There are parts of polyamorous literature, and polyamorous “popular culture” that seem to prioritize pain and struggling forward through difficulties as a virtue. While often, growth can have challenges (and as someone who has done years of therapy and made many changes that were not strictly comfortable, I’d swear up and down that fixing problems and growing often feels worse before it feels better again) relationships as a whole should not be built out of struggles, growth points, and difficulty. Relationships should make you happy. Relationships should make your soul sing. Points of personal growth might help you amplify joy in your relationships once you accomplish them, and be totally worth going through a rough patch for, but the “relationships are hard work” crowd don’t get to define relationships in terms of pain and difficulty.
If something hurts; if it’s a tear, not a stretch - that’s not a healthy growth point within a relationship. If relationships keep hurting over and over and aren’t punctuated by the moments that make your soul sing out, leave them. They aren’t serving you. One of the benefits of polyamory as a framework is that it ostensibly encourages us to look over and over at whether our relationships are truly working - not just existing - and to end them when they aren’t. Because we’ve taken a non-traditional path, we’re encouraged to not follow cultural norms of how and when to proceed and to stop our relationships (or not stop them) and we can in theory feel less guilt about this. In practice, it is often more complicated than this.
We get told that compersion is the ultimate virtue and jealousy an extreme sin, and every problem we have is conflated into one or the other of these existing in the wrong proportion. If we internalize this, it can make it really difficult to trust our feelings and our perception of the situation we’re in, and leave us vulnerable to manipulation. It is a matter of personal growth to recognize our points of jealousy and work on them, yes - but also to recognize that some of our triggers will simply exist and learn to live around them in the world. Do our relationships still bring us joy despite their shapes interacting with our jealousy triggers? Wonderful. Do we sometimes feel compersion? No need to feel guilt if it’s not a massive amount of the feeling or a frequent amount of the time. But if we take it out on other people that we feel these feelings a portion of the time that feels wrong to us, or if our partners shame us for how much or little we feel them… those relationships aren’t bringing us joy. What’s singing out there, when it’s dampened by shame?
If pain, difficulty, and shame are dampening the joy in our relationships, can they really make our hearts sing? And if they don’t, do we want to stay in them? Each of us must decide for themself.
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