Why and how did you get into poly?

What type of poly origin did you have?

  • I've always had poly tendencies and never really took to monogamy

    Votes: 42 12.5%
  • I've always had poly tendencies and tried to be monogamous before

    Votes: 119 35.5%
  • I fell in love with a poly person and have adapted to the lifestyle

    Votes: 51 15.2%
  • I read or heard about someone else's poly experiences and thought it could work for me

    Votes: 42 12.5%
  • Other

    Votes: 81 24.2%

  • Total voters
    335
I've given the smart ass response "because that's how we roll" to people before. But usually I tailor my response to the person I'm explaining it to. I'll get into as much detail or explanation as people want. I found most people are just confused and unaware that polyamory can even work. I've recently been more "out" to coworkers and friends and they've got lots of questions.

"you're still with your husband?"
me: "yes"
"and you have a boyfriend?"
me: "yes"
"and they both know about each other?"
me: "yes"
"how does that work?"
 
The answer depends on your own personal reasons. Some people are poly first, and find multiple relationships as a consequence. Others happen to find multiple relationships, and so realize they can be poly.

Me, I'm poly first. It took me years of not looking to actually find an additional relationship that was worth my time and effort.

So my answer is "Because I can't stand to cut off my options for no good reason."
 
This discussion has been of particular interest to me of late.

As long as we are using monogamy to mean: romantic exclusivity (sexual and emotional), I disagree that monogamy does not preclude autonomy.

At the heart of this relationship structure is the prohibiting of freedom to act. "If you want to be in a relationship with me you may not have sex with or fall in love with anyone but me". This denies autonomy right out of the gate.

There's a difference between "you may not have sex with or fall in love with anyone but me" and "I choose to have relationships with only those people who have chosen monogamy." The latter in no way precludes autonomy. It's just a statement of the kind of relationships that person is willing to form. If two people are seeking monogamy, and both willingly, voluntarily, and wholeheartedly agree to be monogamous, in what way are they limiting one another's autonomy?

An agreement is a choice. You can choose not to agree. Autonomy is nothing but the ability to make a choice. If you go around telling people that they cannot choose monogamy, are you not denying their autonomy? And by extension, denying the autonomy of those who choose to have relationships with others who choose monogamy?

In essence, what you're saying is that no one may choose to have a monogamous relationship. So much for autonomy.
 
As long as we are using monogamy to mean: romantic exclusivity (sexual and emotional), I disagree that monogamy does not preclude autonomy.
I did not say that monogamy does not preclude autonomy. I said it does not necessarily preclude autonomy. Losing or giving up one's autonomy is not an across-the-board requirement of all monogamous relationships. How could it be? There are many flavors of monogamy, because individuals are involved - why do poly people think they are the only ones with variety?

Any relationship configuration is going to depend on the people involved. Yes, many people do make demands on their partner to be exclusive; and yet for others, both partners willingly and happily embrace, invite, and accept exclusivity. Still, exclusivity does not negate a person's autonomy. An individual can be autonomous, be their own person, have the freedom to express their individuality, live life in their own way AND YET happily choose to be monogamous. There is no rule that these things have to be abandoned to be monogamous.

Personally, I've had many monogamous relationships where I did not give up my autonomy, and I have observed the same in many other monogamous couples where they were loving, mutually supportive, and free to express who they were. It's a shame that so many poly people don't seem to have observed much of that, or do they just refuse to see it? ( <-- more likely) Monogamy and polyamory are just relationship structures, neither of which is the be-all-and-end-all key to happiness. Happiness and autonomy can be had in nearly any relationship configuration - it's the person who makes the difference, not how many people they love or have sex with that determines how much personal power they retain, own, express, etc.

Sure, a monogamous relationship can be fucked up and the people in it utterly co-dependent, but that can happen in polyamory, too. Polyamory does not necessarily encourage autonomy just as monogamy does not necessarily prevent it. Your relationships are what you make of them, not what the structure and dogma of a particular culture make of them.
 
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Your relationships are what you make of them, not what the structure and dogma of a particular culture make of them.

I think you've hit the nail on the head here. When I talk to my confidante about my choices and my reasons she often makes the same argument as above - her marriage is a monogamous agreement that both partners made willingly and she does not feel limited in her freedom in any way.

