Wednesday, April 27, 2011

My Polyamorous Heart.

[Guest post by Rowdy]

One of the typical assumptions about monogamy is that the heart is a defined quantity, to love more than one person is to divide it, to find a new love is to push the last completely out, and each person it's given to gets the same thing.

That’s never felt true for me, the way I experience love. When describing my heart, I’ve found this metaphor works pretty well:

I like to think of my polyamorous heart as a house with many rooms. It’s constructed by the people I love, and filled with warmth and memories. It grows as each person I love adds something to my house, maybe a decoration or boardgame, maybe an entire new room.

Many people enter my heart, friends and strangers, and hang around in the common spaces... sometimes just a short while, and sometimes much longer. They wear down the floors and scuff the walls, they throw parties and help me fix the place up.

Each new romantic love builds their own room, an addition onto my house. We work on it together and it grows over time, a special place filled with emotions, experiences, and memories. There is always space to add another room, and build additions onto the rooms already built - it only takes time and energy, the material provided by our lives. No two rooms are alike, each one shaped by the person who built it.

Some of those people may leave my life, but the room they built in my heart stays, like the bedroom of a child moved off to college, a place of growth, accomplishments, and warm memories - saved just for that person who made it their home for a while. Some people leave their room nicely as a place for fond memories, others trash the room on their way out, but the place they built in my heart stays.

They may come by occasionally, or they may make their life in other hearts and never return, but there will always be a place of happiness that they built in my heart, a place they are always welcome to visit.

Sometimes my house is a loud party, sometimes it is lonely and quiet; there are parts of it I visit every day, and others I haven’t visited in ages.

This is my poly heart. A house built by the people who’ve lived there, filled with the warmth of life, love, and memories.


  1. To be honest, once I step outside the monogamy space dictated by our culture, I fail to see the reason behind standard arguments against polyamory. All those same arguments could be applied against having more than one child, but you never, ever see it.

    I dunno, once you remove the cultural blinders, it doesn't make much sense.

    Also, so nice to "meet" Rowdy!

  2. And my eyes well up. So lovely!

  3. That's truly beautiful.

    And true for me in many aspects, too.
    Thank you for adding this new metaphor to my thoughts.

  4. "It grows as each person I love adds something to my house, maybe a decoration or boardgame, maybe an entire new room.

    Who built the crapper?

  5. I think this holds true for us monogamous folks too. I can't imagine being in love with more than one person at a time, but I can say that my heart works the same way. Everyone who's ever been a part of my life has shaped who I am and left their mark on my being. The memories, good or bad, helped me become who I am today.

    Besides, there are certainly different kinds of love, like love for friends & family, that fill my heart in addition to the space occupied by my significant other.

    It's not just about the polyamorous heart, it's about all hearts.

  6. thank you! that describes how i have felt all my life and only recently started finding the words to describe it. yes, like you say, many rooms. this is perfect. i recently discovered your blog and look forward to reading it daily.

  7. This is the sweetest thing ever. And a really handy metaphor.

  8. Whoa, cool, that sounds surprisingly like my headspace, actually. Me and Rogan have built a house in it!

    And are you part of the same system as Holly?


  9. Wow, that is an amazing description. It is often so hard to describe the emotions in a poly relationship, how each person can add to the whole rather than take away. Thank you :)

  10. I love a good metaphor. Analogy. Whatever.
    Nice to get another perspective on the Pervocracy. Will there be more?

  11. PersonalFailure's analogy to children seems the most apt to me. The popular script posits that somehow there's always enough love to go around no matter how irresp . . . um, "fertile" you are, but that sex makes it impossible to deeply care more than one other adult.

  12. Much like Aimee above, I think the metaphor works for those of us who have had mongamous love lives. As I was reading the post, I thought about how all my past loves (and even friends!) had built their rooms in my "heart house." Some left the room the same as the found it, some in better then they found it. Some DID wreck it on the way out. Some people still have a room they return to from time to time, some are wrecked, with the door locked and boarded up. One or two are pristine and unlocked, but empty and shan't be returned to.

