Translations of this material:
- into Russian: Полиамория. 29% translated in draft.
Submitted for translation by stevepavlina.ru 20.05.2011
“Perhaps our greatest acts of violence are reserved not for those experiences that are most foreign to us but for the ones that are closest to the truth about ourselves.” – Jonathan Mooney
In this article I’ll candidly share my thoughts about polyamory, monogamy, marriage, and about intimate relationships in general.
One issue that seems to be a hang-up for a lot of people is the possibility of getting hurt. Monogamous relationships can lead to plenty of hurt when they go bad, and it seems reasonable to assume that polyamory could multiply this hurt even more, if only because more hearts are involved.
One reason people fear getting hurt is that they’ve had some bad experiences in the past and haven’t fully recovered yet. Another problem is that people have an undue fear of hurting others because they’ve caused some pain in the past, and they’re still harboring a lot of guilt and regret.
What does it take to let go of that fear and pain and to summon the courage to take new risks in your relationships, in the hopes of experiencing ever greater levels of joy?
Basically, you just have to get back in the arena and do the best you can… without worrying so much about getting hurt. Over time your calibration will improve. You’ll get better at avoiding broken hearts, and you’ll learn to create joy more consistently. Unfortunately, you have to move through the hurt phase to get to the joy phase.
If you live your life so as to minimize your potential hurt, you’ll endure a very dull, dreary, and cowardly existence. This is how drug addicts aim to live. Of course the pain always gets its say further down the road.
Anyone who wants to live consciously must accept that getting battered and bruised is part of the game of life. It happens.
When you get hurt, the best response is to pick yourself up, dust yourself off, tend to your bruises, consider what you’ve learned, and get back in the game with even more resolve than you had when you were knocked down.
Wounds heal. This includes the wounds you inflict as well as those that are inflicted upon you.
Life has knocked me down quite a few times. I’ve been arrested and convicted. I went bankrupt trying to build my first business. I was kicked out of my apartment because I couldn’t pay the rent. People criticize me publicly every week, especially this week. Hmmm… wonder why…
Does it hurt when stuff like this happens? Sure it does. I’m not invulnerable.
I know that life will keep knocking me down again and again. And each time I’ll get up, dust myself off, and tend to my wounds. Then I’ll say in my snarkiest tone, “Nice try, Life. Is that the best you can do?”
I don’t want to reach my grave in pristine “like new” condition. I won’t die with my music still in me. When the coroner checks my dead body, I want him to say, “Damn… what the hell did he do to this thing?”
Don’t try to grow a big callous around your heart to protect yourself from getting hurt. Don’t try to shield yourself from emotional pain. That will only make you cold and callous yourself. If you disconnect from your heart, you disconnect from everything. You’ll rob your life of all its delicious flavor.
Instead, take the hurt as it comes, and fully accept it. Listen to what the hurt is telling you, learn from it, and grow through it. See the hurt as a gift instead of a punishment. Tune into the joy behind the sadness.
The message of hurt is this: Despite what’s happened, can you still respond with love?
Even when you’re faced with negative emotions, can you see beyond them and consciously choose to respond with love instead of reacting with fear?
Can you see how helpful this process is in the long run? The more you get hurt, the more you develop your ability to choose love.
If you look at some of the most loving souls on earth, their pasts are often riddled with the most wicked abuse and suffering you can imagine. Knock them down, and they keep coming back with more love. Do you sense the power of this way of living?
I understand that not everyone has this attitude. What can I say? Is it really helpful to wallow in self-pity or guilt? Isn’t it better to accept the hurt as it comes, process it, let it go, and then move on?
The human heart has a great capacity to heal. If you get hurt, you’ll recover. If you hurt others, they’ll recover too. If you consciously work on your healing, you’ll heal a lot faster than if you merely subscribe to the mantra, Time heals all wounds.
Does this mean you should go around hurting people intentionally because, what the heck, they’ll heal? No, it just means that you shouldn’t fear it. It’s better to experience (or cause) one real broken heart than to fear a thousand imaginary ones.
I know that by exploring polyamory, there’s a good chance that someone I’m involved with will feel hurt at some point. Maybe me. Maybe Erin. Maybe others. Maybe all of us.
If I want to fully embrace the game of life, there’s no getting around that. It’s a risk.
But I can’t live my life cowering under the covers like Shaggy and Scooby. I’m gonna be kick-ass Fred.
You just know Fred was all over Daphne and Velma in the back of the Mystery Machine.
Hmmm… I wonder if Mystery has a Mystery Machine.
I have nothing against monogamy in general. I’ve been in a monogamous relationship for almost 15 years. Those years have involved an awesome amount of growth and joy.
