One thing I know well about myself is that I’m an introvert. I need a lot of time alone. I feel drained after spending time in crowds, at parties, or otherwise around a group of people. The energy that people generate, the many voices, the activity and restlessness of groups can all overwhelm me. I prefer to build friendships and relationships slowly, one on one. And while I do have some circles of connected friends, I’d much rather spend time with each person as an individual, and at group gatherings I’ll tend to linger in conversation with only two or three people. I’m comfortable with this; I know this is what works for me, and how to balance my somewhat small needs for social interaction with my much larger need for quiet, peaceful, solitary time.
This seems in some ways to be contradictory to the poly lifestyle. Tweets with the #youknowyourepolywhen hashtag often focus on the group dynamics and the “fun” of being part of a large poly circle, family, clan, or whatever you may prefer to call it. Poly people also love to talk about their time-management skills and scheduling tips and techniques, seeming to take pride in having extremely full, busy lives booked months in advance because of all the wonderful sweeties and awesome metamours they have in their lives.
It feels at times like it’s presumed that if you’re poly, you want that kind of life. That peppy, gleeful constant busyness. A poly commune with your extended families all within an arm’s reach. It seems to me that this is set up as the ideal, the way to “win” at poly – the more colors on your calendar, the better your poly life is. The classic extrovert characteristics – having to be constantly surrounded by people and activity to feel sane, safe and happy.
It’s not for me. And I know it’s not for a lot of others who still identify as poly. Having the capacity, the inclination and the desire to build deep, intimate, loving connections with multiple people does not automatically equate to that extroverted desire to be with people all the time. The thought of communal living has no appeal to me at all; in fact, it sounds like a particularly dreadful form of torture. I need my own space and my own time. Also, it feels completely unrealistic to me to expect myself to fall in love with multiple connected people at once, or for a lover to expect me to fall in love with his or her partners as well. For me, attraction is a tricksy, unusual thing, involving a weird combination of elements. Sometimes I think finding a lover or partner is difficult enough; so an assumption or expectation that I’ll love your partner just because I love you isn’t going to work for me.
This is probably why I’m comfortable keeping my relationships independent, and why I don’t expect or presume that my lovers will become friends — I don’t even particularly care if they ever meet. To me, relationships are unique. I don’t expect to knit them all together into a glorious afghan of many colors. I’m very content with spending time with individual lovers, as I do individual friends.
As with most of my rambling posts, I share this mainly because there may be others who feel the same. There are, I’m sure, others who wonder if they can have time to themselves, or have independent, intimate relationships, and still be “really” poly. Just like with friendship, just like with monogamy, there are many approaches to polyamory. Group poly is okay if that works for you. Introverts who practice a more individual, independent form of poly are okay, too.