Jul. 7th, 2009

joreth: (polyamory)
I am absolutely sick to death of people saying "I don't like polyamory because I once knew an asshole who said he was polyamorous".  I've ranted about this before and will probably do so again in the future.  It just infuriates me because these same people then retreat into monogamy as if the problem was the relationship structure and not the people.  And they usually will admit that some monogamous people are assholes, but they always, ALWAYS rationalize that by saying that monogamy itself is not the problem.

Well, polyamory deserves to be held to the same standards.  Or rather, monogamy should be held to the same standards as polyamory, IMO.  There is example after example after example of happy, successful poly relationships and there is example after example after example of some truly awful monogamous relationships.  There are people who use the term "monogamy" to justify abuse and possession and objectification.  But it's not monogamy's fault, no, that person is just a bad guy.  But meet one person who calls himself "polyamorous", but still has only rudimentary communication skills, or insecurities, or is in the process of learning who he is and what he wants, and it's a sign that the whole structure is bad.

I followed a Twitter link to a "post about polyamory".  I won't re-post it in full, but I will re-post my response.  If you don't follow the link to read it yourself, my response is a word-for-word repeat of the original post, only I substituted all mentions of "polyamory" with the word "monogamy" and I made some minor contextual substitutions to be internally consistent.

I fully get that polyamory is "not for everyone", but it is my opinion that the *reason* it is "not for everyone" is because we are all products of our upbringing and the society in which we are raised, and only a few are able to shuck off those early assumptions and to compensate for making it to adulthood without good communication skills or good self-esteem skills (because self-esteem and security are a learned skill, just as low self-esteem and insecurity are also a learned skill - one that our society seems to prefer instilling in our youth).  If we had been raised from the beginning not to revere monogamy so in the face of all evidence, I fully believe that polyamory would, indeed, be "for everyone", or at least it would be the majority state.

But the fact stands that, regardless of the reasons why, polyamory is "not for everyone" at this time in this society, and I get that.  What pisses me off is the hypocrisy that polyamory is "not for everyone" because polyamory itself is problematic, but then they turn around and embrace monogamy while excusing monogamy's problems on the problematic individuals, not on the flaws of the relationship structure itself.

So, here's my response:

Does it make any sense for someone to say the following:

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When I was 20, I dated a man who was into monogamy. I was young and naive. I expected him to be an expert, since he was experienced with monogamous relationships. However, no rules were discussed with me, no boundaries were communicated, and there was no negotiation. I was unclear what constituted "cheating" because it was just assumed, and questioning that was not allowed.

I uncomfortably found myself pressured to keep him happy. His jealousy got out of control. If I was on the phone to a friend, he would be downstairs stomping and breaking things. Left an impression on me. I couldn't take it anymore and I had to leave.

I'm not opposed to monogamy, I have several mono friends who are fulfilled by their relationships.

What I don't like about monogamy:

When people tout it as being the "traditional" or most stable form of relationships. Monogamy is definitely not for everyone. I believe only a very small percentage of the population would be able to thrive without cheating or divorce as an option.

When people who identify as mono yet cannot communicate or take responsibility for their feelings and thus create mono drama that hurts people around them. Which leads to the last one...

When non-mono people are forced to "deal with" their partner wanting to close their relationship. When they become the victim of cross-fire between their jealous partner and their friends. When they settle for less than their needs because they don't know enough about healthy monogamous practices.

Sure, people in poly relationships can be poor communicators or get jealous or have flawed relationships in other ways. My discomfort with monogamy is that it isolates so many people. There just aren't enough people around to check in and make sure the relationship isn't unhealthy or abusive.

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This is obviously a ridiculous essay. Monogamy is not the source of the problem in those monogamous relationships that are problematic. The source is the people involved. it doesn't matter *what* relationship structure they are in, the problem is that the individuals are flawed.

No one ever seems to blame monogamy when a monogamous relationship fails. But everyone wants to blame the polyamorous structure when they meet someone who is insecure, immature, lacking in social skills or communication skills or even empathy for other people, who just happens to call themselves "poly".

Your problem is not with polyamory. Your problem is with people who treat their partners poorly. People like that are a sad fact of all cultures and relationship structures.

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