What I Learned From Polyamory

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Much to the surprise of my friends, family, and to some degree to myself, I recently made a decision to leave polyamory and transition into a traditional monogamous relationship with one of my partners. Somewhat ironically, I announced my choice publicly during our most recent Multiamory podcast, a podcast that I started with two of my partners as advocates and voices for polyamory. In a culture where most people quietly assume that monogamy is the norm, trust me when I say that it feels somewhat novel to announce, with some trepidation, that yes, I’ll be doing what pretty much everyone else is.

To say that this was a difficult decision would be an understatement. It was only made after many intense conversations with my loving partners and taking time to really consider what it would mean for me and the lives of the people whom I love most. The truth is, I am making a conscious choice to leave something behind that has made a profound difference in my life, helped me grow as a person, and allowed me to meet and maintain relationships with some of the most important people in my life.

I have been polyamorous since the summer of 2013. When my longest and most promising relationship was failing, we decided to try something different. We turned our relationship structure on its head, and entered into an entirely different lifestyle with an entirely different set of rules. In my mid-twenties when, according to Facebook, a surprisingly large number of people are tying the knot or having children, my partner and I discarded the cultural expectation that we were only allowed to love one person with our mind, body, and soul. Telling my friends and family that news was no less daunting.

I regret none of it. Despite varying degrees of support received from family and friends, it led to some of the most hard-won and profound lessons I've had the pleasure of learning. I learned that I could break my pattern of codependency. Rather than trying to be the person I thought my partner wanted me to be, I could truly find myself. I learned that, if there is a problem in my relationship, I can choose to first look inward for a solution rather than indulging in blame or trying to change my partner. I learned that the solution to jealously is looking inside for the source of those feelings. I've learned to be a safe haven for communication and to be honest even when it is hard, avoiding the subtle omissions that can sometimes accompany monogamy. Polyamory has taught me not to be intimidated by my partner's female friends. I've learned to always keep a flow of constant communication going. And these are just a few of the many lessons that I have picked up along the way; yours will no doubt vary.

The truth is that polyamory demands a constant stream of self-evaluation—one the greatest habits of people I've met living this lifestyle. The human heart is not a box, and its capacity to love is not limited to one person; it is infinite. And while I have decided that being monogamous with my current partner honors the person I am now and the lifestyle I want to lead, I have no doubt that all that I learned from polyamory will make my current relationship stronger, healthier, and happier.

I will always be grateful to know that being polyamorous, being encouraged by my partners to find new love, is what brought me to the monogamous relationship I am now exploring with my newest love. When I say I am grateful for polyamory, I don’t mean an abstract concept. I mean the loving people who chose to travel with me on that journey.

Dedeker: You are one of my best friends and the first woman I ever fell in love with. Time and again, you have been my rock when I've struggled to make difficult decisions—this one included. Your immense kindness and compassion for everyone in your life is astounding and inspiring. For all that you have been in my life, and for all that I hope you continue to be, I thank you and I love you.

Jase: You have been one of the most important parts of my life for over four years. You have been a constant source of kindness, support, and generosity. You helped a young girl feel safe and at home in this big, scary place called Los Angeles. You’re the first man that I ever built a home with, and you have been there with me through thick and thin. We share so many of the same goals and passions, and I doubt there is anyone on this planet who knows me better than you. I can't wait to see what this new chapter in our lives brings, and I am forever grateful to you for helping me grow into the person I am. I love you.

Joshua: With you I see a future I’d never thought possible for myself. I see the kind of monogamous relationship I have always wanted. I see myself no longer compromising or failing to maintain my sense of self. I've found a place where I feel safe enough to be everything that I always wanted to be. And I see someone with whom I can apply the lessons I've learned to build something truly beautiful and lasting. For changing my life, I thank you, Joshua. I love you so much.

I don’t know what the future brings, but my choice to leave polyamory is the one that feels the most honest, the most true to myself and who I am right now. I am excited to continue to take this journey, and hope that you, dear readers and listeners, will still be eager and excited to hear what I have to say. Though I will be monogamous, I hope to continue to be a vocal advocate for the efficacy of alternative lifestyles, for the LGBT community, and a voice to help demystify polyamory for the masses. As always, we eagerly await your questions and comments, so please don't hesitate to send them my way. Much love and happiness to you all.

 -Emily