Enter "culture". Yes, a pair of people can make a choice to be monogamous and this can be done with out feeling like it is a restriction to their freedom BUT renegotiating that agreement can be a sticky, tricky endeavor in the context of our culture. Asking for more freedom at a later date is often seen as bad form. You made a "promise", we "agreed". Monogamous marriage is seen by many as a worthy goal and deviating from that norm is not easy in a culture that regards the couple so highly. So I think the most important ideal to remember is choice - and negotiations need to be made in the context of the present moment, not the context of some historical moment in time that no longer exists. Does the monogamous agreement made allow for that or not?
 
When I mentioned culture, I wasn't thinking of the larger Western culture where monogamy is expected and the norm. A culture is any group that has certain requirements or expectations to meet in order to fit in, and anyone who wants to fit into that culture must agree to those requirements or be considered an outsider or oddball. I was actually thinking of the culture that many polyfolk have created, where there is a often a lot of dogma about how to properly be poly, and which teaches that monogamy is automatically less evolved, a prison, lacking in autonomy, etc. Any culture can oppress us with demands to fit in, even a poly culture (which is mostly why I tend to avoid people who are part of the poly community and prefer to just meet people and see where they stand on exclusivity) but we have to find our own paths to creating what we want and how to be happy in life. I have nothing against monogamy per se. While I want to and prefer to practice polyamory, I don't feel a need to see people who embrace monogamy as weaker, stupid, or unenlightened, as so many poly hardliners do. With the right person and circumstance, I could easily and happily agree to a monogamous relationship again. My self-fulfillment is not dependent upon a relationship structure; it depends on me, how I choose to engage with my life, and what I bring to relationships.
 
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So, I'm pretty open about my life. Lately I've found myself among inquisitive and sceptical people a lot, and the question that keeps popping up is

"Why?"

Why do I want to live my life this way?

With my friends I have long and thoughtful discussions about how it all came to this point and what I feel about the pros and cons etc. To annoying guys in bars I simply say " because I can" and start a conversation with someone else. But I guess I'm looking for a simple one-or-two sentence answer that is not too flippant and yet not too complicated ... and I haven't come up with it yet.

What would you say if you had to answer the 'poly? why?' question?

That's great nycindie, but this is a thread about responding to the larger "western culture"'s skepticism toward a different way of relating. Or maybe I'm mistaken. I think it's worth pointing out how the context of our culture plays into our ability to practice autonomous living. You sound like you've found a way around that - good for you. I aspire to the same. I respect my confidant in a monogamous relationship for her choices and she respects me for mine and I never forget that my perceptions are based largely on my own (relatively) narrow experiences. "Never say 'never'" as they say..
 
That's great nycindie, but this is a thread about responding to the larger "western culture"'s skepticism toward a different way of relating. Or maybe I'm mistaken.
I don't know why, but it seems you are arguing with me. Are you telling me I am going off-topic? You needn't remind me what this thread is about. I read it, too, and tangents are allowed on these forums. This thread was simply started to ask how people reply to the question "Why poly?" and I chose to respond to specific posts that made blanket statements about monogamy and I am simply saying that you can't make those blanket statements that monogamous relationships automatically equal possessiveness and having no autonomy. The idea that monogamy precludes autonomy is not a given, it's just an opinion. And polyamory doesn't automatically equal progressive and enlightened. People are people and you get whatever you get in relationships depending on the people involved, not necessarily the structure.

I think it's worth pointing out how the context of our culture plays into our ability to practice autonomous living.
What is worth it? What's your point?
You sound like you've found a way around that - good for you. I aspire to the same. I respect my confidant in a monogamous relationship for her choices and she respects me for mine and I never forget that my perceptions are based largely on my own (relatively) narrow experiences. "Never say 'never'" as they say..
I haven't found a way around anything. That implies some kind of struggle. I have mostly been monogamous in my whole relationship life, and except for a period when I was young and still figuring out who I was, I never felt a lack of autonomy. If I lost myself, it was due to choices I made; it wasn't forced onme because I was monogamous. And perhaps because I spent a good number of years hanging out with people who were into self-awareness and inquiry, I have been fortunate to know many folks who were monogamous and did not give up autonomy to be so. We all make choices and when we accept responsibility for our own actions, we are expressing our autonomy.

I just don't understand why some people get so up in arms about blaming either monogamy or polyamory for whether or not a person has, nurtures, or achieves autonomy in their personal relationships. There are some pretty fucked-up, oppressive, codependent polyamorists out there and some very cool, nurturing, and enlightened monogamists. Autonomy, independence, and fulfillment are things a person creates and cultivates for themselves in relationships. Why associate whether a person experiences personal autonomy on their relationship configuration?

The word autonomy means "one who gives oneself their own law." That can happen within monogamous relationships, of course!
 
