Polyamory | Leon Feingold | TEDxBushwick



you I would like you all to think back to high school and I apologize if that was uncomfortable for anyone remember that weird kid you know zero social skills got caught one day in an empty classroom kissing his hand that was me for as long as I can remember I've craved connection with others but I was a high school dork this is me at fifteen with my dad you can see where I got my fashion sense and in high school that was my strong suit maybe it's obvious but in high school I never had a date never went to my prom I hated being lonely I fantasized about having a girlfriend and being in love but I was too terrified to talk to a girl let alone ask one out when you're the weird kid risk aversion is like 80% of high school college was a different story in college I reinvented myself I shed that awkward self-image and I really learned to connect with myself and others in other words I was on target to be giving a really cliched TED talk believe in yourselves ugly ducklings thankfully my story turned out differently I remember dating for the first time as a young adult so much just didn't make sense like why do we why we taught to play mind games to attract partners rather than just being ourselves why is friendship supposed to be affectionate but asexual if I have feelings for someone why am I not supposed to have feelings for someone else and of course how do I know if I'm in love with the right person most of my questions revolved around monogamy basically you find one part one partner you like and you stay together until either you break up and start all over with someone else or enough time goes by and you take the next step up the relationship ladder progression goes dating dating exclusively engagement marriage kids 50th anniversary and died married now if you've done all this congratulations you win relationships any deviation however and your relationship is considered a failure of course but its measured nearly all relationships no matter how enjoyable or educational our failures but that's the standard under which we're all raised and by which we're all judged since my oh so awkward childhood I've been very lucky and I've dated some amazing people but none were a perfect match I realized we need to need to give up some of our wants or needs in order to fit the others ideal now you might say giving up some desires in order to make a relationship work it is normal but whether you consider compromise a necessary part of growing up or settling it still means one or both of you aren't really being true to yourselves because no matter how compatible you are the likelihood of any two people exactly matching all the others wants and needs is minuscule and then there are the wants and needs we don't know we want to need until our relationships teach us for example a possessive partner might show us the value of the time we spend with our friends a party animal might teach us that hey we really do prefer spending Saturday nights home on our sofa the more we date the more we learn and even if we do meet somebody who matches us people change that's part of life what I want now is not what I wanted five years ago or 10 years ago and I imagine it's the same for most of you what we want in five or ten years will be different – it would be great if people in all relationships grew with the same rate and in the same direction but that's not realistic most of us know people in unhappy relationships which have grown apart but stay together sacrificing their own happiness for appearances or the sake of the kids or the fear of starting over at the bottom of the ladder the worst part is even though they know or sis Becht they're incompatible they keep climbing finally the one thing your perfect match can't be is someone else sure you can roleplay or very routine but the human brain craves variety and stimulation and in monogamy the only way to experience someone new is to break up or cheat and breaking up and cheating is what we do half of all marriages end in divorce three out of every four people will experience some form of a relationship infidelity and I think we all know people in successful relationships which may never break up but are far from successful being a romantic I never wanted to commit to someone already become a statistic or miserable because we weren't perfectly matched but being logical I knew there was no such thing as a perfect match I still wanted my fairytale romance and I dated more and more in order to find it but I never did this being New York City I did the reasonable thing and started seeing a therapist to find out why I mean had I just not met the one and certainly wasn't for lack of looking what was wrong with me that I couldn't have what everyone else seemed to have and then I went on a date with Beth according to her OkCupid profile Beth was smart creative and polyamorous and over dinner learning about polyamory changed my life audience participation time this is your turn I'd like to see a show of hands how many people here love their families mom put your hand up okay how many love there are friends okay how many love their romantic partners okay how many might still love their exes don't raise your hand if this will get your trouble okay so how many people only love one person hopefully we can each honestly say we love many people in our lives which is phenomenal I mean love is meaningful and it gives our lives meaning it deepens connections it feels great to share it's free it doesn't even have calories so why should we limit it are we only able to love one person at a time not at all we just covered that besides love is not a zero-sum game imagine having a child whom you love wholeheartedly if you have a second child you don't cut that love in half and give half to each or till the second child I'm sorry but there's just no love left for you at least my mother didn't do that you give them both all your love resources are finite time money energy all are limited but the love we have to share is only as limited as we limited you might say okay well I can feel love for many people but I can only be in love romantically with one person and I say being in love is simply the concept that someone we love loves us back the same way think about it the truth is the idea that romantic love must be exclusive is a social construct we can and often do feel romantic love for more than one person at the same time we're just not supposed to monogamy works amazingly well for some people which I find beautiful and inspiring but for people like me who feel something crucial missing in monogamy learning about responsible non-monogamy can be transferred from the Greek and Roman roots for many loves polyamory encourages the simultaneous loving relationships of any sort physical emotional romantic as long as everyone involved knows and consents it's not polygamy which is many spouses what we think of as dating monogamously or monogamy and dating is really mono Amory one love where the goal is to find and bond exclusively with the one person we love polyamorous or poly relationships on the other hand are completely customized by what we call negotiated agreements where the people involved decide them together this could look like primary partners with occasional secondaries or multiple primaries or any shape at all really a couple a V triad a quad or this we call this a Pollock you'll everyone should be communicating with the partners regarding their expectations desires and concerns it doesn't mean that a necessarily has any direct interaction with G but they should all be on the same page this relationship