“Page, I don’t know what to do,” he said. “I’m in this fantastic relationship with a good old-fashioned girl.”
“This doesn’t sound like a problem,” I said, smirking.
“It wasn’t. Until I met this other girl. She’s amazing.”
He had slipped and caught some feels. And he kept slipping, falling over and over again for the new shiny. It would seem his love footing was unsure, his balance terrible.
“I’ve been thinking about poly a lot lately. It’s perfect for me. I can’t hold back. When I feel a connection, I have to explore it,” he said.
“Oh no, no, no,” I said. “Whatever you do, don’t be poly.”
Relationships are a lot like anything else. There are limits to everything. You will never explore every emotional connection. Not everyone is a suitable partner (they don’t reciprocate, they’re monogamous, wrong sexual orientation, too far away, busy for you, etc), and even if all you did was have relationships (inadvisable because you gotta do things like pay your bills and clean your house), you would run out of time.
It’s much the same way that you’ll never read every book. Monogamy usually takes less time, and if it’s a good match, it’s very stable.
Having a feeling and acting on it are two very different things, no matter how much of a hullabaloo some monogamous people make of “emotional affairs.” The key difference is self-control. Having the initial emotion itself is not something within our control, but we certainly control our response to it and what actions we end up taking.
Let me tell you, if you can’t exercise self-control, then there’s no fucking way you should be poly. All that lies down that path is drama, bad behavior, heartache, and disappointment.
If impulse control is your problem, poly is not your solution.
You bet your life you better have some self-control when a lover or a metamour pushes your buttons.
This is not to say that building self-control isn’t something you can work on. Kelly McGonigal has a great book on the subject. Practicing self-control is interesting in that a lot of it is simple, but it snowballs. The more you practice, the better you get at it, and the easier it is to keep on practicing. And it applies to basically every part of your life.
When Seth and I opened up, I was in the midst of a 160-pound weight loss (took a few years, but 7 years out, I’ve kept most of it off), and I’ll tell you, the two endeavors fueled each other. Building self-discipline by delaying gratification with my food choices and sticking to my exercise plan really helped me when I ran into emotional insecurities and needed to behave like an adult about it — or when I had someone sexy proposition me in a way that taking them up on the offer would violate my agreements with my other partners.
But don’t for a second think that polyamory is a fantastic replacement for self-control.