Amalthea (amaltheae) wrote,

I got a letter out of the blue from someone who had found some of my writing about poly from many years ago. I have edited it to remove the specifics that might identify the person, but otherwise left it in tact. I post it here with my responses so that it might help others who are struggling with the same.

You don't know me as yet, so allow me to introduce myself. My name is [...]. I have been doing some research into myself as of late and it has come to my attention through the actions of a lifetime that I can not be content in a monogamous lifestyle.

It is good to realize this about yourself so that you can stop causing yourself and other people pain by failing at trying.

Regretably, I find myself married with children so my transition will not be an easy one.

That can certainly complicate things. Have you ever tried to talk to your spouse about your feelings in this reguard after her initial struggle with the very reality that things are different than she believed? One thing to realize is that if she cannot handle this need of yours, she may well fight to keep your children out of your life as well because poly is something that many people fear and children produce much fear in parents and much need to protect them, so you have some serious soul searching to do about what it is that you need versus want on all related subjects.

I read something you wrote that struck me heavily. In regards to your bisexuality, you wrote that you were tired of trying to choose one life to have to lead and realized that you had the power to pick more than one of these things that brought you happiness. Or at least that's my interpretation of what you said.

That's about right. I have done some other writing on the subject in my online journal. You are welcome to read it as it is much more current, if you might find anything in it useful. is the url. I came to realize that no one person was likely to meet anything like my complete set of needs and that some of the top needs conflicted with each other in a way that meant that it was unlikely to find the combination in one other person without that person being so fundamentally broken as a human being that they wouldn't be worth the nightmare of dealing with it. It was much simpler and more rewarding for all involved to have more than one person who met different aspects of my needs.

In my life, I have gone through one "affair" after another and although I always viewed it as cheating on my spouse, I am starting to believe that what I was doing was cheating only myself.

You have been cheating on your spouse. If you did not have the conversation with them about the terms of your agreement that included the fact that you had no intention toward monogamy, then you have lied to them and cheated on them. I know that it happens. I know that it is difficult to be in your shoes. I realize you may have hated yourself for doing it over and over again and that the idea of poly is a relief, but you should not excuse the fact that you did break a promise, literal or implied, to be faithful, and lied by omission about you needs. Knowing that, owning that will make it possible for you to deal with the coming struggle to change things or escape and start over with more honesty and humility, which will mean that you are more likely to succeed at whatever you decide to do.

If you can sit down with your spouse and honestly say that you hate yourself for lying to her and breaking your promise to her; if you can honestly mean that your reason for trying to talk about it and figure out what needs to change is truthfully because you love her and know she deserves better than lies; If you can explain that you have realized that multiple people in your emotional life is more than a simple failure to keep your promise, but something that is part of you that will always be part of you and that should not be held in secret, waiting to destroy the people you love, including her; that it is also a need, then you will be on a road to beginning to heal yourself enough to really have a chance at poly. Because I promise you that everything that fails in your current relationship will only fail bigger and louder and more painfully in poly if you cannot own it for what it is and try to change and learn from it.

You were probably also cheating yourself out of something you need, perhaps because you'd never really thought of it that way and were trying to suppress the need, or perhaps because you didn't realize that anything else existed as an option and just never thought outside the box of needing to feel loved. That is true, but it is only part of the reality of your situation.

Is it not realistic to believe that it is possible, to love, and care for, and desire more than one person in your life? I have a tremendous amount of love to offer and I would like to recieve that love in return. I have yet to meet any one person who would agree with me on this. I have never been with just one person in my life who has been able to satisfy all of the needs that I posess. In order for me to be satisfied on all levels, emotional, spiritual, and physical, I feel the need to have more than one significant other in my life.

I'm glad that you're coming to understand instead of denying yourself and hurting people because of it. That is an important step.

Try and explain that to my wife. She has taken great offence to the fact that I can not be happy with just her in my life. And I do love her. She is a wonderful mother, and a great friend, but it just isn't enough. It isn't a matter of offence to me, I love and respect her for what she is, but I also desire the things she is not. Perhaps someday, as I come to understand myself so will she.

