Apologies to my readers, but a new garage roof, riding a 325-foot coaster five times in one day (among other coasters), planting bushes in the front yard, planting grass, working some more on the bathroom project, and general out-and-aboutness have put me in the position of having over 150 unread emails, a bunch of "things you missed" messages from Twitter, and a dusty blog.
<sharp breath, brings out the feather duster>
There. <pat pat>
In that time, there was one thread on the mono/poly email lists that caught my eye, and I wanted to talk about it a bit here. I asked permission from folks on the list to use their thoughts and ideas if I needed to, but in the end, I figured I'd use my own thoughts and just pose the question to you as well. Apologies to anyone who hoped to be (not at all) famous by being quoted here.
Many mono folks in mono/poly relationships go through the "what's in it for me" phase. You're getting what you want; what am I getting out of this?
It happens quite a bit with people who open a monogamous relationship, with one partner feeling as though they're just there to keep the home/kids/finances in order while their newly-poly partner goes out to play. What's in it for the mono partner? What do THEY get from a poly relationship when all it seems to do is take their partner away from them and they don't want more "free time"? Why does it matter if they get a happier partner when it comes at the the expense of their own happiness?
I won't get too deep into that question, except to reiterate that maybe flipping around the question to ask "what do I get out of maintaining a relationship with my partner" would be the better way to go. In asking that question instead, you can feel free to add polyamory to the "cons" column, but hopefully the "pros" in your relationship with your partner outweigh the cons.
No, instead the question got flipped around on the mono partners on the lists: What do YOU think your poly partner gains from having an opened/poly relationship?
Mono partners, what do you think? What's in it for them?
<No, really... dig into what you think before I go prattling on. I'll wait.>
So, what's in it for your partner?
I'm sure many of you had the "Well, DUH!" moment when you first read the question: they get to go out and play without taking responsibility, they get to have ALL THE SEX. It's playtime, and they get to quit adulting for a while. No responsibilities, no compromises, no strings. They get to play at being single again.
There are some people who go absolutely cuckoo when they open their relationships. They do forget about their responsibilities, and they seem to steamroll their loved ones' feelings in favor of their own. These people do exist. There are many others, however, who just want to do things the right way. What's in it for them?
When I observe my partner and what he really values in his relationships, it's not "ALL THE SEX!" (although I'd be remiss if I didn't admit that it's certainly a bonus). Your mileage may vary, and I'm not speaking for my partner, but this is my perception of what I see:
- My partner seems to enjoy connections. Meeting people, getting to know their stories, really getting to know them closely without having to step back and avoid emotional intimacy (and limiting that connection).
- My partner can be free to have friendships with people that involve elements that many people would consider romantic, and therefore, off-limits. He can go to a friend who needs comforting, hold her hand, spend time alone with her, embrace her, and help her feel better - all without anyone worrying that he's going to piss anyone off or not be allowed to see her again.
- He gets to have different people and relationships in his life: the spontaneous and the traditional, without valuing one over the other, but experiencing them both.
And on and on, but there's far more to it than sex and playtime. What I see is the desire to form deep connections with more than one person and not feel constrained or conflicted as to when they need to stop connecting because they've "gone too far". It's not really playing at being single at all. There is an element of freedom there, but also an element of caring. Of wanting to feel all the feels and learn all the things about someone. And yes, that level of intimacy can lead to physical intimacy, whether it's hand-holding, a kiss, a dance, or yes - sex. It's all part of growing that bond.
That's my perception of what I see in my own partner, and it may or may not jive with your own observations or feelings. It does serve to illustrate that the benefits to the poly partner can go way beyond having more sex with more people, and it may be worth having that conversation. If we can gain some intimacy with our own partners by learning what makes them tick (and allowing them to be freer to be themselves around us), then maybe that's an added bonus for us mono partners after all.