Until two years ago, I wasn’t aware of anyone in a polyamorous relationship.
While traveling around Northern Idaho, I had taken my kids to a park. After some time, a large van drove up and a man, two young women and five kids, jumped out and joined my children on the jungle gym and swings. My interest in the group was peaked as they were all wearing clothes out of something you would expect from A Little House on the Prairie or some 1800’s period piece about western settlers.
After a while, I overheard a child say, “hey mom,” and one of the women came over. A couple minutes later, the same child went to the other young lady and called her mom as well. Huh? To further thicken the plot, the children were calling the man, “dad.” Sensing something was different and using some deductive reasoning (Google), I googled the name of the town we were in and soon found several news stories around a Polygamist Sect that was living near the Idaho-British Columbia border. Eureka! This dude is most likely married to both of these young ladies!?!?!
Now, I didn’t specifically ask if the two women were married to the guy, nor did I visit the local Polygamist Sect and ask to see their membership list. With that said, if I had to bet, I’d bet my engagement ring that the investigative work I conducted at the park that day was Sherlock sound and I had observed my first polyamorous family out in their native habitat.
Since this time, I have heard about a couple of additional people who practice (enjoy?) this lifestyle, but I have yet to meet anyone at my local coffee shop and talk about their multiple husbands or wives. For those of you who are like me and haven’t knowingly met or come across many people who practice “polyamory,” the definition is as follows:
Polyamory is the practice of, or desire for, intimate relationships with more than one partner, with the consent of all partners involved. It has been described as “consensual, ethical, and responsible non-monogamy.”
Assuming this definition is 100% accurate and followed (i.e., no one is being forced against their will to be in a polyamorous relationship), I personally don’t have anything against anyone who wishes to share a bed with multiple partners (do you share a bed or have multiple bedrooms or maybe have a bunk house?). For that matter, my views on anyone’s lifestyle is fairly laissez faire and frankly none of my business.
Would I ever entertain a polyamorous relationship? HELL FREAKING NO. I am way too jealous of a person and have enough challenges managing one relationship with one female. Outside of maybe having another person or persons in the house to help babysit, clean up Legos, and pay the bills, there is very little that appeals to me about this setup. Plus, I already fight with my petite wife for 1/20th of the blankets and what seems like a foot of the bed! Add another person into the mix and I’d be ready to star in the next season of Naked and Afraid.
While you won’t be seeing my wife and I walking hand-in-hand-in-hand anytime soon, something I am interested in talking about is loving multiple people.
I recently grabbed lunch with a friend. Towards the end of our meal, my buddy, with a pained look on his face told me he had something troubling to tell. I immediately got tense and figured he was going to fill me in on devastating medical news about himself or a family member. He proceeded to say that he loves a co-worker of his. Knowing he was married with children, my first thought was, “aww sh*t, this is no good.” However, my friend explained he is happily married and has no interest or desire to become physical or emotionally connected with this co-worker – he just loves her.
At first, the thought of a man feeling love towards another woman (who wasn’t his wife) struck me as a little odd. But after giving it some more thought, why is this widely considered a bad or shameful thing? Isn’t love an emotion or feeling just like every other emotion or feeling?
If I am close to a burning stove and my insides tell me to pull my hand away, no one would think less of me. If I had a strong desire to get a drink of water, no one would question my thirst. If my dog just died and I shed a tear, no one would call me a weirdo. If I feel love for a person I work with or know (that doesn’t share my bed), why does this emotion typically elicit feelings of shame or fear?
In my opinion, to disregard our feelings or emotions is to disregard biology. I have been happily married to my wife for over a decade and I have no desire to become physical with another woman (or man for that matter). However, if a woman who I find attractive walks by me on the street, it is IMPOSSIBLE for me NOT to feel a feeling (no not down there), but in my gut that says something to the effect – “OHHH SHE’S HOT.”
Shortly after getting married, I used to think there was something wrong with me or my relationship for feeling or noticing another attractive woman even if my wife was standing right next to me. There’s nothing wrong with me or my marriage at all – this is as normal as apple pie. The mere fact that these feeling arise (no pun intended) is evolution’s way of saying, “see Dan, humanity is still under our control.”
How then do I “fight” 60 million years of evolution and not find myself in a situation that could cause harm to me or my marriage? For me, the important thing is to recognize the feeling of attraction, identify the emotions it elicits and then pay homage to both (without them, I wouldn’t be here), while respecting what I am experiencing is normal and not to be shunned. Usually, this does the trick and I can get back to focusing on whatever it was I was doing. However, if my stomach is still turned up in knots, the quickest way to get back to a more rational state is to think about the love I have for my wife and family and how those feelings supersede any hard-wired evolutionary response.
On the flip side of attraction and love is hatred. I find it interesting that while society reserves our lovey-dovey talk to family members, talk of hatred has few bounds. No one flinches if you say, “I f*cking hate my boss,” or “all Red Sox fans can burn in hell,” or “ISIS can go…” Tell a friend you love a co-worker and your pal will likely recoil and say, “but you have a wife!!!!”
My friend was distraught about feeling love for another person because society has told him this isn’t ok. Society says he’s a bad husband for loving someone who isn’t his wife. Why is love exclusive to one person, but hate can be dished out to millions? What’s wrong with having lots of love to go around (as long as the clothes stay on)?
If my response to an attractive woman walking into the room is any indication, evolution is still calling the shots. Should humanity last another couple million years, I’m betting on love to lead the way. While I’m not sure that polyamory is the right path, can you really argue that it isn’t better to love everyone versus just one?