Monday, July 23, 2012

Gut Instincts

Much of my immediate family are great believers in 'gut instincts'. That is, we are more likely to trust how something feels to us than what may suggested by logic and reason. Some of the worst decisions I have ever made have been decisions in which I have ignored how I feel, and some of the best ones have been ones where I trusted it entirely, against the advice of logic, reason, and a lot of people. Of course, a healthy does of realism is helpful in these situations too. If I had the gut instinct that I could fly, then it is generally a good idea to listen to the logic and realism which tell me that there are better ways of testing this than jumping of a tall building.

I was introduced to the idea of polyamory at about age fifteen, when I read a book my Robert Heinlein. It's called 'The Moon is a Harsh Mistress' and is still one of my favourite books. I had a gut instinct then that this was right, but it took me almost ten years to truly listen to that instinct and act on it fully. Some of the unhappiest times for me were when I tried to bury it completely, and to convince myself that I was wrong, that it wasn't me and that I could be happy with a single person. Most of this occurred during a 4 year relationship with my second boyfriend, Henry. In what became something of a pattern, I met and developed feelings for Henry when I was still with my first boyfriend, Chu. Chu didn't take too kindly to this (for which I don't blame him). I ended our relationship based partly on the fact that I hated feeling like he was allowed to dictate who I could and could not be friends with, and partly because it just didn't feel right any more. After a month or so, Henry and I began dating. For the first year things were fantastic. We were in love, he was wonderful and everything was great. During that time he moved away for work, which was sad, but I knew that I could cope with long-distance (Chu and I lived about 5 hours apart for the last year and a half of our relationship). Then, true to form, I found a friend. An awesome, amazing man, Renshai, who I still hold in very high regard. He liked me, and I liked him, and we liked each other too much for Henry to be comfortable with. I was pretty miserable for a while because I felt like I was treating Henry poorly because of how I felt about Renshai but I did not want to stop seeing him because...well, I didn't want to. I wasn't going to leave Henry for him and I didn't see why Henry was so insecure about the whole thing. Henry's reaction aggravated me so much that I broke up with him. Guess what? It didn't feel right any more. At this point I should have stuck to my decision and got on with me life. That's not quite what happened...

Henry and I got back together in less than 2 weeks, he persuaded me to stop seeing Renshai socially (one of the worst decisions in my LIFE, I still can't believe I actually agreed to it) and we stayed together for another 3 YEARS. I think at least 2 of those years I spent waking up next to him on the weekends with this knot in my stomach, thinking 'this is just not right'. I convinced myself that things would get better, especially when he moved closer to me (something that was always going to happen, but never quite did). I found another inappropriate friend who sadly had to move away to the US, Henry broke up with me because I finally told him I couldn't do monogamy. The thing that most sticks in my memory about that particular fight is me telling him that all I could give him was my love, and him telling me that it wasn't enough. We got back together the next morning. I spent that summer as a counsellor at a summer camp in upstate New York. While I was away, Henry and my girlfriend (yes, I was allowed a girlfriend, with severe physical restrictions when Henry wasn't with us) basically had sex. This was a HUGE departure from the rules we'd all agreed. I'd always said I'd be fine with it, but as she and I weren't allowed to do anything beside kiss when he wasn't around I was NOT happy with him doing anything more. For some reason, I didn't make a big thing of this. I have no idea why. What did strike me when I saw him again after 8 weeks away was that I really hadn't missed him that much. I'd loved the freedom to talk with and hug whoever I wanted without fear of upsetting him. I came within a gnat's whisker of breaking up with him...and he persuaded me not to, again.

The following year I met Hermit and, as can be guessed from my track record, got 'too close', very fast. It ended up eventually being the breaking point for Henry. He broke up with me 3 months after Hermit and I met, and I think it was the biggest relief of my life to date. Writing it all out like this, I don't know why I thought it would get better with Henry. He consistently showed himself to be unhappy with polyamory, and unwilling to share me with anyone. I deeply regret being who he wanted me to be for so long, and regret that I wasn't strong enough to stand up for my friendship with Renshai. I will never again sacrifice a friend or a family member for someone's self-esteem. There is one, rather large, positive thing that came out of all this though. I know who I am. I know what freedoms I need in my life and I know that I will never be anyone other than myself, no matter how nicely someone asks. There is also the fact that if Henry and I had stayed apart after the first time, I may never have met Hermit and Minx. And that would be a terribly sad thing. They are most definitely worth it :)

I suppose what I'm trying to say is that however logical or reasonable something seems, if it doesn't feel right for you, it probably isn't. And however crazy or insane something else seems (like following a married man to a different country, say), if it feels right then it is most definitely worth a try.


  1. We must be careful to NOT be led by feelings. Feelings are involuntary; they come from our voluntary thoughts. Our voluntary thoughts come from words that we permit to enter our minds. You said that the suggestion of polyamory felt right to you after having read a book that you liked. That book had words that portrayed polyamory in a favorable light; those words produced thoughts that led you to have involuntarily favorable feelings about polyamory. Over time, your experiences with failed relationships led you to seek this polyamorous relationship. Now that you're in this polyamorous relationship, you're on cloud nine.