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Yeah, I guess I thought we were just fleshing out our ideas about things. Sorry you felt like I was picking a fight with you.
 
When I mentioned culture, I was actually thinking of the culture that many polyfolk have created, where there is a often a lot of dogma about how to properly be poly, and which teaches that monogamy is automatically less evolved, a prison, lacking in autonomy, etc. ... While I want to and prefer to practice polyamory, I don't feel a need to see people who embrace monogamy as weaker, stupid, or unenlightened, as so many poly hardliners do.

So maybe we have two things going on here, Marcus has brought in a hard-line approach that you're responding to, and I misinterpreted that as a response to the original question of the thread. Honestly, I thought you hit on something worth pointing out. Maybe you haven't struggled with cultural norms but I have and cultural conditioning exists in my view. No disrespect meant. Do you think I am a poly-hardliner? or someone who thinks less of monogamy-oriented couples?
 
Suffice it to say mainstream society does have a bias in favor of monogamy, which can exert pressure on some of us to be monogamous. "Well, I don't like monogamy ... so there must be something wrong with me ... so I'll just try to learn to be monogamous and accept it." If a person is influenced by mainstream society in that way, then they have compromised a bit of their autonomy.

At the same time, it's a fallacy (I think) for a polyamorist to think, "I belong to a superior society (the 'polyamorous community'), and anyone who practices monogamy is a slave and/or a slave-owner." Some monogamists may have been pressured into monogamy which puts a ding in their autonomy, but other monogamists have chosen to be monogamous quite on their own free will, and thus their autonomy remains intact.

I guess the point is that mainstream society's bias affects the percentage of monogamists who have a ding in their autonomy, however it is not monogamy's fault per se that this ding occurs; rather it is the "fault" of the bias that mainstream society has. (That combined with the tendency some of us have to let mainstream society push us into things.)

Many polyamorists have also developed an "us versus them" mentality, and have reacted to the imbalance mainstream society contributed to by formulating their own "counter-imbalance" (namely, the idea that all monogamy is bad). "They say all polyamory is bad? Well, we say all monogamy is bad, so there!"

The solution, then, in my mind, is to try to practice more tolerance overall between the monogamous and polyamorous "groups." Just as we hope being "gay" or "straight" can be considered equally valid options, so it would be nice if everyone could think of "monogamous" and "polyamorous" as equally good options (assuming all else be equal).

Hope that wasn't too incoherent. :)
 
I also have to say that autonomy is not, in my opinion, the be-all-end-all goal it's being made out to be. I believe that certain social problems and societal needs outweigh the individual's so-called right to autonomy.

I personally like living in a taxed society. I like that I can get surgery without a huge hospital bill. I like that my roads are maintained, however poorly that may be at times. I like that if I lose my source of income, I won't be left out in the cold. All those things require that people give up some autonomy by paying taxes, thus removing their autonomy over the spending of every dollar they earn.

I like that I can walk in the streets with minimal worry that my head will be blown off, because the state has removed your autonomous right to kill me for looking at you funny.

I like that grown men can't autonomously choose to have sex with prepubescent girls.

Living in a society fundamentally requires giving up all kinds of autonomy. Likewise, having a harmonious relationship often requires voluntarily giving up certain kinds of autonomy that single people retain. No one forces you to get into a relationship or stay there, so even when you make an agreement that you're not entirely thrilled with, you have to admit that it's still an autonomous choice to make that agreement.
 
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Yes, technically we are all autonomous, even when we let ourselves get pressured into things. I guess you're a little less autonomous if you get hit in the head from behind and then lashed to a chair while you're unconscious. In just about every other kind of situation, though, there are always choices to be made.
 
Maybe you haven't struggled with cultural norms but I have and cultural conditioning exists in my view.

Of course cultural conditioning exists. The evidence seems to be that for social creatures like human beings, pressure to conform and be part of the group makes it hard for us. Have a read of Stanley Milgram's obedience to authority experiments and Phillip Zimbardo's Stanford prison experiment. People can be convinced - with very little prompting - to do things that they would normally find troubling.

Given that, it makes absolute sense that there is pressure to live the life that most people see as the 'correct' one in whatever society you live in. In the UK, this seems to be: Grow up, marry a single opposite sex partner, have kids and spend your life buying lots of stuff.

If you choose to any of that differently, then there is a ton of questioning from lots of people about why you would choose to do so.

