“This is a weird and difficult time to be polyamorous,” he says.
And I know what he means. I’m not sure what to do with it all. With any of it.
It’s tempting at times like these to come up with a quick answer that sounds good. To make up flowcharts or guides that address the problems we want to have rather than the ones we actually have.
But I can’t do that. Instead I find myself asking difficult questions.
What do you do with a new norm in which in-person socialization poses a grave existential threat?
What do you do with a reality in which you’re forced inside by a pandemic? In which it’s best to see as few people as possible every day?
As a person who once upon a time was staunchly monogamous and worked very hard to see the other point of view, that social interaction isn’t a threat to your relationships but a boon — even social interaction that tends to be beyond the limits of cultural norms — this viral pneumonia is a sobering, challenging new normal.
I’ve long worked on a framework of understanding that socially isolating behaviors are detrimental to the emotional health of romantic relationships. Before now, I’d mostly seen this in terms of wanting your lover to have very few friends, due to jealousy or concerns that their having a social life outside of you could present them opportunities for infidelity.
And now socially isolating behaviors are what are required for us to prevent overwhelming our healthcare system, which isn’t equipped to deal with widespread, unchecked viral pneumonia — on top of the other ongoing medical care that people generally need (the actual burden that we’re equipped for, which isn’t going away).
This is, frankly, a weird and difficult time to be anything. To be a friend. A weird and difficult time to be human.
And yes, practicing social isolation in a responsible way makes it incredibly difficult to be polyamorous — unless you happen to be cohabiting with your entire relationship system. But as there are more people involved, this gets more difficult. And the odds get more slight that everyone you live with will work in a situation where they’re non-essential personnel or able to work from home.
The odds get slimmer that you can see everyone you care about. Or that someone you care about cares about.
The numbers are grim. The reality is grim, both the economic and health consequences. Anyone who says they aren’t is wrong.
Pandemics aren’t known for their ease.
Again, it’s a weird and difficult time to be human. And yes, difficult to be polyamorous. Difficult for people who can’t be with their partners they don’t live with. Difficult for folks who have been on hiatus for a long while, desperately want to start dating again, but can’t. Not in the normal way. Difficult for people who were already constantly being told that the way they live is dangerous, back when the health risks were a lot more minimal.
It’s a mess.
And I hate to say it, but the reality is that none of this will be over soon. I find myself thinking a lot about that. How things are going to change.
Human beings are social animals. And for now, we’re forced by circumstances and responsibility to be less social. Or at least social in different ways (virtually).
I find myself asking, “What are we gonna do without each other?”
And I don’t know the answer to that.
Books by Page Turner: