LoveMoreThe past few weeks have me thinking a lot about what I want out of relationships, and what I want out of polyamory itself.

I have considered myself solo poly because I don’t want to be married or have children or a joint bank account. I’ve also had a lot of bad roommate situations over the years and I’m getting very particular about the kind of person I’m willing to share space with as a result. I can’t function well in my life if my home situation is not stable. I also know that I would always need my own bedroom at minimum regardless of my living situation.

I have also considered myself solo poly because I never had the experience of being in a couple that opened up. I just happened to fall in love with someone who was already actively polyamorous twice in a row. I have always found myself in the position of being the new connection in comparison to an established relationship.

I had thought that polyamory and the idea of letting relationships find their own level meant that certain incompatibilities could be overlooked in a relationship. If I knew I could never live with someone, for example, then we just don’t have to! I liked the idea of building something together, and just using the pieces that we both liked. Sometimes what society tells us we should want and what we actually want are not the same. I love that polyamory has taught me to look under the want to find the true need.

And perhaps it is still true that a relationship could thrive despite certain incompatibilities. But I think I’m going to look more carefully at what those incompatibilities actually are in the future. Because I’m learning that some of them really do matter, whether you’re poly or not. Some incompatibilities will catch up with you in the end no matter what, and no other partner will be able to take enough pressure off the weak points if they’re in a load-bearing position.

What first drew me to polyamory is that it was about having multiple loving, intimate relationships at the same time.

I have a fairly low need for sex. Sensual touch is a whole different story. But I could be sexually monogamous, and have functionally mostly been so since I became poly five years ago.

What I cannot be, however, is emotionally monogamous.

I have always developed deep, emotional, romantic relationships which push the boundaries of what our culture labels as friendship. Relationships that really confused other people because they were so deeply emotional yet completely platonic. At first, I tried to put these relationships into the capital-R “Relationship” box because society said that you had two choices: friend or boy/girlfriend.

But now I’m learning that I don’t have to do that.

What was so toxic about monogamy was that these relationships were such a source of jealousy for anyone that I was dating at the time. The emotional bond was seen as a threat because under monogamy, the person you are dating is supposed to hold the #1 seat as far as emotional vulnerability and connection are concerned. People thought it meant I didn’t love them if I loved someone else, even if that person was never a sexual threat.

I came to poly with the understanding that I have room in my heart to love more than one person deeply. What I am discovering in polyamory, however, is that instead of being threatening, these deeply emotional relationships are actually often overlooked completely because they are not sexual. In my experience with polyamory, boundaries were set regarding communication about sexual partners. Even a one night stand or casual hook up would be discussed either when it was planned or as soon as possible after it happened if it was unplanned. And emotions that developed from a sexual connection were discussed. But there was no agreement about discussing emotional connection in non-sexual relationships.

And I understand that emotions are much more nebulous and hard to define than what body parts are going where and STI status and the like. But it still felt to me like there was a gap. There wasn’t an agreement to discuss the people who are emotionally important to us. There wasn’t a space to discuss emotional partners or to integrate them into my poly identity and to really count them as partners (and metamours to anyone I was in a sexual relationship with). They were invisible.

And I think this silence and this gap lead to me discounting my own internal experience of these relationships in a way. It’s only now that I’m really understanding that relationship anarchy makes so much more sense to me than the style of poly I’ve been inhabiting. I don’t want to be in a relationship with someone who thinks that sexual relationships are inherently more intimate or important than non-sexual ones. I don’t want to be in a relationship with someone who conflates sex and intimacy or who discounts the importance of my friendships to me. Because odds are I’m not going to have more than two concurrent sexual connections at any time, but that doesn’t mean that I don’t have people in my life that I value and take into account.

I think solo poly and relationship anarchy can overlap for sure. But the style of polyamory I was in was implicitly privileging the sexual/non-sexual hierarchy of relationships in a way that turned out to be toxic for me. I wasn’t valuing my emotional relationships any less than my sexual ones, but perhaps my sexual partners were. I want to be able to talk to the person I love about all the people who are important to me. Why shouldn’t we talk about our best friends? Why are friends with benefits more important than our chosen family?

Sex was never why I wanted to become polyamorous in the first place. Orgasms are nice, but I can do that just fine on my own if I need to.

What I need and want way more than that is to be seen, really SEEN, and valued, and supported, and cherished for who I am. I need advice and mentorship. I need lots of cuddles and head pets. I need someone to listen to me. Someone invested in me being the best version of myself and in my having the kind of life I want for myself. Someone interested in helping facilitate that life with me. Someone who is willing and able to lean into the hard stuff and move through it with me. I want emotional intimacy, emotional support, love, and understanding from the people in my life. I need open communication and firm boundaries. I want someone who’s in it for the long haul.

And if I can have all of that and sex, too? So much the better.

But sex without emotional support holds no interest to me.

I’m an introvert, so I don’t have the emotional energy to balance much more than a handful of close relationships at a time. I want the people I love close to me. It’s so much more fulfilling for me to have a small amount of deep connections than a large amount of surface connections. But that means that when I invest in someone, I need for them to be investing back in similar ways. And it also means that the loss of one of those connections cuts deeply.

I want love, connection, and intimacy in all of my relationships. Sexual intimacy is a kind of intimacy, but there’s so much more to intimacy than that. I value the other parts of intimacy just as highly, if not more so. I think there’s something in my sexuality that enjoys feeling desired and like the other person can’t keep their hands off me, but I need someone in my life who won’t feel our emotional connection has changed just because sex is on or off the table for the moment. And I think putting sensual connection at the forefront might actually meet that need to feel desired better.

I value my autonomy. But that doesn’t mean I don’t need people or want them close to me. I want a poly family. That’s all I’ve ever wanted. I want a huge house with all the people I love inside it. And my own room. And the knowledge I could pay my own bills if I needed to. And maybe that’s not realistic. But I want to be with people who also want that, even if its not possible or especially practical.

I don’t think you have to mix your life up with someone to prove you care about them. I don’t think a relationship is any less valid because its members choose not to marry or co-habitate. But I do think the reasons behind why you are not choosing those things matter.

I don’t want being poly to mean that I overlook something that’s important to me or make excuses for someone’s behavior. I don’t want being poly to mean that I choose to settle for people who aren’t right for me. I want it to mean that I have more people that are just exactly right for me.

I want people in my life who will make space for me in theirs, whatever that looks like. It doesn’t have to look like what society tells us it looks like, but I do want committed, emotionally invested relationships. I don’t want to stay unmeshed just so there’s an easy escape route.

I want people in my life who want to spend the holidays with me, even if it doesn’t work out that way. Who won’t ever make me feel as if I have to hold back my emotions from them and who are able to hold space for those emotions. I want people who want me to talk to them, who want to know if I’m upset, who want all of me – even the broken parts.

I want people in my life who when I tell them that I have a queerplatonic life partner, know that is a very serious thing. Who value the people in my life who are important to me, regardless of whether that connection is sexual or not. I want people who want to be a part of this family I am building for myself.

I’m so used to dysfunctional relationship dynamics. There’s something about them that feels very normal and can blind me to how unhealthy they are. But I want a family that doesn’t feel like my family of origin. I want people who will be there for me when I need them and communicate with me honestly if they can’t. I want someone who calls me on my shit, but with empathy, not shame.

I don’t know what any of this makes me. But I do know that I have a home, and I love the people in it. And there’s room for you in my family if you want in.

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