We were sitting there having a cup of coffee enjoying one of the last warm summer afternoons of the year, when my friend (my metamour actually, my boyfriend’s wife) casually asked me, “So, of the three men you are with, which one do you like more?”
SAY WHAT? Uhm, not only will I not answer that, I can’t! Every relationship in my life is unique and has its own special attributes and I won’t qualify them in any numerical or hierarchical sense. At any given time one of my loves may get more emotional time or energy, or physical time and energy, especially if it is a new relationship, but it would not work for me to say I love one more than another.
With my protests, she changed the question slightly. “Well ok fine, which one can you see being with long term, like being seriously involved with?” SAY WHAT? I am seriously involved with all three of them. Again, we three each have a different level of emotional involvement, different quantities of physical time spent together, etc. But I am committed to each of them. I am the least emotionally involved with Stefan, but I have been with him for two years and I am as committed to my relationship with him as I am with Roland, the man I spend most of my physical and emotional relationship time with right now.
As for long term? I hope all my relationships last and are fulfilling for everyone involved, for as long as they work for us. Does that mean weeks? months? years? I don’t know. My relationship structures no longer require knowing the answer to those questions. I hopped off the Relationship Escalator after my divorce, and without the upward, forward momentum required by that social relationship norm, concerns about longevity are no longer valid.
Maybe she was asking me if I would move in with any of them? I mean, that IS a step on the Relationship Escalator. In socially normal relationships, everyone is moving towards cohabitation and marriage or long-term life entanglement. Again, that’s not something that is on my radar. It’s not because I wouldn’t live with one of my loves if the situation were to present itself and the circumstances were right, but it’s important to me to be able to maintain my autonomy and being solo and living in my own space allows that right now.
I was married once and we lived together for 4 years total. I loved being married. I loved all the little things that go along with having someone in your life full-time, except… I lost myself. Every decision I made had to be run through the filter of my husband’s wishes and desires too. I had to consider more than my own needs and desires, and his always seemed to weigh more than mine, until they were the only important values in our home. Even though we didn’t share money, he “helped’ maintain my budget. I never travelled without him unless it was work related, (oh and he was afraid of flying and too cheap to spend money on trains/hotels etc. so you can imagine how much traveling we did together.) Even the amount of time I spent with friends and who acceptable friends were, had to go through his filter first.
Now this might be an extreme situation, and maybe if I hadn’t experienced it, I might not feel so strongly about my personal autonomy, but the restrictions of my monogamous Escalator relationship were stifling, and it terrifies me how easy it was for me to give up my autonomy.
Another friend and I were enjoying a nice Spanish Rosé on a candlelit street side terrace, when she made an observation. “You don’t have to have very high standards for the men you date.” SAY WHAT? She went on to try to make it sound better by explaining, “I mean, you don’t have to check all the boxes and make sure they meet all your needs- so you can be less picky.”
Hmm… ok. Maybe. I can spend two years happily enjoying my relationship with Stefan even though I know he is never going to bring me home to meet his family. I can fall in love with Roland even though he is already in love with two other amazing human beings. But lowering my standards? Hell no. If anything, being poly has made me value selectiveness.
I still like to give people a chance. I pick the guy on OK Cupid who looks fun and writes dorky things on his profile, not just the guy with the 6-pack abs. But neither the fun dorky guy nor the 6-pack abs guy will make the cut if he doesn’t line up with my standards and values. In the beginning of my relationships there is a lot of talking. A lot. (Also, I like to talk anyway so….) We talk about what we expect from relationships, about our other relationships, boundaries, pasts, futures, sex, sexual histories, STI testing, work, play, and then we talk some more.
By the time I am actually in a relationship with someone, we have a pretty clear outline of what this looks like right now, while also allowing for what it could evolve into. That doesn’t seem like lowering of standards to me.
I am always interested to hear what people say about relationships, because it then gives me an opportunity examine my own. It allows me to look at my motives, reasoning, and feelings. It helps me to clarify and articulate my thoughts better. And sometimes, I just hug my friends’ necks when they ask me things or say things like this. We are all products of the social norms we grew up with and if I don’t talk to them, they wouldn’t know “better.”