I am fresh out of a gay relationship, which started monogamous, opened up, dabbled with polyamory, but ran out of steam. I'm heartbroken and I need you to weigh in on a disagreement we had about polyamory, which is one of the things that led to our expiration. I believe polyamory to be a small group of people all in love with each other, all sleeping together. He believes polyamory to be different pairings, where a relationship between two people would be lived and enjoyed separately from that couple's pairings with other people. He thinks my definition would be impossible to find and sustain. I think his definition sounds like child custody in a divorce dispute. Who is right?
Reexamining Relationship Remnants
"They're both right," said Allena Gabosch, a poly activist, educator, and podcaster (The Relationship Anarchy Show). "What the letter writer describes — a small group of people who love each other and all sleep together — is sometimes called 'polyfidelity.' It's less common, and yet I've seen it work. His ex's definition is more common: a primary couple with secondary and sometimes even tertiary partners. There is no 'one true way' to do poly, no matter what anyone says."
I've been in a fantastic monogamous relationship for almost eight years, but I used to be like a lot of your other readers. I had what I would consider an adventurous sex life, with lots of partners who were GGG, and I enjoyed continually pushing my sexual boundaries as long as everything was consensual and honest. Fast-forward to my current life: I'm now married to a wonderful vanilla woman. The transition to monogamous and vanilla was difficult at first, and I had fears about not being sexually content. As it turns out, it was a great move and I'm a better man for it. My desire to have every kind of sex under the sun has settled down considerably, and the benefit is that I have much more energy and mental focus for other areas of my life. I want your readers to know that the answer to their happiness may not be the pursuit of more outlandish sex — for some, it just might be less.
Monogamous In Montana
Your letter reminded me of Saint Augustine's prayer as a young man: "Lord, make me pure — but not yet!"
You're pure now, MIM, but first, like Augustine of Hippo (354–430), you had yourself some impure fun. Perhaps you would be just as satisfied, happy, and smug if you'd been in a monogamous/vanilla relationship all along. But it's possible you wouldn't be satisfied and happy now if it weren't for the adventures and experiences you had then. To paraphrase St. Agnes Gooch of Mame (1966): You lived! You lived! You lived! You see all that living as time wasted, MIM, but it's possible — it may even rise to the level of probable — that the perspective and self-awareness you gained during the fuck-anything-that-moves stage of your life made you the man you are today, i.e., a guy who was ready to make a monogamous commitment and capable (so far) of honoring it.
Finally, monogamous/vanilla types routinely cross over into the ranks of the sexually adventurous/nonmonogamous and vice versa. (And monogamous/vanilla and sexually adventurous aren't necessarily mutually exclusive categories.) Instead of disparaging the choices others make — or disparaging the choices we once made — we're better off encouraging people to make the choices that are right for them. And choices that are right for someone now may not be right for them always — and that goes for you too, MIM, even now.
On the Lovecast, Dan chats with the filmmakers of the documentary Give Me Sex Jesus: savagelovecast.com.