Time in Poly vs Mono
I really appreciate a forum like this which allows for open discussion on a topic that it can be hard to find people to openly discuss with.
There's a subject that I'd like to address which I think gets thrown around a lot in somewhat less than valid ways. I see many poly people referring to how the idea that "commitment" or "love" is enhanced by exclusivity and heightened in the monogamous relationship is nothing more than a myth. Now I can see where people are coming from in that respect. Of course the feeling of love can be experienced just as highly in a poly relationship as a monogamous one, and by no means could we say that a poly partner does not hold a high level of commitment. The problem is I think when addressing this what's too often being looked at is the fairy tale version of monogamy. I think too much of the poly versus mono discussion centers around the version of mono presented by cultural norms and those embodying the exceptionally high divorce rate. However I think most of us can also agree that there are perfectly healthy mono relationships where both partners recognize that it's not a fairy tale, that they are choosing that lifestyle, etc.
The tendency to compare mature poly to immature mono strikes me as unfair and misrepresenting the issue. The truth is I think the argument that exclusivity at the very least results in a different kind of relationship actually holds a lot of weight.
The bottom line is this: human development and understanding comes from experiences (in the broad sense: thinking about a problem counts as an experience), experiences occur over time, and time is limited. So I think in this instance whether to be poly versus mono comes down to more of a lifestyle decision of how you want to use your time and what experiences you want to form to push forward your development.
Now of course there are those who argue that personal development is best enhanced by either poly or mono, but I think both arguments are non-existent. It depends on what you're focusing on. However I think there is weight to the argument that a poly relationship in some respects cannot match up to a mono relationship (again assuming both are of the mature variety) and vice versa.
Hypothetically, you (of the metaphorical variety) and I both have a strong ability for writing, we both take it seriously, and when we do it we are fully committed to it. We handle it well as a profession and represent the utmost of adults. I don't think there is any argument at all to be made against the idea that if I spend three times the amount of time writing than you do, that I will end up with a far more intimate and experienced understanding of writing than you. This doesn't mean you love writing less than I do or that you are less committed to it, but that doesn't have any effect on the point. However you also can be involved with one or two (not specific use of numbers) other careers that are highly interesting to you where I'm far more limited to hobbies.
It seems to me that being poly is more than just a choice of loving multiple people. I am at a personal crossroads of fully understanding that love for more than one person is not only possible but probably normal (neurologically pretty well demonstrated), but I don't see that as an ultimate argument for becoming poly. I think it's worth acknowledging that the decision to be poly is not only the decision to engage in a broader spectrum of relationships of a wider variety but also the decision to sacrifice the potential of the single relationship in favor of that. The decision to be mono is, of course, the reverse.
If I decided to be poly with my current partner, and we were to develop other partners and relationships, then the reality is that no one, including me, would ever know her as well or have as many experiences with her as I would if we didn't become poly. If I don't decide to be poly, I sacrifice the potential of what I could learn and experience with other partners in favor of what I could develop by devoting all of my time and effort to the single partner.
What strikes me as unfortunate is that I see this discussed almost nowhere. Even for those who articulate that mono is not lesser than poly, they seem to avoid the idea that mono has something that poly doesn't. It's brushed under the rug in favor of espousing all of the benefits of poly without a serious investigation of the benefits of mono. I am not making the argument that poly people love their partners less than mono people, but in a technical practical form of commitment (rather than the fairy tale immature form) I would have to argue that a poly relationship is, in fact, less committed than a mono one.
The development of poly seems heavily based on looking at practical reality. It's the recognition that the myths of monogamy are unfounded and unnecessary as well as that love of more than one person in a variety of ways is fully possible and has great potential to be life-enhancing. This is all using the practical reality to refute the mythology, but in some respects it looks like at least some poly groups have developed their own mythology wherein poly achieves everything monogamy does and more. That's just as nutty as the idea of a one true all-encompassing love that poly seems to try to refute. On a practical level, any fraction of the time or experience devoted to something cannot result in the same level of that thing.
