Polyamory and Guilt

Businessman Thinking on StepsI had forgotten until recently that guilt is probably something experienced by most polyamorous people as they navigate their needs and desires in our culture of couples.

When I first opened the long-term relationship I was in in 2007, I often felt guilty for wanting to be with anyone other than the amazing person that I was with. This was someone I loved deeply, someone I wanted to marry some day, someone who would do anything for me and who I would do anything for. No one could ask for a better partner. How could I do this? How could I be so greedy as to want more?

The guilt ebbed and flowed depending on what was happening in the relationship. When my partners were getting along, teasing me together, and friends began inviting all three of us to parties as a unit, the guilt was gone. Whenever tensions arose because of my “other significant other”, though, it came crashing back. How dare I bring such difficulty to what was otherwise a happy, perfect relationship? Why couldn’t I just be satisfied with the one perfect partner I’d found and loved for so many years? Was I a bad person?

This struggle is one that I haven’t had to deal with since that relationship ended in 2010. Once I was more or less “single”, I began making it clear to romantic interests that I was polyamorous, and I haven’t experienced that brand of guilt since. My loves know that this is who I am, and if they choose to become involved with me, they understand what it entails. No friendship or relationship of mine has been threatened for three years by polyamory, and that’s been nice.

But that doesn’t mean it’s over for other people. That doesn’t mean that there aren’t people out there who haven’t been exposed to the concept of polyamory, and are fighting those thoughts of whether they’re a bad person or not, wondering why their love for the person they’re with doesn’t put blinders on to all other potential lovers. Perhaps they are even hoping and praying that they can stop seeing other people in such betraying ways to their existing relationship. Perhaps they worry that they can never marry since they’ll always have a “wandering eye.” Perhaps they think their life is and will always be unfulfilling, because they never seem to be able to experience love the way we’re all told we are supposed to: all-engrossing, all-encompassing, and making you want to just give yourself entirely to the object of your affections.

MP900314150I’m writing this post to say, no. No, you are not bad people. You love love, and love is a beautiful thing that is meant to bring happiness. Don’t let it bring you sadness. Embrace your love for love, celebrate it honestly and openly; you are NOT doing it wrong. Let people know who you are and what you are feeling. You will bump into other people like you, but you are more likely to find them if you are open about what’s on your mind, because they’ll hear you speaking their language.

Love feels good. Go out there and love as much and as deeply as you want. The world is full of people who need love, and it doesn’t make any sense for someone who has a lot to give to be holding it back and feeling guilty about it.

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14 Comments

  1. Shannon,

    Wonderful post & perspective from the polyamorous side! If I may, I too wrote about loving more (whether polyamorously or not) in my post: Dare To Love…More! Naturally, we both see eye-to-eye on many things.

    In my humble opinion, that guilt stems from deep long socio-religious traditions and “Thou shall not worship any other…. but me!” system. Or from the medieval feudal system of propriety and perceived protection of ‘property’ — all antiquated systems now but seemingly still rooted in our generational DNA.

    One misnomer non-poly’s often have is that the lifestyle is a sexual free-for-all never-ending buffet; something that is clearly humanly impossible. 🙂

    Reply
    • I remember reading that post of yours. 🙂 I also completely agree with you on the idea that this all stems from social conditioning. It took a lot, and I mean a LOT of work to remember that I wasn’t a bad person when I was going through discovering this side of myself. It’s so hard when so many people could look at it and say, “Well, sure, you’re having these doubts because it’s true; you don’t know a good thing when you’ve got one, you want too much, you’re greedy, etc. etc.”

      But it isn’t true. I knew I had a good thing, and I was willing to make sacrifices to figure out how everyone involved could be happy. I hope other people know this about themselves, as well.

      Reply
      • You are exactly right: “…you don’t know a good thing when you’ve got one, you want too much, you’re greedy….” Ooooo, that mentality makes my skin crawl. They’re presuming that the relationship(s) are only 1-sided, and that all affection, attention, love, etc, goes 1-way = to me/self! Could that be ANY FURTHER from the truth & reality!!!!!? I have JUST AS MUCH if not more love, affection, attention, et al, to give that it could very well be a FLOOD 1-way! On those good days & perhaps bad days to be real. But WHY, why, why is always about what SELF gets or doesn’t get!? Why can’t it be giving!?

        Are you hearing me raise my voice with each sentence…to a cresendo-ing scream? LOL

      • Totally, hah. And it’s completely justified.

  2. My wife (same-sex marriage was briefly legal in CA prior to Prop 8) and I were together for almost 17 years when we decided to open things up. She ended up leaving me for a woman we’d been open with, who happened to be married to a man. And she felt terribly guilty for it, apologized over and over because “it wasn’t supposed to happen this way.” But I always knew it was a risk and although it hurt to lose her, I didn’t hold it against her. In fact, I spent a lot of time defending her and her new poly relationship to friends who were all scandalized by it. My Ex and her partners are still together and still happy; so although things didn’t work for us, I still believe poly relationships work and that love doesn’t have to be limited to two. And that no one should feel guilty because they’ve got enough love for more than one person.

