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Polyamory

Back To Monogamy: Polyamory Didn’t Work for Me, and I’m Not Ashamed

I spent my whole life rebelling against monogamy, but gave myself permission to consider it.

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Written by Devon Barrow.

Photo by Emily Allen.

They say what you resist persists — and I resisted the “box” of a traditional relationship my entire life. As a girl I had zero appetite for marriage. The thought of standing in front of a crowd in a white dress was never my fairytale material, but grounds for slight nausea. The more this ceremony was shoved down my throat, the more skeptical I grew.

As society force-fed us princess stories, I couldn’t help but notice things weren’t working out so well for the married adults in my life. I was bored just watching them. Then again, I was simultaneously on the hunt for reasons to validate my untraditional path.

What I wanted was big love — explosive passion, deep conversations into the night, and bottomless intimacy. All evidence indicated traditional marriage wasn’t going to get me there — so I cast everything that looked like it to the wayside and decided, like many, that monogamy was a hoax.

Together we discussed the magical potential of open relationships, and I experienced the love I always dreamed of as a girl — deep, limitless, undefined.

I fixated on finding big love in alternative relationship models — and that put me on the doorstep of polyamory pretty fast. I quickly attracted a partner with equal gumption for going against the grain. Together we discussed the magical potential of open relationships, and I experienced the love I always dreamed of as a girl — deep, limitless, undefined.

I had always talked a big game about untraditional relationships, now it was time to walk-the-walk.

The story out there is that if you really want to streamline your personal growth, an open relationship is a great way to do it — and I have to agree. For most, polyamory is a blistering fire, and partaking means you step in. All the way. Polyamory doesn’t coax, it yanks — on the ego, the deepest sown insecurities, the rawest childhood fears and imprinted patterns. It’s really all quite character-refining if you can stomach it.

And I’ll always appreciate that quality. But for me the pain was extraordinary, dare I say too much. It grated my nervous system. I didn’t pause to think this pain might’ve been a big red sign on the highway saying “Wrong Way…” Instead I clamped down, very much thinking it was the “spiritual” thing to do.

While I was going through the fire of an open relationship, processing about 1,000 emotions a day, the rest of my life crippled.

Here’s what I wish I could’ve seen at the time: While I was going through the fire of an open relationship, processing about 1,000 emotions a day, the rest of my life suffered. I couldn’t eat. Some days I couldn’t pick myself up off the floor. My creative energy was nowhere to be found and as a writer — this was a massive problem.

But I did make it to the other side of that fire. I felt myself let go of my partner — if they wanted to experience love and sex with another person, I understood and loved them all the same. With that development, my own heart opened too.

In other words, I fell in love with someone new. A swell of beautiful, awakening, and soul-deep love emerged from its mysterious, hidden enclave and pulled me in. I thought, “Is this it? Is this polyamory? Am I doing it?”

Maybe for a moment, but not for long. Because the more I fell in love with this new being, my relationship with my current partner started to change.

Love had taken over, as it does, and started to show me shocking things about myself. I saw that my love, the way I love, did not want to split in two, three, or four directions. My love was like a firehose, full-throttle in one direction.

But the months it took me to let monogamy in were full of shame. I could not stop teetering between “I failed at polyamory” and “Am I settling?”

My long-term relationship ended. I followed my heart, and it wasn’t easy. I spent my whole life rebelling against monogamy, but gave myself permission to consider it. To let it in a little. With just a sliver shining through, I softened like old buildings come crashing down. My life felt simpler, lighter, more pleasurable when I imagined partnership with one being. To put it most simply, I felt free.

But the months it took me to let monogamy in were full of shame. I could not stop teetering between “I failed at polyamory” and “Am I settling?”

I was missing the point. This wasn’t about failing at one or the other, this was about learning to make my very own love-informed choice.

It hurt my ego to admit, but all those years rebelling against traditional relationships weren’t actually a choice. My rebellion was a default. Just like we can get boxed by cultural conditioning, we can be boxed by the defiance of it. We can find ourselves in the general “defiance” setting, and push away anything that looks remotely like a norm — without ever checking to see how something actually resonates. In default, we still subscribe to someone else’s ideology, instead of consciously choosing our own.

There is a polyamory versus monogamy war out there, — and while not all buy into it, I did. It was a tremendous distraction. I let that war wage inside for so long, forgetting that at the end of the day, love has its own agenda.

The way we do love can (and likely will) change. But trying to control love always ends in suffering.

One thing love has to teach: it doesn’t want to be put in a box. Not in the box of monogamy, not in the box of polyamory, and not in the box of language describing the two. When it comes to relationship, it’s not this or that. It’s this and that. What works for you doesn’t have to work for me, and one is not greater than another. What works for me today, also doesn’t have to work tomorrow. The way we do love can (and likely will) change. But trying to control love always ends in suffering.

The healthiest relationship is the one that we consciously choose for ourselves. Making this choice means addressing our imprints, conditioning, traumas, and deep fears. It is not an easy path to walk, and it most certainly won’t be paved, but this is why it stays true that to love is to be brave. 


About The Author

Devon Barrow is a writer and poet based in Boulder, Colorado. Her writing is centered around relationship, femininity, consciousness, and spirituality. When she’s away from her desk, she is teaching yoga, meditating, or traveling the world.

Follow on IG: @devonnbarrow


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