My journey through Polyamory, like those of many others, has been a process of constant transformation. It started with rules and conditions, with hierarchical labels. Safety valves for jealousy and insecurity. Excess structure to hide behind from fear and uncertainty.
Also like many others, these mono-culture relics fell away. I learned how unfair Primary and Secondary was to everyone involved, not just the Secondaries. I learned how my partners are their own people, who are imbued with the right to define their life and their relationships how they see fit. Rather than imposing rules on someone else, communicating insecurities and working together to help lessen the fear of them is much healthier.
The problem with this is that everyone is in a different place on this journey, especially other people I might be interested in exploring…well, something with. Here’s where letting go of labels breaks down. You face the problem of wanting them, but not wanting to be defined by them. I have avoided labels for a while. I’ve used generic ones like “partner” when required. But a solution has presented itself, inspired by the Person who inspires everything great in my life. I’ve evolved beyond traditional Polyamory. But something about Relationship Anarchy has never felt right, either (although it’s more accurate). I am moving on to the “Friends Who…” stage of my evolution.
“Friends Who…” is what I want to be, with anyone who wants to be that with me. “Friends” is a label that everyone is comfortable with. It’s two people who have established a bond, who have chosen to learn about each other, accept each other for who they are, to entangle themselves in some emotion-driven way. You love your friends in a way that doesn’t carry the baggage of the romantic use of that word. I want those whom I consider to be my friends to accept that, no matter what comes after the “who”, the fact that we are and will remain friends endures. Now, friendships come and go, grow and separate. But choices we make together about those ellipses above will not change that we are friends.
We can be “Friends Who…”: Cuddle. Make out. Go dancing together. Explore our kinks together. Have lunch. Explore intimacy, sexual or otherwise. Build an entire intertwined life together. Get married. Raise children. I could go on forever. The point is that the parts after “who” are just things that we have decided we want to do together. They don’t carry baggage with them. If we decide we want to make out, it doesn’t add expectations of sex or a relationship. If we have sex, it doesn’t mean we have to profess our love constantly, or get on a relationship escalator of having to take things further and deeper. And the “…” can change, ebb and flow, wax and wane.
If you are one of the limited circle of people I consider a close friend, I want to make you happy and feel connected with you. If there’s a “…” which will enhance that for both of us, then I want to explore that with you. And it doesn’t have to imply anything beyond that.