For me, polyamory provides spaces to meet my different love needs and stay present. Love in all relationships is fluid. We can move through feelings of love in any variation at any point in a relationship.
There's the well-known infatuation and romantic love. Companionate—it's not passionate, but those comfortatable long-term commitment vibes. And, consummate, the works: heart-shaped pancakes, naughty whipped cream, all the feels. I now had the ability to be honest with partners about my feelings and needs in a collaborative way.
But something was missing.
I was committed to prioritizing two different romantic relationships, but I was forgetting to grow love for myself. Simply to exist on my own.
I realized that I held romantic relationships on a pedestal. I had these prescribed notions of what they should look like, even though I was deconstructing traditional dating through polyamory.
Read: Couples' Privilege is a Thing and It's a Toxic Experience for Poly Practitioners
Sure, I was redefining dating for myself, but I was still focused on intimate relationships above other kinds. And above myself. I started noticing the impact that social norms had on my view of what kind of relationships
I should be having. Then I started noticing how people treated me when I was with (or assumed to be with) romantic partners.
I was single, intentionally, sometimes joyously, sometimes uncomfortably. For two years, I soaked in my own space as a primary relationship. Seems simple but when you’re femme, queer, fat, and disabled society tells you to take up as little space as possible. That you need a relationship to fit in, to be valid.
“You just haven’t met the right person.”
“What about your friend, so and so, you two have good energy together.”
“But you’re poylam, right? Isn’t seeing people your whole thing?”
And of course, “Don’t you want kids?”
A friend came to visit me and stayed for a few weeks. We’re close, never been romantic. Something like family in my mind, we even look similar though his features are lighter than mine.
I showed him everywhere in Philly: eats, drinks, arts, and the city’s culture. Almost everywhere we went I noticed people were friendlier than when I was alone in the same old haunts. People at bars invited us to join them. Servers gave us free appetizers on more than one occasion. A museum guard let us into an exhibit without tickets. These are small, and maybe coincidental, but I felt it again and again once I noticed. No matter the presentation of the person I was with, people assumed we were a couple and were kinder.
Why does society put such an emphasis on romantic relationships? As time progresses we’ve seen more acceptance of queer and polyamorous relationships. Yet there’s still a pressure to be loved up.
“Self-care” is sold to us as a bubble bath, but our validity as individuals is questioned if we focus on the depth required for genuine self-romance. In the many shadows of COVID-times, relief from the pressures of dating is a lightness I’m grateful for. Of course I miss spontaneity and crave relationships.
Read: The Power of Non-Sexual Touch
I can only dream of new connections that could satiate skin hunger or engender love. And, I appreciate this privileged opportunity for time to expand myself. Without viewers, judges, or commentators.
Our existence and joy is legitimate no matter what state of attachment we are in. Finding different molds to build our relationships with others, and ourselves, is a life-long process. It’s worthy of care, adaptability, and honesty.