Almost 13 years ago, when I started to explore my own sexuality and thus part of my identity, I outed myself for the first time in my life in front of friends as a queer (better then still as a lesbian). Outing yourself to people who have known you for a long time and assume that you live an unspoken heterosexuality can be difficult under certain circumstances. At that time, some were irritated, others seemed disinterested and yet others did not want to hug me for a while – there was the fear that I could suddenly fall in love with all the female appearing people on the planet.
After the first outing it became easier and easier from time to time and due to the increasing visibility in the society, an open queer life, at least from a legal perspective, has become less of an obstacle in Germany, although there is still a lot of homophobia and devaluation of queers in society. Nobody ever asked me the question “Are you sure you want to be a lesbian” and even if these people mistakenly saw queerness as a “disease”, they at least acknowledged that sexuality is not a question of choice. So most of the people I met did not feel their own sexuality questioned by a coming out of friends or acquaintances.
With relationship constructs I experienced it differently. As a polyamorous person who is involved in two relationships at the same time, I have had to experience that my outing is questioned more often than I would like.
Polyamorie is composed of the Greek word polýs “many, several” and the Latin word amor “love”. Sexual desire does not necessarily play a role here, it is all about loving several people at the same time. The concept has been around for a very long time, but it is only since around 1960 that people have been networking, exchanging experiences and supporting each other. Since the book The Ethical Slut) was first published in 1997, the concept of polyamory has become more and more well-known – the book first falls into the hands of many people who start to deal with the subject.
MAKING ROOM FOR NEW IDEAS
Through my poly existence, many people feel challenged in their own way of being involved in relationships. From curiosity, rejection and incomprehension to pathetic arguments for monogamous relationships, I have already encountered everything. In 13 years of outing it is no novelty for me that people react with rejection or curiosity. Apart from that, I am a Cis-woman with a Jewish migration history, so it is no novelty for me to be confronted with Antisemitism and/or sexism. What is new is the justification. I’ve never had to justify who I fall in love with or with whom I want to have a relationship with.
Until recently I do.
Most people find it difficult to understand how I can love several people at once. There are already as many vivid examples in our everyday life of how this is possible without problems. I like the comparison with children best. If you imagine having a child and later a second or third, do you love the latter less because they were born later? There you go and what about friends? Many of us certainly know the feeling that there are several people in our lives who are important to us and whom we love at the same time. Then why is it so difficult for us to understand other forms of relationships as non-exclusive?
It took me a long time to let go of certain ideas about how relationships should be or how people should behave in relationships. It took me a long time to convince myself that it is perfectly okay and not wrong for me to be attracted to so many different people, regardless of the relationships I am in. For a long time I was ashamed of it and looked for the problem in my former relationship until my partner took the first step and told me about her desires for other people. That hit me pretty hard. After all, I was the one who tried to suppress and overcome all these thoughts and needs with the greatest tenacity. I have also mourned a lot and sometimes still mourn fantasies and ideas that had to give way to new fantasies and ideas. I had to part with some thoughts because I didn’t want them anymore.
It is difficult to overcome 26 years of socialisation.
While most of my life I have been confronted with the fact that jealousy is a sign of affection, affection for people outside of a romantic twosome betrayal, and the search for the one soul mate is the greatest goal in life, I am now busy letting go of all these thoughts and getting rid of them. It helped me to find role models and to read and hear about functioning poly relationships. The blog morethantwo.com was one of the first I stumbled upon and much of it had a lasting influence on me. I can also highly recommend the book “Love In Abundance: A Counselor’s Advice On Open Relationships” by Kathy Labriola and especially the page lifeontheswingset.com. I always try to search for German pages, but unfortunately there is still a lot more material in English.
“I COULDN’T DO THAT”
I think there’s nothing wrong with a relationship between two people. My impression is only that when it comes to desires and yearners, in relation to all other people outside a relationship of two, honesty is not particularly appreciated. Honesty can hurt and it can be especially hard when you know that the other person(s) will find it difficult, but it is also the cornerstone of any relationship. Closed relationships can be as good as polyamorous relationships, it’s not about the concept. Rather, it is about the people who fill the concept and shape the relationships they want to live. Now I want to have two relationships, with two wonderful people, but I can’t say for sure that’s what I want for the rest of my life. My needs are in a constant process of change and as long as I feel the openness to express them, I don’t care what kind of relationship it is.
Every time I oute as a poly, the process of change that I go through outshines itself with me. I am unfortunately not an expert on open relationships, and yet I am often seen as a representative of an entire concept, while I am still exploring myself. There were few or no role models in my environment when it came to finding functioning polyamorous relationships that could tell me about their experiences. Finding oneself and redefining everything was therefore the hardest part. When I tell people about my constellation, the focus of the conversation is usually on their curiosity and prejudice, usually introduced with the sentence “I couldn’t do that”.
It’s almost as if someone would hold out a mirror to me and I would play through my own process of change again, from start to finish. I like to talk to people about what it means to have multiple relationships at the same time and I like to be there with them to examine their ideas of relationships and critically question what they really like about them. At the same time, I feel under pressure to be chosen as a model for a functioning polyamorous relationship.
MANY PROBLEMS AND CONFLICTS ARE THE SAME
AS IN MONOGAMOUS RELATIONSHIPS
If I “fail” as an individual in my relationships, then the role model function and a positive image of polyamory fails with me to some extent. The whole concept is tied to a single relationship and when the relationship comes to an end, polyamory goes with it, because there can be no other reason for a relationship to come to an end. All negative developments are associated with the relationship concept and not with the individuals behind it. This is problematic.
Of course, there can be things that are particularly pronounced in poly-relationships, such as honest communication of needs, because desires are revealed, do not have to be concealed and are not labelled as fraud or betrayal. But many problems and conflicts are exactly the same that people experience in monogamous relationships. It’s also about honesty, having time for each other, jealousy and different needs. For example, I am a person who rarely wants to sleep alone. My relationships, on the other hand, need more time for themselves and time alone in their bed.
Whether relationships between people hold or not depends on the people who fill the relationships, not on the form of the relationship.
That’s why outing as a polyamorous person is so important: people feel quickly attacked by my way of having relationships because they often believe that my outing is a kind of manifesto or criticism of monogamous relationships. I don’t care what kind of relationships people have as long as they are satisfied and honest with themselves. The feeling of being offended makes people think, because it is obviously an issue that occupies them in some way. It can contribute to honest and critical questioning of one’s own needs and open relationships are no longer a taboo topic in relationships. Ultimately, I believe that every outing is important because it shakes up the unquestioned norm of relationships between two people and thus creates greater visibility for all forms of love and relationships.
First published by “kleinerdrei” on 01.02.2017: http://kleinerdrei.org/2017/02/polyamorie-und-outing-wieso-ist-das-wichtig/