There is more for you
than what never showed up.
More than what never came to be.
More than what couldn’t transpire
or find a way to work out,
and it looks like healing
and has the shape of possibility.
Let down by family or parents,
past dreams and expectations.
Put off by relationships,
romances, careers and ideations.
There’s another path to explore
and alternate routes to travel.
There’s a tribe meant to welcome,
with encouragements to fuel you.
There are hearts that want to hold you,
and kindnesses that long to see you through.
There are other ways to meet with love,
as kinships waiting in the wings.
There are fresh fields to run in
and warm pools to swim
Hold on bright child,
there is more than
what never appeared.
These lines were written by the Canadian poet Susan Frybort¹ and I was very touched by them.
Because in all those years in which I have already dealt with ethical multiple relationships, it often seemed to me, too, that “what never showed up” regularly made up the far greater part compared to what came to be, could transpire – or what even worked out in the long run.
Most people who feel a predisposition, an attitude, a feeling or a striving towards non-monogamous arrangements probably recognize this as well. The question of “HOW?” seems – no matter where you are on your “Expedition Multiple Partnerships” – to always remain bigger than the actual “That!”.
Often this already starts at a very early stage, since many of us who are committed to a lifestyle of ethical non-monogamy often do not currently have any such relationship(s) in our lives.
Considering Germany for example, different numbers are quoted, regarding how many people would be open for such a way of life; low estimates speak e.g. of about 10,000 truly avowed polyamorous people, elsewhere the rate of 0.2% of the total population is mentioned, who would consider a lifestyle involving multiple relationships (which means that with 84 million inhabitants we end up somewhere slightly above 160,000 people nationwide…*). Statistically frustrating on its own. Sometimes almost discouraging…
Then there are the people who have supposedly “made it” and who have truly ventured into the challenge of “multiple relationships.” People who have taken their hearts in their hands and feel love for more than one person. Love that they also want to infuse – and manifest – with green life in their daily reality.
The first romantically enamoured glitter has hardly settled, the first taste of having actually realized the almost improbable… – when all of a sudden obstacles and difficulties burst up everywhere and on top of that appear to be legion…
Can I show myself in public with more than one partner? And why is that uncomfortable for me, despite my attachment? How can I reasonably and plausibly express in front of my children or parents that I desire, love and legitimately would like to have more than one favourite person in my life from now on? Will those around me perceive and treat me differently now – the neighbors, the buddies in the soccer club, my friends? And now that I maintain different relationships…– how do I manage to express my needs therein in a good way – and at the same time respect those of others? How do I manage not to be crushed between all the requirements, those that my normal environment already places on me, the additional needs of several partners – AND my own demands concerning myself? How is it possible to give all participants their appropriate rights in a multi-person network – and can this be achieved at all on an ad hoc basis between people who, in terms of time availability, geographical proximity and their own resources (and their own commitments and life plans), add to the equation quite different prerequisites?
And what is all that inside me: Is it my good intuition that guides me in my decisions, my speech and my actions – or are those old traumas of my past that want to lead me astray? What suddenly conjures up these fears in me, where do sensations of envy, neglect, jealousy, abandonment, misunderstanding, being excluded and – despite all the abundance and busyness – occasional emptiness and burn-out come from?
Those who choose ethical non-monogamy – that is, multiple partnerships with mutual consent, approval, informed consensus, eye level, and a high degree of sincerity – will almost always carry such questions within them. Their answers, however, do not appear automatically – regardless of whether we already have several partners yet, or not. And it is likewise all too human that we – much like the unwilling prophet Jonah² in the whale – at first will try to run from them for a while, or at least to take cover initially: We are simply not as sincere as we would like to be; we try to exert control over the other people involved with misguided benevolence; we are terribly needy and thus allow ourselves to be driven to exposing actions, thereby steam-rolling over our own good reason and over that of others…
Regardless of whether we are already in a relationship or not – such a state feels mighty unpleasant, and simply “somehow not right”.
Instead of heaven on earth, we experience frustration. Frustration, which – as I already described in my Depression-Entry 22 is “an experience of (actual or perceived) disadvantage or refusal that is perceived as an emotional response to an unfulfilled or unfulfillable expectation (disappointment), e.g. due to the failure of a personal plan or to the complete or partial lack of satisfaction of primary and secondary needs.“ And the definition continues: “On the one hand, frustration can lead to a constructive change in behaviour, but often triggers regressive, aggressive or depressive patterns of behaviour.“
So instead of the much-praised “constructive behavioural change”, we are usually far more likely to withdraw from others and/or right into ourselves (regression), to react irritably, annoyed, or angrily to others or to ourselves (aggression) – or even to become paralysed by dejection, hopelessness, exhaustion, or burnout (depression).
