(Note: I wrote this mid-July and never published it because I wasn’t sure I had expressed myself the way I wanted to. I wasn’t sure I had been fair to everyone involved. I wasn’t sure I understood even my own concerns. It sat. Ignored at first. And then forgotten. I stumbled on it again just recently. Looking back at it now, I don’t have the same reservations I did before about publishing it, and I don’t want to gloss over some of the feelings I’ve had during this time. So here it is. Just as I wrote it in July.)
I feel like I’m failing. Hm. Maybe that’s not quite it. I feel like I don’t want to fail, but that I don’t know how to succeed. When I began this blog, I promised myself that I would write the truth as best I know it. I would be open and honest about myself as much as I was able to accurately see myself. Sometimes that’s scary. Exposing my weaknesses. Showing my true self, warts and all. But other times, it’s not so much that I’m afraid of being unmasked, but rather that I just don’t understand how I feel.
How can I succeed at being in this partial perspective vortex when I’m living this life in the fog? I kind of know where I’ve come from, but even still, when I try to look back, my memories are filtered through the colored glass of my current understanding of life. And looking ahead is murkier still. I have more questions than answers. I feel a little lost, a little unsure, and unable to explain it all.
I’ve been feeling like mashed potatoes. I love mashed potatoes. While I’m not the world’s largest fan of the traditional Thanksgiving meal, mashed potatoes go a long way toward making the day something to look forward to. When you get the consistency just right, and you cover it with gravy. Mmm. You know how it’s easy to stuff yourself and still want to go back for seconds? Mashed potatoes always make the list of things that go back on my plate for over-indulgent seconds.
I don’t know anybody, though, who has only mashed potatoes as the meal. They always seem to be a side dish. They’re wonderful, but they’re always a side dish. I’ve been feeling a lot like mashed potatoes recently. Wonderful. But only a side dish.
Imagine living in a parallel universe where everything was exactly the same as the universe we live in except that the socially accepted norm for marriage was homosexuality. Imagine that heterosexual marriage was frowned upon, and that the current civil rights movement involved trying to achieve marriage equality not for homosexuals but for heterosexuals. If you are among the very few who have homosexual tendencies, you might feel comfortable living in such a universe. If you are like the majority of people, though, you’d find that being a straight person living in a gay world would be very uncomfortable.
One could argue that heterosexuality is “normal” and that homosexuality is “abnormal,” since fewer than 10% of people are strictly homosexual and only about one third of people admit to being not exclusively heterosexual. One could argue that society’s preference for heterosexual marriage and its disdain or fear of homosexual marriage merely reflect the natural proclivities of the majority of the population. Equal rights aside, that seems like a perfectly reasonable and perfectly defensible position. The problem comes, however, when we apply the same reasoning to society’s preference for monogamy.
For anyone who may be attracted to polyamory and only scared off because of the fear of jealousy, I would like to point your attention to a great blog post about one woman’s experience with jealousy. I would stop writing right here and just say go read it. But since I know there will be some who won’t click on the link, I’ll just summarize a few things here. But don’t let my commentary fool you. Go read it anyway. Seriously. I’ll wait.
If you’ve ever been a kid with exactly one friend, you might be familiar with a feeling of horrible jealousy you might get when your friend decides to play with someone else, and not you, on the playground one afternoon. You might mope and kick rocks and cast sad looks in their direction and get angry that they aren’t noticing how clearly upset you are not to be included. Your attention is focused entirely on the fun you aren’t having.
I stumbled upon a great post this morning about the social imprint of monogamy and the unachievable ideal prevalent in society of finding your “one and only” when you marry. The post in question was titled How I Know My Wife Married the “Wrong” Person. It is clever and insightful about the ways in which many of us enter marriage without really understanding it, and about how marriage can never meet up with the fantasies we entertain about it in our minds.
Unfortunately, in trying to explain where we go from there, the author fails to continue to use the critical thinking that got him that far in the discussion. Or, perhaps more accurately and more fairly, in listing some alternatives to the problem of what to do when we find ourselves in a marriage that doesn’t meet our admittedly unrealistic expectations, he is either blind to or conveniently dismissive altogether of one of the most practical solutions to this problem: that of polyamory.
A lot can happen in a year. Some years seem to pass without much changing. Other years, you’d never guess at the beginning of it that your life would be completely different 365 days later. For me, this past year has been of the latter variety.
Today is the 365th day I’ve been keeping this blog. I started it because I felt like I needed a safe place to work out my thoughts and my confusion. I was just coming to the realization that the church I had believed in my entire life was not true. I was beginning to question almost everything that I thought I once knew. In the past 365 days, I’ve figured out quite a few things, changed my life in several fundamental ways, and confronted new questions that I’m still struggling to figure out. I thought I’d take a moment today to highlight a few of those things.
Mr. Wonderful is very career-minded. He has been working on advancing his career throughout the years of his marriage to Girlfriend, and she has been supportive. As good Mormons, they made sacrifices so that they could live the ideal: that the husband and father would provide for the family, and the wife and mother would remain at home to nurture the children. This has been their arrangement for the decade or so since they have had children.
It only seems natural, then, that on Mother’s Day, Mr. Wonderful would take a moment to express his appreciation to his wife for her devotion to the children in particular and to the family in general. The message he actually delivered, though, was somehow wide of the mark. He essentially told her that she was an unfit mother.
This morning I had an epiphany. I realized why so many members of Girlfriend’s family and in-laws have been treating her the way they have. Their worldview doesn’t allow them to understand polyamory. In their eyes, her choices aren’t about living according to her new values that come from her new understanding of the world. They see it as her simply not being strong enough to live righteously. She is yielding to temptation. If only she had the strength to live up to the truth, she wouldn’t be doing any of this.
In their mind, she isn’t choosing to be polyamorous. She is violating sacred covenants she made with god in his holy temple. And then she has the gall to flaunt it in front of everybody? For shame! “If you’re going to commit adultery, at least have the decency to hide it and feel ashamed, the way we did when we had our affairs.” Amen.
There was a span of time just prior to my separation from my wife where I wasn’t writing on this blog even though my life was progressing at what felt at the time like incredible speed. It seemed something was happening almost every day that shaped my outlook on life. I was searching for meaning after leaving Mormonism. I was struggling with the concept of god and of the absolutist morality that came as a result of belief. I was questioning the purpose behind marriage. I was reevaluating long-held assumptions about the balance between the needs of society and of the individual. Most of those stories haven’t been told on this blog yet.
As I got back into blogging after my separation, I told myself that I’d pick up from where I was and only go back to some of the other stories as the need arose. Otherwise, I would have been too overwhelmed to begin writing again. I recently went back and related my discovery of polyamory and the reasons that I believed it was a more rational approach to relationships than monogamy. But I never detailed my transition into polyamory. Today that story needs to be told because it provides information that will help put in context the bomb that has been placed in front of me.
It was about a week and a half ago that Girlfriend told me about her sister’s graduation ceremony. She was interested in attending it, but it was a twelve-hour drive away, and with her husband unable to take time off work for it, she didn’t feel confident making the trip alone with her small children.
I did what any self-respecting boyfriend would do. I offered to accompany her on the trip. When Mr. Wonderful agreed with the plan, I was really excited. I figured it would be nice to have a little getaway with her, and that helping out with the children and the driving would be a small price to pay to be able to visit Girlfriend’s hometown with her. What I didn’t count on, though, was that I would experience firsthand the reaction that most people have to those involved in a polyamorous relationship. Nor could I have predicted the effects those reactions would have on the relationship itself.