So poly, then, would seem to be the choice between the benefits of maintaining a more full individual freedom in terms of sexuality and romance in order to experience the potential growth caused by the variety of partners or the benefits of complete devotion of time and energy to another individual at the expense of other potentials in order to fully explore that individual and everything they have to offer you. Both are alluring, and I think that they are mutually exclusive (not to imply that they are black and white...shades of gray entirely possible). I also think that they are equally mature when neither of them is taken to be a fairy tale ideal.
I like the discussion. I think you bring up interesting things. I don't agree with your every premise, but unfortunately, I don't have the chops to delve into right now. I'll be back. :)
Your thread inspired me to create one of my own, asking for advice from the other side of the fence, being in a poly relationship but missing the focus that came with monogamy.
I tend to feel like no amount of additional relationships can really make up for people having to divide their attention among lovers, at least for me, being someone that wants to constantly be with my lover and focus on shared activities with the main time apart being when we have to be separate for work. My wife Ginko and I have been very compatible in this preference, though opening up to dating other people necessarily changed that a bit.
Polyamory seems to work better for people that need a bit more time to do their own thing. My wife's boyfriend J would feel crowded if he got as much attention from my wife as I do, while I find myself missing the level of attention I received when it was just the two of us. Someone I spoke to Friday night was telling me that he'd much rather be someone's 2nd or 3rd priority than their first. I could see polyamory working well for him.
I don't know many people who spend all of their time with their mono partners, and the ones I do know seem to have unhealthy, co-dependent relationships to me.
When I have a single partner, I spend some time with that partner, but most of my time is spent without them. Work, hobbies, hanging out with our respective friends...
When I have more partners, I feel I spend the same amount of time with each, and less on my own.
So I guess in my case, I'm the one who gets to know myself less? I guess to be with more people I sacrifice on reading, playing games, watching movies, etc. But then I make the same "sacrifice" when I'm in a monogamous relationship rather than being single.
Now, I agree that with a third relationship, then I would have to split my time differently, and I assume there would be a reasonable amount of time spent with two or even all three partners at once. I would always want some quality, one on one time though.
Do you think people who are poly and childfree still have that "problem"? Because monogamous people who have children have to give their children more time, as well, and that would take from their partner's. It seems to me that if you have two partners, you spend more quality time with each of them than with your single partner if you have one partner and four kids, because everyone knows how much work, time and investment kids take, more than partners I would say.
EDIT: hell, for that matter, do you think that people who have one child get to know that child better than if they had two? What about parents? Do you get to know your single parent better than if you had two parents? (In that case I'd say it's a trick question. They'd most likely have to work more and therefore you would see less than either parent if you had two. Still, on their days off you'd be with just them I guess).
I don't place enough important in knowing someone perfectly, I guess. I feel like I know Seamus well, but I don't feel that I know him better than I did a year ago. I think there is a curve line at which point you just know someone and you're learning so much less and so much slower, and if you spend the appropriate quality time with them, you might just learn just as much in less time, anyways.
NovemberRain: Looking forward to it.
turtleHeart: I agree. My thoughts and feelings on the subject run very similar to what you seem to be experiencing.
Tonberry: You seem to have side-stepped the argument through analogy without really addressing it. I'll take this piece by piece.
Certainly there are mono partners who are co-dependent and spend all of their time together. There are also mono partners who are not co-dependent who still spend the majority of their time together because that's how they want to engage with someone. As turtleHeart mentioned, it's popular within that framework to consider the time you spend away from your partner your work time. Of course you also take time to be with friends and family, but the majority is still spent with your partner. This is really quite similar to most poly relationships where the majority of time is still spent with a much more limited number of people. It's just divided amongst those people instead of spent with the one. As I mentioned, I think it's important to compare mature mono with mature poly rather than immature mono with mature poly.
I agree that you sacrifice a fair amount of your alone time to be with a partner. In essence what you are doing is saying that I will learn and benefit more from being with this person than from being by myself. In the case of many poly people I think the belief is that being with multiple people in loving relationships will cause the most self-growth. For mono people it's that being with one person will. For someone who thinks that their greatest growth is done on their own, they'll likely remain single or keep small relationships on the side while maintaining the majority of time to themselves.
