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-   -   Jealousy a Root of Monogamy? (http://www.polyamory.com/forum/showthread.php?t=16687)

UnwittinglyPoly 11-06-2011 06:56 PM

Jealousy a Root of Monogamy?
 
I need to preface my main point with a note about the discussion style I'm going to use on this subject. Otherwise, I will likely be seen as bullheaded and agrumentative :) This is one of those things where I have an idea in my head, I've rolled it around and around and need to fully vet it and see which parts of it hold water and which ones don't. During that process, I'll make an assertion, examine feedback, note what I think has merit and what I think doesn't and make more assertions. Sometimes it might seem as though I'm not listening, but what I'm really doing is running the idea through the meat grinder, many times with a devil's advocate approach, and seeing what makes it out the other side. I assure you I have no problem ultimately admitting I'm wrong, in part or fully. I just have to run it through all the logic in my head first, and I've found the only way I can do that is to open up my thoughts to being challenged and to challenge responses. I always do my best to do so respectfully and gracefully :)

It seems to me that an emotional need for monogamy is almost always rooted in some combination of jealousy, insecurity and fear. I think these things are unhealthy parts of the human psyche, and that people are ultimately better off without them, even if they think they aren't. The reason people think they aren't better off without them is because these things are self-perpetuating--our jealousies, insecurities and fears keep us from addressing our jealousies, insecurities and fears; they tell us, indirectly, that we are better off holding onto them.

In a short discussion with OldGuy, he noted that a relationship should be judged on whether it's healthy or not. I agree with this. But I maintain that a relationship where jealousy, insecurity and fear are generally never actualized is not as healthy as it appears. This is because, even though these things are never triggered, they still exist. The dynamic of the relationship is that each person is mindful not to trigger them, which can in fact be good. But it's kind of like the idea of the person who is deathly afraid to drive across bridges. What is the most healthy way to deal with it? One way is to examine what's behind the fear and try to overcome it. So an old story goes, a woman who had such a fear was driven across bridge after bridge after bridge by her counselor, to show that there is in fact no need to be fearful (in addition to helping her understand the physics behind bridge structure). Another way to deal with it is to avoid bridges. If you make sure the triggers are never fired, you have nothing to worry about right? I mainatain that the seemingly healthy relationship which never triggers jealousy is akin to avoiding bridges. The underlying unhealthy attitudes are still there. And just as the unhealthy response to a fear of bridges is to never drive across bridges, I think the less healthy response to jealousy, etc., is to ensure the triggers are never fired, rather than letting them fire and working through issues.

It may sound like I'm advocating purposefully finding things that trigger unhealthy responses in our relationships. That's not what I'm talking about. I'm talking about allowing the triggers to be fired and not avoiding them at all costs. I think most "healthy" monogamous relationships do the latter, which is the less healthy response. I think this is part of why many poly people are seen as having a superiority complex towards mono--because mono is largely predicated on less healthy responses, and less healthy responses are in fact rigthly seen as inferior to more healthy ones.

Your turn :)

Magdlyn 11-06-2011 07:31 PM

I think the roots of monogamy come from the establishment of the patriarchy some 5000 years ago, which resulted in an idea that women are the possessions of men, and that the offspring needed to be biologically his, for inheritance purposes. Therefore it was imperative to control the woman's sexuality through laws (seen in the Torah), force and oppression.

Also acceptable under this template for society was polygyny. Polyandry (one woman, multiple husbands), and polyamory, where a woman has the power to choose for herself how many mates/sexual partners to have, were right out.

UnwittinglyPoly 11-06-2011 07:52 PM

Quote:

Originally Posted by Magdlyn (Post 109495)
I think the roots of monogamy come from the establishment of the patriarchy some 5000 years ago, which resulted in an idea that women are the possessions of men, and that the offspring needed to be biologically his, for inheritance purposes. Therefore it was imperative to control the woman's sexuality through laws (seen in the Torah), force and oppression.

I actually agree with you, from an historical standpoint. I would argue that all of that is a mask for jealousy, fear and insecurity. As women came to be more equals, rather than demanding that they not be owned, they instead went down the path of "well, then I own you too." Again, based on those unhealthy things.

AnnabelMore 11-06-2011 07:56 PM

I think one potential issue with this theory is that it assumes that people in mutually-monogamous relationships would go into spasms of jealousy if one partner broached the idea of opening things up. For many people that may well be true, but I think that,especially in our Dan Savage inspired times, more than a few monogamous couples are actively discussing how they want to structure their relationship and deciding together that they both want to devote their attention, time, and love exclusively to each other. Maybe they're each just naturally inclined that way, or maybe they think it's the best way for them to build the strongest possible partnership.

Plenty of people who prefer monogamy for themselves are completely capable of overcoming jealousy to accept their partner having more than one partner (thus the mono/poly relationships out there). Like my mono boyfriend, he accepts my other relationship but has no interest himself in loving anyone romantically but me, it just doesn't come naturally to him to do so. If I felt that way too, we'd be monogamous, not out of jealousy but out of preference/orientation.

Other people who are monogamous and insist on monogamy from their partner may do so because that's how they believe they'll form the strongest bonds, not because of jealousy.

Are couples who are monogamous out of mutual preference and/or philosophy rather than because of jealousy the exception rather than the rule? Perhaps, but I think there's an epidemic out there of people not examining why they do the things they do, on every level of their lives, and that if more people were able to see monogamy as a choice rather than an unquestioned default, we'd have a lot more couples choosing monogamy for healthy, informed, positive and loving reasons.