structure works incredibly well for casual relationships it also works incredibly well for long-term relationships raising families and basically anyone living normal well-adjusted lives any of these shapes could change or last for life so at this point I'm guessing half of you are thinking well this seems pretty good at least in theory maybe it even sounds obvious the other half are thinking well that can't possibly work but it does the keys are 4 C's like the breadcrumbs compersion communication community and compatibility compersion my favorite word it means happiness in the happiness of others now if you've never heard of compersion it's because we in the Pali community made it up about 40 years ago and we don't have a PR department but you've probably felt it have you ever run into one of your friends right after they've gotten engaged they are so excited all they can talk about is the ring and the surprise and this and their plans and and they've got this big goofy smile on their face and you can't help but get excited for them and then they see you getting excited for them so of course they get more excited because you're getting excited so then you get excited because they're getting a SATA cuz York that's conversion conversion works in a relationship context by mentally shifting competition into cooperation one of my best friends is this guy named Sam my girlfriend and I a year ago met Sam at a party and not long after my girlfriend and Sam started dating as well we haven't made up word for that as to a metamour your partner's partner traditionally your competition now I could have pretended I wasn't jealous I was or I could have just forced myself to try to ignore it instead I invited Sam out to lunch turns out we had a lot more in common than just our girlfriend he's a hell of a guy no really and we totally hit it off to this day Sam and I'm strolling meet for lunch every month I've learned that people your partner's interested in aren't your enemies you can be teammates working together strengthening existing relationships while exploring new ones it's like game theory nirvana everyone wins and when this clicked for me when I got this my jealousy just dissolved but that doesn't happen without everyone being on the same page and that doesn't happen without communication open and honest or effect sorry effective communication means sharing openly and honestly and without shame it helps our partners understand where we are and what we want out of a relationship and most people suck at it but it's probably not your fault we're not raised to risk sharing what's actually on our minds I mean could you imagine what first dates would sound like even people who've been together for years still censor themselves when's the last time any of you actually heard anyone say any of these sentences to their partner I think your boss is dreaming I can't stand your mother or yes those jeans do make you look fat poly people tend to be pretty good communicators because balancing so many relationships we have to be I co-author an advice column called poly wanna answer it's not that funny and most of our questions revolve around poor communication or communication issues whether or not you're poly I've got four steps which may help each of you improve your own communication the first step is always take the time to identify what is it you really want and need which is harder than it sounds step 2 share those wants and needs in ways that others understand 3 listen open-mindedly to others wants and needs and 4 clarify agreements and boundaries basically the overlaps get you what you both want you can see which of your needs aren't being met and you have a partner willing to help you expand your comfort zones if you choose to partner with additional people you can get more of your needs met and safely explore more boundaries and understanding that this it can be both healthy and fulfilling is the key to polyamory plus I really love Venn diagrams when you combine compersion and communication you build community in the poly community we talk openly about things like sex emotions fears it's scary to be vulnerable especially when we're so socialized against it but with the support of community and safe space problems don't have to be secrets since discovering the poly community I've literally met thousands of poly people of every race color religion gender orientation sexual identity and tax bracket including several I'd known all along but had no idea they were poly community helped me realize I was always polyamorous I just never had a word for it for the first time I wasn't a freak for wanting love but not feeling fulfilled by monogamy and being part of this community has allowed me to mentor others even as I continue to learn myself the very first publicly polyamorous house opened in New York City right here in Bushwick blocks away and I was one of the organizers that helped create it finally understanding and accepting that one partner doesn't have to meet all our needs means that people can fit in our lives naturally without pressure to force or label them into something they're not and rather than disconnect from them because something doesn't work we can stay connected because of all the things that do something to think about people confuse sex and love all the time it's axiomatic we assume one implies the other and while it's true that sex can make love stronger and love can make sex better they can also be independent assuming otherwise like most assumptions can cause problems but what's less well understood is this people also confuse love with compatibility compatible partners are those we match when were each being the truest versions of ourselves and who share our goals for the future incompatible people fall in love all the time if we as a society persist in the romantic but false assumption that love conquers all and we just need to try harder and we're all going to wind up with more of these statistics and do you know what these numbers tell me that an incredible number of people are unhappy with their relationships this doesn't mean they don't love their partners it means they're not getting what they want or need self-denial might make you a better monk but outside the monastery it's pretty horrible way to live knowing what I know now I couldn't do it my solution love wildly and with reckless abandon don't treat love like a prize with one winner love the people in your life be open to loving the people you meet in whatever ways makes sense you won't run out and saying I love you and meaning it is one of life's greatest pleasures and if you choose life partners choose compatible ones who want the life that you want I volunteer here in New York with a group called open love and we have monthly discussion groups at which I heard this great analogy we're all sailing individual boats down the river of time some sail close to shore some adventure further out when we meet a life partner we lash our boats together force to be and spend the rest of our journeys together but the best life partners are those who travel with you because they want to not because they're tied to you but I'd like to leave you with is this little acronym it tells me you should see it but you should see it before we shortened it it tells me that polyamory versus monogamy there's no competition clearly the best relationship structure is the one that works for you your thing is not my thing my thing is not your thing but your thing is okay it doesn't matter what your thing is but it is your responsibility to choose it so what do each of you really want and need good luck you

