on the feeling of being a lover
there's a polyamory antipattern I call the Husband-Wife-Lover schema. the terms are deliberately patriarchal but apply accross genders, but are not gender-neutral (I get gender dysphoria when I do The Husband, even if everything it's 100% lesbian).
this schema is often a V. the vertice is the Husband, who sees the Wife often and the Lover seldomlier. there's nothing inherently wrong with different time and other commitments – it's inevitable, really – but it's easy to fall back into the HWL pattern we're scripted for, especially if the people involved don't date anybody else, especially if The Wife is cohabiting and The Lover isn't. The pattern generates the following kinds of feeling:
* The Wife feels like they're a chore, a burden, routine, there just because they're there. They envy the electricity, the passion, the lilt in the voice when the Husband is going to see the Lover, and feel sad over not being able to generate the same effect. They feel guilt over feeling sad and ruining everything for everybody. They resent being alone, and fear being abandoned at any time for the shiny new thing.
* The Lover feels like they're just an amusement, the side chick, the lesser important one. They envy the daily companionship and sharing The Wife gets on non-romance things like budgeting or holiday travels. They feel guilty over intruding with their needs and runing a stable relationship. They resent being alone, and fear being abandoned at any time for the solid stable thing.
* The Husband feels like they can't enjoy being with anybody because somebody else is being sad about it, and that awareness can't be turned off. They resent getting the cold shoulder after being with the other partner, and feel guilty for not being able to accomodate the hurt which creates this cold treatment. They feel like there's a number of choices to make but all of them result in disaster. They resent feeling alone no mater who they're with, and fear being abandoned at any time for a monogamic partner.
Before finding enthusiastic partners to upgrade polyamory into #relationshipAnarchy, my practice of poly devolved many times into Husband-Wife-Lover. Since I'm famously promiscuous, and I resisted ending relationships even when they were clearly not working, I usually ended up being The Husband, with partners who said things like "I guess I'll try this polyamory thing for you but I don't really feel like seeing anybody else, but I'll learn to accept it". (I could never make this work, and I'm sorry to say it, but I'm not confident it ever can.)
Now that I'm the high-intensity slut of my dreams and I'm drowning in love and acceptance for all sides, I find myself surprised to discover Lover-adjacent feelings. It is very important for me to deconstruct the poly paradigm of primary-secondary. If I date 13 people, of course I won't share much time with any one of them (I often do kinky orgi—I mean multiple dates, which optimises one's free time #lifeHack, but even then). And if I don't share much time with a partner, of course that will shape our relationships into different forms than a partner they see every day. This doesn't make anybody less or more important to one another.
I take a good look into myself and ask: Am I jealous of The Wife? Do I want to be somebody's wife, someone's special chosen partner who ceremonially is not just a girlfriend, not just a friend, not just a hookup, not just a "just"? And I have to admit that my sincere honest answer, erupting from the bottom of my heart, is: .
I hate marriage. I don't often feel literal hate at things, even institutions, but this is one that makes every fibre of my body quiver with repulse. I reject the hierarchy implied in this label, the kind of religiosity which created it is the enemy of the kind of religiosity of my religion. I don't want to be anybody's wife, ever. I will be everyone's, or no one's.
re: on the feeling of being a lover
Instead of labels and relationship scripts, I came to see relationships more in terms of needs. When A is jealous of what B and C have, that points to unfulfilled needs on the part of A. In my case my lack is not for wifedom, but on the contrary to free myself from the prision of nuclear family, from these claustrophobic concrete jails we call home. My need for co-housing is not a marriage need, it's a community need. In the same way that I always knew I needed many many partners, and finally having this be real is so fulfilling and glorious, I always knew I needed to live communally with a whole multigenerational band, sharing material resources and common labour.
If I could live with a few trusty comrades without any romantic or sexual connection, that would fulfill this one need just as well. And the sadness I feel at an empty apartment is there on a couple's apartment, too, I still remember it so well I can taste it. It's easy to project the relationship scripts we're given, but the sadness I feel is not a matter of love, love works differently for us. All you have to do is—
Ask her and she'll tell you who she is.
Be careful with her, with what she demands
Pomba-Gira, Queen, wife to no husband.
Elilla’s personal server.