I have found that the best answer is to say that the lifestyle I choose suits me, that I've thought about it and the possible long term consequences and that I still choose it because I believe that it allows me the most happiness and allows me to be better to be around for the people and animals close to me. Also - that I'm open to possibility that I may feel differently one day depending on what happens in my life. And to the possibility of feeling regret one day about the choices I make. I also tend to acknowledge that my life is not perfect - I don't think that anybody's is - but the lack of perfection in my life isn't a reason to think that I'm doing it wrong.

I believe that certain social problems and societal needs outweigh the individual's so-called right to autonomy.

I absolutely agree. Human beings are social creatures and that means that we need each other. In spite of what modern governments, mainstream psychology, the media and big business might have us believe, we should not aim to go around in a little self interested bubble.

Just because I choose not to have children doesn't mean that I should go around moaning about people who do having time off work for maternity leave or to care for sick kids. Instead, I should do what I can to help and support my colleagues in their life choices - and I do.

IP
 
While walking through a store one day, my wife's mother told her she had to choose between me and her bf...
My wife looked at her and simply said, J is happy, I'm happy, and S is happy, it works for us and no reason to choose one....
Made me proud of her saying that!
 
Gotta love that. "You need to choose." "Nope. No, actually I don't."
 
While walking through a store one day, my wife's mother told her she had to choose between me and her bf...
My wife looked at her and simply said, J is happy, I'm happy, and S is happy, it works for us and no reason to choose one....
Made me proud of her saying that!

Love this too :) This could quite as well have been posted to the "Poly Vignettes" thread.
 
No one forces you to get into a relationship or stay there, so even when you make an agreement that you're not entirely thrilled with, you have to admit that it's still an autonomous choice to make that agreement.

It's a shame that this conversation always leads to this point. I'm not sure I understand what is so controversial about saying that the structure of monogamy has one more rule about how partners are allowed to behave than polyamorous relationships. I also am unclear what coercion has to do with this conversation but it necessarily seems to devolve into that... "well no one is forcing you". It is true that life is made of decisions, one of those decisions is what kind of relationship type a person wants to be in... and?

I'm not sure why someone would need to force something for the statement that monogamy (sexual exclusivity as a dealbreaker) is more restrictive on a persons ability to live their life free of rule than polyamory (sexual and romantic exclusivity are not necessarily required). Just because of that one rule in monogamy that is not present in polyamory makes my statement necessarily true. How is what I just said "just an opinion"? Do I have the definition of these words wrong? "Well that's just an opinion" is not valid when what is being said is not a value judgment and is based on the facts available.

Further, the argument from intimidation that if someone makes a statement like this they have somehow fallen prey to an "us vs them" or an "I am more enlightened" mentality is beyond me. Having a reasonable discussion about the fundamental difference between monogamy and polyamory puts me among the unreasonable hardliners? I can't remember who said that one but I call bullshit.

BTW, SC I used your quote above but only as a starting place for the post. I realize I have not quoted you making any of the claims but coercion. Didn't want you to think I was putting words in your mouth "opinion" or arguments from intimidation.
 
In polyamory, people tend to have a maximum limit of partners, or a point at which they'll say, "Whew! I can't spread my time and energy any thinner." We all agree that love is an unlimited resource, but we admit that time and energy have their limits.

Some may be willing to have as many as ten partners. Some, only five. Some, three, or two. It's not that they *couldn't* spread their resources thinner, it's that they don't *want* to. They want a certain quality of time and effort devoted to just a few relationships.

If someone says, "I want to devote my total amount of available time and energy to just one partner," then we could say that person is monogamous by definition. If their reason for being monogamous is that it's simply their preference not to divide their time and energy between more than one partner, then I find that acceptable as a reason for them to be monogamous. They're no different than a polyamorist who wouldn't want more than two or three partners, their preferred limit just happens to be a smaller number.

If, on the other hand, someone's reason for being monogamous is "because the Bible says so," or because "everyone else is doing it," or because "polyamory is unhealthy," then those are bad reasons for being monogamous. In theory, we should expect polyamory to describe the larger amount of the general population, as polyamory covers many "maximum numbers of partners," whereas monogamy only covers one maximum number. In practice, we observe that most people become and remain monogamous. This gives us a hint that there's something out-of-balance with tradition and popular culture.

So, for many monogamists, polyamory would be a better choice for them (a choice they probably don't even think about, or aren't aware of). But some monogamists would probably choose to remain monogamous even if tradition and popular culture were corrected -- simply because it's their personal preference (and represents the most partners they'd want to divide their time and energy between). Thus I don't have anything against monogamy in theory, but I'm also aware of a bias toward monogamy in mainstream society, and I take issue with that bias.

Just food for thought ...
Kevin T.
 
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