22 thoughts on “Polyamory | Leon Feingold | TEDxBushwick

  1. This would solve the issue of telepathy. Because many cheat in their minds. And I believe in ESP extra sensory perception. I have met people with that extraordinary ability

  2. Good talk despite the epic misrepresentation of infidelity statistics. If 3 out of 4 people will experience it "at some point in their lives", why put that on the same slide as the divorce rate without the massive caveat being listed in text? Ulterior motive?
    Say the average person has 10 relationships in their life, there's a 75% chance that one or more of them will include infidelity. That's a 75% chance of at least a 10% infidelity rate existing. I'm no mathematician, but those statistics don't make infidelity an almost unavoidable inevitability like it is when it's presented with "Infidelity Rate: 3 in 4"

  3. Reminds me of a joke from Seinfeld.

    "Marriage should happen once or twice… Like in the whole century."

    Or something like that

  4. We definitely enjoyed your talk about polyamorous relationships. The three of us have been in a very successful loving triple for about 3 years now and couldn't imaging being in any other type of relationship. Being in a triple is always fun and exciting. Cheers!

  5. It sucks that not everyone is wired for polyamory. I wish I didn’t find out about my partner years into our relationship already, and despite trying to open my mind my heart is hurting so much. I love him for who he is but emotionally it’s like I’m grieving some one who is still alive

  6. I would rather have someone tell me upfront and be honest with me rather than lie to my face or sneak behind my back. I have gotten so much more out of life than with just one person. More people to to love and be loved. Envy still happens but it's usually fleeting and if it doesn't go away, then we talk about it. That is a commitment we made to each other.

  7. My wife just threw this on me and I try to be open minded about everything but I was feeling a little stressed and anxious. This guy made everything make sense, in theory, and I am looking forward to give polyamory a try.

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