    Still, great post.

  13. I'd never thought of it this way before, but it makes a lot of sense. Makes jealousy seem pretty silly too, why would you want somebody you're dating to have a studio apartment when they could have a mansion? No matter how many of the rooms of the mansion are currently occupied.

    Thanks for the different perspective.

  14. That's beautiful, man. :) The loves in your life are lucky to have you.

  15. That's nice and all, but doesn't actually provide a countermeasure to the "to love more than one person is to divide [the heart]" idea. After all, if you have a house with 20 rooms, you are going to spend much less time in any one of those rooms, and even thinking about any one of those rooms, than if you have a house with two or three.

  16. Anon - Time doesn't equal love, though.

    Do I see Rowdy every day? No.

    Do I love Rowdy every day? Yes.

  17. I like this, and thinks it works well for everyone who loves, regardless of how they do it.

    I would add that as polyamorous, it's like having more than one person living in your house. They have access to more/most of the rooms than anyone else, they are with you when you visit any of the rooms, and when the darkest parts of your house needs fixin', there is more than one person there to help you. In fact, your two partners often visit each others rooms.
    And, just as with a real life live in partner, they may sometimes not be with you! They're off doing their own thing while you're spending time doing your own thing.
    Hope this made sense. Haven't had my coffee yet.

  18. watchingdreadfulkidstvonyoutubeApril 28, 2011 at 4:32 PM

    There is an episode of Sabrina the Teenage Witch that is pretty much exactly this which I find sort of delightful.

  19. @anonymous 11:58 "Who built the crapper?"

    my mama did, of course! (as well as laying down many other practical fundamentals that most people who move into a pre-existing house don't have to build or bring.)

    @anonymous 2:48 "After all, if you have a house with 20 rooms, you are going to spend much less time in any one of those rooms, and even thinking about any one of those rooms, than if you have a house with two or three."

    yes, but you also have to go to work, and sometimes you want to go out for drinks with friends, or go on vacation, or go for a bike ride... i resent the idea that my partner should be more important than anything else in my life, because at that point it ceases to be my life. it becomes his. if i am allowed to have a wide social circle of friends, or a large family, why should i immediately be locked in to one romantic endeavor just because he got there first? of course if i never go in a certain room because i think the other rooms are more important, or i'm just never home, then i'm neglecting it, but i can spend a couple good quality hours there every day and it won't fall off the building. and similarly, if all i do is go to work and come home and sit around in the living room for the rest of the night, that's not going to make me very happy either. (i also suspect the living room would become an awful mess.)

    excellent post, rowdy - a good extendable metaphor is the best. i'll be chewing on this one for awhile.

  20. That was really lovely.

  21. Really sweet and lovely, thank you :). It opened my eyes a bit, too- I understand the appeal better now.

  22. yes, but you also have to go to work, and sometimes you want to go out for drinks with friends, or go on vacation, or go for a bike ride...

    ...Right, and all of those things leave even less time to spend with one's partner, so if you're a person who requires lots of time with a partner to nurture that relationship and keep it going, then polyamory doesn't make sense - there just aren't enough hours in the day.

    I very much grew up in the monogamy paradigm - to the point where after a few dates with someone we'd be like "I guess this makes us boyfriend/girlfriend now" because that's it was supposed to go. The idea of other relationship models is fairly new to me, but I love the idea of "thinking outside the box" in order to customize relationships to your exact needs.

    But after a little experimentation I've discovered that polyamory, while awesome in theory, is not something I'm cut out for - in large part because of the divided-time factor.

    Mind you, I'm pretty much a crazed hermit shut-in and it's entirely possible that other people are able to cut way back on their alone-time and fill it with friends or partners instead. You know, without feeling all head-explody.

