When folks ask about large scale changes in the dynamics of my polycule, often its simply interest in my personal life, because the asker is someone I’m close to. Often is curiosity, humans lives are interesting and how we relate to others is one of the most interesting aspects of them. I’m a nosy little fuck, so I completely understand why someone would want to know details of my personal life to satisfy their own curiosity. Sometimes though, especially with large changes that face a certain amount of societal judgement, it is hard not to feel as though someone is asking so they can pass their own judgement on a person, usually not positive.
This is something I encounter more these days as a relationship anarchist. My dynamics are tailored to fit what both individuals in them want and need at the time, and are fluid, so they can shift as our needs change. This has served to create great dynamics with a much higher degree of comfort and intimacy, because we can establish trust that we truly respect and nurture each others needs and wants. It has also served to create greater longevity, because needing to change the structure of a dynamic does not as often necessitate that it end, simply that it change shape.
When Kelev confronted me with his decision to move out, that was a moment that may have well shattered many typical monogamous or relationship escalator based mono or polya dynamics. In fact, despite us practicing relationship anarchy and having been fluid in the past about -big- things, such as sleeping arrangements, relationship titles, kink dynamics, and room sharing, he was scared to bring it up. I had proved again and again in practice that I was more then happy to adapt to dynamic changes, and our emotional connection would endure and strengthen through them. But society is not as flexible, so even with years of past experience of me being understanding and adaptable, he had many more years of societal conditioning that this was something you are broken up with for. This is a thing that causes people to walk away, that will create enough anger for someone to cut you out of their life, etc. When he expressed the fear that I would do those things, I immediately supplied reassurance, but it was sadly not hard for me to see the origins of those fears. So many people are willing to toss a wonderfully functional healthy dynamic to the curb simply because it does not take the perfect shape they always dreamed of, or disappoints certain expectations. I support realizing what you do need to have a relationship be worth while and having boundaries for yourself of course. But with polya folks where often you do not live with -every single one- of your partners, there is still a large contingent who would end things if a nesting partner suddenly stopped nesting, because they center their needs for that relationship in particular, over their connection with the person. They would rather attach themselves to the role they fit that person into, than attach to the person themselves in a way that allows people to grow and change while maintaining intimacy. So even within a very fluid and adaptable dynamic, there is still sometimes fear of judgement.
It isn’t surprising then, that when people ask about those kind of large scale changes, the sort that often spell doom in society’s rigid relationship structures, I wonder how what I say will be twisted around into a negative judgement. When I told my parents about his decision, I did so with considerable apprehension, ready to leap to his defense. I knew his decision was not a betrayal, it was not a reflection of any damage or cracks in our relationship, but I also was prepared for it to be seen that way and to fight those assumptions off. I was waiting for them to suddenly see him as less of a partner, and terrified they would treat him as such, especially knowing how much their love and acceptance has always meant to him. I felt like I had to balance my words just right, find the exact placement for them when giving my explanations, so that the message could be conveyed with absolute understanding.
I suppose what it came down to was, our relationship was not existing in a vacuum between the two of us. We had built a beautiful dynamic from the ground up, tossing off societal norms and deciding to love each other completely without rigid rules and structure and expectations that would stifle our growth. We wanted to be able to change and grow as individuals, have fluctuating needs in the moment, and enhance our intimacy by embracing that in each other and providing support and companionship through those changes. But other people in our lives related to our relationship, they had ties of love and family and friendship to our dynamic as well as to us as individuals. So, while we had dropped the silly notion that society should tell us certain changes should feel like our relationship was less strong or one had committed a betrayal, they may not have done that emotional work and might feel for us, something we had decided made no sense for us to feel. You see this often with polyamorous people just coming out. Their friends decide to feel righteous anger and indignation for them, for their spouse cheating on them, despite the couple having done the emotional work to detach feelings of betrayal from the idea of sexual or romantic fidelity.
This all results in a feeling I’ve had with big relationship shifts, like deciding to un-title things, deciding not to cohabitate, deciding to have a platonic dynamic, that I must justify and defend these choices to people in my life so that my partner is not judged harshly for them. Or at times, so that I am not. Sometimes it is a matter of finding reasons that allow it to be understandable or forgivable to people who do not relationship the way we do. Sometimes there are no explanations that would fit into societal norms, so that isn’t possible. When that is the case, what I really am asking of people is that they do the emotional work we have done, not nearly to the same extent, but enough so to look upon us favorably for the love and intimacy we share, instead of condemning one or the other or both partners for violating a societal taboo of what happily-ever-after must look like. It is their right to choose not to do that work and pass judgement instead, but I always hope that won’t be the case. Because if you do bend your mind to step into our wonderful fluid polyamorous or relationship anarchist world for a moment, you will find not only the relief of not having to judge harshly the “betrayals” that are hurting no one, but you may also get to enjoy some of the beautiful growth and personal discovery that makes this life worthwhile for us.