The Polyamory Conundrum: Is This My Antidote to Single Motherhood?

Posted on June 21, 2011 by

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Single. Again. I began to consider new ways of finding a loving, devoted, funny, smart and emotionally mature man. And where better to do my research than watching episodes of “Taboo” on the National Geographic channel? My son watches “Taboo” regularly. He called me in when a 29-year-old, 600 pound man was being put in a diaper and tucked into a mammoth crib by his “pretend” 500 pound mother. That was the episode on fetishes. There was also a man who lived with life-sized dolls and considered himself married to them.

By the way, I didn’t find any of those alternatives to traditional monogamy interesting. After a commercial for body wash where a woman taking a shower experienced unbridled ecstasy accompanied by a plastic bottle of floral scented body wash, “Taboo” returned.

The next segment explored the life of a polyamorous couple. I thought, well, maybe they’ve figured something out. I waited for their secret to ever-loving contentment.

The polyamorous couple featured on “Taboo” lived in Australia in a very compact apartment. In the galley kitchen, the wife was interviewed. The kitchen overlapped with the living room which consisted of a beige couch, a television and a tank of tropical fish. The wife explained that in a few minutes her date would be picking her up. She had the consent of her husband to go on the date. And she had fully disclosed the arrangement to her date. “Disclosed that you are married?” The interviewer asked. “Yes,” the woman nodded. In other words, there was no sneaking around. The most awkward moment was when the date appeared; the two men shook hands and acted like chums. They even discussed a soccer match while the woman looked on, smiling. She seemed, well, very comfortable. Maybe even a little smug.

I can count on one finger the number of men I’ve been faithful to in heart, mind and body. Now, that doesn’t mean I was an unfaithful, philandering trollop. No, in fact, that was rarely the case. But in the infamous words of Jimmy Carter, I lusted in my heart. It wasn’t the physical I lusted for. I craved an emotional connection. I wanted someone to see me and get who I am.

If being unfaithful is a sanctioned part of a relationship, it’s no longer really unfaithful, right?  You’ve got yourself an open marriage. A closed marriage is a lot of work. An open one would take even more. Still, the sex with a new person part is a no-brainer. Who doesn’t like new sex? But new sex usually doesn’t happen outside the context of a relationship of some sort. The premise of polyamorous love is the ability to have multiple intimate relationships, both physical and mental.

According to Wikipedia, polyamorous is the openness between all parties. As of July 2009, there were estimated to be more than 500,000 polyamorous relationships in the United States.   

I consider myself moderately hip. My teenagers consider me not hip at all and my ex-husband considers me a scandalous nonconformist. So, take your pick. In an effort to prove my teens incorrect, I watched the Australians with an open mind.

The Australian couple on “Taboo” had an absence of down and dirty. As a couple they were as orderly as their compact apartment.  I didn’t get the sense these two were hot for each other. They were neutral. The arrangement made them able to bypass staleness and evenings on opposite ends of the couch. Not such a bad deal. But in a sustainable marriage, I believe you have to hang through the blah moments until it gets good again and until you get into the space in which true intimacy resides.

Before the date arrived, during the galley kitchen interview, the woman explained the relations she and her husband had outside of their marriage were just sexual friendships. They were not their primary emotional bonds. That was with each other.

“Did you sometimes bring your dates back to the apartment while your husband slept alone in the next room?” The interviewer asked. “Of course,” she answered. The woman was abrupt with her answer as if it was something that obviously need not be asked.

The Australian woman left the apartment with her date. The camera followed them down the narrow apartment building hallway. The date had placed his had in the small of her back and something he’d said made her laugh and toss her head back, throat exposed.

Back in the apartment, the camera scanned the place. The tropical fish were doing their thing and the husband had stretched out on the couch and channel surfed. “How do you feel?” the interviewer wanted to know. “I feel just fine,” the man answered. “Just fine.” The camera lingered on the man, looking for signs of something darker and more menacing than “fine, just fine.”

I felt sorry for the husband on the beige couch with the burble of a fish tank for company. But maybe he was as totally happy. I had committed an act of transference, as we say in therapy speak. I’d superimposed my feelings onto another. I wouldn’t be able to hang on the couch after my partner skipped down the hallway on a date.

My son left before the segment ended. He’d had enough of the Australians and their polyamourous ways.

“How,” he asked, “could the guy be okay with his wife leaving for the night with that other guy ? That was ridiculous.”

He went to the kitchen to find food. I stayed on our orange couch, dog at my feet and considered the Australians.

For me, the polyamorous dilemma would be the context. Once affection turns that elusive corner into love, what had been a perfectly good therapeutic nod at sustainable living; a healthy uncommitted role in the hay to keep the primary relationship well lubricated, rolls into a conundrum. And, I suspect that’s why people, for the most part, try to keep their knickers pulled up when their not home.

With polyamory off my list of possible man-finding techniques, I was confronted with the reality that I am indeed, as my children had insisted, not hip.

(Image: google.image)