How Having Multiple Boyfriends Is Like Having Multiple Kids

(NOTE: Based on time elapsed since the posting of this entry, the BS-o-meter calculates this is 6.03% likely to be something that Ferrett now regrets.)

I have many friends who have five children. You know how many small children it takes to wear me out? One.
Which is to say that I adore small children – but as an introvert, kids burn my batteries something fierce. I struggle to find avenues of conversation with them, because they’re little and I know talking is good to develop their brains, but it’s the most awkwardest of small talk. It’s often stressful for me trying to figure out what we have in common to talk about – or even in making sense of their answers, which they toss off as though I should know all about Bridget down at the playground.
And then there’s the maintenance aspect. I love putting my Godkids to bed and reading them stories and ensuring they’ve brushed their teeth and choosing their clothes for the next day, I really do… but by the time it’s all over, I’m ready to put myself to bed.
I don’t know how parents live with five of that constant busyness and not be impossibly stressed, all the time. And yet they do. I see evidence of their joy. So it must be possible, but those people have gotta be wired differently than me.
Yet teenagers? Love ’em. I can eat up a diet of angst and surliness all day. You could put me in charge of seven or eight teens, and I could thrive.
But that’s the thing. For some people, “having a kid” is a trivial relationship in terms of burning energy – they love babies, and can have a ton of toddlers hanging about, and those relationships energize them. There’s an upper limit to the number of kids they can profitably manage, of course, but somehow they can have a family of seven and find not just the time, but the personal energy, to make it work.
That’s a basic rule of humanity: some people find certain types of relationships easier to manage than others.
So when people ask, “How can you have a meaningful romantic relationship with two people?” the proper answer is, “Having a romantic relationship is something that comes naturally enough to me that I can manage to have more than one and still have the energy to dedicate to another.”
See, I’m a hopeless romantic, and I spend a disproportionate amount of the day sending sweet and sexy texts and asking about my partners’ days and wishing – quite sincerely! – that I was curled up in their arms. Hell, I’ve had friends tell me that I pay more attention to them than their partners do, and that’s just me checking in on them when I’ve got the time.
And if that took away from my relationship from my wife, I’d probably gear down. But the truth is that for me, because of who I am, I can ladle out vast amounts of affection to other partners and still make Gini feel valued.
I like people. I like intense friendships. And for me, “adding sex” doesn’t denature the quality of a relationship. For many, throwing a sexual element into a relationship transforms it into something so different that they have to act in new and uncomfortable ways to manage it; they’re wired differently than I am. For me, sex is something casual that can be deeply meaningful, but is not inherently so.
So for me, “adding sex” to a friendship creates a relationship that I don’t find all that difficult to manage. For others, that dynamic differs. And that’s great.
Yet for me, what this combination of priorities gets me is meaningful multiple romantic relationships. Are they the same as a monogamous romantic relationship? No, of course not – and if for you, the only way you could be fulfilled is to know that someone’s devoting the entirety of their time and affection to you, then clearly you’re not cut out to be poly.
Yet what we have is enough time and affection to make us happy.
(In the same sense that I, a long-time sufferer of Only Child Syndrome, can’t imagine how a kid could be happy with a mother who split her time.
For me, having multiple lovers comes natural… But I’d really struggle taking care of multiple toddlers, even though I like kids. That’s because we’re all wired differently.)
And wait! This gets even crazier! Although both my wife and I are polyamorous, we have different tolerances for what kinds of relationships we can manage. I am tolerant of angst and emotional processing (see also: that affinity for teenagers), whereas my wife is drama-allergic to the extreme. So I can have multiple florid relationships that are experiencing hitches, whereas Gini can handle multiple relationships as long as nobody expects her to sit down and have A Talk. Trying to troubleshoot multiple relationships at once causes her to short out.
She sees my other relationships as exhausting. Because for her, they would be. We’re both polyamorous, but our styles are entirely different.
And that’s all polyamory is, really: a group of people who are comfortable existing in different relationship styles. I keep hearing from monogamous people, “Man, just having a husband wears me out,” and my inevitable reply is, “And that’s totally okay!” Then I look at their five children, two with diapers that need changing and one with gum in her hair, and go, “Whoo, couldn’t handle that.”
Nobody’s wrong for not wanting lots of kids. Or not wanting lots of friends. Or not wanting lots of lovers. It’s all about what sorts of relationships you have an affinity for, and what sorts of relationships you really enjoy but maybe take a little more strain than you’d like to manage in multiples.
It’s all good. But just realize, if you’re monogamous and questioning how polyamory works, that each of us has our own unique style, a comfort zone where we feel so at ease it feels not only natural to have a relationship of that sort, but that we crave multiple relationships – whether that’s friends, kids, workout partners, lovers, Facebook buddies, or movie pals.
It seems a little crazy to you. That’s because your relationship strengths are widely shared by others, and so culturally we’ve come to accept your way of doing things.
Some of us are wired different. And that’s cool.

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