I mentioned the one on one time in my initial examples. I just took it further and said that you can't inherently compete in certain ways with someone who has far more one on one time than you do.
The argument about the child is an interesting addition, but I think it depends on how you handle it. First of all, of course I think people who are poly and childfree are still sacrificing the time commitment of the mono relationship. We can look at how children affect both mono and poly dynamics, but my initial argument was based on neither having children so as to simplify variables. That being the case, no part of my argument was dependent on either sort of relationship having children. The addition of children also does not affect my initial argument. Even if you could prove mono people have to focus on the child more than their relationship, my initial argument of mono being more time-committed to a partner than poly and what results from that would still be unaffected.
However I think that there are ways to address a child without losing your partner in the process. I have seen couples who can create an interaction with the child that is also romantic and intimate for the couple in the process. I think it really depends on how the child is handled. If the child is handled as something that needs to be dealt with on a regular basis and the partners simply trade off on the responsibilities then the child will take a tremendous amount of time away from the couple. However if the child is handled as an opportunity for shared experiences with something that you have equal responsibility to raise then I think you can continue to spend most of the time together that you initially did. Of course the dynamic will change to some extent and will sometimes be interrupted by the child doing something unexpected, but I think the integrity of the relationship and amount of commitment put into it can actually be preserved.
In the instance of multiple children, I absolutely do think that parents with multiple children end up knowing their children less well than parents with a single child. As with poly, that may be perfectly fine to those parents. It doesn't mean they love them less, and their goals in raising the children may not require the constant interaction of the single child. For instance to want your children to grow up physically and mentally healthy feeling supported in what they do is a very noble parenting goal. However it's also one that can take less of a one on one time commitment allowing for multiple children (though I think there's a limit to how many). On the other hand if one wants to consistently engage with the single child for one reason or another then having more than one child will become a detriment to that. Just like my argument for poly versus mono, this depends on personal choice of what's desirable to gain from the relationship.
It seems clear to me that what would be gained from a mono relationship is simply not desirable to you. I just want to note that I'm not faulting that. As I said in my initial post, this is really a personal choice. It doesn't mean you love your partners less, but I think it's necessary to articulate the realities of the benefits in both directions. I actually disagree on learning just as much by spending appropriate quality time with them even if it's less time. Part of the challenge of the mono relationship is reinventing your understanding. I think it's heard a lot in the negative of finding the new spark or things that failing couples need to do, but there's a grain of truth lying behind it. In a healthy mono relationship part of the enjoyable challenge becomes how to get to know the person you're with in ways you haven't already.
The reason I'm in a mono relationship is so that I can spend the majority of my time with my partner and turn as much of that time into quality time as possible. Thus my contention is that the more limited amount of quality time to be found in poly cannot compete with that in certain respects. Those respects may be less, and likely are less, desirable to the poly person in favor of the quality time spent with multiple people and what can be gained from that. However being that in the mono relationship my reason for being mono is to gain as much as I can from the one partner, that demands that we put a lot of effort into reinventing our understandings.
Mono relationships will easily stagnate on the basis of the same things being repeated. To go back to my example from my first post, it's sort of like if as a writer I was just using exactly the same formula over and over to whip out story after story. Eventually I would probably start to hate writing or at least be very bored by it. However my commitment to writing as a single career is based on the idea that I want to gain everything I possibly can from it. So I'm going to find as many diverse and fascinating new ways to use writing as possible.
Mono isn't based on the fairy tale. It's not about finding someone who fulfills your every need or someone to be co-dependent with. It's about the fact that both partners think the most they can individually gain will be gained from dedicating the majority of time and energy to each other. It's about the exploration of one person versus the exploration of multiple. Of course this demands exploration. You can't just both sit around not really doing anything and expect that the relationship will just happen. That's the immature fairy-tale idealism again. It's necessary to be looking in the relationship at what haven't we talked about before, what haven't we done together, what interests you that we haven't explored, and so on. By constantly pursuing those things with one person you will gain a level of experience and understanding with them that is logistically impossible in any other way. A poly relationship is still based on doing those things in the quality time, but the mono relationship has a lot more quality time. Also the mono relationship never has to focus on how to divide the quality time or any of the resulting conflicts.
