Tuesday, January 20, 2009

Robert Augustus Masters - Polyamory and the Stages of Intimate Relationship

There has recently been considerable buzz about polyamory around the Web, mostly because Steve Pavlina, the uber blogger of personal development, has decided that he wants to pursue a polyamorous lifestyle, with his wife's approval (participation?) I should add. [See here, here, here, and here for just a few of his posts explaining and rationalizing his choice. If you follow the link above to his blog, you can read all the posts.] In case you don't know:
Polyamory (from Greek πολυ [poly, meaning many or several] and Latin amor [literally “love”]) is the desire, practice, or acceptance of having more than one loving, intimate relationship at a time with the full knowledge and consent of everyone involved.
Normally, I wouldn't care at all what someone does with his or her life. But Pavlina is different - he has a wide audience of people who take his positions very seriously. In this sense, his choice then is open to discussion and criticism, especially because he has been so vocal on his blog in justifying his desire for this "different" form of relationship. He has so far seemingly dismissed criticism as coming from those who suffer from Remote Diagnosis Disorder, with the injunction to Judge Not.

Because generally it tends to be men who argue for and want a polyamorous relationship (although not exclusively), I have decided to post this here rather than at IOC. Immature masculinity wants sex and other forms of intimacy without restrictions, so this seems like a good place to have this discussion - and I am sure this only the opening salvo.

I have a lot of opinions on this topic, but rather than spout my own thoughts, I want to present an integral vision of the stages of intimate relationship, as outlined by the master thinker in this area, Robert Augustus Masters. The following essay on immature and mature monogamy comes from Newsletter #15, July 2006.

Monogamy is not doing so well these days, and was probably not doing any better in earlier times, regardless of lower (or even nonexistent) divorce rates and other appearances to the contrary. Most longtime monogamous couples have remained together more for reasons of security and comfort than real intimacy. Many couples haven’t had sex with each other (or, usually, with anyone else) for a long time (and we’re talking years), and many of those who are still having sex with each other aren’t enjoying it very much. And it’s not just sex that’s gone stale or flat, but the very bond itself, which could probably be more accurately described as bondage.

Monogamy, with few exceptions, seems to be little more than a cult of two, mired in a mutual pact to not rock the boat, trying to find some pleasure amidst stagnant waters. A mirage of intimacy, greened by oases of distraction. Quite understandably, various alternatives to monogamy have found a receptive audience (and I’m talking about contemporary culture — plenty of older cultures have been characterized by forms of relationship other than monogamy).

So is monogamy on its way out? No, and not just because it’s so culturally entrenched, and still held up by most as the best way to form a lasting love partnership. What needs to go — and what is at last ready to go — is not monogamy, but monogamy as it usually practiced. In what follows, I’ll clarify this by comparing such monogamy with what it could be. To further flesh out this discussion, I’ll also bring in polyamory (relationship with more than one partner at a time), because of its connection, however shadowed, with everyday monogamy.

If we were to put monogamy up against polyamory, with regard to depth, awakening potential, and capacity for intimacy, which would come out on top? Monogamy, by a landslide, so long as we’re talking about mature monogamy, as opposed to conventional (or growth-stunting and passion-dulling) monogamy, referred to from now on as immature monogamy.

Immature monogamy is, especially in men, often infected with promiscuous desire and fantasy, however much that might be repressed or camouflaged with upstanding virtues. Airbrush this, infuse it with talk of integrity and unconditional love and jealously-transcending ethics, consider bringing in another partner or two, and you’re closer than near to polyamorous or multiplepartnering territory.

At this point, those who promote multiple-partnering might jump in and say that it is not immature monogamy, because of how loving and open it is. Though there may in some cases be some truth in this, it glosses over the difficulties associated with such “love” and “openness”. One such difficulty is the restriction that multiple-partnering (or so-called “open relationship”) places on attachment, coupled with its denial that it is doing so. If we have more than one lover, then when things get rocky or flat with one, we can go to another, instead of staying with and working with that rockiness or flatness; we can, in other words, keep ourselves removed from getting as attached as we might if we were with only one deep intimate. Another difficulty has to do with the fuzzy or easily-collapsed boundaries that often accompany the enthused “openness” of “open” relationships (this of course also often characterizes immature monogamy), through which the eroticizing of unresolved issues (like craving being wanted) is confused with sexual freedom.

