Tuesday, April 1, 2008

Polyamory vs. Fuckbuddies

I am going to write this essay knowing that it's going to make some people mad and other people tell me I'm "wrong." Then again nobody ever comments on my blog, so maybe not. I'm going to leave names out of it and give the disclaimer that this is all my opinion and y'all don't have to agree with it.

I was introduced to the concept of Polyamory- multiple committed relationships, honest non-monogamy, however you wish define it- at a young age. I was eighteen and some of my most formative (and in some ways scarring) sexual experiences were in the context of polyamory, or more accurately, me being a secondary partner in someone else's primary relationship. (shudder)

I embraced the term and the concept for a while but at some point I decided it didn't describe ME, so I use the term "non-monogamous" instead because it has less baggage. I know many poly people don't like that term for their own baggage related reasons. We could argue terminology for hours, but lets not.

I have never been in a committed relationship that was non-monogamous. Granted I've only been in two lasting real-deal R word relationships in my adult life, though I've had my share of casual boyfriends and lovers, fuckbuddies, whatever you want to call them. I am not great at R word relationships. And invariably, the people I do get into R word relationships with don't want to share. Which is ok in the beginning but causes problems as I tend to be more emotionally monogamous (If I have an intense emotionally connection with someone it tends to be all-consuming) and physically slutty. I can do about 6 months of monogamy comfortably before I find myself wanting to roam free. Although I do have a regular need for sex and affection, I don't really need a big R relationship to be happy because it seems to bring drama more often than not.

So, to be honest I'm not a huge advocate of polyamory OR monogamy, though I do find that for emotionally intense relationships, monogamy is easier. I don't care what the poly people say, juggling multiple egos is HARD WORK.

You know what does work (for me) pretty well, though? Fuckbuddies.

I find that dating a couple people who are not in committed relationships, who are reasonably honest and emotionally secure, works pretty damn well. I like them, they like me, we like fucking. My rules for fuckbuddies are much different than the overeducated nympho's. Obviously, every situation is different, and you have to do what you need to do to protect yourself emotionally, but I genuinely like my fuckbuddies as friends and as people. Sex may be the main act, but I cook them dinner, they cook me dinner, maybe we'll see a movie, they can spend the night, we'll hold hands in public. I even kept a toothbrush at the house of one fuckbuddy I dubbed my "casual husband" because we hung out almost every weekend. I believe you can genuinely care for or even love your fuckbuddies but still maintain reasonable emotional boundaries, just as you would with your friends who aren't lovers. So what's the difference between fuckbuddies and a committed relationship you ask? The lack of expectations. Giving yourself permission to cut someone slack and not feel obligated yourself seems to cut out just a huge wad of drama. You can enjoy them for who they are without heaping on the expectations and if the situation isn't working out, you can cut your losses and move on without a gory, traumatic break up. And usually stay on good terms or even be friends if the situation feels right. I am not making this up, and I am speaking from a good deal of personal experience here.

That's not to say I don't have a few rules of my own, however:

1. Don't be fuckbuddies with someone who has an existent primary relationship unless they've really got their shit worked out. It breeds competition and drama, and I don't like being told what I can and can't do with my lover by their girlfriend. In the rare case where everyone gets along it can be okay, but that's usually because the primary couple have a more laid back and emotionally detached relationship. I am fine with my fuckbuddies having other lovers, obviously, as long as their lovers don't try to control/manipulate me (and some will). Nobody needs that crap, so it's smart to call it when you see it instead of suffering in silence. And don't be a dumbass- if you know you're lover is going to be at a party with someone else, bring you're own date so you don't feel like a third wheel.

2. Don't have fuckbuddies if deep down a committed relationship is all you want. Don't be fuckbuddies with someone that you are totally crazy about or "crave" a committed relationship with as a compromise, it will torment you. The perfect fuckbuddy is a person that has good qualities and is sexy, but not someone you could see yourself in a serious relationship with. I can't believe how many women are like "oh, I like that guy but he's not fill in the blank so I don't want to date him." Please don't whine to me about how you never get laid if this is your attitude.

3. Have more than one, or have a busy schedule. I find having multiple love interests keeps me from getting two attached to any of them. Often the attachment you may feel might not be feelings for the actual person but a reflection of you latching on because you're not getting your needs met. If you're having lots of sex with good people, you'll feel less clingy or needy. Granted this is easier to do as a woman dating guys than as a guy dating women- I avoid dating women for the most part because I find they are clingier and needier than dudes and that can be quite draining. (That said there are plenty of clingy dudes or mellow women as well). Also fuckbuddies can be quite useful if you're too busy to deal with a real relationship but still want sex and companionship.

