Polyamory | Leon Feingold | TEDxBushwick

Polyamory | Leon Feingold | TEDxBushwick


Translator: Denise RQ
Reviewer: Peter van de Ven 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 15 with my dad. You can see where I got my fashion sense. (Laughter) 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 cliché 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. Why are 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 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. The progression goes:
dating, dating exclusively, engagement, marriage, kids, 50th anniversary,
and then die married. Now if you’ve done all this: Congratulations! You win relationships. (Laughter) Any deviation however, and your relationship
is considered a failure. Of course by this measure
nearly all relationships, no matter how enjoyable
or educational, are 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’d each need to give up
some of our wants or needs in order to fit the other’s ideal. Now, you might say, giving up some desires
in order to make a relationship work 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 other’s wants and needs is minuscule. Then there are the wants and needs we don’t know we want and need
until our relationships teaches 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. 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 ten years ago. I imagine it’s the same for most of you. What we want in five or ten years,
will be different too. It would be great
if people in all relationships grew at 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 suspect they’re incompatible, they keep climbing. Finally, the one thing
a perfect match can’t be is someone else. Sure you can roleplay or vary 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. 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 relationship infidelity. 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
only to 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 fairy tale 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. (Laughter) I mean, had I just not met the one? It certainly wasn’t for lack of looking. What was wrong with me that I couldn’t have
what everyone else seemed to have? 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. (Laughter) How many love their friends? How many love their romantic partners? How many might still love their exes? Don’t raise your hand
if this will get you in trouble. So, how many people only love one person? Hopefully we can each honestly say,
we love many people in our lives. Which is phenomenal. 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 tell the second child: “I’m sorry, but there’s
just no love left for you.” (Laughter) 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 limit it. You might say: “OK, well,
I can feel love for many people, but I can only be in love
romantically with one person.” 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 transformative. 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 in dating, is really monoamory, 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, a triad, a quad, or this. (Laughter) We call this a polycule. (Laughter) Everyone should be communicating
with their 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, that seems pretty good,
at least in theory. Maybe it even sounds obvious. The other half are thinking,
that can’t possibly work. But it does. The key is our four C’s,
like the bread crumbs. (Laughter) Compersion, Communication,
Community and Compatibility. Compersion, my favorite word. It means happiness
in the happiness of others. If you’ve never heard of compersion, it’s because we in the poly 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 the plans, and they’ve got this big
goofy smile on their face, and you can’t help
but get excited for them. They see you getting excited for them, so of course they get more excited
because you’re excited, you get excited because they are, because you’re – that’s compersion. (Laughter) Compersion 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 have a made-up word for that too,
a metamour, your partner’s partner. Traditionally, your competition. I could’ve pretended I wasn’t jealous. I was. Or I could’ve 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. (Laughter) No, really, we totally hit it off. To this day, Sam and I
still 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. 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. 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, and can you imagine
what first dates would sound like. Even people who have 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 dreamy.” “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?’ (Laughter) It’s not that funny. 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 two: share those wants and needs
in ways that others understand. Three: listen open-mindedly
to others’ wants and needs. And four: 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. Understanding that this
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. 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, a few 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 understood is this: people also confuse love
with compatibility. Compatible partners are those we match when we’re 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, then we’re all going to wind up
with more of these statistics. Do you know what these numbers tell me? That an incredible number of people
are unhappy with their relationship. 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 a pretty horrible way to live. Knowing what I know now, I couldn’t do it. My solution, love! Wildly 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 make sense, you won’t run out. Saying I love you and meaning it
is one of lives greatest pleasures. 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 for stability, 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. What I would like to leave you with
is this little acronym. It tells me – (Laughter) You should see it before we shortened it. It tells me that polyamory
versus monogamy is no competition. Clearly the best relationship structure
is the one that works for you. My thing is not your thing,
but your thing is OK. It doesn’t matter what your thing is, but it’s your responsibility to choose it. So, what do each of you
really want and need? Good luck.

100 thoughts on “Polyamory | Leon Feingold | TEDxBushwick

  • What a load of [email protected] Only a child thinks a relationship is supposed to meet all your needs and you have to have a "perfect match". He sounds like a self absorbed, out of touch person and it's all about me me me. There's a lot to be said for a committed bond. And you make your self and your own life fulfilled by your own actions. Not through some "perfect match" or a string of those perfect matches. A partner shares your ever changing journey. They don't buildthe road and carry you down it on the journey. I knew exactly what argument he'd make at the start of this. Its so childish and predictable

  • Anyone who studied logic would find this "argument" a classical example of circular logic with multiple logical fallacies.