Immature monogamy gets neurotically attached, multiple-partnering avoids (and is a distraction from) attachment, and mature monogamy permits attachment, without making a problem out of it. And what’s so important about attachment in intimate relationship? Well, for starters, without it we are not nearly vulnerable enough in our relationships; it’s easy to be loving but not vulnerable, but without sufficient vulnerability, we won’t open — and be broken open — to the depths of relational intimacy of which we are capable. I’ll say more about the value of attachment in intimate relationship a bit later.

Those who are caught up in — or dragged down by — immature monogamy are going to want some compensation for their doing time in the cult of two that is immature monogamy, and high on that list, especially for men, is erotic pleasure. If they are not sexually happy with their wives, which is very often the case, then they’re probably going to end up hanging out with or acting out their pornographic leanings, which may include polyamorous fantasies. They have not yet learned that eroticism (excessive interest in sexual promise and opportunity) promises happiness, but real sex begins with happiness.

Men in general are not naturally monogamous (at least compared to women), and most of the time feel as though they are losing something — usually their “freedom” — through entering monogamous relationship. Conjugal entrapment, feebly saluted by those who, having already done plenty of time there, are still “tied down” — no wonder there are so many jokes about marriage’s power to emasculate! It’s no accident that sexy husbands who have eyes only for their wives are all but an extinct species in television and film. Monogamy simply won’t work for men (or for women) until they move toward its mature form. How? By waking up and committing themselves to waking up, especially when in the midst of immature monogamy’s neurotic rituals and compensatory erotic fantasies.

Immature monogamy is not entirely useless, because time spent in it can — through the sheer dissatisfaction and disappointment that it generates — ready us for something deeper and far more fulfilling that still is monogamous. Mature monogamy is a life-giving, passion-deepening, spiritually-opening choice, and it’s a choice we cannot truly make until we’ve become incapable of immature monogamy and unseducible by multiple-partnering’s advances. At this point, we can love so deeply and so fully in a one-on-one relationship that we can become profoundly attached, so that if our beloved were to suddenly die or betray us, our heart would be ripped wide open. Consciously opening ourselves to such attachment means that we are not going to run away or dissociate from whatever pain our relationship might bring us. Here, we are not repressing our multiple-partnering urges, but have outgrown them, leaving ourselves no escape routes (like another lover or some other potent distraction) from our chosen relationship.

Mature monogamy is all about finding freedom through intimacy, especially the profound and singular intimacy that characterizes a truly bonded partnership. Our relationship with our beloved is then a sacred container which we are deeply committed to caring for and protecting. This means, among other things, not leaking energy elsewhere (e.g., through flirting or fantasizing about others), not distracting ourselves from challenges and difficulties in the relationship, not indulging in reactivity, and not putting any limit on our love for our beloved.

Such deep focus, such devotion to our shared depth, such shared safety to get really vulnerable and really alive with each other, such shared emotional and existential and spiritual nakedness, is an ongoing choice made all the richer by cutting off all exits. Then she is not just a woman to him, but all women and Woman Incarnate, and he is to her not just a man, but all men, and Man Incarnate. This is not metaphysical mush, but a living reality, full-blooded and more often than not ecstatic.

Having said all this, I’m not condemning multiple-partnering, but simply attempting to place it in a relational context that divests it of any glamor with which we might want to associate it. Multiple-partnering confuses love and sexuality; yes, we can love more than one person deeply, but this does not mean that we can or need to be sexual with them! Putting a limit on whom we are sexual with does not necessarily put a limit on whom we are loving deeply. Those committed to mature monogamy find freedom through limitation.

Those who have not yet entered mature monogamy are going to be, however subtly, chronically on the verge of betraying their partner (and not just sexually). In the sexuality of immature monogamy, fantasy usually plays a big role, allowing us to pump energy into mindgames that make pleasurable sensation and release more important than true intimacy. Erotic consolation. But in the sexuality of mature monogamy, fantasy is all but nonexistent (being utterly unnecessary), since the living reality and succulent mystery of each other is more than enough to keep both joyously and effortlessly turned on, especially given the remarkably deep shared trust that is present. Such trust is rooted in the dynamic safety and integrity inherent to mature monogamy; it is a safe place to let go of playing it safe, inviting us into the adventure of awakening through relationship.

