It’s like having multiple close friends. It’s like having multiple siblings. It’s like having multiple parents. It’s like having multiple kids. It’s like having multiple lovers sequentially, except you have them concurrently.
Recall all the joys and challenges of your first sweetheart, and all the joys and challenges of your second sweetheart, and imagine experiencing those simultaneously. When things are good in all of your relationships, life is amazing. When things are crappy in all of your relationships, life sucks.
The nonmonogamy-is-hard meme pops up pretty frequently, and it just doesn’t reflect my experience. Monogamy was hard. It took serious effort to tamp down my affection and desire for all the lovable and desirable people other than my current partner. I sometimes did not succeed, and then I had a steaming pile of guilt to deal with, which usually prompted me to end the ostensibly-monogamous relationship and mope for a while about my dysfunction. Cheating was hard. Now that I exclusively date people who are cool with me dating other people, my life is much, much simpler.
There are certainly logistical challenges involved in allocating your time to multiple people, but everyone deals with that, assuming they have multiple people they wish to spend time with and multiple demands on their time. When I compare my schedule to my monogamous parents’ schedule, mine is much simpler. They have my little sisters to deal with, so they run from archery practice to school recitals to sleepovers to doctors’ appointments. They go to temple, they hang out with their friends, they travel for work, and they do home improvements. Juggling all that is hard. Keeping track of a few dates a week is a piece of cake. Google Calendar, man. Technology works wonders.
I’ll elaborate a bit on the experience of having two or more concurrent romantic relationships, which is specific to polyamory.
I definitely have a “type.” I date geeks. So in that respect, my partners are often quite similar. In other respects, they’ll be radically different. The emotional reality of loving and being loved by them is unique. They handle conflict differently and express intimacy differently. Over time, though, we begin to adjust to each other.
Listen: How many sexual partners have you had? (Post continues…)
I’ve had partners who didn’t like each other, partners who didn’t know each other well, and partners who were married to each other. Currently, my partners are best friends. I really like that. Obviously I’d prefer wall-to-wall threesomes, but as long as my partners can spend time together happily, I’m over the moon. Compartmentalising is exhausting.
I’m currently the “middle” of a “v-shaped” relationship, meaning I have two partners and neither of them has other partners at the moment. I’ve also been the “end” of a v-shaped relationship, meaning I had just one partner and they had another partner. I’ve also been in one sorta-triad, meaning three people all involved to some degree. They all work for me. The only thing I categorically do not do is “closed” arrangements. I always want to know that it’s kosher for me to explore new interests outside the established network or group.
I do “date” a bit. I have a love-hate relationship with dating. When I really click with someone new, it’s ecstatic and intoxicating; when I’ve had a string of pleasant but uninspiring first dates, I get disappointed and discouraged. In either case, I try not to let the dating process take too much energy away from my established relationship(s). What usually ends up happening is, I’ll go on a few first dates over the course of a few weeks, get frustrated, and give up on dating altogether for six months or a year. Then get back on the horse when I’m ready again.
I really enjoy having a supportive network of polyamorous friends. I’m out to friends and family (and the internet at large — Hi, Google!), and everyone is respectful and supportive, but it’s nice to have connections who “get it.” They wrestle with the same weird situations we often find ourselves in, like “Crap, I have a date with Bob on Friday but I totally forgot it’s Jane’s birthday; what do I do?” and “I think my sweetie and I need to renegotiate our safer-sex protocols; how do I start that conversation?” Sometimes we can’t fall back on the standard social scripts, so we make our own, and compare best practices.
I like thinking and talking about feelings and relationships (as my Quora record demonstrates), so I enjoy that process. When people say polyamory is hard, I think they’re saying they don’t enjoy and/or aren’t good at that process.