11/01/2012 03:50 pm ET Updated Feb 02, 2016

A 'Deli' Approach to Polyamory

I have noticed myself growing frustrated lately. Although I'm used to having multiple partners (and to my partners having other partners), I'm beginning to feel resentful of the "deli" approach that many people take to polyamory. It doesn't make me feel attractive; it makes me feel like I'm just another number waiting in line for my roast beef sandwich. And I can't be the only one struggling.

I'm not saying competition can't be a good thing, from a kink point of view, if that's really what a person likes. Competition can actually be a kink. It's not my kink, personally (it tends to make me feel like I'm not worth being with unless I beat out person A, person B and person C), but I can appreciate competition for what it is. The issue is that I'm finding myself single, and questioning polyamory, because of this "deli" mindset when it comes to having multiple partners.

After spending a lot of time looking for people with whom to play and get kinky without necessarily having strings attached, I realized that standing in that figurative deli line holding a number and waiting for my turn is not my thing. The sourness that I'm feeling (and I'm not even sure how it developed) has led me to question whether I have complete clarity when discussing relationships, and to wonder whether I have fallen into the "good girls finish last" mentality that I avoided for years.

Presently I'm single. Numerous friends have assured me that there is someone out there for me, and that I just need to wait for the right time. I'm not questioning that, but I'm happy single. I would love to have someone with whom to do nonsexual but possibly kinky things on occasion, but I have enough things going on that I'm still finding some connection with my kinks. I'm even experimenting and adding new things to my kink repertoire. The thing is, I'm pretty introverted. I tend to need time to get comfortable with new people and open up to play. I can understand the need for instant gratification (and technology has exacerbated it -- instead of cruising at bars, we can now cruise online, through various websites), but that's not for me.

I'm not telling anyone who has multiple partners coming and going that they are wrong. I've been in that position; at one point I needed my toes to count how many partners I had. In general, it's all ethical and moral, as long as no one is getting hurt. However, I'm working hard not to get into that pattern again, and being on the other side now, I can see how such a pattern may have been less loving. I've seen relationships rise and fall, some in very short spans of time, and then it's on to the next number in the deli line.

After almost eight years of practicing polyamory, I'm beginning to question the way I've often done things. I think it wouldn't hurt to slow down and take some time to discuss a growing relationship. On some occasions, individuals I was interested in went through a "courting" process with me so that I could get a feeling for them, they could get a feeling for me, and we could see if we meshed. Doing that often avoided a lot of heartbreak later on. But when trying to find someone who really seems interested in having a strong relationship, it's difficult to avoid the "deli" mentality and realize that the poly community is small and that there is a good chance that any person I might be interested in has likely played with or dated at least a few of my friends. At the same time, whoever identifies as poly tends to walk that road alone -- along with everyone else who defines as poly.

I have a feeling that I'm still blazing my own trail.