Immature monogamy may be an avoidance of overt multiple-partnering, but multiple-partnering is an avoidance of (or detouring away from) mature monogamy. Put another way, immature monogamy and multiple-partnering are two aspects of a stage of relatedness that must be outgrown and outdanced before mature monogamy can take the stage.

One more thing about mature monogamy: It makes possible the kind of relationship that transcends relationship. Touching the One through the two. Freedom through intimacy. Mature monogamy is, in other words, a liberating bondage, a deeply joined freefall into What-Really-Matters. Multiple-partnering is too wrapped up in the shallow end of the pool to generate the depth possible through mature monogamy.

In mature monogamy, there is not room for another lover, but more than enough room for the Beloved.

Regarding immature monogamy and the territory between it and mature monogamy: Jump in, wherever you are. When you hit bottom, push off and surface, then paddle out a bit deeper. Eventually, you will leave the arms of the familiar, and have no bottom to hit, no end to love, no limit to depth. This is the beginning of mature monogamy. What joy, what a blessing, what an all-round wonder and gift, it is to fully participate in awakened, full-blooded monogamy!
This next bit of text is adapted from Transformation Through Intimacy, a book on the development and expression of mature intimacy in relationship.

Masters offers a compelling stage model of relationships (and obviously no one model fits every person). Because he is an integral thinker, intimacy group leader, and individual & couples therapist, he has a lot of experience with how people function (or don't) in intimate relationships. For me, that lends much more credence to his thinking than those who advocate for polyamory on the Web, generally in defense of their own choices.

Here are Masters's four stages of relationship. For more info on this model, I refer interested readers to the book cited above.
The first stage is me-centered relationship. This is an ago-run arrangement, with the egoity of one partner usually dominating that of the other. Each partner's credo, however well camouflaged, basically is: "What's in it for me?" Some more appear to be more selfish, more full of themselves, but others, perhaps nicer or more passive, are still obeying - however indirectly - a what's-in-it-for-me dynamic, if only to reinforce their security.
Essentially, this style of relationship offers little intimacy for either party. There may be elevated state experiences of bonding, closeness, or love, but they are simply transitory states, not sustained experiences (this is true of all non-being-centered stages). This is an immature form of monogamy, one that is held in place by fear and obedience (with the man usually holding the power). Relationship betrayal is common.
The next stage is we-centered codependent relationship. It is not without me-centered tendencies - for each stage not only transcends the previous stage, but also includes it, however peripherally or slightly - but is not so readily run by them. Here, equality is not only valued, but often is overvalued, so that differences tend to get flattened or drained of life. The couple is now not so much two cults of one in coalition, as one cult of two over against the rest of life.
This is what David Schnarch often calls the "fusion" stage of relationship. There is little sense of self outside the relationship, and the couple defines themselves almost exclusively by the relationship.
Monogamy at this stage is also immature, held in place by a power dynamic rooted in exaggerated or force-fed tolerance (generally shared equally by both partners). Non-monogamous urges are generally curbed, muted, or repressed, at best being only vicariously indulged.
The only real betrayal in this form of relationship is of each person's autonomous self in service of the relationship.
The third stage is we-centered coindependent relationship. Here, both partners make a priority out of maintaining their individuality, while also remaining, at least to minor degree, a cult of two. Negotiation over differences is still commonplace, but there are more interpersonal risks taken. Tolerance is not so rigidly enforced. Autonomy, though much more adult here than in me-centered relationships, is often given too much weight. There usually is insufficient vulnerability between the partners. And though there is more passion here than in we-centered codependent relationship, it is not usually permitted full expression. Promiscuous urges are usually neither indulged (as in the first stage) nor suppressed (as in the second stage), but rather are exposed and discussed in a way that mostly does not significantly threaten the relationship.

Monogamy here is starting to shed its immaturity; there is some sense of a deeper kind of relationship, with some steps toward that perhaps being taken.
The failure here is the overattachment to autonomy and an aversion to deeper forms of communion (often confused with fusion). In my experience, this is the dominant form of relationship in this country at our point in history (though I might be a little optimistic in this assessment).
The fourth stage is being-centered relationship. Although it knows itself to be above/beyond the previous three stages, it does not look down upon them (doing so would be a first-stage habit), and does not even want to, for it chooses intimacy with all its qualities, however dark or immature or unappealing, and it recognizes that all of the qualities that characterize early stages of relational intimacy are, to whatever degree, part of it. Rather than just transcending these qualities, being-centered relationship also cultivates intimacy with them, so that they are not only included in it, but also are known from the deep inside. (Thus do we relate not from our neuroses, but rather to them.)