Anyone who realizes that they have been decieved and cheated on is going to have considerable pain, shock and trauma to work through. She may not be ready to hear you. She may never be ready to hear you. That is a price you took on when you decided to agree to something that you could not be to someone and decieve them about what you are. You may have made that choice out of ignorance, but it was a choice and you need to help her understand that your love of her is part of the reason you're trying to grow as a person and choose differently and more respectfully to those around you. Hopefully she can come to forgive you. If she is capable of talking about it at some point, here are some ideas from my perspective on the way that I explain it to people who say that they cannot understand.

When a mother decides to have a second child, is her love for her first child reduced because that finite amount now must be spread between two people? Is a love for spring undermined by enjoyment of the winter snow? Love is a boundless emotion just as fear and hate can also be.

When people struggle with understanding how poly can exist and how they can possibly accept it, part of what they are struggling with is a cultural understanding of worth, and part is their own internal self worth. We have each been raised to believe that we must always strive for the A. We must try to be all things to all people. Certainly, we must be inferior people if our spouses have needs we cannot or will not meet and they turn to another. We understand on some primal level that we have failed. Every teacher who ever told us that we were good at math but needed to work on our spelling, every mother who asked why we couldn't be agreeable like our sister, all of those voices haunt us and tell us that we are not whole and that it is expected of us that we spare no cost in trying to be.

But really, humans are never all things to all people. If we are a high level thinker, we are unlikely to ever be good at the mundane detail and tedium. No matter what our teachers told us, no matter what our bosses at review time try to tell us to strive for, we are unlikley to ever be award winning authors and award winning mathmaticians at the same time. The human brain just doesn't function that way. We are a collection of things that can be complimented by a variety of other people. Problems arise in a monogamous society when there are people whose top needs, those with the most power behind them, the most intimacy, those that we struggle daily with not having met can be things that are almost impossible to find in one person.

As an example, I have a strong need to take care of a woman, to have her lay her head in my lap and to stroke her hair. I have tried to get this fulfilled by doing similar things to men, but it doesn't provide the same emotional reward. I enjoy it, but it doesn't fulfill the specific need. I also have a very strong need to be held in a man's arms, to feel safe there. I have had a woman try to provide this for me, and it just doesn't work. I like having her arms around me. But it doesn't provide the same feeling of security. Those two things are not possible to meet in the same person and both are very strong needs for me. If you think through it, you can probably come up with things you need that are nearly impossible to expect to find in the same person.

If poly is to be possible, the people involved have to be able to understand that it is not a statement that they have failed to be what you needed, but rather that your needs fail to fall into the realm of something one human being can even remotely be expected to do. They are not lessened in some way by your additional needs, they are made more in your heart for being able to respect all of you and believe in themselves enough to trust that they would not be a part of your life if they were not important to you, and for drawing their strength from that knowledge. Is it not more of a compliment to know that you have given someone you love the right to go find anything they want or need, released them from any obligation to fly home once offered the sky, and that they still choose to come home to you every day, than it is to extract a promise you will never be able to prove was kept, for them to deny themselves some of their needs for fear that they might no longer need you if something they find is more attractive to them?

Love that is kept at home in a cage can never be trusted to stay if it were set free. It can never be assumed to be there every day of it's own free will. It can never be assumed to be as strong as it was the day it agreed to be locked away. To a person who loves easily and often, promises of monogamy are promises to be contained in cages. Love that is let out a window every morning but chooses to return, love that can have anything any time but chooses daily to have you is love that you can believe in, love that you can grow daily from the enjoyment of. If a promise is no more than a cage, then she will never be able to trust that it is what it could be with you.

At any rate, I appreciate you having taken the time to read this email. I really need someone to tell these things to and sometimes the best listener is a complete stranger. If you wish, you can feel free to reply[...]. If not then that is fine as well.

I'm happy to talk about it if you can handle my frankness and honesty. You're even welcome to show her my response if you think that it would help, or to have her read any of my writing on the subject if it might help her to understand what some people have a hard time putting words to. Good luck to you both and to your children in coming out the other side of this with as little pain as possible.

[Editor's note: Personally? The only ethical answer I can see is to stop lying to your wife and cheating on her until you have resolved whether this relationship with your wife will change to accomodate your needs, or you decide that it is not possible to reconcile your conflicting needs and do what it takes to get out of your relationship with as little pain and as ethically as possible to all parties involved, if you really are trying to stop cheating everyone and hurting everyone involved.]

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