the time isn't helping anyone.  Shutting people down or boxing them out because they are "failing" isn't making us a bigger community.

The poly community needs to stop being so judgmental all the time.  It's basically a snowglobe of drama just waiting to be shaken up.  The community here in Chicago has given me the cold shoulder on more than one occasion, and the only reason I can think of is that I was with an extremely active and sought after man.  For every warm and welcoming person I've met in the community, I've probably met three who were, quite simply, awful.  It's a clique, and it's not one that I've decided I want to be a part of.

Hearing the stories from OpenSF, listening to the Life on the Swingset panel podcast, I can't shake the feeling that as much as we all want a truly open and bonded community, we aren't going to be able to lose the labels, the judgment, the justifications, and the snark.  Maybe if we admitted that we're all just people looking for connections, and that sometimes those connections aren't great, we'd all be a lot happier.  Maybe if we poly people could admit that we date just as much for the sex as we do for the love, we could be more accepting of swingers.  Maybe if swingers could admit that it can be hard to have sex with someone and not develop a bit of affection for them, they'd be able to see where we're coming from, too.  Maybe if we were able to truly be appreciative of the things we have in common, and not just focus on the things that make us different, we'd be able to make our voices heard by the traditionalists.

We need to stop pretending that we're better than everyone else.  Not everyone can be polyamorous, monogamous, married, single, straight, gay, bi, queer... pick your label.  I identify as polyamorous, straight, and currently married.  During my lifetime some or all of those things might change.  I define my labels, I don't let them define me.  In the community we need to be able to meet someone and genuinely accept them for who and what they are.  It doesn't matter if their kink makes you squirm.  It doesn't matter if your level of nonmonogamy doesn't mesh with theirs.  All that matters is that we are all willing to walk out the door every morning and meet the world as we are.

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