Monogamy at this stage is mature, possessing an integrity that's firmly rooted in shared love, shred power, shared depth, shared presence. Non-monogamous urges present no problem, because they have all but ceased to exist; there is simply no interest in them (at the same time, however, there is great, ever-deepening passion).
At this stage we find freedom through intimacy - there is no other alternative. As Masters says, "the limitations of monogamy are not entrapping, but liberating."

In the newsletter excerpt above, which is taken from Chapter One of his book, Masters defined polyamory as immature monogamy. I tend to agree with this if we look at mature monogamy as a being-centered form of relationship.

In this model, intimacy is the path we take to higher stages of being. We can unearth a lifetime's worth of lessons, wounds, and growth opportunities through this open and vulnerable form of relationship. This is not to say we do not need other relationships, but those we enter will not rival the depth of the primary relationship because we respect the boundaries and openness of that primary relationship.

Here is more from Masters on the nature of exclusivity and inclusivity in mature monogamy, from the same newsletter linked to above.
Mature monogamy is not just highly exclusive —in narrowing its primary focus to just one other — but is simultaneously highly inclusive, in its deliberate intimacy with all of the qualities of both partners, through which intimacy with the qualities of everyone is cultivated.

That is, all qualities are felt and known through mature monogamy’s radical intimacy. Then not only is the One touched through the two, but the many also.

Mature monogamy’s inclusivity is inseparable from its capacity to embody a greater depth than that which it is including. Its inclusion — an embracing at once expansive, illuminating, and discerning — of the various qualities that characterize both partners goes far beyond mere tolerance or indiscriminate acceptance, and its awareness of these qualities goes far beyond mere witnessing or observation.

And why? Because of the intimate, down-to-earth coexistence of its inclusivity and its awaring.

Mature monogamy’s inclusivity, which is as deep and wide as it is compassionate, keeps its awaring from getting stranded in transpersonal wastelands and cosmic clearcuts (as when there’s an overemphasis on the impersonal nature of reality); and its awaring, which aims for self-illuminating attentional continuity rather than the promised lands of Enlightenment, keeps its inclusivity from getting lost in or swamped by life’s inevitable dramatics.

In neither separating from our differences, nor in getting so close to them that we lose sight of them, we enter the homeland of real intimacy, which is perhaps most deeply lived relationally through the practice of mature monogamy. In mature monogamy, waking up in the midst of arising reactivity does not mean rising above or otherwise avoiding it, but rather being fully present with it in the presence of our partner, until it’s no longer an it, but only reclaimed us.

This involves some resolute focus, coupled with a panoramic sense of the various factors at play. That is, it is an awaring deliberately intimate with its objects, even as they become transparent to the point of no longer being objects in any conventional sense. The deeper we journey into mature monogamy, the more that awareness and inclusivity become one. This constitutes the essential spirituality of mature monogamy (and maturity in general): love and and awareness functioning as one.

Mature monogamy’s emphasis on letting everything — everything — serve its participants’ awakening makes it a practice-path of great power; nothing is avoided and everything is kept in ego-transcending perspective, with radical intimacy being the context that contains and holds it all. In such intimacy, connection-with and separation-from — which are both essential developmental processes — come together, joining forces.

Probably the most illuminating and liberating place to practice relational intimacy is in the shared depths — the multidimensional crucible — of mature monogamy. Yes, there are other places offering opportunities for deep intimacy, but none provide mature monogamy’s peer bond of shared mutuality and experiential possibilities. This is not to devalue other forms of intimacy, but to place them in proper perspective. A mother and her baby, for example, can share a remarkable intimacy, but there is little challenge in it — no ego transcendence (since the baby doesn’t yet have an ego to transcend), no cocreated articulation of what’s happening, no co-journeying through each other’s conditioning, no shared appreciation of each other’s struggles and mortality, no shared responsibilities to take care of together.

Mature monogamy’s inclusivity is not an indiscriminate throwing open of the borders. It excludes the acting-out of practices that undermine it, such as behaviors, erotic and otherwise, that distract us from our suffering. This means a no that makes possible a deeper yes. Though it may look like repression, it is but healthy renunciation, a wisely informed setting of boundaries that makes possible a deeper freedom.

