March 23, 2011
Polyamory and Guilt
PolyAnna had a great post last week about the various kinds of guilt that many poly people experience. They were in-the-closet guilt, unfairness guilt, and if I understood her correctly, just plain guilt about being poly.
The first kind is pretty easy to understand. You might feel that you are unfair to an OSO if you aren’t out at work and can therefore only bring/talk about the known spouse/partner at work functions. You might feel some of the same guilt at family functions if you are not out to everyone. And on the other side of the coin, you might feel guilt for not telling friends or family, particularly if the secrecy is to protect one of your partners when you might otherwise be “out”.
The second kind stems from the fact that poly is just rarely fair. You might both WANT to find new partners at once, for example, but that doesn’t usually happen the way that you hope. And while you are out enjoying yourself and basking in the heady cologne of NRE, your partner is sitting at home. Alone. Maybe miserable or at least lonely. This isn’t always the case, but it is certainly a source of guilt.
The last type seemed a lot like the second to me, but I think it was more of a “time spent” guilt. For example… If I weren’t poly I would spend more time with my kids. Or maybe “if I weren’t poly I bet I would be a better husband.” But for some people, poly is just a part of who you are. You aren’t cheating or trying to be unfair… This type of guilt, I think, is almost entirely societal.
Guilt can be helpful up to a point in that it can force us to take a look at our actions and whether they are truly warranted or whether they are really the best option. Once you have determined that you are doing the best you can, communication with your partners about your guilt and wanting to let it go might be the first step toward relaxing guilt’s hold on you.