If you’re monogamous and happy about it, that’s terrific. If I thought monogamy sucked, I wouldn’t have stuck with it for so long.
At this particular time in my life, I feel ready to move on from monogamy though. I can see that it would be the wrong path for me in the years ahead.
Some people have asked if I’m bored with my current relationship situation. That’s an overly simplistic way of looking at it, but overall that’s reasonably accurate.
Some people suggested the general prescription of spicing things up a bit and staying monogamous. The spice isn’t the problem though. The issue is what’s beneath the spice.
I’ve gone through enough life lessons to know when it’s time to spice up my life by adding/changing projects and activities vs. doing a complete overhaul. In this case, it’s clear that it’s time for a complete overhaul of my approach to intimate relationships.
Dropping monogamy is going to be a pretty radical change for me, much like when I switched careers from game development to personal development. This is going to impact every part of my life in a big way, as well as the lives of Erin and my kids. It’s going to be a lot of work to navigate this transition. I have no delusions that this will be an easy change.
Marriage and monogamy are two different concepts, so let’s be careful not to confuse them.
In contrast to monogamy, I think marriage is an unnecessary legal institution that does more harm than good.
I got married to Erin when I was 26 years old. We met when I was 22. If I had it to do all over again, knowing what I now know, I wouldn’t have gotten married.
What can I say? I goofed. It seemed like a good idea at the time. Of course, the year after I got married, I also went bankrupt, so perhaps those weren’t my best decision-making years.
I very much like the notion of long-term, committed relationships. I think long-term relationships are wonderful. I just think marriage is a poor vehicle for expressing them.
Marriage might be an okay vehicle for some people. I certainly know some pretty conscious married people. However, in the long run, it’s very easy for marriage to become a consciousness-lowering bugaboo. Of the very conscious people I know who are married, I think their growth would likely accelerate if they stopped being married, myself included.
The failure rate for marriages is pretty high. In the USA most marriages end in divorce, and of those that don’t, probably most of those couples would be happier in the long run if they did get divorced. History also demonstrates that as divorce becomes easier and more accessible, more people are willing to end their marriages. So the overall track record of marriage, at least in modern times, isn’t particularly good.
The institution of marriage is simply too far out of sync with the realities of human relationships.
That being said, I’m actually glad I got married. Huh? The reason I say that is that being married for so long (almost 11 years) has helped me understand and relate to other people who are married. I rather like that I can share my thoughts about marriage as an insider. There’s just no way I could understand the realities of marriage if I hadn’t experienced it firsthand. Obviously with only one marriage under my belt, I may not be the world’s greatest expert on the subject, but it’s a lot better than having zero experience.
You probably don’t want to know how many married people emailed me in the past couple days to say, “I’ve been married X years, and I can totally relate to all the things you’re saying with respect to polyamory. I’ve had many of those same feelings myself, and I applaud you for being so open and honest about it. I just don’t think my partner would ever understand if I tried to discuss this with him/her. Please keep writing about this — it helps me a lot to know I’m not alone in having these feelings.” Suffice it to say there was a lot of feedback.
It might interest you to know that this feedback came from men and women about equally — if we compensate for the demographic split of my readership (which is about 65% male).
The problem with marriage is that it pushes relationships into the realm of law, and that’s a huge no-no because that runs contrary to conscious choice. Just to be clear, I’m referring to legal law here, not divine law. Coupled with societal pressure, marriage applies an inappropriate form of force to relationships.
To our credit, Erin and I discussed this problem to some degree before we got married. In our wedding vows, we actually declined to include the phrase “till death do us part.” It seemed unreasonable to commit in advance to being married for a lifetime, especially since we were both going through lots of growth and change.
Erin once told me that Wiccans use the phrase “as long as our love shall last.” We didn’t use that phrasing ourselves, but I think we used something similar. The idea was that the status of our marriage should be subservient to the status of our relationship, not the other way around.
My long-term relationship with Erin has been wonderful. I still want it to continue.
My marriage to Erin, however, has had its share of issues. I’ve often felt trapped and constricted by the legal and societal ramifications of marriage. People relate to you differently when you get married. That can get a bit wearing after a while. Sometimes it feels like marriage is some sort of disease. Once you’ve been infected by it, you’re expected to cocoon yourself in a special part of society with other married people. You gain some things, but you also lose freedoms. This runs contrary to conscious living, which requires the freedom to make conscious choices.
My experience has been that marriage closes more doors than it opens. Your experience may vary, and that’s perfectly fine. I’m just sharing my own experience. I’m sure I’m not the only married person who feels this way.
