I would like to make something very clear.
Polyamory was not the direct cause of the dissolution of my marriage. It was an indirect cause. It ignited a fire in a relationship that was already fractured (mixed metaphors, I know).
You can count on poly to be a lot of hard work, emotional upheaval, and, at times, stress. What you can also count on, is the fact that it will bring up your shit. Your shit, your partner’s shit, their partner’s shit, and so on. For myself and my husband, I think it felt like one giant mountain of shit (see my bio, I swear a lot). Polyamory will uncover ugly truths about yourself and your relationships that maybe you didn’t want to see or acknowledge. Maybe you were unhappy, like I was, like my husband was, and you didn’t even realize the extent of that unhappiness. And I think unhappy is the wrong word – more like dissatisfied.
Monogamy works for many people, polyamory works for many people. What I would advise, is that if you have been in a monogamous relationship for a long time, if you are married and have children and a life together, tread lightly friends. Be cautious to a fault. Examine yourself and your relationship from every angle as best you can. Sit with your shit; stare it in the face (if that is an unpleasant visual, my apologies).
Because, make no mistake, your shit will come up.
When my husband and I went to counseling, we saw a therapist and she said something to us that stuck with me. “Why would you add this complication to your lives?” And I sat there and defended it – I defended this crazy complication even while my brain was screaming at me, “YES – LISTEN TO THE LADY!”. I remember sitting there feeling emotionally spent, tired down to my bones. And yet, I told her something to the effect of: poly brings up stuff for me that I never would have dealt with. It brings up my insecurities as a woman, a wife, a human being. It brought to light my trauma from my childhood that I had conveniently packed away in my emotional suitcase of crap I never wanted to examine. Poly brought to light the fact that I am extremely codependent and have severe abandonment issues. All of those things were things I kept packed away. Things I chose to ignore (subconsciously for the most part). I was living a life of half truths, going through the motions within my marriage, my friendships, at work, and even (and this scares me still) with my children.
When your husband has a serious girlfriend that he is in love with and you watch him walk out the door 2 nights a week to be with her, it will bring up your shit. When you see a post in a Facebook group for polyamory in which your husband referred to his relationship with his girlfriend, as “coming home”, it breaks something in you – if you are not prepared for it, or emotionally capable of handling it. I absolutely was not.
Poly unpacked my suitcase and it did it fast. So fast in fact, that I was caught off guard and running around like a panicked 9-year-old (the age I was when I watched my father die). I was in a flight/fight/freeze mode for months. I was explosive, triggered, and completely falling apart. Now, all of this said, I do believe that my suitcase of shit was a bit more packed than the average person. I did not realize until much later that I had PTSD or codependency. And sure, we could have done things differently – slowed the fuck down, sought out more help than we did, paused the whole damn thing.
But we didn’t, and here we are.
Polyamory is a beautiful and amazing lifestyle. I don’t want to dissuade anyone who believes that they identify as poly from giving it a go. I am simply saying, please, for the love of God, go slowly and tread lightly. Take it one step at a time and love yourself first.
Polyamory is hard as fuck and, in my opinion, absolutely worth it. And that statement may make me sound like a crazy person as I am smack in the middle of a horrific situation; separation and a likely divorce. But look at it this way, if I hadn’t opened that suitcase, I would still be living a lie. I would still feel restless and unsatisfied, separate and distant from everything around me. I had walls made of Adamantium. Emotional walls that I put up to protect myself from feeling anything too deeply for fear of being hurt the way I was when my father died. Now, I am working through my trauma, I am grieving my father’s death, which in 32 years, was something I had never done before. I am freeing myself of my walls, I am alive, I am emotionally vulnerable and aware. I see everything and everyone in their true light because nothing is filtered through fear, through terror, through panic.
I am present in my self and I am alive for the first time in my adult life.
Resources on poly for you: