I was recently asked to do a media interview about polyamory. This happens from time to time, and most of the questions I’m asked tend to be fairly predictable: How do you deal with jealousy? What do you tell your parents or your kids? Do you think polyamory is the next cultural revolution?
This interview was quite different, and one of the questions I was asked helped crystallize for me some of the guiding ideals about the relationships I choose.
The question concerned dealing with fears, and while I was answering it, it suddenly occurred to me: throughout my life, the relationships I have found most rewarding have been those that are guided toward something rather than away from something.
Many times, the things we hear discussed in the poly community are about things to avoid. How do we deal with jealousy? How do we avoid fear of abandonment? How can we steer clear of insecurity?
And often, the relationship agreements and structures we most hear talked about seem built on a foundation of moving away from these fears. It is common, for example, for people starting out in polyamorous relationships to create rules that reflect their fears: people who are afraid of sexual competition will often seek to limit the kinds of sex their partners can have, and people afraid of being alone may try to limit the time their partners can spend with others.
But looking back over my life, my relationships have always seemed happiest when my partners and I are moving toward something: when we seek out relationships or build our structures not to avoid things we’re afraid of, but to move toward that which enriches our lives.
I have, as I’ve said before, simple tastes. I find strong-willed, smart, determined, educated, self-confident women irresistible. I look for partnerships that make me a better version of myself, ones that broaden my horizons, teach me new skills—partnerships where my partners and I can create together. I am drawn toward relationships that offer to expand my horizons, rather than relationships that help me escape my fears.
One of my partners recently talked to me about a bad relationship experience she had had, and how coming out of that experience changed something in her so that she is no longer driven by a fear of being alone. “Isn’t it amazing?” she said. “Isn’t it incredible to be able to go into relationships without having them shaped by fear? I want to tell everyone!”
When our relationships are built on keeping away from our fears, it distorts the shape of those relationships. It limits the form they can take. We end up with structures that reflect the worst parts of ourselves, not the best.
Subconsciously, I think I have always looked for relationships where I’m moving toward a better version of myself, even if that path has taken me closer to the places where my fears live. It’s an approach that requires courage, but I can’t imagine building relationships any other way.