Polyamory (from Greek πολυ [poly, meaning many or several] and Latin amor [love]) is the practice, desire, or acceptance of having more than one intimate relationship at a time with the knowledge and consent of everyone involved.
Love is God, God is love, both are the same, and as God, love is limitless.
This is what I have been told, have even known, deep in my cells. My love for God is limitless. God’s love for me is limitless.
But what about when it comes to the human realm? Somewhere along the way my wires got crossed, and I can’t seem to transfer the limitless love that exists on the metaphysical plane into the human experience.
We were all raised on romanticized, idealized versions of love. Love that translates to need, to desire, to longing to possession, to jealousy.
Men have killed and died for love. Love of land, love of country, love of beauty – Helen of Troy’s face launched a thousand ships.
We all saw the reality of what was called love playing out in our lives – sometimes gruesome, sometimes fragile, often fleeting, and so easily broken.
Wrapped up in my stories of “not enough” – not enough food at times, never enough money – and my personal childhood story where grown-up love meant fits of blind rage and jealousy, where threats and fists were romantic expressions, my wires got crossed.
After threatening the most heinous things when my mother would get “too close” to another man, my dad left our family for a younger woman.
I decided, as all young women raised in abusive households do, that this would never be my story as an adult. That fist and fury were not love. That jealous threats of injury or death would not in my life equate with romance.
I held to this decision in the only way I knew how to; never let anyone close enough, and they can’t hurt you.
I broke hearts, I cheated, I destroyed relationships by holding everyone I could have loved (and even did) at arm’s length.
I found resourceful ways to create a reality in which this was acceptable. I read Anarchists texts about the abolition of relationship-as-possession, I fell in with the right crowd, I found a home in the anti-establishmentarian movement of Anarchism, where non-monogamy was the norm.
All the same, at 19 I ended up in a relationship where fists were kisses, and threats were love, and jealous rages stormed both ways. I had let someone in, and he had let me in. We thought it would be forever. And the four years we were together felt like it was. An endless entrenchment, a battle.
When I finally got my head together and left the abusive relationship that closed the eternal-return-of-same loop handed down by way of my familial imprinting, I made my own rules. I didn’t let anyone claim me. I didn’t claim anyone.
My “orientation” toward non-monogamy was a wall. It ended the argument before it started. No one had any right to be jealous, because they knew what the rules were. And as long as I stayed on the surface of things, my own jealousy didn’t rear its ugly head.
When I was 25, I got married to someone safe. To someone I knew would never hit me. To someone I knew I wouldn’t be with forever. To someone who would be a gentle father to my children. To someone I knew I could live without.
And I cheated on my (now ex) before we even got married.
When we married, I stopped. And though we were theoretically in an open relationship, for the first four years of our marriage we didn’t have other relationships. We were building a foundation.
I came clean to him about having cheated. He wasn’t jealous. He wasn’t upset.
When finally we opened our relationship again, I was the one who dove into a new relationship with an old lover; the same lover I had cheated on my husband with four years earlier. My (now ex) husband still wasn’t jealous. He even okayed the relationship before hand.
Some part of me read his lack of jealousy as a lack of love. As a lack of passion.
But I was in too deep to have an easy time allowing him the same freedom he allowed me. Some of it came back to the sense of “never enough” that has roots deep in my childhood. The never enough was a lack of passion, a lack of engagement, a lack of sexual interaction.
I felt I was always running at a deficit.
I relied on non-monogamy to fill the gaps left by the lack I felt at home. The lack I had built myself into.
But it was unfair. I was unfair. I expected the freedom to get my needs fulfilled but felt hurt when he sought the same. I felt neglected, not just by the actions themselves, but by never feeling loved enough from within the walls of safety I had built around myself.
Walls and all, I was in too deep. Too deep to not get scared when he took his love elsewhere.
Love was finite. Sex was finite. Passion was nearly non-existent. It’s harder to share when the cupboard is bare.
I still tried my best. I still believed in the ideals of non-monogamy, of polyamory. We were activists about it, my (now ex) husband and I. I taught classes on how to negotiate open relationships.
It didn’t feel hypocritical – I never entirely gave in to my jealousy and let it run the show.
