Polyamory is hard work. It can also be painful work. It can be the most emotionally exhausting, mentally demanding thing you ever attempt. It can also become a place of safety, understanding, compassion and of healing. It can blow up and crush everyone involved, or it can be fertile soil and allow everyone to grow and become so much more than they ever thought possible.
There’s truth to all of that, about polyamory. There’s also truth to all of that about monogamous relationships. There’s also truth to that about a close friendship. The difference isn’t the format or depth or style of the relationship, it’s the people in the relationship.
I don’t care if your relationships are poly, monogamous, platonic, or whatever else. If you’re not willing to put in effort, the day will come when they will fail. If the person or people in your relationships with you are not willing to put in effort, the relationships will fail.
So far, this adventure of ours has been running for 10 weeks. In that time I think all 3 of us have felt, overlooked, used, hurt, neglected, unloved, over-pressured, and ready to walk out on at least one count each. So why haven’t we? Why are we still here?
I can’t speak for J and T. I hope that they’ll have something to say and decide to log in and say it themselves. I can say why it is that I stay, though.
A large part of me staying is the fact that J and I have been in one another’s lives for so long. When the entire world walked out, he walked in. When I was left utterly, and truthfully alone, he reached out for my hand and helped me find my feet again. True, to much of the world this will sound like I’m somehow co-dependent and J and I are in the most screwed up relationship ever. It’s just not like that and I think that it’d have to be seen in person to understand. The fact is, of all the people in the world, he and I are the ones who have always been there for one another, no matter what came down the road at us. We love one another. It’s not friendship that draws either of us to step forward for the other when there is a crisis, it’s love, and a long-standing, barely spoken commitment that neither of us will ever walk alone in this world. Because of this, I stay with him, even when I want nothing more than to literally walk out the door and hear that satisfying “click” as it closes behind me for the last time. As I’ve said to J, “Where would I go anyway? There’s nothing out there for me, and all I do is wander around getting hurt for a few years and come back to you.”
I also stay because J and I have made that commitment to one another. It’s as real and as deep as a marriage commitment. We stay together, no matter what. He still thinks of me, he told me a few days ago, as his wife. I always thought of his as my husband. We are “the old married couple.” Whether anyone else likes how things look between us or not, that’s what it is… and while I know we look like we’re dysfunctional, we both grow and learn, and love together. It’s really hard right now, and I’m honestly worn out from it, but I am learning, and I am growing, and I am loving him more and more. I think he stays because of the same reasons, or some that are similar.
I stay because I love T, very much in fact. I find myself missing her in the middle of the work day, in the night when I’m alone, in the morning when I leave for work, and so much of the time that I barely know sometimes who it is that I’m going home for. I stay because for all that we’ve known one another for such a short time, she is my friend. Yes, it looks ugly for us right now. Show me another close friendship that would endure learning how to transition from platonic friends to a poly household without taking some nasty knocks. When J and I went through our own hells last fall and again this spring, T was there for me. When she and her ex split up, and when he was mistreating her, I was there for her. When my friend betrayed us all, she and I stood together and faced the challenge it brought. T and I have a strange synchronicity that just plays out where we work together on anything. Our strengths complement one another. We also have lots of fun together. One of the things I enjoy most about T is that when we’re alone, I feel as if I finally have a playmate! There’s someone who will be silly and goofy with me, and not judge me for being the same.
I was also given a reminder of a few things about T that are part of why I love her. This weekend, there was a fight, and by the end of it I was not only stating my wants and needs, but precisely why I had them, precisely how much I wanted and needed. I started to apologize for being too demanding. T stopped me from it and told me that I’d been making her feel far more relieved by standing up for myself, and that I’d been doing a wonderful job of it. She always wants to see everyone using their strengths when needed, to see no one afraid to admit their thoughts, wants, needs, hopes, or dreams. She’s also very good at seeing when I’m shooting myself in the tail and pointing out that I’m “doin it again.” I admit to having a nice strong guilt complex and it’s helpful to me to have someone who is willing to say “Hey, you’re doing that thing again” because it makes me more aware than I’m capable of on my own.
Sometimes, I know that I feel what would be termed by many as “jealousy.” (I hate that word, it’s a cop-out and a way to not look honestly at the emotions within or their roots.) But I am beginning to learn to even welcome that sensation as it causes me to look carefully at things. It’s helping me, too. I am seeing so many things that J and I have done that just aren’t the best patterns for a relationship. I think he’s been seeing them, as well. The discomfort would have been either unnoticed, or glossed over, for years between us and who knows but that it could have split us apart in the end. Now, in this environment, we are being forced to look at one another and to really see the things we’ve done that sell one another short. We’re seeing the ways we fail to show respect and caring to one another, and learning how to change those ways. We’re learning new ways to open up to one another and new ways to share our love.
I stay, and despite the levels of frustration that sometimes leave me ready to leap out a window to get away, I stay because I recognize, I’m growing here. Painful or stressful, or not, I am in a fertile environment. I am loved, respected, wanted, and encouraged. I am trying to make sure that I give the same to J and T both, so that they also have the support needed to grow, and the love and acceptance to know that I value them both, deeply.
Polyamory is hard work, but the rewards are, for me, worth making, and holding, the commitment to stay and continue the work.