It sometimes feels as though these days there are more varieties of non-monogamy than flavors of ice cream in a Ben and Jerrys kiosk.
A common analogy is to talk about polyamory as being the cutting of a cake into some additional parts. The thing is, I don’t think that people are anything like cakes, and therefore relationships and the way that people are in relationships are not anything like cakes either. For me, they are more like roast dinners.
Roast dinners are great – they are more than the sum of their parts. Some of the parts, like the gravy, are super delicious (but have you noticed how you always want just a little more than there is on the plate?), and other parts are less exciting – like the broccoli, but still very enjoyable as part of a full meal (and you get the satisfaction of knowing that you are doing yourself a bit of good and giving yourself some more healthy years).
Now imagine splitting up a plate of roast dinner between multiple people. It doesn’t really work, does it? I suppose you could split out EVERY SINGLE component, but not only would that be very tricky and take lots of careful spooning and double checking that everything was split equally, but the portions might end up a bit meagre (think peas that you can count on your fingers).
So, how about one person gets the beef and another person gets the carrots? But isn’t that a bit unfair? Ok, you got me there. Well, maybe we’ll do it that way this week and swap next week, so that everyone gets a turn with the beef and everyone gets a turn with the carrots?
The thing is, once the roast dinner has been broken apart, so much and for so long, it’s not quite the same. The beef (think long mornings in bed on the weekends) are all the better for the carrots (think partner’s work function), and vice versa. When they can’t be enjoyed together, or in close proximity, they are not quite as satisfying.
For me, entangled and co-dependent relationships are multi-faceted, with sexy parts and sensible parts, happy parts and testing parts, passion, logistics, caring, respect, support, duty, desire, love… I could go on. There is a LOT going on. For me, relationships are like roast dinners, not cakes, and I do not see a good way to break the roast dinner apart and share it out among different individuals without spoiling the thing that I liked about it in the first place.
I like that the roast dinner is filling – in fact, it is all I really need if it comes to it (though of course, dessert is nice, when available). It’s tasty and satisfies my cravings, but it also keeps me nourished and does me some good. If I had to break apart my roast dinner because there were more people at the table, well… I might have cooked something entirely different in the first place, had I known. If I know I have a roast dinner in the oven, and I’m offered a roast dinner elsewhere, I will decline. Their roast dinner smells amazing and I’m sure it tastes great, but the fact is that I just don’t have the bandwidth for two. This is how I would feel about adding a second primary partner, or otherwise developing another serious relationship.
Let’s talk about appetizers. They are tasty and in my opinion, all the more enjoyable for their bite-sized quality. I can order starter courses that fall outside of my comfort zone because I know that I don’t have to eat too much of it, and I do love to try new things. And dessert – well, what a delicious treat that I savour each bite of, even if not every single day (and only when I’m not too full from dinner). If a starter arrived bigger than I thought, I’d worry a little about not leaving room for main course. And a too-big dessert could leave me feeling a little lethargic and sleepy. This is how I feel about spending time with other partners.
Things could be different. For example, if I’d decided to have only tapas for ever. With tapas, no one plate is bigger than any other. I love tapas and have enjoyed it many times. If you told me that I HAD to eat three plates, then I would choose tapas and enjoy it! But, I have now chosen roast dinner, and I’m super happy with my choice. I get that there’s a lot of people out there who can eat multiple roast dinners, and good for them! But me personally, I can’t. Some people are more than willing to split their roast dinner into much smaller portions to share with others. And that’s cool, but it’s also cool that I don’t want to.
I should say that I have tried being poly-romantic, a couple of times. On each occasion, I felt as though I was somewhat untethered, journeying to a destination as opposed to having arrived at it. It felt like a decision-making stage and a self-searching stage, not a status quo. It felt temporary. It felt confusing, it felt too much. Did I mention it felt kind of emotionally draining? It felt like the waiter was giving me two plates of food, and both were great, but I knew that I could only handle the one. I managed to get myself to believe that I could handle both for a while, and if they had each been different in size and scope then maybe I could have. But the thing is, I really am a sucker for the big meaty entrees that fill me up for the whole day. So I have decided to give in to my passion. But no second plate please – I’ll never have any room for petit fours otherwise.