From ‘The Polyamory Toolkit” by Dan Williams and Dawn Williams (2019)
TOOL #1 – DEVELOPING YOUR WHY
I can certainly recall more than once shaking my head and wondering “Why am I even bothering with this poly thing!?” The first time Dawn went on a date with another person (or slept with that person); or when a miscommunication left me reading a Facebook update that one of my partners is out with someone and I was left feeling betrayed; or when I walked into a room and see someone I am in love with kissing someone else, knowing they were there and on a date and nothing ‘fishy’ was going on… but my heart wasn’t really ready to see it. I don’t know about any other poly person, but more than once I thought ‘can’t I just be like everyone else and be turned on by just one human ever’?
Maybe you have faced a similar situation, and that has led you to pick up a book on polyamory. Or it might be a different reason – perhaps you are a single person who just met someone who said, ‘by the way, I am polyamorous, would you like to meet my boyfriends?’ Or maybe you are part of a couple that has decided to explore multiple loving relationships. It could be you are facing the tricky situation where you are part of a couple and one of you wants to start dating outside your existing relationship. Or perhaps you are in a situation where you are part of a growing triad that is facing some challenges, and it may be you are a polyamory veteran just looking for a new perspective. Polyamory can be pretty challenging.
If any of the above resonates with you – that moment of self-doubt where you wonder if polyamory is for you – then you’ll find it useful to develop something we call “The Why”.
The Why is an exercise in self-examination that answers the question, clearly and without reservation, of ‘why did I decide to practice polyamory?’. This isn’t the high-level question of nature or nurture. But instead, this is an understanding of your personal “Why”. And it is something you can return to again and again when things get chaotic and you start down the path of self-doubt. Even when the question changes – from ‘why did I think my beloved going out with someone else was a good idea’ or ‘why do I have to be home alone tonight’ to the frustrated ‘why do I have to put up with this bullshit!’, you’ll be able to rely on the answer of “The Why”.
Because if you can get here, get deep enough to touch the heart of why you are exploring polyamory when you were (probably) raised to think monogamy was not only normal but the only possibility, then you’ll be able to establish an eye of the storm that you can rest on as you struggle with those different questions (and emotions and situations that brought those questions on).
So! How do you develop your personal ‘Why’? Well, the good news is, you already have – or at least have started. For some reason, you are here now, reading this book. How come? What lead you to want to love in a different way?
For me, the Why started with the question ‘why have all my previous relationships ended up the same, with me feeling either unhappy (at the minimum) or me acting outside of my desired ethical boundaries’ (which is a fancy way of saying I started to search for a new relationship prior to ending the one I was in). As I began the relationship with Dawn, I wanted to make sure that I was not going to repeat the mistakes I’ve made so far and that I was addressing the core of what I wanted, needed, and expected in a relationship. So, I looked at myself and realized that I am not really a monogamous person. I can’t say I thought of it in that way exactly – and had not yet heard the word polyamory. But I recognized enough that I could express to Dawn that we would not be exclusive to just each other and – my reality is that I could love more than one person, that I am attracted to lots of people, and sometimes I want to act on that attraction, and that these characteristics – and this was a huge thing for me – didn’t need to be ‘fixed’. I was not broken, I just didn’t follow the norms that most people seemed to have. What I needed to be was accepted by Dawn, as well as other future partners, and by myself. This leads me toward a path of understanding ethical non-monogamy. And that I was not alone in this view.
It took some time before the words and understanding really came to me, but for me, the first part of the Why is ‘I am a polyamorous person’. And it is more than just the words ‘I am polyamorous’. It is the understanding, the looking in the mirror and seeing that which is true, the realization that it is as much a core aspect to who I am as ‘I am an introvert’ or ‘I have a sense of humor’.
So, part 1 is that core understanding of who I am.
The next part of my ‘Why’ is that I realize that I want other people around me to be happy. That I really do believe that sharing joy and love is a sign of love, and that there is no reason for me to feel a need to horde love or attention. It does not serve those I love, it does not serve me. It doesn’t feel like who I am or who I want to be. The vision I have for myself – the who I want to be – is someone who isn’t afraid of love or my partners love; I don’t want to be selfish or motivated by greed (if you love him, you won’t have enough for me). And I don’t want my partners to be treated like objects that I am afraid of losing, thus I hang on too tight. So, the second part of the Why for me is the realization that I wanted to be, at my core, generous and joyful in my partner’s self-actualization, even when that meant more than I could provide.
The last part in this foundation of my own personal Why is I want to my partners to support me in whatever I do. And that very much includes who I do (who I love, who I make love to, who I tie up and tickle, who I make googly eyes at), and since I expect that from my partners, they should be able to expect that from me. So, this too became part of my foundation, the ‘we all want the freedom to be ourselves, whatever direction that takes, and if I ask it of you, I will give you the same’.
Successfully dealing with all the emotional aspects of beginning a life that includes polyamory often means a continuing self-discovery journey. But the Why is my baseline; that personal mission statement, that recognition of who you are and who you want to be.
How you find your Why is your journey. This book is full of tools that will help you get there. As you read, keep a notepad nearby, title it My Why and keep track of those things that are true for you, and at some point, if someone says, “Why are you putting up with that polyamory thing?” you’ll be able to smile and know you have an answer.
I never really thought of this as a tool, but the more I think about it, the more I believe this is the first tool that should be used.
If polyamory is such a struggle, why are you putting up with it? Funny, no one really asks people, ‘if monogamy is such a struggle, why are you putting up with it?’. When I was in a monogamous relationship and it was such a struggle and I was having tingly feelings for other people and I didn’t like being tied down to one person, no one suggested that maybe monogamy wasn’t for me. No one gave me tools. Basically, when I told my mother and my mother-in-law that I wasn’t happy, they told me that they weren’t either, but they stuck it out because that’s what you do. I didn’t want to ‘stick it out’.
So, why do I put up with all the work that has been involved in becoming a mostly successful polyamorous person and partner? Because I’m polyamorous. It’s that simple.
I’ve dated more people since being married to Dan, then I had my whole previous life. OK, to be honest, I had dated more people in the first 2 years of being married to Dan than in my whole previous life, and it was amazing!!! We may talk a lot about jealousy and rough times and having to learn tools to make this work, but think, we learned these over 20 years! There have been many good times in between that aren’t discussed so much in a tool book.
I had some AMAZING experiences, experiences that I had only fantasized about before, over the last 2 decades, and I plan on having more amazing experiences over the next 2 decades if not longer. The Universe has brought some amazing, fun, deep, beautiful people into my life and it’s made the work all worth it.