WARNING: abject whining follows. Mostly about problems that other people would love to have. This essay may, in fact, have no redeeming qualities; I just needed to get it off my chest.
Perhaps, if em and I are extremely lucky, someone about to make the same mistake I did will read this some day.
Also, this came out a lot more depressing than I intended, but since the point was to get this shit out of me and on paper where I can ignore it more easily, I'm reluctant to change it.
I am in what seems to be a minority of a minority: I am polyamorous by orientation. That is, I feel like I have as much choice about being poly as most people do about whether they are androphiles or gynophiles (ironically, that *was* a choice for me: I chose to become bisexual in my late teens, and while I'm not really a kinsey 3, my fairly regular urges towards penises have felt quite natural for many years now).
Having said that, my need to be poly is not a black box to me; it is something that is a part of me, but not an atomic part: it results from other, more fundamentally built-in parts of my psyche. It's basically the result of two things, the first of which is that I am incapable of conventional jealousy. In fact, my response to a lover telling me about a tryst (surprise or not, in the scope of our agreements of not, although I'll get angry at some point in the latter case) is to get hard, 19 times out of 20. This is so staggeringly maladapted to the ancestral environment that it boggles me that the genes allowing it lasted long enough to reach me. Lest you get the wrong impression, I do not enjoy being betrayed or used; I find cuckoldry porn mostly unpleasant. It's just that I enjoy those I love having a good romantic/sexual experience, whether I was there or not.
The second is that it just doesn't make any sense to me to reject one relationship for another. My relationships succeed or fail on their own, individual, internal merits (with the occasional exception of one relationship proving by example that another is broken, but that's about experience, not about the two relationships being simultaneous). This whole idea that when someone new comes along you should pick the best one and dump the other is both absurd and vaguely disgusting to me. Just because I've got a hard on (or fallen in love with or whatever) someone new, that doesn't make the relationship I was already in lose all its value. I still love em, still have shared history with em, ey still makes me smile. Why should I dump em just because there is someone new?
The new relationship seeming better or more exciting certainly doesn't provide a compelling reason to dump an old lover: new relationships always feel like that, at least for most I've talked to. For me especially: I'm a neophile, new relationships always feel like an explosion of awesomeness to me. This means that that feeling of "this is the best thing ever!" in a new relationship has no value, since it happens no matter how good or bad the relationship turns out to be, so I just ignore it. The only impact I allow NRE to have on my planning is that I try to schedule a lot of time with the person while it's happening (it's a nice feeling, after all). I certainly wouldn't hurt someone I care about in the service of a totally predictable aspect of my psyche, with no predictive power about the future of the relationship. That's a fast way to end up stuck in a bad relationship with no friends. I try not to compare two relationships to each other at all, in fact, and if I must I wait until they've both been going for at least six months.
So. I have no jealousy, I hate breaking up with people, and I refuse to prioritize one relationship over another as such; I let each find its own level. Sounds like poly is perfect for me!
Here's the thing: when I realized poly was perfect for me (and, of the options available, is is), I honestly believed that being poly would mean that I would never again be required to choose one relationship over another, and least in a long-term sense. Part of this was that I had in mind people like myself at the time: self-sufficient sluts who would be happy bouncing between one or two nights a week sort of relationships; maybe a primary in there somewhere, but a similarly busy primary. More importantly, I wasn't very convinced that I'd end up in any relationship, let alone multiple primary ones; I was young and insecure.
I didn't understand, at an emotional level, that it was possible to run completely out of time, or the emotional battering this would give me.
In contrast to my childhood (I started self-identifying as poly around 12; I never went through the asexual/anti-romantic phase I'm told most children do) fantasies of poly life, what has actually happened is that is that, right now anyways (May 2010), I have no less than 3 people in my life who I would love to devote my full time and attention to. Obviously that isn't going to happen. I've got one, if not two, affairs that could easily become full-time triads, with the same ability to consume my full time and attention, if I allowed them to progress in that direction.
It gets worse, though: of the 3 people I mentioned, none of them have full-time, committed sexual/romantic partners besides me. There's some half-way measures for some of, but each of them has significant things that they only get from me. So not only am I emotionally inclined to give my all to at least 2 of them (the third is a new-ish relationship, and I don't have any idea how a serious full-time relationship with em would actually go, but if I could duplicate myself I'd certainly try), but each of them has strong need/motivation at this time (and for 2 of them, for most of the last 10 years) to take from me as much time and attention as I can give.
I expected poly to let me live my life without having to prioritize one relationship over another in any serious way, except as each relationship found its own level in itself. Instead, I'm having to actively decide which relationships to give my time to, and which to ignore (partially or completely).
I expected poly to let me live my life letting my relationships find their natural level. Instead, I've spent a lot of effort lately in preventing relationships from finding their natural level.
I have no solution. I have no inkling of a solution. What I actually want is to duplicate myself a bunch of times so I can give all of the many things in my life (not just relationships) the attention the deserve. Unfortunately, I've been reading enough post-singularity fiction that that sounds like a reasonable request to me, which makes it hard for me to cope with reality as I find it.
The only ordering I've been able to come up with that seems even marginally fair, without completely abandoning my principles about relationships living or dying on their own merits, is first-come-first-served. So new relationships get put on the (currently extremely small) back burner, and if that means I don't get to help someone that I want to and that needs my help, well, tough shit, huh?
I'm not going to change what I'm doing; I think I'm handling all this, from a practical perspective, about as well as it can be handled. It's the emotional end that I'm having trouble with.
A few days ago, I spent most of the evening comforting a crying lover, who was mostly crying about things that I could fix simply by spending more time with em. It hurt, a lot, and that sort of shit seems to be happening a lot lately, and I'm just really tired of pushing people away, and not getting to spend the time I want to even with those I'm not actively pushing away.
So very, very tired of it. I could easily burst into tears right now, but you, gentle reader, would not see them, and why would I want to burden you with that anyways?