Polyamory Part 2: The Hype You Can Believe





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, December 2018

I wrote that previous article in September of 2011 - I was 26 years old, happily married to a good man (Sho) and in love with another man (Scott) who did not completely return my affections. This bit of unrequited love from Scott caused strife in my marriage. I was overwhelmed with juggling my attraction to another, my duties as a wife, and my own self-love and self-worth. Despite my desire to be in an active polyamorous relationship, I realized I had to break up with my secondary partner so I could focus appropriate attentions on my husband.

So shortly after writing that last article, I broke up with Scott (side note, we got back together a couple months later, but are now just the best of friends). It was hard. I shed tears, I questioned myself, I felt lost and unworthy. Any comments made by others about “enlightened non-monogamy” seemed ludicrous in comparison to the personal drama I was experiencing. How could I lay claim that my way was any better than anyone else’s? Hence, the line in the previous article -- “Don’t believe the hype. Polyamory as a model is as hard as anything else.” Premise: all relationships are hard. Conclusion: it doesn’t matter which one you choose. No one seems immune to the pitfalls of human emotion.

And, of course, our society is filled with narratives that support this logic. We are told that relationships are hard, and we have to work at them. We are constantly fed stories of people who make great sacrifices for love, movies of people who must change themselves for love, television shows with people who pine for love, songs that glorify the sensational back and forth of tempestuous love. Compared to these theatrics, my relationship with my husband in 2011 was wonderfully stable, but still had its moments of difficulty and drama, just like everyone else, right? RIGHT?

Wrong. I still stand by the idea that there is no hierarchy between healthy, consensual non-monogamy or monogamy, but I take deep issue with the premise that relationships are “Hard…painful...confusing...” I was limited by my age, my impatience, my inexperience. I had no idea just how effortless and joyful a relationship, mono or poly, could be.

Seven years later, I have a new realization. Premise: life is hard enough. Conclusion: my relationships get to be easy.

At that time, I thought relationships were difficult and I needed to work on them. I look back and realize, I was difficult and I needed to work on me. I was susceptible to intense episodes of lust and need. I was attached to “looking polyamorous.” I was often seeking love from those who did not want to give it to me.

I was a practiced communicator and could quell the insanity, make myself heard in kind and patient ways, but my self-awareness, my worth, and my boundaries were not yet developed enough to keep me from unnecessary drama. My now ex-husband also had his share of personal struggles, but I am not going to publicly speculate what those were. The point is, we were both immature. Neither of us was developed enough individually to keep ourselves as a couple at peace.

While this immaturity could be blamed on our youth, merely growing up would not have been enough to change my perspective on the relative ease or difficulty of relating. What paved the way for the phenomenal partnership I have now was the extensive work I did on myself to examine my past, unhook my traumas, and, paradoxically, let go of my ego and fully recognize my worth. I did solo travel, I lived single for the first time in my life since I was sixteen, I did the Landmark forum, and I did Vipassana, a ten day silent meditation (which was the single most impactful thing I have ever done for myself).

Through these life experiences, I learned a few key concepts that have revolutionized my outlook on what is possible in relationships. In brief, they are:

  1. Abundance vs. scarcity mentality - I have learned that holding on too tightly makes whatever I have crumble in my hand. I choose to believe there is no lack in the world.

  2. Self-awareness and clear communication - I have a clear sense of who I am, what I want, and how I feel, and I communicate this to my partners fully and precisely.

  3. A full, productive life - I fill my time with career, friendships, hobbies, and family in a way that fulfills my mental, spiritual, physical, and emotional well-being.

  4. Releasing responsibility for my partner’s emotions - I do the best I can to create an exquisite experience in life for myself and my partner, but neither his joy nor melancholy depend on me, and mine don’t depend on him, either.

  5. Trust in self - I trust my judgment, my emotions, my reasoning, and my experience. The more I trust myself, the more I trust my partner.

  6. Patience - I wanted any new connection to blossom on my terms, and I would do anything in my power to scratch that romantic itch. I have learned to trust that wonderful things happen with time, and there is a deliciousness in that space of anticipation.

(All these concepts are nuanced and multifaceted. In time, I will write articles on each and what they mean to me, to us. They can’t be properly summarized in bullet points in an article this short.)

Now, I am in a gorgeous relationship with an extraordinary human being, a long-time friend and collaborator whom I fell in love with five years ago, before my relationship with my husband ended in divorce. Two and a half years ago this man, Daniellow, and I became intentionally committed partners. Fifteen months ago we were joined by our girlfriend, Devin, and all three of us are astonished at how fulfilling, how fun, how effortless our relationship has been. I am sitting in the kitchen with them now - they are cooking breakfast and allowing me to write this article, giving me support in the form of food and feedback.

In the past year I experienced, for the first time in my life, the passing of three family members, two of them painfully unexpected. The most difficult was my youngest sister’s journey through cancer and into death. I sit back and imagine “Oh my lord, what if my relationships added to that stress instead of relieved it?! What if my partner had no idea how to support me and take care of himself as well? What if our girlfriend hadn’t offered her home as my refuge when Daniellow was unavailable? What if my roommates didn’t keep my home a quiet, soft place of mourning for weeks after my sister died?”  I mention my roommates because this grace in relationships is not limited to my romantic trysts - I expect the people closest to me to also possess the kind of clarity and communication skills that make a loving space of sanctity in my life.

This is not to say that miscommunications and conflicts never happen; those are inevitable in any intimate human exchange. But the people I keep around me have done the work necessary to communicate effectively and not add fuel to the flames. A small blaze need not become a destructive inferno.

There are caveats to my declaration of ease in relationship, of course.

1) It took effort to get here and doubtless there was destruction left in my wake. I had to play out my dramatic theater on other people, as we all do, because life doesn’t get practice rounds and very few people reach adulthood without scars. I do not think I could have reached this moment of contentment without those experiences and I am grateful for all those that contributed to my journey here.

2) I am not implying that a relationship which becomes laborious is not worth pursuing. In ten, twenty, forty years together a lot of life happens and people certainly transform. There are tools, though, for handling life’s curveballs, if one seeks them out. I do believe there is a limit for the time one should spend in turmoil, and each individual person gets to decide how long that timeframe is. I have yet to find a good reason to stay in relationships that start hectic and remain that way for months or even years. That occurs to me as unnecessary suffering.

3) In the context of how vast the human experience can be, my thirty-three years of age and experience are quite relative. These two and a half years of partnered bliss may give way to unforeseen trials and tribulations, but the point is this: I know it can be easy. I know that there are tools and practices that create relationships that sail flawlessly through the storms of life. I want you, reader, to know that it doesn’t have to be so hard, and with the right combination of self-work, communication, concrete practices, and shared values, people can engage one another in harmonious love and exquisite lust, and have fun along the way.

Because life can be hard enough. Our relationships get to be easy.

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.