  23. I've having a bit of trouble with this thread as a poly identified person. On the one hand, I really appreciate that some of the mono-folks who came to the thread read it and saw some of themselves in it as well. On the other hand, it feels like (as with so many other marginalized groups), that as soon as poly folks articulate something Good and True (with capitalized letters and everything), that people in the dominant group have to swoop in and claim it as "universal." I get told every day by people (explicitly and implicitly) that the way I love is wrong, immoral, unreasonable, selfish, confused, incomprehensible, and inherently flawed and limited. Some of the people who express these beliefs to me are my parents (who know I'm poly), coworkers (some of whom know) and friends (who know), and of course strangers (who rarely do). It feels sort of shitty to have such a good encapsulation of my identity put out there and then immediately seized upon by mono folks as "but that's not poly, that's all of us." I wish that mono-folks who came to this thread could figure out a way to express solidarity, without participating in a time "honored" practice of noticing something "shiney" and pretty that marginalized folks have, and immediately trying to claim it as their own as well. I recognize that many of ya'll are not, but to those who that is their first inclination, could you take a step back and think about how your words either help to further marginalize us or add to our strength, and then choose the latter set of words?

  24. I don't think they're trying to marginalize you, I think they mean to relate. Like "Ohhhh so it's NOT different/deviant/weird! It's normal too!"

  25. I guess I feel like "It's not just about the polyamorous heart, it's about all hearts." while attempting to find common ground (as I mentioned in my initial comment), is also a way of saying "don't say this is something you guys discovered, it's not so special." And yes maybe, but we also get shit every single day about how deviant our love is, so waving one's hands and saying "*I* don't think you're deviant, it's a great metaphor, but it isn't just for you, so I'll use it for myself" ignores the fact that wide SWATHES of the world do think that we're deviant.

    It's like... in race discussions when white women try to connect with women with women of color by saying "oh, but people always touch my hair too!" Same, but different, the experience of having one's hair exoticized and touched without one's permission and the experience of having privileged hair that is touched (less frequently) without permision. And saying it like that invalidates the experience of the person who is objectively more oppressed for their identity.

    Does that make some sense?

  26. In fairness, TheDeviantE, the monogamous folks who agree with Rowdy's metaphor are likely a different group of people from the ones who think your lifestyle is gross and wrong. I could see you being super-pissed if someone agreed with the post and thought your poly-ness was wrong, but...

    And if so many mono people agree with the metaphor, maybe all human hearts are built that way and the difference between mono and poly people is something else entirely. Just putting that out there.

  27. reading comprehension seems to be waning (and frustratingly, I seem to be losing comments just as I go to post them, so this will perhaps sound more terse).

    A) I am not "super-pissed," in fact, in my original comment I said I was having "a bit of trouble."
    B) I have acknowledeged in *every* comment I've made that people are attempting to find common ground, however, what I take exception to is the manner about which they are going about it
    C) I do not care if people in this thread are actively anti-poly in their lives. The problem of derision and digust towards poly folks is society wide, therefore people who want to reach common ground with me need to acknowledge this, and not try to come up with personal solutions (such as "well I don't think you're gross")
    D) (and this relates to C), as a white person, I recognize that my privilege is inherent in every moment of my life, regardless of if I want it (I don't), therefore if I want to be a decent ally to folks of color, I need to not invalidate or make about myself their frustrations related to white privilege. What is going on in this thread seems to be people who are being confronted with an idea of their mono-privilege, and are making it either about themselves, or telling me "it's not a big deal." That just isn't the way an ally acts, as far as I'm concerned. And as such, it doesn't make me feel understood or acknowledged.

    Also, since I'm tired of making the same points again, I'm just not going to respond to anything that paints me as irrational/angry (I'm not, I'm dissapointed and frustrated), or anything that ignores that I have REPEATEDLY stated that I recognize posters are attempting to connect.

  28. My take is that it can only help poly people for ideas like this to become adopted by the mainstream - most people who have an issue with poly is because they don't understand it and it seems like an awful idea according to how they understand relationships. If they understood love differently, I think it'd be a lot harder to find fault in poly - because both monogamy and poly make perfect sense this way.

    I believe that poly (or some other superset including poly) hinges on the fundamental belief that people have the freedom and right to define the terms of their own relationship(s) according to whatever works best for them and their partner(s). I respect people who consciously choose monogamy for their relationship, the same way I respect people in polifidelous groups - not my preference, but we agree on that important premise and have structured our relationships according to it. It's the people that do monogamy because "well, that's what ya do" that seem to be problematic.