This is how it finally appears to us, as Susan Frybort describes it in her poem above: Nothing comes about as we had hoped, it simply cannot be realized – and there is probably no way for such a thing to work anyway.
Maybe it’s not meant to be. Most likely, we probably are not ready yet or badly prepared.
Once, when I myself was stuck in such a “gray space”, someone on a social network surprisingly wrote me the following about it, which helped me a bit to look at my frustration regarding multiple relationships – especially the ones that I have with myself in this regard – a bit more peacefully:
»In your journey there will be „in between times“ of transition. You may feel lost, confused, angry, unseen or empty. Don’t confuse these times of transition as a forever state of being, or of being broken. You are breaking away from what was, creating space to welcome what will be.«
I think that is a very good way of looking at things (and it reminds me additionally in its choice of words of Scott Peck‘s “Phase of Void” in his “Work of Depression”, which I also mention in Entry 22). Because for the relationships we want to have with other people, we first of all can only offer ourselves as we are here and now. That is where we currently are in our very own progress.
And – concerning that – what obstacles we have already overcome! Among the above-mentioned 84 million inhabitants of the Federal Republic of Germany, even many married couples still have inhibitions about kissing in public, many bystanders have inhibitions about witnessing such an expression of attachment (and all these people are by no means all of retirement age…). In many countries of the world a free and independent choice of a partner/lover/mate is still highly unusual – and in some regions the establishment of moral principles is still so rigid that neither male nor female are able to summon up enough courage to explore their own sexuality – and consequently have no idea at all about the sexuality and the emotional life of other genders…
And we? Are standing 10.000 or 0.2% strong on the shoulders of courageous people in our sphere of culture and the freedom offered there, so that we can concern ourselves with thoughts of multiple relationships, Oligo- and Polyamory. What an incredible privilege – and what a great personal achievement: After all, how far we have come for ourselves in our lives, that we were allowed to do this, to discover this aspect of ourselves and that we have discovered it!
And at the same time, of course, there will be critical voices outside and therefore also inside of us, for whom this is nevertheless still rather“insufficient”. That which “hasn’t shown up”, what “never came to be”, perhaps therefore “will never appear”, thus still too often fancies us as predominant.
If only we were more free… We should be more sincere. We should be more authentic. We should have already become much more ourselves. Then we would have been en route already, long since truly “actualized”. If so, we would have already established a fully comprehensive multiple relationship paradise for ourselves years ago. We would have finally…
The Canadian author and movie-maker Jeff Brown writes about this in his book “Soulshaping”³:
»I find any judgments about where individuals should be at by a certain stage of their life without merit. Its like trying to turn this magnificent and complicated journey of self-creation into something simplistic. In real terms, only soul knows the path its here to walk, what its had to overcome, what achievements to measure its progress by. People judge as though they have it all figured out, but their judgments often just smokescreen their own confusion. Are we late bloomers, or on-time growers? This is a private decision. The important thing is that we keep on walking towards a place that feels like home.«
Accordingly, the fact that we are “already” “here” at all is for each one of us a completely outstanding development. Despite very different starting points, we all have approached this extraordinary universe of multiple relationships. A universe by which we confront ourselves time and again with the most fundamental questions about who we are. With questions about how we relate – both to ourselves and at the same time to those who also have, had – or should obtain – a special place in our hearts and in our very existence.
To me, that looks like healing.
And it has the shape of possibility.
Hold on bright child,
there is more than
what never appeared…
¹ “Look to the Clearing: Poems to Encourage”, Enrealment Press 2021
² The Bible, Book of Jonah, esp. chapter 2:1-11.
³ North Atlantic Books; Original Edition 2009
* Solid numbers on how many people in the population are statistically polyamorous – or even live that way – remain scarce:
https://journals.sagepub.com/doi/full/10.1177/1363460718779781 (Survey covering the USA 2018)
https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC8023325/ (Survey covering the USA 2021)
Thanks to Frauke Riether on Pixabay for the photo!