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Removing Pressure to be "The One"

One of the things I mentioned in my What is the Best Thing About Polyamory entry (and that came up more than once in the comments on sharing that post on social media) is that there’s a certain amount of relief in not having to be “everything” to one person, nor expect them to be that for you. There can be a pretty heavy weight in the monogamous expectation that we lean primarily (or only) on our romantic partners for emotional support.

Part of how the toxic end of monogamous culture is supported is by this notion that we should have a “one,” the one person who is simultaneously our passionate lover, our best friend, our shoulder to cry on, our confidant, our protector, and in need of our protection, at once. Sometimes, real life means that we can’t have those things at the same time. Being our confidant might mean that right this minute, our partner can’t be our best friend because they truly don’t like how we feel; or we might both be in a grief intense enough that we can hold each other but confiding makes no sense because it would be “dumping in” and making the situation worse; or having just been a shoulder to cry on means we aren’t in the mood for passionate lovemaking. On top of that, sometimes we just don’t trust our skill (or have skill!) in being one or more of those things. I am 100% confident in my ability to be a lover and confidant for people I get close enough to to consider myself in a romantic relationship with - but I don’t at all trust that I can mutually protect them, and my best friends are people I went to university with who make fun of the pseudonyms I give ex-partners on this blog because they know every. single. one. of the people I’m referring to, and they joke with me when I embellish a story to make a point, and they’ll be there come hell, high water, and my eventual inability to continue semiannually watching Pride and Prejudice (the 1995 version, you philistine, and yes, that’s an equal crisis) because I no longer have access to it via a platform relevant to modern technology. I already don’t expect partners to be “everything” for me, so it’s always been a shock when partners expected that of me.

Polyamory isn’t a magical panacea for this ill of someone expecting you to be their “one” - lots of people just view it as more than one “one” who will understand their soul at its deepest level and be there for every up, down, and sideways, no matter what their past, because if they’re with you it’s ride or die. But, it’s got a built in space to negotiate. If you don’t remember what I mean by that, take a second to review the post on Relationship Agreements from a couple months ago. If you know, as I do, that you’re bad at the “Always stand up for your partner, no matter against who” bit of being “the one” for someone, make sure your partner doesn’t expect that of you. If you’re happy to have and be an additional close friend and confidant, but can’t be someone’s only one, make that clear. The option to make that clear, without “failing” as a relationship - and for your partner to similarly let you know what needs they can’t fill, without it being a loss or a failure - is one of the strengths of polyamory, and something a lot of people find to be the best thing about it.

The one thing to remember, if this is your personal “best thing about polyamory,” is that this isn’t universal and it takes a fair bit of work to ‘deprogram’ that cultural expectation of someone being “the one” and to not just decide that polyamory means more than one “the one.” It’s amazing when your positives line up with a partner’s, or when you both have done similar work and are at the same place with your non-monogamy so you aren’t looking forward to those lighter expectations while they still need a version of “the one” from you. It doesn’t make that partner “worse” at polyamory, just that they had different priorities in needs and the work they did first or before they met you.

No matter what your skills and preferences are, there are partners who will share them, and partners who will find compromises with you between your ideals as you make relationship agreements. If enjoying the removal of pressure to be the one, and instead supporting to match your skills is your favorite polyamorous benefit, your people are very much out there.

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