AnnabelMore 11-06-2011 08:04 PM

Oh, oh, and -- I think there are probably many couples who see monogamy as a religious dictate and are monogamous because they think that's what their god intended for them. While I don't adhere to those beliefs, I can see how it doesn't necessarily have any relation to jealousy.

UnwittinglyPoly 11-06-2011 08:34 PM

Thanks for responding AnnabelMore. Maybe I muddied the waters more than I should have--sorry, I'm trying to work through all of this in my head. I'm specifically talking about the emotional need for monogamy, and your points, even the religion angle, speak to other-than-emotional needs for monogamy. Granted, I did kind of lump all needs together somewhat in my initial post. That's because, I do believe for the overwhelming majority of monogamous people, even if they point to non-emotional factors such as religion, underlying emotional needs for it do still factor in quite heavily. It's been said there usually two reasons people do what they do: the reason they tell you and the real reason :). I think you are highlighting the exceptions--which is good to point out--but I think they are just that...exceptions, quite rare ones.

And as Magdlyn pointed out, I do believe even the religion angle is historically rooted in these things. In fact, I tend to think they were huge factors in the invention and propogation of religion: "The big bad man in the sky says you are my property, so you better do as I say or else!"

ray 11-06-2011 10:04 PM

I dislike your premise because it seems to be making the assumption that polyamory is inherently more 'evolved' than monogamy. I think that poly can encourage personal growth and often does but so does monogamy and any healthy human relationship. Humans do have emotional needs and monogamy can be very rewarding. It's completely possible to confront jealousy and other emotional issues as an adult in any situation. Not everyone wants to be polyamorous. I think that those who feel like it enriches their life should go for it but that doesn't mean that everyone else is emotionally stunted and jealousy riddled. Saying that jealousy is a root of monogamy frames it as being almost pathological. To me, that's like saying promiscuity or unfaithfulness is the root of polyamory. Both are valid approaches to relationships.

UnwittinglyPoly 11-06-2011 10:39 PM

Quote:

Originally Posted by ray (Post 109507)
I dislike your premise because it seems to be making the assumption that polyamory is inherently more 'evolved' than monogamy. I think that poly can encourage personal growth and often does but so does monogamy and any healthy human relationship. Humans do have emotional needs and monogamy can be very rewarding. It's completely possible to confront jealousy and other emotional issues as an adult in any situation. Not everyone wants to be polyamorous. I think that those who feel like it enriches their life should go for it but that doesn't mean that everyone else is emotionally stunted and jealousy riddled. Saying that jealousy is a root of monogamy frames it as being almost pathological. To me, that's like saying promiscuity or unfaithfulness is the root of polyamory. Both are valid approaches to relationships.

Liking or disliking a premise has nothing to do with whether it's logically sound, nor does a premise's implications (pathology in this case). Were it not for the fact that mono is almost exclusively reserved for a specific type of relationship (intimate), I wouldn't see it as something on the pathological end of the spectrum (though I wouldn't personally call it actually pathological). In almost every other type of personal relationship, it would be seen as ridiculous and arbitrary to limit them to a single person: friendship, children, etc. In the context of how humans relate to one another, the mono limit on intimate relationships is rather arbitrary, and it IS emotionally stunting, as it would be to arbitrarily limit friendships or children for other than practical reasons (limited time and resources). Largely, the driving factor behind limiting intimate relationships isn't a practical one, but rather an emotional one.

And certainly, it could be argued that polyamory is due to something on the pathological end of the spectrum, and it sometimes is. But in general it takes a lot of self-examination and moving beyond unhealthy things (if they are there) in order to come to a point where true polyamory is a viable option. And I would argue self-examination and moving beyond unhealty things ARE preferrable, not just for me but for most human beings. Of course, many monogamous people do self-examine and move past unhealthy things. But I don't think most do in the area that relates to why they are monogamous.

As promiscuity is hard-wired into our evolutionary nature, I would say the tendency to fight against it would be seen as more toward pathological, and the thoughtful, responsible embracing of it would be less so. Unfaithfulness doesn't really play into the idea of poly as much, because faithfulness is only invoked when an expectation of exclusivity is part of the equation--poly, by definition doesn't have an expectation of exclusivity, so having more than one intimate interest doesn't invoke unfaithfulness.

nycindie 11-07-2011 12:37 AM

This discussion is very familiar. Every so often someone comes along and starts a thread like this one, which will get tiresome very quickly, I believe. There are numerous discussions here on the merits of polyamory as compared to the evils of monogamy (as is usually posed by the OPs). They always wind up in a boring argument. Just do a search and I'm sure you'll find numerous posts that support your position as well as many that challenge it. Maybe all these anti-monogamy threads should be combined into a master "monogamy sucks" discussion.

*sigh*

gleegirl1203 11-07-2011 12:38 AM

Up until about 6 months ago, I would have identified myself as mono. I've been with my fiance for almost three years and before that I was in completely mono relationships. Not out of jealousy or the idea that it was the relationship structure that I was supposed to adhere to. It just felt right to me. I was happy loving one person. The idea that I could have the capacity to love more than one person at a time never occurred to me because the opportunity never presented itself. But in my mono relationships, jealousy wasn't something that was really an issue. Maybe because I chose to date people who weren't emotionally stunted? I don't know really. I've never had a problem discussing things like jealousy or other emotional things with my partners. Jealousy rarely came in to play. Perhaps because we were able to always discuss things so openly.

As far as promiscuity is concerned, I've never been overly promiscuous. I'm not saying that's true for everyone, I'm just speaking from personal experience in my relationships. Even when I wasn't in mono relationships, I never had the urge to "sleep around". I also don't equate promiscuity with polyamory. Polyamory, to me, is about more than just sex. Just because I happen to love more than one person doesn't mean I'm promiscuous.


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