Love in Abundance
By El Martinez (they/them/theirs) & JP Grant (he/him/his)
Although in my cynicism, I view Valentine’s Day as a day dedicated to capitalism and chocolate, it may be used as a reminder of how differently people love. JP and I are both members of GLSEN’s National Student Council who don’t ascribe to monogamy and we wanted to use this Valentine’s Day as an opportunity to educate people on what forms love and relationships take in our lives.
Growing up, I had a very difficult time understanding what love and romance was; sometimes I still do. I was taught by the media I consumed and the people around me that the pinnacle of love is monogamous, heterosexual marriage. JP had a different experience. Despite the outside influences, he knew that “[his] love came in many forms from a young age.”
Now, we are both 18 and are exploring/building our own non-monogamous and polyamorous relationship styles. At the time of writing this, I am in an open relationship. To me, this means that I am committed to a partner, but not exclusive. Although this may seem strange to my peers and foreign to the adults in my life, I think this comes from a lack of understanding of how monogamy has shaped their own definition of what love is supposed to look like.
I’m someone for which having multiple partners at once is a relationship style that works for me. It’s not about a fear of missing out and especially not an “excuse to cheat.” We each have different dynamics with different partners and that’s something I choose to embrace. I believe that polyamory allows me to reject an unhealthy culture of ownership and mistrust and engage in communicating and supporting mine and my partner's needs. For example, I am not the most cuddly person and some people find that really important in a relationship. So, if I can’t fulfill the needs of my partner, I would encourage that person to see someone who could; because I want them to be as content as possible and meet that need. There is a word for this in the polyam/non-monog community: compersion. Or feeling joy for other people’s joy. JP made a great point in our conversation sharing, “How do I convince someone that my identity isn’t a form of greed but a necessity and opens up the possibilities to love and to be loved for myself and my partners”
I often hear, “how does that even work?” or “isn’t that like, a lot?” Both JP and I get these comments and it is exhausting. JP shared, “I feel myself constantly trying to validate my own identity and who I love” and I agree. We know that people may see our relationships as attention-seeking, or promiscuous but the fact is: our relationships are valid regardless of how well you can understand them. Love is love; in all its forms. We as queer people have had to fight for the ability to express our love in a way that is authentic and we won’t hide any longer.
I’ve had to learn how to find a balance. I’ve also learned that to be non-monogamous means that you are able to discuss jealousy, understand how much capacity you have to give, and are able to clearly define your needs. I negotiate with my partners and discuss our relationship on the regular. I ask my partners what they need and I always ask for their consent before pursuing other possible relationships. That wording is intentional: possible. I initiate additional or supplemental relationships, in my non-monogamy, I never seek to delegate a pre-existing relationship. I now view that as symptomatic of an issue with connection or capacity.
I’m still learning how to balance my relationships and obligations. I, unfortunately, lost someone I really cared about in the process. At the beginning of 2020, I was broken up with. My long-distance partner told me I hadn’t been communicating enough with them and they were right. I continue to aspire to learn from my errors in each of my relationships and I wish them all the best in their future endeavors. There is somewhat of a trope in the poly/non-monog community that your exes are your friends or at least acquaintances and that has held up in my experience so far. (It’s great!)
I’m not sure what my future relationships hold. At this point in my life the idea of marriage is far from appealing and I don’t think a life partner is something I’m searching for right now. I’m just not going to worry about it. During our discussions JP has told me that he does believe in soulmates, he does. But he thinks it ridiculous that there is only one right person for everyone. I think I can agree with that. Maybe we’ll find a one, not just the one.
JP’s favorite part about owning his polyamory is the act of eliminating the expectation of needing to be perfect for your partner. A positive experience for him has been being forced to be true to himself, and to be open and honest as much as possible. It has even helped develop a different and deeper sense of trust between him and his connections.
I hope that this piece left you with some things to reflect upon. JP and I feel strongly that everyone can take away something from polyam/non-monog communities. I can’t pick just one favorite part about being non-monogamous as there are so many… I’d say that I am most grateful for the different kinds of people I have met in addition to the language and important conversations I’ve found that strengthen those bonds.
- El and JP shared the way that outside influences impacted their idea of love, what is one-way things such as media have framed the way that you think about love?
- No matter what your relationship style is there are so many ways we can learn from each other! What is one thing that you learned from El and JP's experience that you'll take away from the blog?
- What is one way your GSA can make your space open for students that are in polyam/nonmonogamous relationships?