  • One of THE best I've ever seen on this subject! Also such a pleasure to know there are such communities that share this idea.

  • Very sad, limited understanding of human relationships. It's interesting to see someone talk when they don't know what they don't know. I feel sorry for this guy and anyone who thinks like him.

  • Wow, this was really interesting! I was polyamorous in a past life, and although I'm monogamous in this life, I wanted to know more about it. And wanted to know if the relationship I had with my lovers as a family who had a child was a common case in polygamy. Thank you for the wonderful explanation and for sharing your experiences

  • Polyamory is just another psyco problem. It is just like drug addicted. Don't ever goes there, it might no u turn when you try it. Just run away from it. Your happiness will gone when you try it. Just like drug, the first time it is fun but when you addicted it is not fun anymore.

  • I am not judging you but let me get these questions strait. If your wife was dating someone else it wouldn't bother you? Or if your wife had a child from another guy you would be alright with that? How many children does he have and are they all by his?

  • I've been struggling for a couple weeks with my introduction into polyamory. It seems, I just didn't really understand it at all; and because of it, I've been feeling pretty unhappy for a while.

    Looks like the terms that me and my partner set for ourselves are inadequate. I better renegotiate now that I have a better understanding. Thanks a lot.

  • 1 resources are limited but love no! …nope we are physical beings n you ll have to SHARE those aforementioned resources with more ppl All beings are egotistic(animals too)want exclusivity and compete for your time ..(even the " wise " Koran sais …you must give equally but of course its hard )
    2 being in love means you share(are loved back) nope you canbe IN LOVE and the person doesnt respond back but if YOU are in love it means you got no eyes for another coz you are in love at that moment with that person
    i dunno..aparently some ppl have bigger hearts that can include many…which i m sure is possible , but i havent seen it at those polyamorous ppl who seem normal like everybody

  • Polyamory is popular in my area, but.. so far.. the people that are polyamorous? Happen to be "Broke"….. -$$$
    I have not yet met someone who is successfully polyamorous and has a significant amount of money in the bank account.. or maybe? I haven't done my study correctly.. since the people that are around me? Are not knowledgeable in creating wealth, or investing.
    But what I do notice about people is that usually the popular ones need to develop a strong relationship with say.. a community.. which requires you to "spend"… driving here, going there, eating food, driving expensive custom car, traveling, meeting, going out, on multiple occasions, looking cool, and keeping your status. All require money.. not with one person or by yourself, but a group of people individually at a time, to have that strong bond of a relationship, or understanding, which also eats up your day, that you could of used to make money in some way?

    I wonder if there's a TED talk about popularity and being broke in the same time.

  • I found Leon's argument non-cohesive. The polyamorous experiments of the 60's Hippie Commune ended in failure, not because people could not communicate, they could and did. What ended it was jealousy and power. We consider people equals, that is the nature of friendship. But the kind of love traditionally implying family, progeny, etc, includes hierarchies, divisions of labor, vertical as well as horizontal relations. If one is fortunate enough to be rich you could even outsource childcare to a nanny, introducing another hierarchy – class-based relations. Unless we are to take all of these forms of unequal relations as all different forms of one love, which clearly they are not, we can't accept Leon's argument. In my view, his argument is based on a confusion between lust or desire and love. It would be easy enough to extrapolate from a study of economics, consumer capitalism, and the increased use of social media the idea that each of us is a desire-maximizing individual. After all, in the US Declaration of Independence, "the pursuit of happiness" is guaranteed. Yet, wise philosophical traditions like Buddhism teach us that desire is the root of all suffering. If so, we should curb our desires down to our needs and not our wants or desires. Leon doesn't even entertain the possibility as he stealthily reframes 'wants' as 'needs' (the idea that each of us has our 'own' needs). I think people would be far better off if they only asked themselves why they had so many desires…? And so fickle at that… Who would care for kids if our desires run rampant. How do we balance selfish 'needs' from noble and unselfish ones? How do you balance desires (arguably your own and no one else's) with the contradictory desires of our partner's…. according to Leon, we should just dump that person and move onto another person, to other sources of satisfaction. In other words, the notion of family is ripped apart because family cannot be sustained without commitment and we all know that attachment theory says multiple caregivers is as bad as having none at all for the young child.

