“Trying to be happy by accumulating possessions is like trying to satisfy hunger by taping sandwiches all over your body.” -George Carlin
Polyamory is not Pokemon.
You do not need to ‘catch them all’.
Granted, there are some similarities between the popular cult video-game/collectible card game and polyamory. Every pokemon has different abilities, just as every partner has different qualities, and you seek to build a collection of pokemon where the skill sets are balanced for best success, just as in polyamory you might seek to build relationships with people of varying talents to enjoy a wide spectrum of needs being met, and a satisfying variety of people in your life. But, that’s about where the similarities end.
My experience has been that, under the topic “Reasons to be Poly”, everything falls into one of two main categories:
1) A need for validation. Lacking self-confidence, self-esteem, and/or joire de vivre, people look for multiple partners in order to fill a void in their life.
2) A feeling that one has so much love and affection to share, that sharing with just one person will not be sufficient. Creative, enthused about life, the universe, and everything, people seek multiple partners in order to have multiple outlets of expression for their passions..
Now, I started off in polyamory looking for validation. I freely admit that. I was one of those people in an unhappy marriage seeking something more fulfilling. A long period of depression, and a short bout with suicidal depression, and my self esteem was rock bottom. I needed more than what my husband was giving me in order to ‘feel good’ about myself, and so I sought that from outside. I broke up my marriage and only one thing was on my mind: to date all the people.
Possibly the most extreme example for me of pursuing poly for ‘all the wrong reasons’, ie from that place of insecurity in myself, was last August. I went to my ex husband’s birthday, held at his new girlfriend’s apartment, and then had plans to go to a fetish club where I knew I was going to see my ex, Jareth, for the first time in several months.
Around the same time, I had been fighting the insecurity I felt in the relationship I had with C-C, and the way she was triggering me on a variety of issues with my mom. I was staying on the couch of my friend Joseph, and though we were occasionally sleeping with one another, we weren’t really in a relationship, and he had been increasingly critical of me.
This emotional melting pot conspired to create a very anxious, very freaked out little drama-rama kitten, and as much as I tried to play it all cool as a cucumber, I was not. I was a wreck internally. In between the party and the fetish night, I managed to get someone I had been dating to come back with me to Joseph’s place and have sex with me.
It was crappy sex.
It was selfish sex- and frankly, I’m embarrassed when I think about it, and quite surprised that this guy I had the crappy sex with has continued a friendship even though, right after this nasty incident, our multiple-times-a-day texting went to flat out radio silence before he broke things off relationship wise a week later.
An excellent lesson in not getting into relationships when you feel down about yourself. When that relationship with yourself isn’t in a good place- focus on that before you get into bed with anyone.
I’ve been a master at using dating to distract me from the really important things in my life. You know, things like getting myself organised, growing, learning, developing, evolving. Oh, and earning a living too. That’s important too- can’t forget that!
When that happens, I’m letting my insecurities control my actions and interactions. I become ultra needy and, personally, I find neediness to be a very unsexy quality.
On the other hand, when I’ve spent time focusing on myself, doing the things that I know enhance my physical, emotional, and mental well-being, I naturally find my confidence again and can pursue relationships with a sense of ease, fulfillment, and satisfaction. It is no longer about “I need you… and you…. and you.” It becomes about “I want to share with you. And you. And you.” And that- that’s a lot more loving, don’t you think?
It was pointed out to me that this concept is resonant of the “Scarcity Mentality” talked about in The Seven Habits of Highly Effective People.
On the topic of Scarcity vs Abundance, Stephen Covey writes:
Most people are deeply scripted in what I call the scarcity mentality. They see life as having only so much, as though there were only one pie out there. And if someone were to get a big piece of the pie, it would mean less for everybody else.
The scarcity mentality is the Zero-Sum paradigm of life. People with a scarcity mentality have a very difficult time sharing recognition and credit, power or profit- even with those who help in the production. They also have a very hard time being genuinely happy for the success of other people.
The abundance mentality, on the other hand, flows out of a deep inner sense of personal worth and security. It is the paradigm that there is plenty out there and enough to spare for everybody. It results in sharing of prestige, of recognition, of profits, of decision making. It opens possibilities, options, alternatives, and creativity.
Um, see how this applies to relationships too?
Many people seeking monogamous relationships act from this attitude of “there’s only one pie”, and will fight everyone else for the right to that pie.
Likewise, there’s some people in polyamory who like to- how can I put it- stock-pile all the pies? Date all the people immediately. They can really really embrace their inner ethical slut, and have three or four dates in a day (guilty!) and keep dating all those people, even if only at a superficial level. Can you blame them? It is really nice to have a pie collection. To look at the pie, not eat the pie, not yet. Maybe preserve the pies and put them on pie stands and say “look what lovely pies I have!” and only be willing to share the pie with their friends. Maybe.
Lately, I am embracing the experience that there is actually plenty of pie to go around. I can share the pie. The pie will not run out. This is perpetual pie, a bottomless dish of pie, and you don’t realize how amazing that is till you start actually eating the pie and discover there is no bottom to this pie it goes on forever!
Have I lost you in the metaphors? Let me summarize.
Scarcity-Driven Polyamory aka Pokemon Polyamory
Seeking partners primarily for self validation purposes.
Feeling insecure when partners are with other partners.
Comparing one’s self to others.
Ignoring the needs of other partners.
Wanting one’s own needs to be partners’ top priority.
Talking more than listening.
Dating people without being attracted to them.
Needing more partners.
Abundance-Driven Polyamory aka Infinite Pie Polyamory
Choosing partners who are doing their work on themselves.
Feeling compersion easily.
Confident in self identity.
Understanding of where their own needs and their partners’ needs overlap and coincide.
Balancing own needs with the needs of all relationships.
Listening more than talking.
Dating people they are incredibly drawn to, the thought of whom electrifies them.
Feeling satisfied even if not dating anyone at all.
Obviously, nobody is perfect. I fully admit I have my moments of freak out where I think someone else is, um, eating all my pie, and there will be none left for me. Generally, that happens for a few days every month, coinciding with those days where all I want to do is curl up and devour chocolate. I like to think, however, if I can recognize this behavior in myself when it happens, that I can avoid acting from it. I can acknowledge if I’m being overly needy, selfish, or distracted by more superficial things. And, if I need to, I can take some time for myself.
I do not have to let my insecurities rule my life- not in relationships or in any other aspect of my life.
There is, after all, always more pie.
Much gratitude to ElkFeather and Orion for the conversations that inspired this article and the support in editing and completing it. I love you.