So as I said in the first post which I don't think has been refuted, poly is the choice to sacrifice what can be gained from a person in a mono relationship for what can be gained from multiple people in poly. Mono is the choice to sacrifice what could be gained from the multiple people for the total exploration of the one. They both have benefits. I don't think either one is right. I don't think poly people love their partners less than mono people or wouldn't put themselves on the line for them. It's a personal choice, but I do think it's entirely necessary to articulate the differences and that there are benefits and sacrifices from both styles of relationship.
It is quite possible that the benefits you mention would be lost on me, yes. I was in a monogamous relationship for a long time, but I still spend most of my time alone (not at work, either, I didn't have a job for most of that time, and my partner's schedule was such that he mostly spent night at work - sleeping - and so his days were spent at home too).
I guess I feel that when you spend too much time with someone, you benefit less from it (you're just hanging out at best, getting in each other's way at worst) and there is learn to learn about them, as they can't really tell you about their day if you were there the whole time.
I like spending time with my partners, but I like spending time alone so that I have things to share with my partners once I'm with them. I think that going to a movie as your date is a bit of a waste of time, as you're not interacting at all, and you could have seen the movie on your own and gotten the same out of it. When I watch a movie, or I read, I like doing it on my own, and then talking with my partners about it if they have done the same, or friends who have.
I guess TV is a bit different because you can talk about it as you watch without it bothering people. Still, I think you get less out of the experience because you miss what is going on due to talking over it. When I watch a show or movie on TV with my partner, I always end up having to catch it on my own so I can see what I missed.
I think some activities that get people closer can work with more than one partner. Videogames, board games, card games and sports come to mind. Basically, games. Actually, many require more than two players, and therefore are better with more than one partner.
I have noticed from talking with partners on skype (I've been in a few long-distance or partially long-distance relationships) that there is such a thing as spending too much time together. At some point you just have nothing to talk about, and being together just takes away from other things you could be doing that would enrich you - taking a class, reading a book, working on a project.
I do like working on projects together when it applies, though. For instance building a desk or a bed.
I guess in the end it comes down to the fact that after being around people all day (or one person for a long time), I need to be alone to recharge my batteries, relax, and get ready to face more people again. But when it's about being with the same person for too long, being with someone else fills that same needs, and so going back and forth between two partners rather than back and forth between one partner and being alone would help me deal with the stress as well. I would probably need a small amount of time alone every day, but definitely not as much, and I would see both partners as much as I would see a single one, as far as quality time is concerned.
It's probably simply that we work differently. My analogies were not meant to go around the issue, I find that I can discuss things better with analogies, trying to see if such and such situation would be the same or not, hence my suggestions.
I guess everyone balances between feeling crowded and feeling lonely differently. Some people could spend days or months without interacting with another soul and be fine, others could spend that amount of time without being alone for a second and be fine. I'm somewhere in the middle but definitely closer to the former.
I agree with Tonberry. I just don't work the way that you do. Three months ago, Runic Wolf (my hubby of 12 years)'s motherboard fried. We weren't in a financial place to fix it, so that meant that he had no reason to spend time in his office. Which lead to us spending all of our non working hours together. Now normally, I enjoy spending time with him, but I need a break every now and then. And it isn't just Runic Wolf I have this problem with, my son does it too. I don't think I could ever be one of those people who spends the majority of their time with a single partner. I wouldn't have anything new to share with them and that would make life very boring.
Tonberry: I appreciate you sharing your perspective. It's very interesting to hear what it's like for you in practical terms. I'll try to respond in kind and see if I can demonstrate more of what it's like for me and thus why I find there's more quality time for me in monogamy.
It's interesting what you said about just hanging out with someone. You're right that you can't tell someone about your day if you were there the whole time. It is important to still do your own things, but it's possible to have your own time and quality partner time at the same time (to overuse the word time).
