AllgemeinPersonal development seriesPolyamory

Can’t be special and polyamorous

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. To be clear, many of my clients are perfectly fine with their polypods but others keep running into the same issues. I have another post for some other common issues with polyamory so I will dedicate this one to a fundamental paradox I have been working with.

Part of why we seek love is because we want to feel special at least to one person. 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. 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.

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), 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 would even say that you cannot be polyamorous and also be special.

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 you will be confronted with the fact 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 more circumstantial, 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 the circumstances change. 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 be hesitant 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 seem slightly more likely to gravitate toward moderation in their choice of partners. If you can have as many relationships as you want, you are more likely to choose partners that represent strong urges and needs and complement them with other lovers. Whenever this happens, relationships become incomplete, skewed, and unsustainable. And you will be wondering why you do not feel 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

Here’s how I believe you can turn these aspects into a healthy Poly-mindset (and also learn if this lifestyle is for you):

Understand that you’re one in a million

You may be one unique special snowflake but 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, finding the world in the moment, and being both humbled by the vastness of the horizon and lifted by the gift of our own space in the universe.

Bear with me here! Now, any relationship benefits if we can approach it with some of this in mind: gratefulness for the gift of the others love and attention, not taking each other for granted, understanding that the other will somewhat remain a mystery and acknowledging that there are limits in what we can do and be for each other.

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, not depend on each other.

Honestly, if this sounds like esoteric gibberish to you or if it sound like something to preach at your next poly gathering, I’ll bet that you’ll 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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