  29. Rowdy, that's your perogative, and as you are the writer of this piece, I'll leave it there.

  30. This was such a heartwarming, beautiful, enlightening post. Such an easy way to explain something people seem to find so complicated about how I live/love/fuck. Thank you so much for sharing, it will be a useful tool in future conversations.

  31. Ohhhhhhhhh, this is a post BY Rowdy! See, I kept looking for Rowdy's quote/advice within the post, kept looking through comments, didn't realize this was him. My bad.

  32. I now also realized, going through the comments, that there is another Mr. Monster...this is kind of awkward, very sorry, other Monster. From now on I'll just go back to being RoboCop, I swear.

  33. TheDeviantE, I completely understand what you're saying. All I can say is that for me at least, Rowdy's article helped me gain perspective on the poly lifestyle. By saying that I think that monogamous folks are similar, I wasn't trying to say that it's not special or "we thought of it first." It's more, for me at least, about being able to identify and understand the other point of view. It's like anything else, things are easier to understand if you can find similarities.

  34. TheDeviantE, I think the big difference that many people are failing to emphasize is how you and your partners spend time in the rooms in that house. It's a beautiful metaphor, but in the original post Rowdy doesn't dwell on the differences between poly and mono relationships, only the similarities.

    To really hit on the poly aspect you'd have to describe how in your house you are always free to visit other rooms and spend time with different people (and you all hang out together sometimes too), whereas in most "mono houses" there is only one other person living in a house with you and you sometimes wander alone into empty rooms full of mementos.

  35. Apricot, I see your point, but I don't think that people with a "mono house" necessarily live with only one other person. You know, maybe I'd look at it more like an apartment building. I own the building, and people who have touched my life have their own places, so I visit once in a while, but they don't *live* with me. In my apartment, I have my current lover and family and friends that I hold dear.

    Wow, I feel like we might be killing the metaphor. Regardless, I think the point is that people touch our lives and make their marks on our hearts...that feeling is universal.

  36. It's not really an issue of distinguishing a poly heart from a monogamous one, I think people can fill in that blank - I think this really applies to many hearts, poly and otherwise. I know it applied to me long before I started poly & was happily monogamous.

    The key point is shifting the model away from the 'heart shaped box' paradigm... one that really doesn't fit poly (and I'd argue many mono) relationships, to one that fits many kinds of relationships. It makes tangible the idea that 'I can fill my house however I want', maybe you choose one exclusive partner, maybe you don't - point is, the choice belongs to the owner of the house and their guest(s).

  37. This was so beautiful, Rowdy -- thank you!!!

    I'm currently in a very happy, monogamous relationship. But I never could wrap my head (heart?) around exactly *why* I wasn't supposed to love anyone else. I've fallen in love several times with other people, while still being madly in love with my current partner. The concept of loving more than one person at a time, however, is kind of alien to said partner, so sacrificing these other loves in order to keep the current one, has just been the tradeoff that I've made.

    But it was very nice to read this post, and think maybe I'm not just weird, or broken, after all! Turns out, there exist others who love in a similar way as me! Also equally enlightening is to see the other commenters who say that they feel they are mono naturally, and don't have to force themselves into it.

    I've been having a hard time trying to figure out which way is the "true" way that romantic love works -- well, will you look at that, there are people who work in all these different ways. I guess that should have been obvious... but it's nice to have the lesson. :)

  38. This was quite lovely to read,and the comments have been rather thought provoking. I would just like to add, though, that as an introvert sometimes I have barely the social energy to deal with one partner, let alone more. Luckily my partner understands and supports me, and we've figured out how I can let them know when I need space.

  39. Resonates with me. The value of committing to really knowing and growing with one person resonates too. How confusing.

  40. I've been monogamous myself (at least up to now...), but I love reading about sex-positive points of view. I just discovered this blog and I find this description absolutely lovely.