Well, never except when I was faced with my (now ex) husband falling in love with a younger woman. Falling in love with her a way he had never loved me. After ten years of working on his lack of passion, lack of intimate touch, years of supporting his working toward a more substantial relationship with embodiment, after working on helping him to overcome deep-rooted sexual issues, someone else was benefitting in a way I never had. And in a way I knew I never would.
Ten years in, we separated. It was time.
After we did, I fell head-over-heels in love with a couple who were having their own troubles. I rode that wave, willing to give it my all. But it was a doomed experiment. So I fell back to my default position; non-monogamy; “You don’t own me!” And I don’t own you. And you can’t touch me. My heart already hurts enough.
In all of this, I found the love of God, intact, strong, resilient. The true center of love of self, in my experience. No matter how deeply I might fall out of love with me, It was always there to pick me back up, put me back together, make me whole through my own surrendering.
God told me to keep working on it.; to work on balancing and healing Love, balancing and healing relationships between men and women. I asked “HOW?”, “How am I supposed to do this when attachment arises, and hunger looms, and I feel there’s never enough, never enough to fill me?”
An answer came in a rush of images. All beings are God. If God is Love, and God is limitless, than Love is limitless.
Shortly thereafter, I found love in the experience of , by reputation, the most culturally jealous men on the planet; Islamic men. I found love – albeit “chaste” and courtly love, and loved more than one.
I found my way through jealousy in the complex terrain of new cultural formats. I loved a man who was married. He could have taken me as his second wife, as it was culturally acceptable.
I felt no jealousy toward his wife. And as long as I kept it all in perspective, even this deep relationship had no need of going deeper. There was no chance we would actually marry.
But for a time period I was monogamous to a man who was in a committed, lifelong, primary relationship. And I wasn’t even having sex with him!
It was my first experience of being truly monogamous. I didn’t cheat. I was fulfilled. I felt full with this love, even though the physical consummation of that love was impossible.
I felt safe in that love.
Perhaps I felt safe because there was no future in it. Perhaps I felt safe because he told me what to do, gave me parameters.
Perhaps I felt safely held by his jealousy.
Fast forward; this has all been history, back story.
Two and a half years later, I’m married to a man who is not Muslim. Who is never jealous. I’m married to a man who is a committed polyamorist.
I’m married to a man who chose me partially because he knew me by reputation as an educator, and as an educator about open relationships.
All freshly forming relationships fall under a glamour in the blush of new love. We both asked the “right” questions in our courting, and heard what we wanted to hear. I asked, “Do you believe in monogamy as a possible relationship choice?” (or something like that), and he answered “Yes, absolutely, as long as both partners are happy in it.” I heard, “Yes…” and that was what I needed to hear.
I don’t recall what he asked, or perhaps he was just relying on my reputation for the certainty that “poly” would never be an issue.
We could both have been more clear in our questions, answers and desires in this arena. And of course it’s not the only area where we were perhaps vague in our communication of desire of expectation.
Polamory is just the biggest. It’s our albatross.
My husband and I don’t have any regrets about having chosen one another. It was a coming home when we found each other, and we entered into a life-long commitment of love, devotion, trust, and faith.
We are wildly passionate in our love, we are best friends, we are deeply caring with each other, we have allowed ourselves to be known by each other more deeply and completely than we have ever been known before.
In the art of true transparency, we know – and help to hold – one another’s deepest fears and greatest hopes.
Confession: Even though I know how deeply and completely my husband loves me, even though he touches me with tenderness and passion, even though he wears his love for me on his sleeve, I still can’t always find trust.
Confession: Perhaps it’s been a self-fulfilling prophesy, but I have been burned again and again over the years by the open-relationship format, whatever you call it; non-monogamy, polamory, swinging.
Confession: In my fear, I’ve done my own share of burning, too.
Confession: I often see my husband’s old lovers who still want something from him as a threat.
Confession: Sometimes I see his lack of jealousy as a lack of love, a lack of devotion.
Confession: I am scared to death of losing him by clinging too much, and scared to death of losing him by letting him loose.
I am scared. And, confession; in that fear I retreat to the same place I always have, my too-sensitive warning system rings loudly, a robotic voice in the back of my mind clanging, “Danger! Danger! Danger!”, over and over again.
In our hearts and home, our life together is beautiful. Gentle. Passionate. Almost always understanding. Almost completely peaceful.
But, confession; there is an elephant in the middle of the room. Sometimes it walks away for a while, but it always comes back.
That elephant’s name is Jealousy, and she is mine.