  • I might be able to join a relationship but there's no way I could have someone enter if I was exclusive with someone.

  • This sort of behavior is only okay in a world with contraception, DNA testing, and prophylactics. Not judging what anyone wants to do w/ their life, I just think everyone should be aware of why monogamy developed.

  • my ears exploded because of audience's laughs

    other than that, this is the best speech on polyamory i have heard so far
    "resources are finite. time, money, energy are all limited. but the love we have to share is only limited as we limit it"

    divorce and infidelity rates are proof that monogamy is not for everyone. if only people were true to themselves and accepted that monogamy is not for them, i believe there would be less cheating and divorces which resulted from cheating in monogamous relationships.

  • the problem with this idea is its too shallow. when will they ever go deep, then build? how are they gonna have a stable life? question is… what is best? God only knows what's best

  • I am someone who has identified as being polyamorous since before I was seventeen. I am not in a relationship at all so whatever. As far as the notion that love doesn't conquer all, I disagree. I think love can and does conquer all. I just don't see people treating each other as cookie cutter nock offs as love. How can people love each other when they aren't even willing to really know each other? There is a constant fear of rejection behind everything and everyone is terrified to simply be themselves. Conformity is expected everywhere. People seem to think they can know someone else based on a few labels. Nothing could be further from the truth.

  • I love this talk!!!! I sent it to my friends and they said it made their relationships better. I wish everyone could watch it.

  • Yeah, I'm just in high school. But I've always struggled with monogamous relationships. That's not saying I can't be in a monogamous relationship, I just mean it's hard for me to comprehend the idea my partner can just shut off interest in people in a relationship. I'm in a monogamous relationship now, though there's a possible third. The two of us like him (I think) and the third like me and him. It's just a matter of bringing it up. But it feels like we're in a relationship where we work together really well but it's not right. It feels like too much is changing and I think including the third will help a lot. We're all so similar but in different degrees, it would be perfect

  • I want to ask this folk, how to make this structure work within the society where marriage is only considered as a combination of two individuals? Never getting married?

  • I'm definitely polyamorous but my girlfriend is not. I feel really guilty for having feelings for others but I'd never act on it.

  • 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.

  • 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.

  • 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

  • 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!

  • Reminds me of a joke from Seinfeld.

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

    Or something like that

  • 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"

  • 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

  • I have found that outing myself as poly has brought me closer to my feelings in general. I used to be conditioned to hide my true feelings in fear of getting rejected (risk aversion). Now I have learned to communicate my desires without holding back, and not surprisingly I bond with a lot more people than I used to! I think the underlying ingredient here is being true to yourself. Not take for granted the structures and boundaries you were raised with, but taking a look inside and see what you REALLY feel and don’t be afraid to communicate that. Because a lot of people probably feel the same way but still live with that fear. But you’ll find that opening up about it can inspire others, or at least take away the fear so they too can explore their true feelings and pursue them.

  • thank you all my life i felt like some freak cursed to fall for more then one persom at once but now i understand that my heart is just too big to only love one person

  • Almost 4 years later, and this video is still really relevant. Or, at the very least, finding it a month or two ago has really helped me understand how I feel about relationships in general. I'm grateful for the existence of this video. Thank you so much. ^w^

    (Side note: Leon, if you see this comment, you grew up into a well-spoken and very handsome man. >/////>)

  • If you cannot do what you wanna do, do it, be the best at it and enjoy it.

    The Great, Almighty Alohim, creator of heaven and earth, tells me not to learn and follow the ways of the heathen.

    Now! That works really well for me. This dude said nothing new. He simply packaged it very well!

  • Don't be fooled. He is trying to normalize the 'do whatever you feel like' way of thinking. That thinking creates lots of problems and issues in society. Being unselfish in a relationship is a huge challenge-but it's worth it if you truly care about the person. If this guy is always thinking about his own happiness then I can see why he hasn't found a partner.

  • This does not work with children in the relationships. Quit being so selfish. You are ruining your children's lives. So selfish.

  • He just wanna chang wrong thing to right thing.
    If everyone all do that way HIV can kill human very fast.
    Thats why in the law we only can have one by one relationship in marriage.

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