“You’re polyamorous?” she says.
“Yes,” I say. “Does that surprise you?”
“Sorta,” she says. “It’s just… I never thought of you as someone with a fear of commitment.”
“What?” she asks me.
“I mean this with all the love in the world,” I say, “But it’s clear to me that you’ve never been polyamorous.”
I Once Thought that Monogamy Was the Only Path to Commitment
It’s a common misconception, that being polyamorous means a person can’t commit. And if I’m being honest, it was one of the reasons that I was hesitant to have polyamorous relationships in the first place. I thought that monogamy was the only way you could demonstrate your commitment to someone else.
I thought commitment was defined by what you excluded. Just like the marriage vows: Forsaking all others.
But then I found out friends of mine that I respected were polyamorous. Arguably the most stable, responsible people in our friends group. The adultiest adults, if you will. Achingly all-American. I’d actually thought they were slightly on the prudish side. She managed a team of social workers. He was a firefighter who was going to school part time studying to be an engineer. He was even talking about enlisting in the service.
They had two adorable kids and a nice house (no small feat in your mid 20s without a sizable inheritance). And most stunningly to me and my picture of non-monogamy, they were a couple whose relationship was rock solid.
Nothing about their situation screamed “fear of commitment.” My friends followed through on their commitments and seemed eager to accept new ones. They were committed to each other, their children, their jobs — and yes, their other partners.
Commitment Isn’t About Exclusivity; It’s About Followthrough
And when I later opened my own marriage myself, I discovered that commitment was a big part of polyamory.
Now, there might very well be unscrupulous folks out there who use the label of “polyamorous” as a way of ennobling their fear of commitment. But in all my time navigating poly social circles and coaching poly folks, this phenomenon has been a rarity. The exception rather than the rule.
And on a personal level, commitment has become a larger part of my life. I’m not unattached, playing the field.
Along the way I learned a secret: Commitment isn’t about exclusivity. It’s about followthrough.
Instead of avoiding commitment, I am multi-committed. I have more than one person in my life that I regularly make time for. That I care about. Stay connected to. Support. And not just when it’s easy for me. But when they need me.
Sometimes this means I’ve spent the afternoon comforting one partner and the evening comforting another. And other times, it means that I’ve had to quickly shift emotional gears when I move from seeing a happy partner to an unhappy one (or vice versa), all the while taking pains so that I don’t mix up the emotional context of one relationship with another.
Sometimes I really don’t want to do it. But I do it anyway. Because for me polyamory isn’t a fear of commitment. It’s a love of commitment.
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