Immature monogamy entraps; mature monogamy liberates.

Immature monogamy’s relational container is a nonexpanding bind, infected with marital shoulds and relief-providing erotic or romantic subplots; mature monogamy’s relational container is an ever-expanding find, unpolluted by shoulds and neurotic detours.

Immature monogamy fantasizes about being elsewhere, even as it beats itself up for doing so; mature monogamy is too passionately and stably here to even consider being elsewhere, finding through its mutual openings an everdeepening intimacy with the Mystery that is the ground, sky, and all of all that is. The Beloved behind the beloved.

In the radically liberating bondage of mature monogamy, we develop a relationship that cannot but help but be of benefit to all. Such relationship excludes in order to include; only two are in it, but through their bond, a presence, a shared wholeness, an ease of love, is radiated that motivelessly touches and includes all.
And with that, I will bring this long post to an end.


Apollo said...

I see one big flaw in the stage model that Masters proposes in the lack of acknowledgement of mature polyamoury. It may be more rare than mature monogamy, but surely polyamourous relationships can advance into being-centred forms. Does two necessarily facilitate more whole, mature and grounded relationships than three (or more)? I don't think that is the case,

Grey said...

Hmm... not sure where I should comment on this. Here or on FriendFeed. Since I'm coming in kinda late, I guess I'll do it here.

Yeah, I thought the same thing as Apollo as I read this. It's the also the typical argument of supporters of a polyamorous lifestyle, whereby they attempt to distinguish between "polyamory" and "promiscuity".

Personally, I suspect that in at least 99% of the cases, the people are just fooling themselves and are really in a promiscuous relationship, not a "mature polyamorous" one. But I'm not sure I'd totally rule out the possibility of achieving true mature polyamory.

I'd be interested to hear what RAM has to say on that, though. Bill?


WH said...

Hey guys,

I've never seen a true case of mature polyamory, and even if such a thing existed, I doubt that it can never reach the depth of mature monogamy - as RAM says:

"those who promote multiple-partnering might jump in and say that [polyamory] is not immature monogamy, because of how loving and open it is. Though there may in some cases be some truth in this, it glosses over the difficulties associated with such “love” and “openness”. One such difficulty is the restriction that multiple-partnering (or so-called “open relationship”) places on attachment, coupled with its denial that it is doing so. If we have more than one lover, then when things get rocky or flat with one, we can go to another, instead of staying with and working with that rockiness or flatness; we can, in other words, keep ourselves removed from getting as attached as we might if we were with only one deep intimate. Another difficulty has to do with the fuzzy or easily-collapsed boundaries that often accompany the enthused “openness” of “open” relationships (this of course also often characterizes immature monogamy), through which the eroticizing of unresolved issues (like craving being wanted) is confused with sexual freedom."

We can go deep (mature monogamy) or we can go wide (polyamory) in relationships, but we can seldom do both with any success.

I tend to think the impulse toward polyamory is seldom about intimacy, as Pavlina has been arguing it is, and more about transgressing the boundaries that make monogamy both rewarding and challenging.

No boundaries, no depth - at least to me.

I would like to see how RAM would respond to the stuff Pavlina has been posting - would make a good discussion.


ned said...

Bill, for me it boils down to polyamory versus universal love. Mystics have experiences that transcend sexuality, and at that point it is indeed possible to go both "wide" and "deep". Sri Aurobindo said that while monogamy is best for the body, the soul is naturally polyamorous. What he meant was that the soul is in contact with the All, and so it can enjoy the ecstasy of union with every being it encounters. The body is limited, but the soul, potentially, is not.

As Masters seems to be suggesting, a mature monogamous relationship can provide a starting point or base or center for such an experience of universal love, because such relationships provide a form of psychotherapeutic integration that gives a good foundation for a spiritual journey. But certainly multiplying one's emotional and sexual attachments by having many partners does not seem to me to in any way contribute to the development of higher levels of consciousness that transcend sexuality altogether.

Anonymous said...

Give thanks.

It's great to see men discussing this kind of topic with sincere regard for their emotional capacities and vulnerabilities. Well done to all of us - it's a great example for me as i am only a young man with few role models for male holistic expression.

There is a lot going on in both the article and the comments that would require further thought and careful heart felt judgement.

