Polyamory and Freedom of Choice: How We Hold Back Those We Love Out Of Fear
Ok this post is one from a friend (Valkyrian) on FetLife and she has a question for the poly folk out there:
Why do you have the rules in your relationships that you do?
See, I’ve heard about lots of different ways to do poly. I’ve even tried a few of them out. I feel like, as I speak with other poly folk, I hear about lots of different rules, boundaries, and ways to “do poly” that work for them. When the topic pertaining to the reasoning behind what rules people set within their relationship comes up, there is one that comes up frequently:
The rules and boundaries are in place to “protect the relationship”.
Now, I’m not speaking theoretically here. I did the same thing myself. I was in a relationship with a guy at the beginning of my journey into polyamory. We had lots rules. We talked about the rules. We respected and followed the rules. We renegotiated the rules when we needed to. We moved forward within the guidelines set by the rules. We cared for one another. We lived. We grew.
We lasted almost four years and realized at the end that all that supporting, living, and growing we had done had allowed us to become better people who had grown in different directions. We loved one another very much, but we were no longer happy as a romantic couple. We talked, we cried, and we transitioned the relationship. We saved what we could be from being eaten alive by what we could no longer be. It was painful and it was necessary.
And it all happened even though we had rules to “protect the relationship”.
People change. Sometimes, the people in the relationship change together. Sometimes, they do not. No number of rules will protect you from this. If you are a loving, supportive person who encourages your partner to reach their goals if they want to and grow from the experience, then grow they will. Using rules to guide that growth in a particular direction will not work. I promise you. And even if it did, why would you want that for your partner?
So, again…I ask. Why do you have the rules in your relationships that you do?
Are you trying to protect the relationship? Or are you trying to keep the relationship from changing because you are frightened of what you might lose if it does?
Me, I want to know what I might gain from that largely inevitable change…because everything changes.
For example…let’s have a talk about veto. Yeah, I’m opening that can of worms.
I generally feel like whatever people do is fine so long as it doesn’t harm themselves or their partners. Veto, for some poly folk, is an important part of their primary relationship dynamic. OK. Got it. But my question, which I have asked twice, still stands. Why? Why is veto something you need in order to “protect the relationship”? Is it that you do not trust your partner’s choices when it comes to potential others? Is it that you don’t trust the motives of those others? Is veto something you think will keep your partner from connecting with someone more deeply than they connect with you?
Is veto your security blanket because you are afraid of how the relationship might change if your partner meets another person that they connect with strongly?
Well, I’m sorry…but using veto as a way to protect your relationship is bull shit. Think about it. You are changing, growing, meeting people as an individual with your own wants and your own needs. Your partner is doing the same. With veto, you are batting away the people interested in your partner who do not fit yourwants and needs, but isn’t it your partner’s job to get to know people and determine if the person interested in them will fit with their own wants and needs? Do you not trust your partner to know what they want and to proceed safely?
Furthermore, say your partner does meet someone who they connect with very strongly. Say they connect even more strongly with this new person than they connect in this moment in time with you. So long as your partner is still treating you kindly, making the effort to connect with you as your partner, and not being dismissive of your needs…what is the problem? That will change as well, in whatever way it is meant to change. Yes, it could be what starts your partner down a path that causes them to grow in a direction different from you. So could a job. So could school. So could the death of a family member. So could the birth of a child. So could a surgery, an illness, or any other life event.
The chances of your relationship changing are monumentally higher than it not changing no matter what you do to prevent it.
Now, I’m not saying don’t have boundaries. Boundaries are vastly different and important to have. Boundaries, however, are more about what you need for yourself and not about stipulating guidelines for the behavior of someone other than yourself. Boundaries should be respected.
They are there to protect YOU as an individual, not your relationship.
People are so afraid of a relationship ending. They see it as a failure. I know I have, in the past. Even now, I sometimes see a relationship that has ended as being the result of the two of us being a poor fit, pure and simple. But even that that is not a failure. That is a lesson, and that’s good. It happens and we learn from it. However, when I have a relationship with someone who I know I have truly connected with and who I know I love dearly and who loves me in kind, no matter what? If that relationship ends up coming to a place where it must become something different, that is not failure. That is not wrong or right, less or more. It just IS…and I am happy for the experience even while I am in pain over the loss. It means we grew. It means we each became something different and that we helped one another to get there, even if it meant we can no longer be together in the same relationship we were in before.
Now, I am not saying that everyone should just throw the doors wide open and let the games begin. Some people want their partner or partners to help them make decisions about future potential partners, and that is absolutely fine. Letting future potential partners know that is important, though, and it’s important that they know early. Let them decide for themselves if they want to get involved with you if your current partner or partners get a say in whether or not you can get involved with them.
It is only fair.
You have every right to choose if you want your partner or partners to have that power. Future potential partners have just as much right to decide if they are comfortable with that.
For those who are using rules…not just veto, but any rules…as a means by which to manage and control the direction the relationship goes, please just consider why. If you are doing it because you are scared, I get it. Change is frightening…and unavoidable. Your relationships will change. You can’t put up walls, post sentries, and light fires in every dark corner to prevent that. What you can do understand it and be comfortable with the possibility that your relationships may change. It is possible. Also, be who your partner fell in love with if that continues to be who you are, allow yourself the room to change and grow in the ways that feel right to you, and keep talking to your partner or partners about your journey and your personal goals.
Maybe you’ll end up taking different paths when you reach a fork in the road. Maybe you won’t.
If you do wander apart, try to have faith that the person your partner has become is still the decent, loving person at their core who you fell in love with and talk to them about what has changed to see if compatibility still exists. After all, would you have chosen to be with them if they were not someone you wanted to include in these important, potentially life-changing decisions? This is an important part of that, no matter how frightening it is or how much it might hurt. Maybe you’ll talk and things won’t change so much. Maybe they just need small adjustments. No matter what, rules won’t prevent that.
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