ANON, you’re breakin’ my heart <3
shamed and attacked are really strong words to me, because when I hear them, I think of my fellow LGBTQ folk who are driven from their homes in shame and physically assaulted by people who are supposed to love them. no – I’ve never experienced either of these things for being poly. I’m lucky to live in a generally progressive area of the country – well, really, of my state – and my community is mostly accepting of anything outside the norm.
I’ve taken some “Shit Lite” (i.e. nothing more harmful than confusion and slight distress due to a lack of understanding) from a couple of my friends who I’ve confided in, I think in large part because of ignorance and the whole “my comfort zone should be your comfort zone” knee-jerk reaction that a lot of people have. but those are the same people who had issues with my bisexuality because “it undermines your marriage.” (excuuuuuuse you.) or with my husband’s considerable number of partners before me. (thanks, but I appreciate that he got in the practice on someone other than me?!) so I don’t really see them as people whose acceptance I need. I have the good fortune not to need those components of my support system.
I’m not exactly *out*, either, though. most of my good friends know, online and IRL, and I’m pretty shameless about it here because this is a blog I don’t advertise to people I don’t completely trust (of course, it’s on the internet, so there’s a risk it’ll be found by someone I don’t want to find it, but I’m not afraid of who I am so that’s a risk I’m willing to take). I wouldn’t tell my parents – my mother in particular would see it as a failing of her parenting – but I’ve told my siblings, and my brother recently let me know that he has several poly people in his friend group and feels like he understands what they’re about. I wouldn’t make a point of telling my (rather massive) employer, but let me tell you, I work at one of the most accepting major companies in the world, and most of them wouldn’t give a damn if they found out. I’ve even been able to tell many of my friends at work, who are in turn delighted, jealous, intrigued, and congratulatory.
so anon, I’m afraid I don’t have any advice for you about being shamed or attacked by others for being poly. I do, though, have three thoughts about being poly from someone who’s had to fend off some inner attacks and who’s done a lot of hard thinking about the implications of being poly to her own life, sanity, and conscience.
– You’re not being selfish or greedy just because you love more than one person. Love is a renewable resource, and giving it to one person takes none of it away from another. (Time, yes, but that’s a balance each individual has to find, no matter who they love.) You can be selfish and greedy and want to be with others just for the attention, affirmation, and sex, but simply loving more than one other doesn’t make you those things.
– Until a majority of society changes its views, it’s tough to be poly. I don’t just mean the legality of long-term partnering with multiple people. The hardest part for me about being poly is not being able to claim or be claimed by my secondary partners. It’s a known deal that I’m married, so if I’m with someone else, that makes me the cheater. The slut. And that makes my partner the fool, the “other guy” (or girl). And I don’t like throwing around words like boyfriend or girlfriend unless I get to live up to the expectations that kind of title brings – like going out in public as a pair/trio/quad, committing to spending time with each other, sharing resources, and being a part of their friend circles and families. So, that means that people I get to be with thanks to my open relationship and lifestyle don’t really get to be with me the same way I’m with my husband and he’s with me. And that’s tough. Tough on me, tough on them. Doesn’t mean it’s not worth it.
– Being poly can feel like you’re simultaneously exactly where you should be and completely lost, in the same breath. Literature, poetry, and film have given us a lot of stories about one person loving one other person, and how we’re supposed to behave in that kind of relationship. Poly people, I think, know early on that their hearts aren’t easily sated by loving a single soul, and so when they come to the lifestyle in some formal way, it feels like home. And yet, with so few role models in popular culture for healthy poly relationships, it’s easy to feel lost at sea. But loving someone comes pretty instinctually. Focus on gentle communication and kindness, and you’ll be okay.