All i can say right now is thanks for that inspiration and the lessons involved.

Anonymous said...

As someone trained in Psychology, I know that a lot of purported stages of this or that Theory (in this case relationships)have been used (as if Fundamental Truth + Proven authority/Fact) to sell an author's viewpoint theory +/or societal framework and construct.
I am not evaluating or critiquing the stage model presented here (though I have my own opinions and sources that could argue against the position/construct of the above article). I just want to remind All readers to ask the critical questions, such as what are potential biases of the author, (chances are he has a bias -perhaps like one of the commentators Against Polyamory that mature Poly isn't possible--- Really? any Evidence for such? or from the pro-Poly side Against? or for that matter why Mature Monogamy might just be an inferior stage on the way to Poly which striveds for the Ideal being
Infinite capacity to Love + Be loved. since the author defines mature monogamy as with the limit of the Two= it's still a Limit. + to correct an earlier poster: Poly Can and often does take (one could argue) Mature(er) forms with all sorts of Negotiated rules/guidelines not just with a primary partner(s) but all (particularly in shared housing and child rearing situations).
I'm not arguing for or against mono- or poly. but the assumption that "Maturity"= monogamy + never poly is suffused with certain societal/moralistic Biases. (also present is the assumption that humans can't handle complexity as well as paired relations. But we've been living in Groups/societies for Thousands if not Hundreds of thousands of years!)
I encourage readers to Critically Question + think on author motivations/biases, sources + Quality of evidences provided and reject blatant pet Theory/appeals to Authority!

Genyo said...

For me it is pretty simple. Like many others I prefer monogamy, and am always trying to grow in depth and maturity in my relationships. At the same time I have a number of dear friends who are polyamorous. My poly friends are wonderful people living engaged lives, and making valuable contributions to their community and the larger society. I do not see value in judging their choices and the depth of their maturity. My concern is living the most engaged and mature life that I can, and supporting others in their growth.
peace . . . .

Christopher Gladwell said...

One could equally well argue that mature monogamy is a part of the path towards mature polyamory (for some?).
What mature polyamory looks like isn't even considered here, the assumption is that it is immature and usually an escape from the depths of intimacy. It most certainly is in its immature forms. i actually call this sort of dynamic 'polyfuckory'.
Deborah Anapol looks at the shape of mature polyamory in her book 'Polyamory towards responsible non-monogamy' quite successfully and as she clearly elucidates, 'If you cant do monogamy in a mature way, don't bother with polyamory.
As for me I'm in a fabulous committed monogamous relationship.
Im into what I call Macroamory whch is about greater love and all the potential expressions of that, for me that is monogamy, for others that may be polyamory?
The desire to understand maturity and immaturity is developmental, the desire to judge others for their perceived maturity or immaturity to my mind is questionable behaviour. Is such judgemental desire rooted in insecurity?
Christopher Gladwell

Christopher Gladwell said...

Deborah Anapol in her book titled Polyamory which as she says is about responsible non-monogamy consider the base for polyamory being mature monogamy.
Polyamory in its immature form is often irresponsible polyf***ory. Polyamory in Dr Anapol's understanding is not even necessarily sexual.
I am in a committed monogamous relationship. The rather fundamentalist idea that mature love can only move as monogamy is to my mind rather naive. Shall we also work out some schema to prove that mature love can only be heterosexual?
No! But Im sure someone somewhere has created such a system of development.
I'm interested in what I call in my Blog, Macroamory or greater love. To think that that can only flow in one particular form is in my worldview undeveloped and immature thinking. It is a view coming from a 'rule-role' level of mind that cannot see larger complexity, possibility or potential.
In my view, systems that seek to suggest absolute truth, completion, the only way and so on are best avoided or at best understood as someone seeking to validate a position that they hold dearly.
Thought provoking it is, interesting it is.. The 'truth', not to my mind. Love and all it's flows are much more interesting than that.
Christopher Gladwell

Linda O'Neill said...

I am naturally drawn to monogamy, but have been with couples in an open relationship and poly relationships. This model does not take into account those who are naturally poly and have never been in a monogamous relationship. In my experience one can have poly lovers for years who experience this kind of oneness and intimacy together. So, two or more can journey into these depths with the shared desire to support one another in their fullest expression. In fact, one of the most beautiful intimate experiences I had was with a couple who had been in an open relationship for 11 years and always shared their lovers.