Poly Means Many: There are many aspects of polyamory. Each month, the PMM bloggers will write about their views on one of them. Links to all posts can be found at www.polymeansmany.com.
I have ridden the relationship escalator. I got engaged at 20, married at 21 and 13 years later got divorced.
I got engaged because it’s what you did to show commitment, because my partner suggested that it was expected, and because I was happy to do so. Basically I got married because it’s what was expected by society/family.
I didn’t really question any of this, it was all assumed to be just what happened and hey, I was happy so I just went with the flow. It was all very traditional; to mark the engagement, my partner received a ring and I received a watch (not much of a ring kinda guy). To mark our wedding, we both had rings and Louise took (and still uses) my family name.
Time marched on, we got jobs, bought homes and soon another expectation loomed. For years we never really discussed the idea of having children, it just wasn’t something that either of us felt strongly about. Eventually, as we left our early 30s we decided that we wouldn’t have kids at all and told our families of our decision.
That was the first break with “societal expectation” (for want of a better term, if there is one) and possibly set me on the path to where I am now.
Skip forward several years, I’m now a divorcee and lucky enough to consider my ex to be a good friend.
Today I’m in two serious relationships, I am in love with two amazing women. We live separately, each of us enjoying having our own space, so (for now) co-habiting is something that we’ve yet to discuss seriously. Without that as an option, how do we mark the significance of our relationships?
Our shared view of polyamory presumes that marriage isn’t really part of the equation* and equally we don’t have the notion of primary/secondary status which marriage could, whether intended or not, imply. Similarly, the length of time I’ve been with Kirsty does not mean that that relationship is more important than my relationship with Clare, it’s just at a different place.
That said, I do find myself wondering about how to mark the importance of my relationships, but is that maybe down to the aforementioned “societal expectations”?
There is also the odd instances where people who don’t know you are poly will ask how your relationship (singular) is going and “hey, it’s been a while now, are there no thoughts of engagement?”
Part of me wonders if I’ve just not quite shaken off all those years of expectations but the nagging feeling that we SHOULD do something persists and if I’m honest, that’s what irks me. Why does part of me feel the need to make any kind of public statement about my relationships?
We have nothing to prove
I no longer believe in the need to have a certificate and a ring to prove my dedication to a relationship. I believe that my love does not need to be noted, or marked, in any way at all.
Yet part of me wants to be able to shout out that I am in love, that I am lucky to have two amazing women in my life. At the very least I would like a reminder that I can keep close.
But those things are for me, for us. There is no more reason for us to have some declaration or signifying act to communicate our relationship status to (our small part of) the world.
Or is there? Whilst “poly” is starting to be noticed in more mainstream channels, perhaps we should be making some more noise, shouting it from the rooftops? Do we have an obligation to polyamory?
Perhaps, but ultimately out relationships are ours and if we do find some way to mark their significance in some way, we will, but I certainly don’t feel beholden to any of the traditional, relationship escalator, displays.
There are, of course, also other important dynamics within our relationships that I would like to acknowledge over and above any notion of “celebrating being poly”.
I wear an item which marks the dynamic between myself and Kirsty, it’s a constant reminder of that part of our relationship and what it means to us. It’s always there and I like the fact that it makes me think of her.
Clare and I have a different dynamic and I’ve been pondering something, anything, to mark our relationship as well. We’ve not yet figured out what though but no doubt something will avail itself to us.
One of the reasons I’ve embraced polyamory is because it’s not governed by a set of expectations. My/our relationships are ours to define and we decide what is, and isn’t, significant within our own set of boundaries and constructs.
My relationships are a massively important part of my life and perhaps the simplest way to acknowledge their importance is the fact that I can tell two women, honestly, that I love them.
That feels pretty damn significant to me.* I am not against marriage as a construct, it just doesn’t work for me/us. I will quote the following however:
“Historically, marriage had nothing to do with love. It was a legal contract and was about alliances, getting the right in-laws and adding to your property. Things have changed. Now marriage is about love, or at least it should be.” Sandi Toksvig