I think anyone who wants to be truly polyamorous should spend at least a year of their polyam life single. And not the ‘I can’t find someone to be with’ kind of single where you’re all lonely and depressed and feeling like you can’t figure out how to ‘do’ poly so you might as well quit. I’m talking about the kind of single where you’re loving yourself and you’re working on self-growth and you’re genuinely happy within yourself. The kind of single that leads to self-discovery and confidence. Honestly, to me, until you’ve spent time being genuinely contently single, you aren’t really succeeding at polyamory at all. To me – polyamory isn’t just about loving more than one person and dating tons of people and sexual freedom and gender equity and all that great stuff…I mean, it’s that also. Polyamory definitely includes those things. But… until you have fallen in love with yourself … are you even truly loving anybody else?
A question that gets asked a lot is – ‘Can I be polyamorous even if I’m single?’ Of course you can. The same way you can be polyamorous even when you’re only dating one person. It’s not like if you’re dating two people and one of them dumps you (or you dump them) you suddenly lose your polyamorous membership and get kicked out of the club. Polyamory doesn’t work like that. It isn’t something you just suddenly are or aren’t. Whether or not you’re polyamorous isn’t defined by how many people you’re dating. It actually has absolutely nothing to do with that at all. Being polyamorous simply describes your ability (or capacity) to love more than one person. Even if you don’t love anybody, except yourself, right now – that’s okay. You’re still polyamorous. As long as you know your love is capable of expanding to encompass as many people as it wants.
Love is like a muscle, in a sense. The more you exercise it the more it grows. The big problem with this is that most people have a preconceived notion of what love is, and they’re wrong. They’re misinterpreting love completely. Holding on tight to something doesn’t make your love for that thing or person any stronger. Being jealous doesn’t mean you’re loving harder. Jealousy points to your insecurities about losing the person (or some other type of insecurity or fear). And when you hold on tighter it normally is simply because that fear is what’s controlling your actions. Not love. Love wouldn’t do that. Love is boundless. Love is understanding, accepting, and forgiving. Love is humility. Love is compassion. Love is kindness. Love is allowing another person to be themselves 100% regardless of what that means for you. Love is letting go of expectations and assumptions and rules and control over others and allowing people to just be. And the more you allow yourself and others the freedom to simply exist and not live up to any sort of standards, the easier it is for you to open up to others – to love others for who they are, and to love yourself.
Again I will restate how important it is to love yourself. Loving yourself for who you are at your core is step 1 in loving other people. Because, as I’ve said, you can’t truly love someone unless you allow them to be themselves. No standards. No expectations. No assumptions. No rules. No control. Just them being them. The problem with loving others – which includes appreciation for their true selves without trying to change them – is that when you don’t love yourself you can’t accept others for who they are. Why is that? Well…when you don’t love yourself, you don’t accept yourself. Sometimes you don’t even fully understand yourself. You don’t allow yourself to be who you are. You’re scared of being judged. You want to meet the standards others have put forth for you, or that you’ve internally set for yourself. But simply setting standards doesn’t make you become those standards. Yes, sometimes you can work towards them. And I’m not saying you should stop trying to improve yourself if that’s what you wish to do. But accepting yourself where you’re at here and now is essential. If you can’t truly accept yourself, you won’t ever be able to truly accept others. Not fully. So, until you’ve learned to love yourself you won’t be able to love anybody else.
Let’s redefine polyamory for a moment. Let’s look at it as your ability to see the beauty within all the diversity among humanity. Now, I’m not saying that you should just date anybody or allow anyone into your life. You don’t have to love everybody. But, you do have to be able to actually love the people you say you love. In order to love diversity you must first accept one concept – everyone is different, and different is beautiful. Each of the weird quirks, each so called ‘fault’, and the vast variety of experiences (as well as people’s perceptions of those experiences), is what makes life so vibrant. Diversity is good. Diversity allows for not only freedom of expression, but freedom of thought, and freedom of existence. Can you imagine a world where everyone looked and acted and thought in the exact same way? Where all the flowers looked identical? Where all the Earth’s creatures were the same? Diversity breeds choice and creativity. In a sense…diversity in and of itself is love.
So what does that mean for you? That means that you need to start accepting yourself as diverse. You and all your family and all your friends and all your coworkers or colleagues and acquaintances, and everyone who exists, there is SO much variety within everyone’s thought process and perception and abilities and personalities. And isn’t that beautiful? Doesn’t each different thing in some way contribute to the beauty of the world? Now think about yourself. Think about the things that make you different – things that make you you and nobody else. The things that make you who you are. Those things, whether you currently like them or don’t, they are beautiful. They are magnificent. They are what help to create this amazing abundance of diversity that we are able to enjoy on Planet Earth. Be happy for your differences. Be proud of them. Love yourself, not in spite of, but because of them. You are a truly amazingly special uniquely fantastic person. And you deserve to be loved. Not just by your mother, or your brother, or your cousin, or your grandma, or your boyfriend, or your wife, but by yourself. You deserve to be truly, genuinely, 100% loved by you. And that…that is where you should start your polyamorous journey. Love starts with you.