A song came on the radio just now that really pissed me off. I’ve always hated the song, though it doesn’t sound bad. It’s the lyrics that irritate the fuck out of me. The song is called Lips of an Angel, by Hinder.
The lyrics that specifically make my skin boil are these, “Well, my girl’s in the next room, sometimes I wish she was you,” and, “But girl you make it hard to be faithful, with the lips of an angel.” They are infuriating for obvious reasons, because they are a symbol of something much larger, and that’s our society’s acceptance of cheating and keeping secrets from our partner.
Aside from a small group, almost every marriage I’ve known has ended because of unfaithfulness. And of the marriages that didn’t end in divorce, a good number still included at least one cheating partner. Often times the couples stayed together because of children or codependency, only twice was it because of actual forgiveness.
Granted, this isn’t all couples, but it’s such a large number of people I’ve known that I can count how many haven’t cheated (or broken the rules in some way) on one hand. Considering how many people I know, this is disappointing to say the least.
This is where I stop and think, what’s the real issue here?
There were times when I was in high school where I dated multiple people at once. Others where I was dating someone and specifically tried to get a friend involved. I was open to this, desired this, and more often than not, accused of trying to ‘bait’ people—trick them into being with someone else, then dumping them. This was even said to me when my ex cheated, and I’d told him, “Just tell me before you act next time, then I don’t mind.” It was the betrayal I didn’t like. Yet he still accused me of trying to trick him into cheating again, just so I could dump him. Because, you know, I couldn’t break it off unless he cheated again? Whatever….
While this seems completely crazy in my mind, the idea that we can love more than one person, have intimate and important relationships with more than one person, that we can find pleasure (also known as compersion) when our partner is happy with another partner, seems crazy to others.
The thought that ‘having desires to cheat’ is okay and acceptable in a song or in life, while the notion that you can actually have both loves isn’t accepted widely, floors me. How is this possible?
I know that when my husband was religious, he felt extreme guilt even just being attracted to another woman. He never cheated, and he didn’t need to, because I’d have given him my blessing. Even from early on, I’d flirt with women with him. Of course, taking it to the next level never happened. He was far too critical of himself, believing that there was something inherently wrong with him for having feelings for others. He’d often say it was wrong, because the bible said so.
While I know that some faiths do teach monogamy, I also know some don’t. Several of my friends that are in open relationships are religious, Christian in fact, and that’s the faith that so often gets accused of not being understanding to different relationship types. So I’m not certain this is the reason for our lack of self-compassion when it comes to feelings for people that aren’t our spouse.
Maybe it was all the healthy ‘open’ relationships I knew about in high school that made me see things differently, but whatever the reason, I’ve never felt possessive over my partners. I feel the exact opposite, like I don’t own them, and I find great joy in watching my husband fall in love with another, or one of my other partners enjoying their new relationship.
The belief that we should live monogamous lives doesn’t make sense to me. Granted, there are a few couples I’ve known that never had desires to physically be with another, but there was still a theme in that they had attractions, they just didn’t want to act on them. And that’s fine, because the choice to act is up to the individual. My issue has nothing to do with the idea of monogamy. It has everything to do with the fact that as a species, we seem to be geared toward multiple attractions, the ability to have feelings and desires to be with multiple people at once, and yet we deny ourselves this.
As a society, we prefer monogamy. We accept cheating more often than polyamory. When I tell people I’m poly, or have an open marriage, so often they give me odd or critical looks. So much so that my husband and I don’t usually tell people that we are poly right away. And poly doesn’t necessarily describe us, since the way my husband and I operate, is to support one another in whatever we need.
This means that if one of us needs a one night stand, as long as we are safe, we can fulfill that desire. If we fall in love and want a full relationship with someone, we can have that too. If we just want a kinky play session, so be it. The point is, we can do what we want. We support one another in getting our needs met. And only wonderful things have come out of this openness.
