What marks a successful relationship? What’s wrong with ending a relationship? One aspect of polyamory – the way some people practice it – that I’m having trouble really embracing, is the concept of free-form, free-range relationships, that you just let evolve, no pressure to conform to a particular desired “outcome.”
On some level I get it. I’ve had short term, more casual relationships that have ended, or shifted into friendship, and I don’t feel like I failed at them. These relationships were all understood, from the beginning, to be very low key, and not very long term. I enjoyed them while they lasted, and I’m very happy with the remaining connections I’ve gained.
Those kinds of relationships were admittedly what I was looking for when I finally decided to actively date, and they were how I expected polyamory would look for me. A strong, baseship relationship with Ember, and then lots of satellite connections.
But to me, there really are levels of commitment (and maybe commitment is the wrong word here, but I don’t know what else to use). Some people don’t do hierarchy, and I agree that the words Primary and Secondary are problematic, but I simply don’t want to be close to everyone I like, the way that I’m close to Ember and Catalyst. There’s a limit to how many people I can maintain this level of relationship with, to how many people I can fit in a house, to how many times I want to tell the little stories of my days.
There are, I think (given the existence of solo polyamory), people who don’t want that kind of daily, living together (or enmeshed from a distance) relationship with anyone, at least, not in a romantic way. But if you do want that, then I really do think there’s a limit to the number of partners of that sort that you can maintain at a given time. For some people that’s one. For others? Three? Four? Five? Who knows.
And with that kind of relationship, it’s really hard for me to be okay with the idea of it ending some day. It’s hard for me to think of moving in with someone while being unclear as to whether I think I want to grow old with them, whether I want them to take care of me if I’m ever terminally ill, or me to take care of them. It’s hard for me to have a “Well, let’s just see what happens” attitude, to a relationship with someone I connect with every day and am weaving into the fabric of my life.
Relationships end. Good relationships end, and can still be considered good relationships. I am okay acknowledging that. And yet still, I feel like there’s a difference between “I love you, and I want to spend my life with you. Maybe it won’t work out, but let’s try.” and “I love you, so let’s see where we end up.”