"What is commitment? Polyamorous perspectives on love, sex and relationships"
Cascade Spring (Elaine) Cook, longtime poly activist, writer, and counselor, has a wonderful new article in American Sexuality, an online magazine published by the National Sexuality Resource Center ("advancing sexual literacy through new dialogues"). Bookmark this one as a handout for people who need help grasping the concept especially the "family formation" model of polyamory.
Lou’s high school class is discussing the continuum of relationships from uncommitted to committed bonds and where certain behaviors fall along that line. Everything goes smoothly until the teacher puts monogamy at the extreme commitment end.
“No,” says Lou, “that’s not right. You don’t have to be monogamous in order to be committed.”
The teacher is surprised. “Of course you do.”
“No you don’t,” replies Lou, whose parents are in a committed relationship with another couple....
What does commitment in a polyamorous relationship look like? ...People who are polyamorous give a different perspective about commitment, a commitment that does not require being sexually and emotionally exclusive with each other.
More than forty years after they got together, Trish and Abe still have a vibrant and vital relationship. Their commitment to each other has been unwavering.... Within two months of that first date they were committed to each other. They became involved with an intensity that most people have a hard time imagining. They are with each other all day, and have spent their time like that for almost all their relationship.... Trish says being polyamorous is fun. It is a way of having “a wider community of people with whom you can rejoice and on whom you can count if you need help.” Abe has learned a lot from the freedom to explore where a relationship may go and feels that being with other women has helped him become a better lover. He makes sure he stays connected to Trish by spending time every day focusing on her....
For some people in polyamorous relationships, [a] commitment to be together for the rest of their lives extends to more than one person. For example, Peter and Lucy are legally married and so are Frank and Tina. However, they all consider themselves to be married to the whole group.... All four of them speak of growing old together or of being committed to their relationship for life. Their living wills and living trusts bind them together financially.... Financially, everything goes in the same pot. “We are a committed family and we’re there for each other with all the bumps and bruises and ugly spots as well as the fun stuff.”
...Some people feel they are committed, even though they don’t promise to be together forever. For them, spiritual and emotional growth is more important in a relationship than how long it lasts....
...One of the benefits that Rogelio finds in polyamory is that with several people who know every wart and every freckle, it’s hard to hide out. When you have just one partner you can avoid showing yourself fully, but when more than one person tells you that you’re not being authentic, you have to pay attention.
Authenticity is very important to Rogelio. He believes that commitment involves “being willing to show up and confront other people on the parts of them that aren’t real; and saying, I think you’re fucking up here; and welcoming that from another person as a spiritual exercise. That to me is the ultimate commitment. Commitment to one’s spiritual growth.”
...Some people draw up relationship agreements as a way of focusing their intentions. Ann, Kay, and Marie, who are all in their forties, have had a very intense two years coming together as a triad and also adopting a baby. The three women... have created a document they call the “Triad Intentions.” Ann explains that it’s “about how we wanted to communicate and how we wanted to fight, and how we wanted to deal with conflict and deal with issues of equity and those sorts of things.”...
...Steve’s commitment is to honesty. He says that if Jane left him, he’d feel upset, but not at her because she never promised anything different. He doesn’t want to give or receive that type of promise....
Read the whole article. Actually, not quite the whole article. Cascade posts that the magazine left off the concluding paragraph, so here it is:
These are just a few of the relationship configurations created in the polyamorous world. These are some of the people who have created long term, satisfying, committed relationships that don´t look like conventional marriages. These people and many others have shown that a deep and meaningful commitment is possible without sexual exclusivity, and can take many different forms.
The author bio at the end of the article says, "[Cook] is currently working on a book on the many paths of polyamory, and provides coaching and guidance for people involved in alternative relationships."
Cook and her husband Zhahai Spring Stewart (inventor of the term "NRE") run a website, AphroWeb.Net, with much interesting material including Cascade's master's thesis, "Commitment in Polyamorous Relationships," which we featured here last year.