There are some (very) strong opinions on whether or not polyamory is a viable way to sustain a relationship. Here, Gay Hendricks weighs in.
Katie and I have worked with a number of polyamory couples and singles in our office or seminars over the past 35 years. Based on that experience, we can tell you bluntly: polyamory doesn’t work.
At least, it doesn’t work in generating the depth of intimacy two people can generate in a committed relationship. Three chronic issues consume so much time and energy that the opportunity for intimacy is lessened.
The first issue is jealousy, which takes time and energy to process; the second issue is emotional acting-out and other complications involving children. The third issue is the act of processing itself. It takes a lot of communication time, not to mention skill, to navigate all the emotional dynamics of any relationship; multiple relationships amplify the issue exponentially.
Handling the various communication breakdowns, wounded feelings and other fallout from having multiple partners can become, as one of our clients put it, “a full-time job.”
Because I’m a libertarian at heart, I’d like to believe somebody out there is making polyamory work really well. I hope there are communities where multiple partners are growing together in intimacy without burning up all their creative energy in wrangling through emotional snares. If there are solid, lasting examples of polyamorous relationships out there, I’d love to hear about them. We’d love to include some examples in the new book we’re working on, but we haven’t been able to find any.
Commitment is the Key
When Katie and I wrote Conscious Loving, more than 20 years ago, we had worked with approximately 1000 couples and singles. Now, with several thousand more people having come through our seminars and office, our conviction is even stronger: the depth of intimacy human beings really want and need can only be accomplished through deep commitment.
There needs to be one person (or one cause or one something) to which you give your heart completely.
What we’ve seen, both in our work and in the three-plus decades of our own marriage, is that only conscious commitment to one person can give you the strength to walk through the fears and other barriers all of us have within ourselves to full union with another person. We’re starting a new newsletter that addresses the big issues in relationship, Hearts in Harmony. We put a great deal of attention on commitment in it, because if you really understand how commitment works, you can save yourself a huge amount of pain in relationships.
I’m still learning new things about the power of commitment every day, and I don’t have any plans to stop. To me it’s the heart and soul of conscious loving and living.
Gay’s response originally appeared as a comment on a Huffington Post article (which you can find here).