I don’t write much about polyamory anymore, mostly because it’s not an active part of my life but I saw E.L.Byrne mention something she’d overheard and it definitely got me reflecting on my own experiences. I nearly replied to her tweet, but as usual, I had far too much to say for Twitter’s character limit, so I figured why not write a blog post. Bonus being I can share this post to E.L’s new Lustitude Meme which is currently in its fourth week and I am happy to be able to join in again.
In her tweet E.L asked for thought of something she had overheard relating to polyamory, which was as follows … ‘Polyamory is a perpetual exercise in disappointing others’.
I hope I will be forgiven for allowing my thoughts to formulate in response to this despite the fact that what I actually practised was sexual non-monogamy and not polyamory. I was non-monogamous for around 5 years and I will always be pleased for the experiences I had by opening my mind to trying something outside of the default idea of monogamy.
That said, when I read the tweet from E.L about disappointment it definitely resonated with me. While I spent a lot of time having awesome and enjoyable moments, there were also times when I felt thoroughly disappointed but I never acknowledged that at the time. I was too scared to admit that there were flaws in how I was practising non-monogamy for fear of rocking the boat and losing the good along with the bad.
This isn’t the fault of anyone else, it’s not a situation of placing blame or declaring that because of this I don’t believe non-monogamy or polyamory works because none of those things are true. What I do think it highlights though is the importance of communication, which is true of all relationships of course, but I think especially true when you are navigating a dynamic that is new to you or is in some ways slightly more complex.
Hindsight is a wonderful thing though and being able to look back on my experiences has given me the ability to see where I went wrong and why in the end non-monogamy didn’t work out for me. While it didn’t start out this way, by the end of my non-monogamous relationship I was romantically monogamous but sexually non-monogamous. So I had a primary partner but we played with other people when we went to events or saw friends.
Having come from a monogamous background I thought that this was perhaps the best scenario for me. The truth is though I think I struggled with having an element of sexual/kink freedom while having to also consider whether or not my partner was also having fun and not feeling left out. I knew there were opportunities available to me that I purposely avoided or declined because I didn’t think they’d involve my partner enough or would be something they personally wouldn’t do. At the time I never acknowledged this left me feeling disappointed but I knew at the time it did.
I thought the whole time that I was non-monogamous that I was communicating far better than I had in previous relationships, but I knew deep down I was holding things back, partly because I didn’t want to be the one causing disappointment or to make anyone feel like they were disappointing me. It wasn’t until I read that tweet from E.L that I really tied the less successful elements of my non-monogamy to the word disappointment. Myself and Mr F have talked a lot about all our past relationships and he did ask early on if I’d feel like I was missing out on kink or non-monogamy and when I tried to explain why that wasn’t the case I couldn’t quite pinpoint the word I needed to fully explain my thoughts. Disappointment fits the bill perfectly though.
I feel a lot less disappointment in my relationship now, again, I don’t mean this to sound like I am placing blame or thinking negatively of past relationships. It’s more that I seem to have found a way to ask for what I need and I haven’t let myself ‘go with the flow’ quite as much. I let things happen quite naturally and fairly slow in some ways with Mr F but at the same time when it came down to actually becoming official, I made it clear that I wasn’t just to accept a relationship no matter what it looked like. I wanted what we built together to be the best for both of us. I didn’t want one or both of us feeling disappointed, especially if we didn’t feel like we had the words or security to express that.
I don’t think this has much to do with us being monogamous but a lot to do with us communicating better. So sadly I think the comment E.L mentioned could be more accurate if worded as follows ‘relationships are a perpetual exercise in disappointing others’. I think that’s a sad state of things and maybe not entirely accurate for many of my readers but honestly when I think back on past relationships and conversations I’ve had with friends about their own situations and far too many people seem disappointed with their relationship in some way.
It’s definitely scary having to have those conversations where you say something isn’t working for you or you feel like you need something different from the relationship, but I don’t think those conversations would be as bad if there were more conversations around how to have those kinds of discussions productively. It’s all too easy to get defensive or feel like someone is telling you you’re at fault and when you’re faced with someone getting cross and defensive I think we just decide not to bother again in the future.
Or you share your thoughts, feel like you’ve been heard, only to notice further down the line that nothing has changed. I think in my experience they are the most disappointing moments of all and when I look back on past relationships those conversations and the lack of change they brought are reasons, alongside others that I felt like past relationships had come to an end.
I hope this is something Mr F and I can try to avoid, we seem to have more common crossovers in our relationship needs and wants that I’ve had before, so I’m hoping that puts us in a good position as we move forward in life. Obviously with a baby on the way there may be challenges around the corner, thankfully though we’ve been able to talk a lot about things I perhaps struggled with the first time around with Small Human and the best ways in which we can enjoy and manage family life.
I don’t suppose life and relationships can ever be totally free from disappointment but I’d like to try and minimise the amount I have going forward in the future. While it may not have been fun experience disappointment in the past at least I have learnt from it and I hope that means good things for myself and Mr F.