It’s been a long time since Marc and/or I have posted on this blog.
A lot has happened since the last entry and, though neither Marc nor I have been writing it here, there is a story to tell and continue telling. For now, I am going to pick up the blog on my own to tell what has transpired and how things move forward in to the future.
If you’ve read the previous entries, you know that Marc and I have been in a relationship for thirteen years. We’ve lived together for ten. Scott and I have been together two years. Scott still lives in a different city, but it is likely he will move to New Orleans in the next couple of months. Marc continues to date and is currently in what seems to be a steady and increasingly intimate relationship with one woman who lives in New Orleans.
The big change since we last posted is that Marc and I no longer live together.
I’m guessing that, for many of you, your first thought is, “Marc and Mimi broke up.” For many of you, the next thing to pop into your mind might go something like this: “See. I knew it. Polyamory doesn’t work.”
I’ve heard people make lots of assumptions about why Marc and I no longer live together and what it means, and for this “update” entry, I’d like to address some of the false conclusions people are making.
False Assumption #1: Mimi left Marc for Scott.
I did not “leave” Marc for Scott. I made it very clear to Marc and Scott that I wanted to continue to be partnered with both of them. I never chose one over the other.
Marc realized that he did not want to be in a polyamorous relationship--not with me or anybody else. Polyamory just did not work for him. Marc, in other words, made a decision that he no longer wanted to be my primary partner as long as I am polyamorous.
While many see this turn of events as Mimi choosing Scott, the more accurate description would be that Marc chose open but not poly and Mimi chose open and poly. This is quite simply a fundamental incompatibility, not one of us ditching the other for someone else.
It’s true, I could have, in the face of Marc’s decision, broken up with Scott, and Marc did give me an ultimatum: It’s me or Scott. But ultimately, it wasn’t about Scott. If it weren’t him, it would have eventually been someone else and we would have faced the same incompatability.
It is no more reasonable for Marc to ask me to not be poly than it is for me to ask Marc to be poly when it just doesn’t work for him.
The assumption that I must have left Marc for Scott is grounded in the mono-normative assumption that the couple is the default, so Mimi is now "coupled" with Scott instead of Marc.
Scott has not replaced Marc. He never has and never will. No one could replace Marc. I found being in relationship with both of them deeply fulfilling and that's what I wanted. Unfortunately, Marc decided it was not what he wanted.
Scott and I are in an open relationship and there is no doubt in my or his mind that, if he and/or I are lucky enough to find other partners, we will once again try to make a polyamorous relationship work. Neither one of us is seeing the change in my relationship with Marc as "coupling up" with Scott.
False Assumption #2: Polyamory was a failed experiment.
First, polyamory is not “experimental” for me, any more than a gay person having a relationship with someone of the same gender is “experimental”. This is my life, not a trend or fancy like rollerblading or sailing. I am very clear about this with Marc and Scott. For right now, Marc doesn’t want to be in a polyamorous relationship and Scott does. I am no less committed to or desirous of doing polyamory.
More important, polyamory as a relationship form is not what caused my and Marc’s separation. We no longer live together because I am polyamorous and Marc is not. Polyamory works only when all parties are on board, and Marc and I just simply do not have the same commitment to polyamory. This difference between us has created a tremendous amount of conflict. Marc and I have never done conflict well, and the frequency and intensity of our conflict led us to separate our households. Any incompatibility or crisis that caused discord in our relationship would have had the same outcome. If it were incompatibility over money or the division of labor, most people would say "perhaps you are incompatible," or "maybe you should try a different approach." Not many people would say that sharing expenses or splitting household chores is a failed experiment, would they?
Here I have to say that the lack of social support made our incompatibility over how to do open polyamory more difficult than other, more common challenges people face in relationships. There were very few people who said, “You can work it out. Everybody struggles the first year or two.” Instead, many people told us, Marc especially, that he was crazy to be doing polyamory. Can you imagine if you and your partner or partners were really struggling over how to manage finances and everyone you talked to said, “You’re crazy to be financially inter-dependent? I think there’s something wrong with your relationship or your partner if she wants to actually open a joint checking account!” Not exactly supportive and the lack of support made those negotiations very difficult and alienating.
False Assumption #3: We Failed at Polyamory:
Polyamorous relationships, like all relationships, end because something in them does not work. All three of us, Scott, Marc, and I, made every effort to make our relationships work. All three of us have made mistakes and grown from those mistakes. We did some things right, and we did some things wrong, just as is the case in all relationships. (And I will be writing about our mistakes, successes, and what I've learned from them in future entries) Given that we were all, for the most part, newbies, I think we were pretty successful for two years. Marc and I deciding to have separate households is not a failure in doing polyamory, it’s a change in how we are doing our relationship. Which leads me to the last false assumption….
False Assumption #4: My and Marc’s Relationship Failed
Because we no longer live together as a couple, it must mean that our relationship is over. This assumes that “successful relationship” means two people co-habiting and sharing a household forever.
My and Marc’s relationship has changed, but it has not failed. In fact, my and Marc’s relationship has been and continues to be an overwhelming success. We both have learned and grown and had incredible experiences together, and I have no doubt that we will continue to do so in the future. Marc and I will continue to be family to each other. Though we no longer define each other as primary partners, we will continue to have a relationship of some kind. That is not failure; that is simply change. When relationships change, it does not mean that what transpired before the change is any less significant or beautiful or that the change is deterioration or dissolution.
At the heart of all of this talk of failure is the assumption that the long term, co-habiting couple is the only measure of relationship success. I wholeheartedly disagree with this definition of relationship success.
I see our decision to separate our households as yet another difficult, courageous, and loving thing we’re doing for each other. Rather than force each other to be something we’re not and sacrifice our happiness for the sake of maintaining a relationship form that was not working for us, we’ve found a different path forward.
The night before I moved to my new house, I had a dream that Marc and I were climbing a mountain and lost each other in a storm. I knew that there was nothing I could do for him or anything he could do for me. I had to get myself out of the situation so that I could eventually find him again and continue together to the summit. I woke thinking of this as a metaphor for our relationship. We’re facing a very scary challenge, but neither he nor I have ever been people who shy away from a challenge. We assess the situation, make good decisions as best we can, and move forward.
Change is difficult, but it is the reality of life. I refuse to believe that “staying together” can only mean living in the same domicile and that only one particular kind of relationship is “success”. I can think of no better definition of success than loving each other enough to let each other be who we are and want to be, even if it means difficult change and an uncertain future.