This week, we are discussing commitment. It’s something that many poly people I know have to discuss quite often. Are we unable to commit? Why are we not faithful to our significant others?
Here’s the thing, folks: Poly people look at these terms in a different manner than we are taught by society. Many of us, like myself, go by the literal definition of terms — as with anything else, we bring our own thoughts and experiences to the table, which is why it looks so different from person to person.
I am but one tiny raindrop in a vast ocean of individuals.
How Do I Define Commitment?
I define “commitment” as being faithful and loyal to the partners I have. But that also begs the question: How do I define “faithfulness” and “loyalty”?
I define “faithful” much like my Marine (Danny for those of you who don’t already know) does. I see it as firm and unswerving adherence to the promises that I have made and the duties I have to those whom I have pledged my loyalty to.
I define “loyalty” as showing (or “having,” if you prefer that term) complete and constant support for someone that I care for. Loyalty is unswerving — there is that word again — dedication to those people. Now you might find this strange in a post about polyamory, but I have never read any definition of the word “loyal” that stated you can only be loyal to one person. As a matter of fact, I am told that being loyal is one of my best qualities. I don’t get wishy-washy about where I stand in my support of another. Once my loyalty is given, it’s yours until you screw it up, sometimes even past the point where it should be revoked.
I was always taught that the words “I promise” are sacred. The weight carried by a person’s word of honor is the measure of their integrity. If I have to break even the smallest promise that I have made, I will mentally torture myself over it. It doesn’t matter if you are a friend, family member, or lover. I take my promises seriously.
Is It Possible for Me to Commit to More Than One Person at a Time?
Well, this one is easy. Yes. But why? How does this sit well in my soul? It’s simple. Nowhere does my definition of “commitment” state that I can only commit to one person. Choosing to commit yourself to a relationship is not a statement of monogamy in my viewpoint.
I have never believed that you can only love one person, any more than most people believe you can only have one friend. I believe that you love each person differently because each person is different. Thus each relationship is different, as is each commitment to a relationship that you make.
Perhaps the better question here would be: Do I have what it takes to commit to more than one person at a time?
It takes a great deal of personal responsibility and awareness to commit to multiple partners at once. It means holding yourself accountable for everything you think, feel, and do. You may not have any control over how something affects you, but you have control over your response to it. Thus to commit to more than one person, you have to be able to examine why things make you react in certain ways. It means holding yourself just as accountable as you hold your partner. It means working through your issues, whether that means on your own or by having a frank conversation with your partner(s), and not laying the blame at their feet. Committing to more than one person also means being very honest with yourself and your partners.
I can do all these things. I tend to do them regardless of how many partners I have. My feelings, thoughts, and actions are my own. I am aware of my own responsibility for them at all times.
A great example of this happened just this past weekend. I was at an event and a gentleman was flirting with me rather heavily, right up until he learned that one of my partners is a Marine. At that point, he actively began avoiding me, fearful of what that Marine might do to him even though Danny and I both had assured him that all was well. I was hurt and frustrated by this man’s response. It happens often, and it is a struggle for me. I could have gone off the deep end and read this person the riot act. I could have hidden in a corner and cried my eyes out.
I did neither.
Instead, I went off by myself, though I did have a friend nearby watching over me, and did some self-evaluation. I determined that the cause of my hurt feelings was not directly the fault of a person who seems to have been intimidated by Danny but simply the circumstances involved. I might wish it were otherwise, but I could not get upset with this man for attempting to protect himself from a perceived threat. I could only wrestle with my own feelings on the matter and then move on. Which I did after about 20 minutes of quiet time.
What Would Those Commitments Look Like?
Being part of the BDSM lifestyle actually helps me a lot here. My relationships are often negotiated in a similar manner. I know what I can and cannot offer to a new partner based on my current commitments to existing partners. Sometimes a commitment is to simply spend whatever time we can with one another. Other times, especially if I am entering a new power exchange, my commitments to a new partner expand into acts of service that I am able to provide.
Each and every relationship, however, is approached with my full self. I give as much as I hope to receive. I would consider anything less than my all to be cheapening my relationships. These partners of mine deserve the best that I have to give them.
There is something to be said here about not spreading yourself too thin. Sometimes you just don’t have enough to go around, no matter how much you might like it to be otherwise. I might wish for a full-on romantic relationship with someone I have just found a connection with, but all either of us can give is the occasional visit. I try my best to be fair when such things happen and often find it relieves excess concern on my part if that person has other partners.
At the End of the Day…
Commitment, like so many terms we use, is a personal code. I can commit, under my own personal code, to more than one relationship. Not everyone can. It works for me and mine in a way that we find to be healthy and beneficial. That might not be what works for you, and that’s perfectly alright too!
As always, remember: This is your life; live it your way!