    But, here's what I'm asking you to think about: Did God order this polyamorous relationship? Firstly, look at how you were led into it. You had relationships with various individuals in which you were left unfulfilled.

    Please read John 4:1-42. The woman at the well also had many monogamous relationships in which she was unfulfilled; she kept divorcing husbands and eventually gave up on marriage altogether by cohabiting with her latest lover, but once she found Jesus her thirst was more than quenched.

    Jesus answered and said to her, "Whoever drinks of this water will thirst again, but whoever drinks of the water that I shall give him will never thirst. But the water that I shall give him will become in him a fountain of water springing up into everlasting life."...The woman answered and said, "I have no husband." Jesus said to her, "You have well said, 'I have no husband,' for you have had five husbands, and the one whom you now have is not your husband; in that you spoke truly." (John 4:13, 14, 17, 18 NKJV)

    The water you drank of were these monogamous relationships in which you and/or the partner was the center. But, Jesus was supposed to be the center. That's why all of those relationships failed.

    Then, you found this polyamorous relationship, and you believe you have found fulfillment, but this is NOT true. What you found is a cheap imitation or a lie. Jesus is supposed to be the third person in your monogamous relationships. JESUS will fill you and your ONE spouse to overflowing. You must come to terms with the fact that it's NOT about you, your past partners, Hermit, or Minx. It is ONLY about JESUS. When you begin to focus on Jesus more and more, you will no longer want to be with Hermit and Minx.

    In Ecclesiastes 4:9-12, we learn of God's ideal for monogamous covenantal marriage relationships. "Two people are better off than one, for they can help each other succeed. If one person falls, the other can reach out and help. But someone who falls alone is in real trouble. Likewise, two people lying close together can keep each other warm. But how can one be warm alone? A person standing alone can be attacked and defeated, but two can stand back-to-back and conquer. THREE ARE EVEN BETTER, FOR A TRIPLE-BRAIDED CORD IS NOT EASILY BROKEN."

    The third person in monogamous covenantal marriage relationships is not another flawed human, but He is Jesus. Jesus expects that the two people who are married place Him as the focus and at the center. I implore you to search the word of God for where this is true. For example, picture a triangle in which Jesus is at the apex and the two spouses make up the base. As each of the two spouses focus on Jesus and move closer and closer to Jesus, the spouses come closer together.

    2 Corinthians 4:7 tells us that our bodies are vessels. 2 Timothy 2:20 states, "Now in a great house there are not only vessels of gold and silver but also of wood and clay, some for honorable use, some for dishonorable." You are part of the body of Christ. Allow Jesus to form you into a vessel of honor. Don't allow your body to be treated as common. Allow your body to be treated as uncommon. Wait on the LORD to provide you with the ONE mate you're supposed to be joined to at the right time, which is always later than you want it. Allow Jesus to develop self-control and patience in you.

  2. I believe my instincts to be guided by God. This negates the whole of your argument, though I do not expect you to agree with me.

    The fourth person in my polyamorous relationship is God. She is cool with what's going on, though many Christians are not. It is neither a cheap imitation nor a lie, and I firmly believe we are all continuously led by God in this. If we weren't, I simply wouldn't be here. The 'word of God' you are imploring me to search for is true for you, clearly, but has never and will never be true for me. If I am damned in your eyes then so be it. The only opinion that has any impact on this is God's, and She will let me know if something goes wrong.

    Also, I find it insulting that you feel that more than one partner means I am allowing my 'body to be treated as common'. By body currently enjoys a great deal of respect from myself and from the two people who love me.
    I have had self-control and patience for years. I believe that this is the joint partnership that God has been making me wait for.

    Thank you for your comment. Like I said previously, you and I are never going to agree on this.

  3. The balance of instinct vs reason fascinates me.

    Reason is capable of ignoring whole hosts of undue influences that would mislead me. If I make a decision purely on reason then I will not trust someone because they're wearing blue, believe a person more morally correct because they are pretty or act based on a belief that random chance inherantly favours me over other people.

    Gut instinct is capable of processing vast amonts of information that I cannot access through reason. Thousands of small details in the environment, the aggregation of decades of experience that I cannot conciously remember, the volume of information processed by gut feeling puts reason to shame.

    There was a study a while back that found that people made better decisions with reason when the decision involved a small number of variables, but made better decisions with gut instinct when the decision was large and complex. However it's almost certainly a trained instinct, the more you use reason the better you get at processing more complex situations (and the better you get at making the right decisions in those situations) with the tradeoff that when you exceed yourself you can make some truely terrible decisions.

    I still don't know how to effectively make decisions and what the balance of reason to instinct should be, I just know that I've made terrible ones and continuously suffer for it. Still, each failure makes tomorrow more likely to be a success - that worked out for you after all ;)