I had an epiphany this week. It was as I was reading a less-than-nice comment about the wedding, which has gotten a lot of attention through Offbeat Bride. The epiphany was this: the people who are angry about polyamory are, often, really just defensive of monogamy. And more, I completely, totally get it. In fact, I’m on their side. Hear me out.
Growing up, I wanted a love in which only my partner and I existed. “I Only Have Eyes for You” was my ideal and, when a boyfriend told me that that was just not realistic, I remember distancing myself from him for saying it.
I even have a knee-jerk bad reaction to porn. I would like to say that it is because the industry is awful to its actors, or that when it’s not professionally produced sometimes people get really, really hurt for our entertainment, but—while that does bother me—as I’m not much of a porn consumer it’s not my number one reason. The real reason I hate it comes from a very personal place:
My significant other shouldn’t have to look at other women. He has me.
And, that’s not to say that I’m the most attractive woman on the planet. Not even close. But, if he commits himself to me, and he thinks it reasonable that we shouldn’t cheat on each other, then I don’t understand how porn (which is, essentially, my significant other getting off on someone other than me) squeaks under the radar.
Almost every guy I’ve talked to about this has responded with, “Yeah, but…” What follows is that I’m expecting too much. People are human. Men are human. If they’re actually pigs, they add that I should be happy that it’s just porn, and the man is not actually cheating. None of the men ever suggested to me that they just wanted, or liked, porn. They never admitted that it was something they chose to have in their lives. It was always about need. That was what drove me crazy. As if, without porn, I was either condemning them to a slow and painful death or setting our relationship on the path to eventual infidelity.
My feelings on the subject were never a part of the discussion.
Men are animals, they said. Humans, all humans, are animals. They said monogamy isn’t natural, and that we’re asking for trouble when we try to pretend that everyone is so damned evolved. Humans are made to be promiscuous—especially men. Our eyes rove, our attention span skips, our sex drives lead us everywhere. I was fighting a losing battle.
So they said. And it broke my heart. But not my spirit.
I have never, ever stopped believing in monogamy. I don’t think it’s true that our sex drive is stronger than our reason. I don’t think it’s true that we can’t help it when we lie, when we cheat, when we sully our love for one by acting on lust for another. I don’t think it’s true that traditional marriage is a lie or a farce or on its way out. I think we have choices, and we make them based on what we think is most important.
Before other husband came along, legal husband and I had been together for almost four years. For all of that time, we were attached at the hip. We weren’t the perfect couple—who is?—but we were devoted to each other before all others and everyone knew it. People stopped us in public places to say how lovely we were. Friends and family complimented our maturity, and said they wished for what we had. And when we met the man who would become our other husband, he saw a duo who lived in their own, private world. Together.
I mean it when I say that, had we not chosen to let him be there, there would not have been any room for other husband to come between us. That is not how we worked, ever.
Before we met, legal husband and I had both been cheated on. We had both been fed lies. We wouldn’t wish that experience on our worst enemies; why would we do it to each other? We were never interested in getting away with anything, with pulling the wool over one another’s eyes. We were a team.
We still are.
But we happened into this throuple thing in a way that was honest, and open, and respectful. We did it because we felt free and safe to do it. I trust legal husband, and he trusts me, and that made it a safe thing to consider. We took it one day at a time, and the three of us talked a lot. We weren’t trying to fix a boring relationship, or escape each other, or get something we couldn’t get from one another. It wasn’t mean like that… It wasn’t about us, just us, not being enough.
Some people embrace polyamory because they think it’s unnatural to be monogamous. Some people do think that all humans are not meant to be in committed sexual relationships — that it’s all just a big, dumb joke, trying to civilize the animals. But I want to suggest that most people don’t think that for everybody. Maybe they just think it for themselves. Most of all, I want to say this:
I believe in monogamy.
I believe you can be wholly devoted to one person and be happy. I did it. And I could’ve gone on doing it with legal husband, I really could have. He could’ve gone on doing it with me, too. The certainty I feel on those two points are what made it possible to be trusting about trying things with his having a boyfriend (as that was how it started). It never seemed like something he had to have. It was never about need.
Even now that we’re all together, and I couldn’t imagine things any other way, I still think monogamous love is beautiful. All love is, when it’s real: when there is no abuse, no lying, no cheating, no secrets. If you are truly devoted, you’re doing it right, ladies and gentlemen. (And devotion means different things to different people. It can include porn. It can include a third person in your closed relationship. All that matters is knowing that you don’t have to give up your definition of devotion. You can fight for it. I certainly won’t stop you.) You’re not wrong to have those ideals, or to keep looking for the one who shares them with you. At least, I don’t think you’re wrong.
I am not your enemy. I believe in the love you seek, too.