    Reply
    • Thanks, Pucker Up (LOVE your blog, btw). It’s nice to hear that from someone who most people would say got the “raw end” of the deal in a polyamorous situation. I’ve met people who bitterly say things like, “oh, I was with this person, and then they started spouting some bull about being polyamorous and I knew it was time to get out.” Of course, I don’t know the details of those situations, but it’s refreshing to hear from someone who isn’t bitter.

      Reply
  3. Clint McPhee

     /  June 4, 2014

    What a steaming pile. A “wandering eye?” Come on! Get real. Why is the overwhelming percentage of society monogamous?

    How about “having your cake and eating it too-morous”

    I don’t want to judge others for who they are and what they do. But come on, what a pathetic diatribe. Let’s apply Occams Razor: Guilt perhaps is telling you that you are violating your conscience? Now THAT seems logical.

    As a man who has been married for 15 years only to have my wife discover that she is poly, let me tell you it has completely destroyed my life. I am on depression and anxiety meds because of my wife’s wanting to spread the love.

    I call balderdash!!!!!

    Reply
    • Hannah

       /  June 18, 2014

      Oh dear, you’re bitter. And I suppose that’s fair enough but you’re also wrong. Occams Razor is a logic trick and love isn’t logical.
      Why SHOULDN’T people have their cake and eat it? Why is denial a positive? Monogomy is a habit of society but that doesn’t make it right or the only way.

      If you don’t want to judge people, don’t. I’m sorry you’ve had a bad time, but that’s not a reason to take it out on everyone else.

      I call ‘selfish little man’.

      Reply
  4. Alicia

     /  August 17, 2014

    Such a helpful reminder!

    Recently started dating a monogamous woman, and already the conversation of poly vs mono has come up a TON and it’s clear we are not on the same page there . . . But we have decided to enjoy each other anyway for a short time. Already making plans to ease out of the emotional intensity because we’re aware that at our cores, there is not long-term potential. (Amazing communication style compatibility however, which is so crucial for ANY relationship).

    In just a few short weeks with this wonderful woman, I have found myself wondering: *could* I be monogamous? *could* I only be with one person for the rest of my life? Is there something wrong with me that just the thought scares me, stifles me, and stresses me out? Should I try to do it?

    … And I get a sinking feeling of sadness.

    After 10 years of understanding that I am polyamorous, it’s amazing how easily I can still allow that guilt to sink in when I step outside of my supportive poly network of friends to explore a romantic dynamic with a different kind of person.

    Though, all in all, the fact that I have grown to a place where I am willing and able to open myself so deeply to someone in such a short time, for me, is exactly what being poly is all about. Loving deep, loving hard, and loving often…. Letting the beautiful tenderness from the center of my being flow freely. . . And I welcome all of the emotional vulnerability and growth on the horizon to come.

    So glad to have discovered your blog this week. Thanks for your words.

    Reply
  5. Ms. Miriam

     /  March 2, 2015

    Hey there–
    I was just meandering around the Web and stumbled on this post. I’m in a new so-far-monogamous relationship but have always had hints and niggles in the back of my mind about maybe being poly. I talked about this some to my GF, and it upset her. I understand that it upset her, I understand why. That’s not the question. The question is: “should I feel guilty for even having brought it up?”

    Reply
    • No; I don’t think anyone should feel guilty for being honest. Part of being in a relationship is navigating things that can be upsetting as people get to know one another. The most important things now are how both of your emotions are handled, how well you listen to each other, and that you decide together what to do with this information.

      Reply
      • Ms. Miriam

         /  March 5, 2015

        Thanks for the reassuring reply. I’m just so new to even the idea of polyamory! The GF and I have talked a lot about this and I think we’ll be fine. I reassured her that I wasn’t going to do anything of the sort without her consent, and I won’t. Interestingly, though, she’s fine with my going ahead and *thinking* about it–reading and learning about it. Anyway, thank you! 🙂

  6. Idol-ish

     /  August 18, 2015

    I feel like I am being forced into being polyamorous simply to deal with the harsh reality that I can’t trust any ladies anymore because my exes all cheated on me. I am totally nauseated by this endeavor and it doesn’t feel right, seemingly NOT because it is some social moray or some biological delivery of old social conditioning. I want to be monogamous because I want to be in love. I don’t feel they can be separated and trying to have two girlfriends, after several years being out of all sexual relations, is making me physically/emotionally ill. I think it is because of the pain such actions has caused me when cheated on. Any advice?

    Reply

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