Part 1: Don’t Believe the Hype! Or, Why My Lifestyle is No Better than Yours
Lillian Gold has been practicing polyamory for 13 years.
In this blog post written eight years ago at age 27, Lily reflects on the merits of different relationship styles and her embrace of polyamory.
In Part 2, she will examine what she has learned since that time in her non-monogamy through a marriage, divorce, new-partnership and many lovers
Kindra welcomes all relationship preferences from monogamous and monogamish to open and polyamorous. We hope our blog will help you reflect on what is best for you.
by Lily Gold, September, 2011
Many years ago as I was traveling through Eastern Europe I learned something about myself: I usually “out” myself as non-monogamous within about half an hour of meeting a person. It’s nearly impossible to talk about my life and not casually reference that I’m a celebrated slut and fall in love easily.
I noticed something else. Generally, say, seventy five percent of the time, I would get a reaction of surprise mixed with awe and a touch respect. “Really? Wow, how do you do that? I never could. That’s amazing. Ooooooh…” I think one person even remarked that “it was a better way to live,” or some other similar, well-meaning but naive statement. And my reaction was always “Oh, god, please, no. It’s not better. Please don’t think it’s better. It’s just different. It’s what I do, but trust me, it’s no better than what anyone else does in this crazy world of love and lust and desire.”
I register this around me in general—as more people dip into relationship experimentation, there is a trend towards seeing one relationship style as “enlightened” or as a "better way" of living, or as the “future of humanity.” And I’m here to tell you, quite frankly, that it’s just not.
Don’t believe the hype. Polyamory as model is as hard as anything else. And painful. And confusing. And wonderful. And utterly crazy. (Oh, wait, that sounds like all relationships, doesn’t it?)
I once heard someone say they felt defeated by polyamory. As in they tried it, thinking there were oh-so-liberal minded, so forward and advanced, and found that they just couldn’t do it. Weren’t made for it, weren’t ready for it, thought it was too painful, whatever. The point is, they felt they fell short of where they wanted to be on the scale of more open-minded-and-liberal-than-the-next-person, because they couldn’t DO poly.
Bullshit. I reiterate—polyamory is no more human, or intelligent, or advanced that any other relationship model there is. It’s not better than monogamy. It’s just different.
I will say that my choice to identify as poly forces me to enact what I consider to be enlightened practices, i.e. communication, radical honesty, self-love, self-reliance, asking for what I want, functional inter-dependency, and countless others, but these practices are just as enlightened and frankly, awesome, no matter what relationship model you choose to follow. (And trust me, just because someone identifies themselves as poly, doesn't mean they always enact these practices. Hell, I don't always do it. I wish I did!)
I should qualify myself. If you ever hear me talking about monogamy, you will hear me discussing it with a degree of amused disgust. I don’t even like SAYING the word. It’s ugly to me. (Monooogamy… manuugam… manaahh… ick) But that’s the point—it’s ugly to ME. It’s like my relationship to olives. I think they’re gross and disgusting and sour and ugh, people even put them in drinks?! What are they thinking? But I do realize that olives are a perfectly viable, healthy, yummy food product to someone. Just not to me. I don’t like them. Nevermind that the next person may think it’s quite disgusting when I eat avocado in spoonfuls straight out of the rind. They wouldn’t eat it, but no matter what, it’s still food. And like food, there are definitely relationship models that are downright unhealthy, such as the “I want to play and be poly, but you aren’t allowed to, even though you want to, because I’ll get too jealous.” Yeah, not so much. They may both be food, but there is a vast nutritional difference between a twinkie and a bell pepper.
Regardless, the point is that relationship models are personal choices that a person, or persons, make after honest introspection and experimentation. I don’t like it when people tell me, with a sense of shame or disappointment or resentment, that they tried poly and failed. There is no failing. That's just as bad as "failing" monogamy. Dude, you’re great, you tried something new, and it didn’t work out. Go you! You know something about yourself! Now, go try something else. Keep trying until you find what makes you genuinely, deeply happy.
I have no disdain for the relationship choices anyone makes. I do have pity though (and sometimes disdain), for those who make relationship choices based on what they think others want them to do, or based on what’s “cool” or “enlightened” or “societally acceptable.” Because, in the end, none of our relationship models really fit any of those adjectives. Whichever we choose, we all fall in love, break hearts, get confused, get hurt, hurt others, miscommunicate, make up, feel bliss, and do the same damned rigmarole over and over again. We love it, we love each other, and (I think) we all just want to be loved. In the end, it’s why we do any kind of relationship at all. The point is to do what YOU honestly want, communicate that to others, and find happiness within that. And that, I hope, is what the “enlightened” way to live really is. Cause that’s what I’m trying to do. Right. Now.
Lily Gold is a free-thinking explorer of the human psyche who believes in meticulously crafting one's own view of love and relationships. By night she is a small-scale producer of community-driven festivals, by day she is a director of curriculum and instruction at a charter school in East Los Angeles. Both these experiences give her a unique window into human relating, communication, and teaching.