Polyamory and Labels

Labels are useful for communication, it’s something I have always maintained, and yet they restrict you, they fill you full of other people’s expectations. Even poly, with that huge polyamorous community online (mostly filled by Americans who seem to delight in finding new ways to describe old things) means expectations aplenty.

But then even my attempt at non-labeling labels, that eternal term ‘lovers’ finds disfavour with some (even some whom I would count among their number). I used it first because I disliked ‘fuck-buddies’ which seemed to be the only other term out their for what I was doing. (To bring everyone up to speed I did not want to commit to a relationship in which I could not and did not want to do the usual things, mostly be monogamous, so I had lovers instead.) As time went on it became more obvious that lovers was fairly accurate, I loved and still do love them all more or less (as distinct from having fallen in love with them which I did not do) and am loyal to them. Admittedly Mish-loyalty is not always worth the paper it’s printed on, however much I wish this wasn’t the case. Lover to me is a nice, timeless word that would seem to make no demands on a person and creates little expectation, it’s got about as broad a definition of sexuality as I do myself, and the only requirement would seem to be some sort of emotional or physical bond. But my words do not suit others just as their’s do not suit me.

I didn’t know the term poly for a long while. An American from San Francisco told me that that was what I was at a party in Cambridge, a few months before he took me to bed. Then when my Ex-Warder locked the Jellicle and I in a room together later that year the word got used again. I’m not sure I entirely like it at the moment, as a word, it comes with baggage. The idea of primary partners and secondaries and different analysed shapes for relationships. I miss my lovers and our fluidity. The fact that love is like the sea, rolling in and across in waves, rising and falling in a million different ways.

I have recently come to the end of part of a journey with one of my lovers, or possibly I’ve come to the beginning or most accurately a stage of a friendship is over and a new one begun. I have always had a most curious relationship with this man, although I’m sure to describe us dispassionately then it would seem entirely ordinary. Contrary to popular opinion poly is not just an excuse to have more sex but it was a largely lust-filled curiousity that fuelled the beginnings of the relationship. In purely monogamous or strictly polyamorous circles then there seems to be little room for the inspirational bond between us which has developed over the years and so I miss taking words for my own because I didn’t know there were labels. I occasionally lack the ability to communicate with what words are regarded as normal but I miss my lovers, back when I was just doing what seemed right for me at the time.

People are baulking at the words I’m using now. They are uncomfortable with my ideas and notions of love. Love is borderless, boundary-less to me, I see no need to set limits, other than those imposed by the physical necessities of this world. I get things wrong sometimes and I communicate poorly a lot but when I am true to myself and my ideals, when I act truly on the instincts of love then I know I do well. The world is a fluid place and the trick is to maintain that fluidity whilst making solid plans. Love seems to manage this awfully well, it’s just a shame that in order to express this I need a minutiae of labels.

2 thoughts on “Polyamory and Labels

  1. I like the way you talk about love as being a fluid concept, I don’t like the idea of primary or secondary, because if and when I do have more than one lover (yeah, I like that term too) I don’t see them in that kind of light – I tend to give each lover what the person needs from me at the time, as far as I can. Though at the moment I am feeling very down about my prospects of finding another lover, I hope in time I will get a chance to do so.

  2. Minutiae is not a word that fits there, you may mean ‘a myriad of/myriad’.

    However, that’s not the linguistic question I’m struck by here – yes, poly is a word with baggage. However, so (as you note) is lovers – so is any word.

    Semantics are weird that way, but they’re also what’s causing the confusion – time to really hit it with a stick.

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