“I wonder why I’m not enough.”  Painfully honest words, ones that haunt a human heart.

Yesterday I spent the morning with The Falls Church Fellows, and we began a course within the course, focusing on sexuality for the next few weeks. To get into the mood, we listened to the Beach Boys and Lady Gaga, from “California Girls” to “Bad Romance,” thinking about the distance between the romantic longings of the one, and the hard-bitten despair of the other.

We then read from an article in The Scientific American on the virtues of polyamory, the latest-greatest social phenomenon which believes that “many loves” are better than one boringly monogamous marriage. We talked about the surprising Esquire magazine essay, “The Big A: If You Want Frustration, Guilt, and Anxiety, Try Adultery.” We lingered over the novel of Tom Wolfe, I Am Charlotte Simmons, his best shot at understanding life for an 18 year-old in a hooking up culture where being sexiled from her dorm room is only the beginning of a long freshman year. We pondered the centuries-long story of “Dangerous Liaisons,” first a French novel and now a film set in several different cultural settings, most recently Chinese, each time a tale of bare bottoms and beds, and eventual lament over the loss of love, at least a love that can be counted on.

And of course we took into our hearts the poetic insight—still bright as a light, always sharp as a razor –of Steve Turner’s “The Conclusion,” the brilliant and artful window it is to the French story become film.

My love, she said, when all’s considered
we’re only machines.

I chained her to my bedroom wall for future use

and she cried.

Mid-morning a good friend who is a clinical psychologist, joined us. I asked her to reflect on the dissonance between the Cosmopolitan et. al. covers, assuring us as we buy our milk and eggs that there 60 new ways to have “the best sex ever” in perniciously polyamorous ways, and what she sees in her practice week by week. What have you learned? What is the truth about love?

A woman whose instincts I deeply trust, she told of someone she once talked with who was fully engaged in the polyamorous lifestyle, “a swinger” as the client explained. She had an open marriage, “open” that is to many loves, or at least was willing to “make love” with many men— and the same rule applied to her husband, with her permission.

“I wonder why I’m not enough.” The problem was that the polyamorous woman was not happy. Her choices were coming home to roost, daughter of Eve that she is. Longing to be known and to be loved, longing to know and to love, she had taken her place as a sister of sorrow to the women of “Dangerous Liaisons,” wherever they may be found over the centuries and through the cultures. Easily bedded, but when all was said and done, they wanted someone to love, someone to love them—and they cried.

As the Esquire essay concludes, “We have seven millennia of human history to draw upon, and the evidence appears conclusive. Duplicity, no matter who’s involved, makes everyone involved feel rotten. The alternative? Nurturing trust and commitment is a hell of a lot more hard work, but what choice do we have?”

Steven Garber is the Senior Fellow for Vocation and the Common Good for the M. J. Murdock Charitable Trust. A teacher of many people in many places, he continues to serve as a consultant to colleges and corporations, facilitating both individual and institutional vocation. A husband, a father and a grandfather, a he has long lived in Washington DC, living a life among family, friends, and flowers.

Meet Steve