I stopped wearing my wedding ring a long time ago. Occasionally I’ll wear it as a piece of jewelry, but the ring’s symbolic meaning is something I no longer connect with. I see it as a symbol of attachment and restriction, not a symbol of conscious living. In my opinion, wearing a wedding ring as a symbol that I’m attached to one and only one person runs contrary to the principle of Oneness.
In lieu of a wedding ring, I’d prefer to wear a ring that says I’m connected to all of humanity… or to life itself. But presently I don’t find it necessary to wear a symbol for something I feel intuitively. Maybe later…
Marriage has a very possessive aspect to it. My wife. My husband. It’s like you become someone’s custodial property. You are “spoken for” and “attached.” Does that mean no one else can connect to you in the same way? If you’re attached, does that mean you can’t enjoy new intimate connections?
In practice marriage serves as more of a barrier to intimacy than an enabler of intimacy.
If you find my views on marriage offensive in some way, I understand that. There’s no need to defend yourself though because I’m not attacking you. Just spend some time thinking about this, and get in touch with your true feelings about it. If you find the legal institution of marriage an attractive choice, then by all means get married if that’s what you want. Just don’t go dark and take the relationship behind the marriage for granted.
Again, I think long-term committed relationships are great. But the current legal and societal institution of marriage is a poor vehicle for conscious, committed relationships.
I think it’s rather appropriate that Las Vegas is filled with wedding chapels. Much like gambling, marriage can be quite a seductive vice.
Family and kids
Some people clearly have something in their craw about how polyamory might affect my kids. It’s weird to see people get all worked up about all the potential damage that will be done… especially when they’ve never met Erin, myself, or our kids.
This is an area where people are clearly projecting their own personal issues onto us.
Most of the negative feedback in this area is so far out of sync with reality, I can’t even relate to it. There’s just no shred of truth to grasp because such feedback has nothing to do with us whatsoever. The best response I can offer these fear-mongers is a eye roll. Maybe for good measure, I can add, “Oh, please. Get real.”
Overall I expect that this change will be very positive for my kids.
Emily and Kyle are both very social and love meeting new people. Whenever we have house guests, my kids love interacting with them.
Emily likes to ask new people, “Are you vegan?” She’s our resident vegan cop. Just say yes no matter what, and you’ll be fine.
My son Kyle loves to say to people, “Come play Halo with me, so I can kick your butt!” He’s quite a trash talker when he plays, which is pretty funny to see from a five year-old.
Past experience tells me that my kids love it when interesting, open-minded people are brought into our lives. It just means more people for them to socialize with. The extra stimulation is good for them.
If you think this is a bad idea, raise your kids differently. But it’s foolish to assume this will somehow damage my children if you’ve never spent as much as a minute with them. You’re just grasping at straws if you think that.
If you actually met my kids and got to know them, you’d have a hard time making the case that this lifestyle choice will somehow harm them.
Do you have a clue what it’s like to have a personal development expert and a psychic medium as your parents? My daughter actually goes around telling her classmates, “My Daddy is the smartest man on earth, and my Mommy talks to dead people.” Emily assumes that since I run a website and wrote a book “for Smart People” that I must be the smartest guy in the world.
When I pick up my kids from school, sometimes little girls run up to me and ask, “Emily says you’re the smartest man on earth. If that’s really true, then what’s 100 times 100?”
At least my math degree is good for something.
Keep in mind that my kids share much of my DNA. First, that alone should scare you. Secondly, if you try to convince them they’re going to be damaged by my choices, they’ll just laugh at you. Then my son will proceed to kick your butt at Halo, after which he’ll give you a very loving hug to cheer you up.
What draws me to polyamory is that it aligns very well with the 7 universal growth principles in my book. This means that pursuing polyamory is likely to be a major positive growth experience for me. If I don’t pursue it, I’d be turning my back on my own path of conscious growth.
Let’s consider each principle briefly… my version of briefly, that is.
Truth – Polyamory can be practiced with total openness and honesty and no deception. It’s been practiced for millennia. It’s a natural part of our heritage as human beings. To turn our backs on it and demonize it is nonsensical. That’s our social conditioning talking, not authentic truth. Without polyamory you probably wouldn’t even be here.
Love – Polyamory means many loves. Creating and maintaining authentic, loving connections is its very core. Polyamory resonates with me emotionally and spiritually. It’s something I’d love to experience, and it can be a wonderful thing to share with others who are willing to do so. So it gets a big checkmark from this principle.
Power – Will polyamory be empowering? It will be a major growth experience to learn about it and practice it, so regardless of what degree of success I enjoy, it will empower me to grow. It will also require me to further develop my self-discipline, my communication skills, and more. This is a path that will surely build strength, not one that will feed weakness.
