My position on polyamory has always been pro-choice rather than anti-monogamy, but after thirty years as a participant-observer in this strange new world it's more the case than ever that I really have no position on whether people should be monogamous or not. The truth is that it's extremely rare to find anyone who has only one sexual partner for their entire life. In fact, it's unusual to find anyone who has only one "significant other" throughout their life. So the question is not so much whether to love more than one, but whether it works better to have multiple partners sequentially or at the same time. There are definitely some people who are far better off taking it one at a time, and there are some situations which call out for other possibilities. I'm continually amazed both by the ingenuity, courage, and vulnerability of people who have made their own bodies and hearts the center for an inquiry into the true nature of love and by the persistent self-deception, lack of integrity, and callousness others justify by calling what they are doing polyamory.
While many people define polyamory as the practice of having more than one intimate relationship at a time with everyone's full knowledge and consent, I see it differently. To me polyamory is a philosophy of loving that asks us to surrender to love. Polyamory leads us to ask, "What is the most loving and authentic way I can be present with these people and with myself at this time?"
The answer to this question may not always be obvious, and it may change over time, but the asking of it, and the willingness to consider answers we may not want to hear, is the whole point of polyamory. Most of us would rather surrender to our cultural conditioning, to our emotional discomfort, peer pressure, social censure, lust, convenience, or a partner's demands than to the unvarnished truth about what would contribute the most to the well being of everyone involved.
In my forthcoming book, Polyamory in the 21st Century (Rowman & Littlefield, June 2010) I give many examples of people who give different reasons for why they are choosing polyamory. They are surprisingly varied and range from a desire for personal or spiritual growth, an effort to overcome childhood wounds, coping with personality issues, stabilizing or spicing up a relationship, religious or political beliefs, sexual variety, sexual addiction, or simply falling in love. Many of these same reasons are given by other people to explain why they are choosing monogamy. Perhaps, we only come up with these reasons afterwards to explain the behaviors we notice ourselves engaging in. One thing is certain. Love is a force of nature, and sooner or later, nature will have her way with us. Fighting, rather than surrendering to love, is ultimately a losing battle.
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