“Polyamory” covers a lot of ground.
There are countless different ways to have romantic or sexual entanglements with more than one person at a time. Everyone has different needs and desires when it comes to structuring their nonmonogamous relationships, and as long as everyone’s communicating well and treating each other with respect, they’re all good!
So, without pretending this is the ideal arrangement for everyone, I’d like to tell you a little about my particular brand of polyamory.
When people ask me whom I’m seeing at the moment, it is sometimes hard for me to answer. At the moment I’m not in a “serious” (we need a better word – time-consuming? No, that trivialises it… hmm…) romantic relationship with anyone. I do, however, have many loving friends with whom I share sex and fun when we have the time and feel like it.
Sometimes there are a few days or hours between such dates or playdates, sometimes it’s weeks or even months. With many of my friends and lovers, I simply treasure each experience as it comes, with no expectations about if or when it will recur.
A lot of polyamorous people want a clearly-defined relationship structure – “triad” is a common word to hear. Even if they don’t limit the number of their relationships, people who prefer clearly-defined relationship structures often approach each relationship in ways very similar to traditional monogamous dating. I can understand the appeal of this approach, but it’s not for me.
For me, the best thing about being a polyamorous pansexual is that I can love just about anyone. I love to make friends for their own sake, shorn of expectations. I love to let things develop, or not, and not stress if they don’t and not stress if they do.
I feel incredibly lucky because I can, as one of the writers of my favourite polyamory handbook put it, “let each relationship find its own level.” As a polyamorous person who makes poly agreements with her partners, I’m not hindered by exclusivity commitments, and as a pansexual person, I’m not hindered by a need for my lovers to be of a certain sex or gender.
Sometimes I am friends with someone for a long time, sure that things will stay nonsexual, and then we begin see each other in a new light and we have wonderful sex and our friendship is richer. Sometimes those friendships develop into romantic love as well. Sometimes I can have a period of having passionate, romantically loving sex with someone and then slip easily into being nonsexual friends, or friends who have sex.
I don’t even know words to categorise some of my relationships. What would you call a lover who is also a good friend, with whom you have strong romantic and sexual feelings but have no desire to be fidelous with? I feel all the time like I’m learning new ways to love people, and sometimes the joy of it all makes me feel as though I need to burst.
Some of this may sound strange to those of you who have never experienced love in a polyamorous context. I am not sure I’m capable of explaining it. Have you ever looked at a room full of very dear friends whom you have not seen in a long time and been filled with happiness to see them all together? That love you feel, that smile that crosses your face when someone tells a familiar lame joke or hums off-key or does any little endearing thing… imagine that multiplied.
Imagine knowing someone so well that you know every one of their flaws and love them not just in spite of their flaws, but partly for them, because everything about them brings up a feeling of great happiness in your heart. Then imagine knowing ten or fifteen people that well. They fade in and out of my life, and wander in and out of my bed, but every person I have ever loved is dear to me.
I can love people in so many ways. I love my friend the comedian, whom lately I hear from mostly just when he needs a reminder of his worth or someone to thrill with him about how wonderful his new lover is. Reminding him of his worth and celebrating his new love make me happy.
I love my asexual friend with whom I watch movies, curled up against her on the sofa, glad to be in her presence. Hearing her little comments throughout the film makes me happy.
I love my kinky friend with whom I have an uncontrollable sexual passion, with whom I am never able to have a real conversation until we have torn each other’s clothes off a few times, because we just have that effect on each other. The joy and pleasure I find in our sexual connection make me happy.
I love my submissive little friend who is so eager to please, who is glad to have me choose pretty clothes for her and help her with her makeup. Experiencing her sweetness never fails to make me happy.
I love my brilliant friend with whom I share nothing sexual but have delightful conversations about physics, about politics, about fiction. Writing with him and talking on the phone with him for hours makes me very happy.
Whether I share an hour, a month, or a lifetime with them, whether we fuck or not, whether we fall in romantic love or not, my friends are what make my life meaningful. And the ability to love them in whatever way evolves naturally is what polyamory, done Leah-style, is really all about.