Part 1: First Among Equals
By Daniel Metcalf
In writing about polyamorous relationships, I, like many, sometimes fall into the trap of defining it by what it “isn’t.” While both “poly” and swinging lifestyles are part of the larger pantheon of open relationships, each manifests a unique energy. In poly, this force resonates in the possibilities offered when three or more people make long-term commitments to each other; the knowledge and consent of everyone involved serves as the foundation.
From a sexual perspective, poly has been a part of my life for as long as I can remember, at least in a pop cultural sense. Triads and group marriages were all the rage in the science fiction I grew up reading, playing important roles in everything from Samuel L. Delany’s “Dhalgren” to one of the genre’s most respected works, Robert A. Heinlein’s “Stranger in a Strange Land.” (For more, see Serolynne’s excellent piece “Influence of the Science Fiction Writings of Robert A. Heinlein on Polyamory” at http://www.serolynne.com/heinlein.htm.)
However well-researched, though, the myth-busting I’m going to do here may be taken with a grain of salt. You see, I’ve only recently entered into a poly relationship myself…
Recently single again for the first time in a decade, I have been devoting what free time I have to charity, service and renewal with a group of spiritual seekers, a sort of “karmic commando squad,” if you will. It has been during these months of “Peace Pilgrimages” that I found myself forging a strong emotional / romantic / spiritual connection with two people – and sex has been an intimate component of this relationship.
I’m risking TMI here only because the configuration – and success – of this relationship torpedoes the misguided notion I wish to address: that most polyamorous relationships hinge on a “foundational couple.” Not true, according to Stephanie Pappas of ScienceLive.Com, who quoted Champlain College psychologist Bjarne Holmes as observing that only about “30 percent or so of the polyamorous population would say they think of one partner as being primary. But a large part of the population would say, ‘No, I don’t buy into that idea of primary or secondary.’
Being a trio of naturally rebellious ex-punk rockers, resisting hierarchical relationships comes naturally to the three of us – as does the tendency to put the needs of the group over the needs of the Jungian “Self” or a more traditional couple. It’s our belief, and experience, that it’s healthy and beneficial to forge long-term commitments with multiple people, to open yourself up deeply to more than one lover. To take that risk. To manifest that degree of trust. We can transform standard notions of commitment and jealousy through radical honesty and spiritual growth.
Because when you think about it, life comes down to wanting to manifest beauty in everything you experience. In the ancient native language of my Estonian ancestors, the word for this transcendent beauty is “ilu.” Today, the Estonian “bubble-goth” singer Kerli uses this word as shorthand for “Integrity, Love, and Unity.”
And it just as easily suits the “First Among Equals” moral code of polyamorous relationships.