Oneness (Love + Truth) – Polyamory is more aligned with Oneness than monogamy. Monogamy is exclusive, while polyamory is inclusive. Connections that would otherwise be blocked can be accepted. Polyfidelity (being in a closed polyamorous relationship) is less inclusive, but it’s still more inclusive than monogamy.
Authority (Truth + Power) – Since polyamory is experiential, it aligns wonderfully with the principle of Authority. It involves consciously authoring new relationships. My personal authority in the area of relationships will expand much more on a polyamorous path than it would in a single monogamous relationship, if only due to the greater experiential abundance. By writing about my experiences, I can share the lessons learned, which will benefit thousands of others too. This is all very good.
Courage (Love + Power) – Is this the courageous path or the cowardly path? It should be pretty obvious that going polyamorous, and especially writing about it along the way, takes Courage. In my case I need a lot more Courage to go polyamorous than I’d need to stay monogamous. This is definitely a path with a heart. You may find that monogamy requires more Courage for you personally, and that’s fine. In my case monogamy would be the more timid route since that would merely require a continuation of the status quo. Polyamory is the level 30 beast that intimidates my level 20 character.
Intelligence (Truth + Love + Power) – Is polyamory an intelligent choice? Yes, if the path is followed truthfully, lovingly, and powerfully, it can produce positive growth for everyone involved. Going polyamorous entails developing a whole new outlet for authentic self-expression. When it works, it has the potential to become a thing of beauty. Also, by writing about it, I can potentially boost the relationship intelligence of many, many people.
One of the main reasons I’m choosing to pursue polyamory is that relative to monogamy, this path will increase my alignment with all 7 of these principles. This means I’ll grow a lot faster if I go polyamorous as opposed to remaining monogamous. It also means I’ll be able to share a lot more growth and learning with others along the way. If you’ve been reading my work for a while, I’m sure you’d agree that this change is going to inspire a lot more sharing of knowledge vs. what I’d be able to share if I maintained the status quo.
I wasn’t just blowing smoke when I wrote a book about these universal principles. I really do live my life this way. My primary aim is to become as truthful, loving, and strong in character as I can (i.e. aligned with Truth, Love, and Power)… and to share what I learn as my legacy to humanity. We’ll see how far I can get before I’m assassinated.
As I noted in my book, it’s not remotely easy to keep shifting into ever-greater alignment with these principles. But who needs easy when you can have growth instead?
Is polyamory just about the sex? For some people, sexual variety can be the primary attraction to polyamory. Overall though, this is a very immature view of intimate relationships.
Many people in the seduction community enter a polyamorous frame whereby their primary interest seems to be “sowing the wild oats.” Personally I see nothing wrong with this if it’s something you genuinely want to experience. This isn’t what polyamory is about though.
Putting your genitals first is a phase that people eventually grow out of. Sure, it can be fun to enjoy some sexual abundance for a time, but after you’ve shagged everything in sight, that superficial level of intimacy grows stale, and you’re left feeling a bit empty, wanting something more.
This pursuit leads many people back to the frame of a steady, monogamous relationship. They realize they want a deeper connection that goes beyond just having lots of sex. Even when sex is really good, by itself it can’t fulfill all your emotional needs.
Many people are really uptight about sex. Sexuality can expose a lot of self-esteem deficiencies, especially body image issues. If you aren’t ready to face those inner demons, it’s easy to blame sexuality itself. This pushes you into a fear state and leads you to adopt a control strategy as a coping mechanism. You relate to sex as something that must be controlled instead of something you can experience freely. I believe the technical term for this is being anal retentive.
I love sex. Nothing beats a good shag. But would I want to center my whole life around meeting Titan’s needs? (In case you didn’t know, every guy names his schmecky.) No… elevating sex as my highest need would be a huge step backwards. It would be dropping all the way back to eating cooked animal flesh, something I haven’t done since 1993.
I think it’s great that we have sexual desires. Our sexuality is a signal to connect with each other. Those undeniable urges push us to go outside and talk to people, sometimes to mate with them. Initially we may be drawn to do this purely for release… to satisfy this biological need. But then we move past that state and say, “Hey, connecting with people is pretty cool. I should do this more often.”
Your fear may encourage you to stay home and cocoon yourself in a comfy, cozy lair of security, but suddenly Agamemnon yanks you out the door (Persephone if you’re female). Of course you can stay home and take care of yourself, but that isn’t nearly as fun, and if that’s all you do, you’ll probably end up feeling very disconnected. I know it sucks to hear this, but you’re going to have to develop your Courage — with a capital C — if you want to get off your butt and connect with real people, sexually or otherwise.
Although social conditioning may encourage us to believe that men are more sexual than women, the truth is that women enjoy sex at least as much as men do.