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Can’t be special and polyamorous

Why is this relevant?

One of the questions I get asked a lot is if polyamory works or, more specifically, why it doesn’t work for some of the people I’m working with. Ultimately, one of my fundamental insights is that you can’t be special and polyamorous. To be clear, many of my clients are perfectly fine with their polypods while on the other hand some keep running into the same issues. For more detail, I have another post on common issues with polyamory so I will dedicate this one to a fundamental paradox I have been working with.

Why it’s easier to be special in monogamy.

Part of why we seek love is because we want to feel special at least to one person. Consequently, in monogamous relationships, we give each other the gift of treating each other like one in a million (at least we try). While we may know somewhere that we truly aren’t that special and our partner isn’t either, settling for each other can soothe the pain of our insignificance. This is important because being special seems to be pretty high on the list of things we look for in life, not less so when we choose a poly lifestyle. Sometimes people choose a polyamorous lifestyle because they are trying to be special to multiple people. Other times we choose a polyamorous lifestyle because it seems modern or cool, or special.

The fundamental conflict with polyamory

Polyamory is the most radical form of non-monogamy, where there is no set hierarchy between relationships but rather an open-ended and shifting pod. Several books have come out supporting non-monogamous journeys (most notably Polysecure by Jessica Fern). this is leaving some of my clients puzzled why, with all the knowledge they have, their relationships still seem to be such a struggle. I believe there is a fundamental conflict between non-monogamous relationship styles and being special. I even go so far and claim that you can’t be special and polyamorous.

Here’s why:

Polyamory makes you somewhat disposable

Unless you are building something together and, in that way, rely on each other, your partner will always have alternatives to turn to and won’t necessarily need you. If they loose interest, they are more resilient to your relationship ending. This makes for less of a distinguished role in each other’s lives.

Polyamory shows there is always someone better than you and you may be replaced

Since there often is no promise to stick it out together whatever happens, you are always free to grow, reconnect, and move on. This also means that there is always someone better than you for your partner(s). While polyamorous relationships tend to be somewhat complimentary, your partner may also get involved with a better version of you and replace you. You might also be filling a gap someone else left and they could return to their place.

Your relationships become less special, and your time may be limited

Polyamorous people seem less likely to tie their life choices to their lovers and more likely to move on if circumstances change. For example: if one of your poly partners moves to another country, what will you do?

You may be on your own in bad times

Sometimes polypods have a hard time supporting each other through tough times as this can be taxing, and we have limited resources. On top of that, if you are attracted to the lifestyle because of the idea that everyone will take care of their own emotional hiccups, you may hesitate to take responsibility for your partners and ultimately freeze them out.

You are more likely to represent an extreme need

While serial monogamists tend to oscillate between extremes from one relationship to the next, they also seem more likely to gravitate toward moderation in their choice of partners. On the other hand, if you can have as many relationships as you want, you are more likely to choose partners who represent strong urges and needs and complement them with other lovers. Whenever this happens, each relationships remains incomplete, skewed, and unsustainable. This can go so far that you may even be wondering why you do not feel more loved as a whole person.

Trying to be special to several people will not go over well

Especially new polyamorists sometimes come across as somewhat narcissistic in that they seem to try to get all eyes on them. No one will stick around if they feel like they are there for your big show and to please your ego.

What to do about it

Bummed out? I believe understanding that you can’t be special and polyamorous can be a good thing. This is because you can turn these aspects into a healthy Poly-mindset and also learn if this lifestyle is for you:

Understand that you’re not so special

You may be one unique special snowflake even if you’re also just another bit of snow, soon to melt. Western cultures have gone a bit too far in suggesting we all are somehow unique in and by ourselves. Recognizing that most of what makes us unique is contextual can take a big weight of our shoulders, help us rely on others, and make us just a little bit more grateful.

Most spiritual journeys will guide you to embrace these aspects of being alive: appreciating the little things and the here and now and finding the world in the moment. That way, we can allow ourselves to be humbled by the vastness of the horizon as well as uplifted by the gift of our own space in the universe.

The gift of gratitude

Bear with me here! Now, any relationship benefits if we can approach it with some gratitude. Have gratefulness for the gift of the other’s love and attention and try not to take your partner for granted. Understanding that the other will somewhat remain a mystery while acknowledging that there are limits in what you can do and be for them.

The more we can be in relationships where we let each other go and accept each other, the more we will also be able to let each other in and commit. Why? Because there is space for the other to go their own way and room for failure. There is some footing in our own path that makes us want to rely on each other without depending on each other.

How to be polyamorous without being special

Even if this sounds like esoteric gibberish to you, I’ll bet that you still recognize some of the above fears and patterns. As a colleague put it the other day. When it comes to spiritual growth, a relationship is the boss enemy. And sometimes my advice is to master one relationship before going for multiple.

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