Part of the reason we went down this road was that many years ago, my husband woke up feeling terrible. His heart was hurting, he felt heavy with guilt, and he finally told me about this dream he’d had of another woman. Someone I knew he’d had feelings for, and it went back many years before he’d even met me. In the dream, he’d kept trying to cut the rope that was connecting them, but each time he cut it, it would only reconnect.
He was visibly upset as he confessed this dream, and he kept saying he didn’t understand it. I, naturally, understood perfectly that he still had feelings for her, that he even loved her, and that he was feeling guilty for having those feelings. I simply said, “Of course you can’t cut the rope, you still have feelings for her.”
To this, he stopped moving in his seat, and his eyes opened wide like I’d just announced some terrible atrocity. But the more he realized I had absolutely no judgment of him over it, and that I was quite understanding, he slowly began accepting that we are capable of loving multiple people without taking away what we feel for either. He accepted this, because the more he realized he’d been in love with her the whole time he’d been with me, and yet he still loved me and had a family with me, it shifted his perception. He had been loving more than one person.
This led us down the road to poly/having an open marriage, and we did it slowly. Took many years and since he struggled with jealousy and I didn’t, we had him start seeing people first.
Opening our marriage is the best thing we’ve ever done for one another. Our poly family has helped us through many hard times. They’ve helped us grow and deal with negative emotions like possessiveness, lack of confidence, and jealousy. We are healthier as a couple, and as individuals, than ever before. Mostly because we can be who we are without judgment, and with the support of multiple partners.
So listening to that stupid ass song today, just made my skin crawl. I wanted to track down the writer and shake him, shouting, “Don’t you get it? You can love both! You don’t have to lie to your girlfriend! You can be real and honest and confident with your ability to love in the plural!”
My experience has shown the more confident we are with our poly, and the healthier we are, the more people see that having an open marriage or relationship in no way puts down our other partners. It only serves to show that we are all secure, and that we don’t have to be superman or superwoman. We don’t have to meet all of our partner’s needs. That’s part of the beauty of poly. I don’t need my husband to pretend to be a woman, because I can meet that need of mine elsewhere, with actual women. We don’t have to be everything the other person needs. We only have to be who we are, and if one of us has a need that the other can’t fulfill, we fill it with another partner. This also makes each relationship special in its own way.
Making the switch from monogamous to polyamorous wasn’t easy. There are a lot of emotions we had to work through. A lot of personal growth required in order to learn to share one another. And while I don’t feel jealousy, I’ve still had my own fair share of emotions and difficulties to work through, but I did it, my husband did it, we worked through our insecurities in order to give one another what we need. People tell me that poly is so much harder because you have to work on yourself, but why wouldn’t we want to do that anyway?
I will share this quote from a college professor I had (and no, I won’t name him in case he’s not public about his poly), “Falling in love is one of the most empowering and hopeful experiences we can have. If I really loved my girlfriend, then I wouldn’t want her to stop falling in love just because she’s with me. I’d want to watch her fall in love again and again, seeing the joy in her each time it happened. This is what real love is.”
He was a brilliant teacher, and taught me so much about communication and awareness, and my ability to love in the plural. He made me aware that I wasn’t alone in believing we could love more than one person, and that each relationship could be equally as powerful and meaningful, and in different ways.
I’m tired of hearing bullshit songs about cheating. Tired of seeing craptastic shows where someone gets an attraction to a new person, and they betray their love. I want to see shows, read books, and hear songs that speak of our ability to love in the highest form, completely selflessly, with integrity, and in the plural if that’s what we desire. To illustrate how loving multiple people doesn’t mean that one partner is somehow ‘not enough’ or less than perfect.
You don’t have to follow in my footsteps and open your relationship, but let’s at least stop lying to one another. Let’s not shame one another for having feelings outside our current partner. Let’s be supportive and kind to one another, and ourselves. Because feeling like we have no choice but to lie if we have an attraction to someone else, isn’t okay. We can’t control our emotions, and feeling shame and guilt over things that we can’t control, is such a waste of energy.
Now, to find some decent music! 🙂