Deborah Anapol, Ph.D, has published this excerpt from her book, Polyamory in the 21st Century in the Love Without Limits blog on the Psychology Today website. It’s a great introduction to some of the psychological and social reasons people choose polyamory. There is one aspect I found, at first, to be problematic. That is, the topic of sex addiction. However, in reading further, she is careful to point out that sex addiction, while far from the norm in polyamory, is still a destructive force when people use polyamory as an excuse for their obsession. I still have a problem with pathologising sexual behaviour (when such behaviour is between consenting adults) but there are still some destructive patterns that could be labeled as an addiction. Dr. Anapol also points out that while polyamory can provide shelter for these destructive patterns, a positive label can at least bring them out into the open. She makes some other wonderful points and acknowledges the diversity of experiences in polyamory, unafraid to acknowledge the dark side without painting the whole movement as a ‘failed experiment’ the way some ignorant journalists might. This is one of my favourite sections:
“True, plenty of people use multi-partner relating as a strategy to avoid attachment, some even recommend this, but in my experience attachment is a powerful force which can override any mental argument or situational defense. Many people hope to find greater stability, depth, and personal growth in their intimate relating by choosing polyamory, while others seek the same qualities in monogamy. The bottom line is that whether we like it or not, all relationships are dynamic by nature and any effort to avoid this reality is doomed to failure.”
I think that pretty much sums up my pre-marriage non-monogamy. If I had actually bothered to learn about responsible non-monogamy strategies back before I met my husband, there were a lot of mistakes I would have avoided and a lot of people I could have avoided hurting. When I first learned about poly, I was in the “avoiding attachment” phase. I used to joke that I had a “90 day warranty” when it came to monogamy. I couldn’t stay in a monogamous relationship for more than 3 months before my eye would wander and I’d pull out the, “Well, I’m polyamorous, you knew this when we started going out, so I can do what I want” excuse then I’d do what (or who) I wanted and come back and say, “I think we need to take some time apart” or some such insensitive nonsense.
Basically, I was a jerk. And I used polyamory as an excuse to be a jerk.
I don’t think there was anything wrong with my sexual behaviour, but I was using poly to justify some very destructive patterns. By doing that, I was hurting the concept of polyamory. All those people I hurt now have a warped concept of polyamory because of how I treated them in the name of poly. For that, I am very sorry.