by Dr. Deborah Taj Anapol, Ph.D.
When I first began
consciously thinking about non-monogamy in the early 80's, I thought
of my direction as going beyond the limitations of monogamy. I was
not alone. An earlier generation of pioneers, inspired by Robert Rimmer
and Robert Heinlein had been producing articles, books, and newsletters
entitled "Beyond Monogamy" since the early 70's. One of my
first moves was to adopt the term responsible non-monogamy, to differentiate
my area of interest from what I regarded as the less noble variations
on monogamy. I think all of us on the scene in the mid 90's heaved
a big sigh of relief when the word polyamory caught on and we could
liberate ourselves at last from the shadow of monogamy.
Flash forward another decade. After nearly
twenty years of slogging around polyamory land, and watching wave after
wave of new explorers stumble through the same jungles I have made
my way across, I begin to wonder, what's next? While the freedom to
explore polyamory is crucial to both spiritual and cultural evolution,
I believe it's a mistake to view polyamory, however you chose to define
it, as the destination.
There is an old story about a highly optimistic
little girl who's asked Santa to bring her a pony for Christmas. She
eagerly awakens on Christmas morning and races downstairs to open her
presents only to find a huge pile of horse manure. Her puzzled parents
ask her why she's jumping up and down with excitement and gratitude
instead of feeling disappointed. Her response is that with all this
shit there must be a pony around somewhere.
For many people, polyamory is a bit like this.
They are expecting great things - more love, more sex, more family,
more fun, more pleasure, more excitement. What they find is more jealousy,
possessiveness, manipulation, control, self-centeredness, lies, melodrama,
chaos, power struggles, and pain. The good stuff may be there too,
but usually firmly attached to the not-so-great stuff. Certainly there
are no ponies without pony poop. Polyamory can bring you face-to-face
with exactly what you don't want to see. It takes enormous optimism
to continue believing there's a pony around somewhere when you're inundated
with horse manure. Where is the line between optimism and denial? The
truth may be that there is no pony. Or that you really wanted a puppy.
The truth may be that we have not escaped monogamy's shadow after all.
For better or worse, the world of polyamory
is no longer new and exciting to me. It's not that I'm done with it,
any more than I could be done with breathing. Love flows and nothing
I can say or do will change that. Rather, the world of Spirit is calling
me and romantic intrigue is not. My nature is to keep exploring, to
keep going beyond the beyond, to venture into unknown territory. Consider
the following letter I recently received from a new recruit:
monogamy versus polyamory lifestyle is all new to me, and I must
admit, I have been brought into it kicking and screaming. Much more
relaxed into the idea/lifestyle now, but still have questions, funny
feelings, and aversions.
see that polyamory is exciting and it can really juice up the love
making. New partners, new energy, all of the thrill of first time,
being vulnerable with someone new and learning about them and about
you in relationship and reflection in them. All the flirting and
coyness and such.
I just haven't met enough people who are into this alternative lifestyle,
but many of the people I have met are looking for the one, deep,
committed relationship. They've been through many partners and are
looking for the stability, commitment, and "mature love" of
one person. Many of the polyamory people I have met are thrilling,
exciting, creative, juicy individuals, but I sense part of it is
a mask, and under it I get the feeling of a deep sadness.
yes, monogamous relationships do tend to loose some of the thrill
and excitement and juiciness of new relationships, so I see that
something needs to be done to keep them thrilling. Maybe new partners
is the way. But also I see that long-term commitment allows both
partners the security to be out there in the world from a stable
place. So no answers here, just some observations.
True enough. I loved this letter from a man
whose wife of sixteen years decided she wanted to try polyamory because
of his willingness to just take a look at what's so. And what's so
for him is this ever present monogamy/polyamory polarity. Changing
the name from responsible non-monogamy to polyamory doesn't make this
comparison go away. In most people's minds, monogamy and polyamory
are opposing points of view. Opposites.
The trouble is that backing away from polyamory
and trying to escape into the comforts of monogamy doesn't rid us of
this deep sadness he's observed. In my view, this sadness is not caused
by polyamory. Rather it's pervasive throughout our whole, confused
culture. The National Institute of Health recognizes that we have an
epidemic of depression in this country. Polyamory shakes us up enough
to crack the mask and reveal the sadness underneath, but it is neither
the cause nor the cure.
As my first teachers in this strange territory
told me many years ago, if you look to your relationship(s) to bring
you happiness, sooner or later you're going to be disappointed. Bring
your own happiness to your relationship(s) and everyone will thrive.
This is the new paradigm. It is a genuine change of heart. But we don't
want to change our hearts. It's far easier to let our minds toy with
a new idea that we think will bring us happiness but which is actually
just the old idea with a few new twists.
Most people that I see experimenting with
polyamory these days have glimpsed another way of loving and living
with more freedom and more love. But they want to take their familiar,
comfortable, secure, stable beliefs and behaviors with them into this
new world. It doesn't work. You can't mix paradigms. Or rather, you
can but you will end up with the old. Like a dominant gene, the old
paradigm will color everything it touches with its pervasive aura.
Which brings us back to the question of what's
next? What is beyond both monogamy and polyamory? Beyond power struggles?
Beyond Jealousy Jungle and The Desert of Blame? In other words, where
do you find your own happiness?
I can't say for sure because I'm still looking,
but the longer I'm on this journey, the more apparent it seems that
the answers are all inside. How can we possibly hope to find wedded
bliss with one partner, let alone many, when we haven't managed a solid
union between the Masculine and the Feminine within. Often, when I
talk to people about this Inner Marriage, they get an idea about getting
in touch with the Inner Female or the Inner Male. Kind of a variation
on getting in touch with the Inner Child. This is all good, and the
Inner Marriage goes far beyond embracing your cross gender qualities.
Rather, this Hieros Gamos or Sacred Marriage is a transcending of our
dualistic thought patterns. An end to the battle between our animal and
our spiritual natures. A simultaneous embrace of both the wave and the
particle. A melding of the right and left brains. A fusion of ego and
essence into one harmonious whole. It's about changing your mind and
your heart. It's about mating with your own soul. It's about experience,
not words, but hopefully these words can point you there.
In any case, this fusion is what's next on my horizon. I'll let you know
what I find there.
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© Deborah Taj Anapol