Is it possible to get everything you need from a romantic relationship from one person?
In a recent interview with CNN, Miju Han, a programmer in Silicon Valley, discusses the nature of her “polyamorous” relationship with her fiancé. She describes how her “primary” relationship is with her fiancé, and it’s he who she lives with, spends most of her evenings with, and plans to marry and raise children with. She is also seeing a woman fairly regularly, a man once a month, then indulges in more sporadic relationships with men as and when. Her fiancé also has three other girlfriends in a similar way.
The theory is that it is not natural for humans to get everything from one person. There are so many facets to our personalities and our sexuality that to limit ourselves to just one person means certain elements of who we are and what we need will have to be denied. Parts of us that could be satisfied and given time will be neglected. We end up compromising who we are when we could allow different people to satisfy our different needs.
I have a degree of time for this theory.
Part of me has always been neglected in order to maintain a monogamous relationship with my chosen partner. It’s part of love, you fall in love and then out of devotion to that person you allow yourself to prioritise their needs and your faithfulness to them over your own desires. If there is something you want less than you want your partner, you accept that it shall be put aside. It may be sexual, it may be emotional, but something will always be given less time than you ideally want. But that’s okay, because you’re in love.
But is it okay?
I know that with my husband I allowed a part of me to effectively “die” in order to survive our relationship. I had to put it aside, away in a box, and not pay attention to it because every time I got it out and tried to indulge that need it was rejected. The pain of the rejection and the end result of feeling utterly undesirable and unloved was more painful than just ignoring the need in the first place. A large part of who I am became completely supressed and, effectively, dead in order to maintain my commitment to my husband and my marriage. In honesty it nearly killed me. By the time he left I was in therapy, I was depressed, and I had critically low self esteem. Allowing such an intrinsic part of “me” to be so completely neglected took a huge toll.
Had my husband and I been polyamorous then that part of me could have been satisfied. I could have kept the home, the family, the friendship with my husband and the security of my life. I could have had boyfriends or girlfriends that gave me the things I needed from him that he was unable or unwilling to provide, and then everyone would have been happy.
If you accept that the person you are committed to ISN’T able to satisfy all the parts of you that need satisfying, but you still want to be with them, maybe polyamory is the way forward. I’m very much of the non-judgemental attitude when it comes to relationships. I believe as long as everyone involved is happy, healthy, and consenting, then really it’s nobody else’s business what goes on. Perhaps Miju Han is on to something and all the people in basically unhappy relationships which are ultimately doomed to failure would find themselves happy and with successful relationships if they let other people give them what their partner can’t.
Would more marriages stay together? More family units remain unbroken? Would the divorce rate drop and more children be raised by happy parents that stay together?
I cannot answer any of those things but what I can say is that it wouldn’t work for me. I remained committed to my husband right to the end, even though I wasn’t happy, but I truly believe his leaving was the right thing. But now he’s gone, and I have been able to rediscover who I am and what I want, I have found a relationship which DOES satisfy all those needs. All the wants. Ending the marriage was right specifically because we couldn’t give each other what we wanted, and allowed me to find the one which does.
Perhaps what we need to do, rather than open our doors, our hearts, our bodies, to the option of multiple lovers is to open our minds to the idea that the one we’re with is the wrong one. Perhaps if taking on other lovers is the only option for keeping your relationship together then you all deserve better, and you deserve more. The Boy and I would NEVER have got together if we had remained with our spouses. I am not by nature a cheat, and wouldn’t have been comfortable agreeing to a polyamorous set up, and therefore even if he HAD been willing we’d never have connected in that way. We may have met, shared tales of school days, commented on mutual friends. We may have shared a drink in the pub we both go to or watched a movie in the cinema we both go to. But it would not have been as lovers, it would not have been as a couple.
Polyamory works because relationships are wrong in the first place. Find that person who meets all your needs and you’ll stop needing others to satisfy you. The idea of being with another person now is ridiculous to me. Not because I’m loyal, not because I don’t cheat, and not because I wouldn’t want to hurt him. It’s not a conscious decision I am making for the benefit of my partner and morals, it’s because I feel no need for satisfaction of any sort from any other person. My needs are met. My desires are sated.
But it means risking it all. It means acknowledging that a stable, loving, committed relationship isn’t working and casting yourself out into the sea. Risking the chance you’ll never find that person. Is it worth it? I didn’t make the choice to end my marriage but I am eternally grateful that he did because I don’t know if I would have taken that risk myself. I don’t know if I would have stood in my own way out of a misplaced sense of loyalty.
If polyamory appeals to you, works for you, then if you’re all happy good for you. More happy people means a happier world and I do love a happy world. But it’s not for me. What works best for me is the love, body and mind of one person. One man. This man.