Faithful Polyamory (a Unitarian Universalist sermon)
Hello, I'm Elise Matthesen; I'm bisexual, polyamorous, and a member of this congregation.
"Oh, honey," I said, "I think it's okay to love men, women, whatever, but hang on and wait for the ones who treat you nice, okay? Don't go with the ones who are mean to you."
If God is Love, then love can be a pathway to God -- but you gotta hang on and wait for the ones who treat you nice. And you gotta treat *them* nice, too -- and you've got to follow your pathway with integrity.
If you missed the controversy in the UU magazine, "poly" means several (or many, though one person's many is another person's few); "amory" means "love" -- so, "many loves," or "several loves." As the one I'm married to and I describe it sometimes, "we're very faithful; we're just not monogamous."
I am proudly -- and gratefully -- involved in two long-term partnerships and one relationship which cheerfully defies description. For the statistically-minded, these have lasted fifteen years, eight years, and seven years respectively. I sometimes joke that I'm "an old boring settled poly person," but I'm happiest with long-term relationships. I wouldn't be very good at practices like serial monogamy or trading beloveds like baseball cards.
I have told partners: "The fact that I love you is not negotiable.*How* I love you is always negotiable."
My feelings bloom inside me -- like that delight in the dew on the phlox, or my love for my beloveds, or the big deep joy I called "God." My actions are my choice and my responsibility. I cannot be rude, hurtful or cruel to one beloved and then claim I was "only acting out of love" for another. I believe nobody can build real and lasting happiness at the expense of another -- whether they're monogamous or polyamorous or celibate.
Some people think they know what I must mean by "bisexual and polyamorous." They come up and say, "Oh, I get it -- you're bi and poly because no one person can meet all your needs, right?"
Wrong. I don't get up in the morning with a checklist of "relationship needs" and start pushing my cart around doing comparison shopping. Love and relationships are more about giving, about the privilege of building something together, of cheering each other on, or sometimes up. About interdependence -- another word associated with our UU principles.
The last thing I want to say is about polyamory as opposed to cheating. (And the way I practice it, polyamory is very *definitely* opposed to cheating!) Monogamous people who are cheating sometimes pull me aside and say, "I'm telling you this because I know you'll understand." Now, how a person like me, who has gone to a lot of effort to communicate and negotiate early, often, and thoroughly, is supposed to be a kindred spirit to somebody hoodwinking their trusting spouse, I haven't a clue. I feel at those moments like a Unitarian Universalist who's just been told, "Oh, I really admire your ability to throw all that outdated morality, belief, and ethics stuff out the window!"
As Thomas Moore said in his book THE CARE OF THE SOUL about the word "poly" in a different context,
"Some, without investigating the idea deeply enough, have assumed that this means that morally anything goes, that there is no code of ethics, and that whatever happens, happens; but poly means 'several,' not 'any.'"