I am coining a new term for the book CC and I keep joking we’re going to write on The Ethics of Afro-Polyamory: The “Mono-Poly Spiral of Discontent.”
Being a person in a polyamorous relationship who is only in one relationship can be kind of emotionally exhausting. Effectively, one person has a complete monopoly on your time and your love and your physical affections, while said person manages multiple emotionally and sexually satisfying relationships. And you, as the mono-poly person, feel like you have to be extra careful to avoid unfairly monopolizing your partner’s time, out of respect and consideration for both him and your metamours.
The Mono-Poly Spiral of Discontent starts with a scheduling conflict or two. As the mono-poly person is making an extra effort to be conscientious in the face of this balancing act, she genuinely doesn’t feel upset with her partner about the scheduling conflicts. Though she is certainly not pleased that they’re happening, she strives to accept them with grace, as she recognizes that time and money are limited resources even when capacities for love and affection aren’t.
The current three-to-one relationship ratio means that I, as the mono-poly person, have been seeing [Booskie] about once a week. On the one hand, I commend him for even being able to make that work on a regular basis, as I know from experience that coordinating three peoples’ schedules with one’s own availability while still building in time for oneself is by no means an easy task. I did it for about a month back in November/December, and it was hard to switch emotional spaces on command and difficult to be sexually available on schedule.
But at the same time that I recognize and can even identify with that struggle, I also can’t deny that it sucks that for me, a week or a week and a half or whatever of not seeing him means a week or a week and a half or whatever of no snuggles and kisses and non-solo playtime. I’ve stopped finding myself in the mood to cuddle up to someone — now I get in the mood to cuddle up with him. Even in my solo playtime, I’m thinking about him. This means that every time I see him, I’m all wound up literally just waiting for it to be time to release all of this sexual energy with him, which leads to me being frustrated if he’s tired or wants to watch the game or whatever. This is a second level of the Mono-Poly Spiral of Discontent (and sometimes the spiral pulls in some general insecurities about my own desirability in at this level).
I don’t hide that frustration well, but at the same time I hate expressing it. I never want to feel like I’m pressuring him, and clearly our relationship is about so much more than sex, but I would really appreciate it if I more often felt like we’re equally hot for one another; I just don’t know if that’s a fair thing to ask given the circumstances. No one is a machine. I keep remembering the time I spent the night/all day with [Booskie] and then one of my secondary partners came over that evening and wanted to play, and I’d already had sex six times in the past 24 hours and wasn’t really feeling up for more, but I went along with it anyway. Neither of us was really satisfied with how that evening played out, and I don’t want those same types of feelings popping up here.
So is it time to commit myself to exploring new people and maybe developing another relationship of my own? One the one hand that seems like a sort of obvious solution, since this relationship balancing act felt a lot more balanced when [Buddy] was in the picture. But I also remember that towards the end of my involvement with [Buddy], it became harder for me to fully enjoy our non-emotional sexscapades in light of having discovered for the first time what “I love you” sex is like. Having sex with a guy I went on two dates with right after I found myself a one-man woman was really weird; I didn’t enjoy the emotional detachment at all. It’s not a problem I had before [Booskie], but I don’t think that I’m really interested at all in being sexual with people I don’t care about these days.
This is a third level of the Mono-Poly Spiral of Discontent. As a concept, playing with new people has lost a lot of the appeal it had before I was in love, though I fully believe that the right new person as an individual could bring that appeal right back. And that leaves me unsure of how to go about looking for an interesting new person(s) to spend time with, or whether spending time with interesting new person(s) would really even be fair to said person(s).
And of course, if some new person and I do find one another mutually awesome, then I will have fewer of the finite resources of time and money to share with him myself, and is that what I want? That doesn’t feel like what I want. Can I separate ideas of prioritization and commitment from distribution of those finite resources? To what extent or in what ways is starting a new relationship inherently a pulling back from your current relationship(s)?
When I pursued [Buddy], it was originally largely because I felt myself on a slippery slope towards more investment in things that were starting with [Booskie] than were perhaps safe or appropriate for the situation as it stood then. My involvement with [Buddy] didn’t restrain my emotional commitment to [Booskie] at all, but the benefits of that friends with benefits situation certainly took the edge off in other arenas. I’ve never really tried being romantically invested in multiple people at once, and I’m not convinced that I’m emotionally capable of that. I don’t think I’m definitely incapable of it, but I’m also not convinced I really want to find out. At the same time, though, I wonder if perhaps I need whatever level of pulling back starting something new would bring, even if that isn’t ideally what I want. And that might be the bottom of the spiral of discontent as I’ve discovered it so far.
Which leads people to ask me the million-dollar questions: in light of all of this, do I really think an intentionally non-monogamous relationship is what’s best for me right now? Am I doing this because I want to be doing this, or am I doing it because I want to be with him? Is it fair to myself to constantly readjust my ideas of what a loving relationship “should” look like to fit the relationship that I’m in?
The short answers to these big questions are: well, I never really thought intentional non-monogamy was my ideal relationship structure. I think it can work without causing any undue harm to anyone involved, and when it’s working well, I have a lot of fun with it. Even when it’s not working as well as it could be, being with him isn’t a thing I’m willing to negotiate about, so take that as you will with regards to the second question. I think it’s okay if the third question is a conditional yes: everything is always evolving, so as long as being in this still on the whole leaves me feeling loved and loving and satisfied and satisfying and cared for and caring, then a bit of discomfort while I figure some stuff out along the way probably isn’t the worst thing in the world. Maybe that’s just the underbelly of growth?