4. Take care of yourself first and make sure your needs are being met. Keep expectations LOW and call bullshit if they hold double standards about your behavior vs. theirs. Don't feel obligated to do anything you're not into and cut them a lot of slack as well. You are not grooming this person to be your future husband, they don't need to be perfect for you to have a good time.

5. If a situation isn't working, move on before it goes bad. Mounting resentment is generally a bad sign. If they're not feeling it, accept it and let go. If you're not feeling it, you have the right to end it. I've found more often than not, things drift apart naturally if the situation has run it's course. In some cases you may have a fuckbuddy who only calls once in a blue moon, it's up to you to decide whether or not that's something you're cool with.

6. One thing I do agree with Overeducated Nympho with- use the situation to have as much fun, freaky sex as you can handle, just play safe.

Anyway, that is the bizarro alternative relationship model that has worked reasonably well for me in the past few years. It's nice to have options beyond the monogamy/polyamory dichotomy.


Healthnut said...

It's funny (or logical)- #3 applies to a lot of different types of relationships. I relate to my clients much more appropriately when I have several going at once. The world just works better when you aren't feeling desperate.

Anonymous said...

wow! very insightful. i totally buy it. kinda.

i mean, it made me realize i have no clue what kind of relationship i want with people, as it pertains to sex, love, or anything else for that matter.

i gravitate to the french notion of "lovers" mostly, as the word is simple, poetic and vague. it doesn't say you're with one, two or three hundred lovers...

my parents call each other "lover," and they lead monogomus lives.

i also kinda like the flamenco-ish connotation to the word; tempestuous... i might actually crave devastating emotions, as much as i can't stand them when they come. hey, i'm an addict - par for the course, i suppose.

or maybe i don't love/trust possible lovers enough and imagine something soap opera-ish is always an option. perhaps i've bought into the notion that craziness is the best way to feel alive. my mistrust is all my short-coming, of course. i am not seriously afraid of anyone hurting me. me, big cougar-girl...

maybe i just can't read through indiffernce at all, almost like a medical condition. so i never risk sexual honesty. risk begins to sound so appealing...

...until risk means having sex and sex means staying put in some city or another... ...until i realize i need art and nature more than sexy people. that's when i want a mountain man or gal or both and their brothers and sisters. me, big cougar kitty with powerful hunger and powerful need to roam...

i suppose i have preferences. i like the butch dyke, the blonde bombshell, the football quarterback, the basketball team, the old bearded artist, the geeky art historian, the scientist, the sweet college student, the rock star, the trans man, the work-aholic chef, the cermics chick in the dept. across the hall from mine, the protective, aging, yet fit ceo i'll meet at the opera one day. and maybe i need them all... maybe they need me... lovers... mmmmm...

i don't need tempers. i do need consideration and creativity. pretty simple, I thought. and whatever i have to do to get those things into and the former out of my life, i'll do. be me sex slave or nun, i don't care.

all i do know you should know is that i like the term "lovers" and also like the idea of not knowing what i need/prefer relationship-wise. it all seems so new still, despite being 38. i just want to be an attentive, playful sometimes frigid, sometimes desperate, sometimes true blue (John Cougar Mellencamp-ish) lover. i need artifice in life. fuckbuddies, monogomy, and polyamory seem to remove that for me.

i like the term how you presented it, though. such a smart cookie, you are... mmmm, tasty, too...

god, bianca, i wonder if i'm a metaphysical virgin! it certainly sounds right. i do like to protest and give in a lot...


Anonymous said...

Thank you very much for this article.
My boo and me are living in two continents and agreed on poly-amory, but I told him from the way he talks about them he is just polylikery:).
I think polyamory might lead to wrong expectations for the "lover" of my boyfriend since it kind of implies that they will be treated like a primary partner. He told me that he kind of likes them and wants to get dirty with them. I do not really like the term polyamory since in most cases it is a label that does not accuartely descibing the situation. If you have one person you love and you just like evyrbody else then this is not polymamory. It may sound charming and auspicious at the onset , but will most likely lead to a lot of hurt feelings and with 3 people - one will eventually be the loser - at some point. Thank you for this frank article.

Astrolore said...

"It's nice to have options beyond the monogamy/polyamory dichotomy."

I could not agree more! Thank you for writing this piece. I have struggled with this dichotomy for many years.

I have not come to the same conclusions as you have... You have shown me that it is important to put our thoughts onto paper.
This is important.... hummmm....

I'll blog about it soon.
Laurie Farrington

Bianca James said...

Hi Laurie,
I think it so important that people write about their real life experiences instead of just falling back on the Ethical Slut or whatever (I love Dossie but that book never realistically reflected my desired philosophy around sex).

I am also a big astrology enthusiast, I'll have to check out your site!