Naturally my partner and I do not read together. We read mostly different things and at very different rates. That would be too much of a loss of the individual. We do, however, sometimes enjoy reading near each other at the same time. What this provides in a monogamous relationship is the opportunity to share things as they occur in a way that wouldn't otherwise be possible. Every time either partner reads or experiences something that they find fascinating, the other partner is often nearby and happy to hear about it. Rather than hearing about a number of things in summary later, the opportunity is there to share them a little more in-depth as they occur.
Both of us have careers which are very independent and often lonely careers, but we are not lonely people. I write and compose and she paints and draws. Of course we have hobbies, but those are our primary pursuits. If we're at home working on something, we have the opportunity to interact as we work. She can get my opinion on something or share something she's discovered with me as it happens and vice versa. There's a great deal of intimacy and familiarity in that. Rather than trying to split our discoveries and understandings between multiple people, we have one person who has heard all of the previous ones who we can also share the new one with.
I also think that going to a movie on a date is a waste of time, but I don't think going to a movie with a partner is a waste of time. We do not talk while watching a movie or a tv show except for maybe a very occasional one sentence side comment to point out something we really like, but there's still an intimate involvement in the shared experience. I know when she gets excited about something or nearly any of her reactions to various things. In choosing to share the experience of watching a particular movie or show (which of course we don't always do) I can see how she reacts to the new thing. It's not a during-experience conversation that's important to me. It's that I know she has certain kinds of reactions to certain things, and I like being around to see them. I wouldn't be jealous if she shared those reactions with someone else, but I would feel like I was missing out on them. Then our conversations immediately after the movie or show discussing what we thought with the reactions still fresh in our minds would also be lost.
We do eventually want to play some board games together, but those sorts of activity oriented interactions are not important to us. We both like adventures, exploring new places, trying new foods, going for walks, etc. So when we want to share an experience and spend time with each other we do these things that we know we'll find mutual interest in. In fact, so many of our interests coincide that it would be terribly hard to find something we didn't find mutual interest in.
In doing those things by ourselves most of the time and just sharing them later, we would lose what we value out of it. What I value isn't discovering the really interesting tree or path and then telling her about it. It's being there when we discover it together. We talk and play with each other while exploring something and share in the exploration. If either of us are out by ourselves (which we often are as well) and discover something interesting, we often rush home to drag the other person out to see it (a desirable experience on both our parts).
We want to do all of our traveling together (and already have so far) for the same reasons. The shared experience of the exploration and adventure with someone who we've shared the vast majority of the other exploration and adventure with is what is desirable. It's all quality time for us. Of course we'd go off at various times and do our own thing, but the point for us is to do most of it together. We get a tremendous amount out of the actively shared perspectives.
In sexuality the exploration is the same. We both value having someone who we're entirely committed to. In fact, it seems a bit of a hassle to have to deal with other people. We have a growing understanding of each other's responses. We're always trying new things. At the same time, we understand each other sexually. The interrupting work for quick sex is just as desirable as the longer play at other times. To attempt to bring another person into those cycles and understandings would be...annoying.
When she goes somewhere I'll often pick her up when she comes back and vice versa. The sharing of the financial burden (though we maintain strictly separate bank accounts) is valuable for us both. It provides support when work ebbs and flows for either one of us. It also means we can buy each other gifts without worrying about buying gifts for anyone else. We're always noticing what the other responds to, and I'll pick up a surprise gift that she doesn't know exists based on a new interest she has just because I can. I could never even afford to do that with multiple people, and the sheer exertion of trying to keep even two people in my head on that level would be exhausting. When I go to a book shop I browse for both me and her because I'm so familiar with what she's reading and what her current reactions to books are. I couldn't add another person into that.
I also could never do an ebb and flow of financial support with more than one person. Additionally there's the issue of care. Both of us value having the consistent person around who's familiar with everything to help when something goes wrong. There's no question that the person who knows her best won't be there when she's having trouble with something, is sick, or even is in the hospital and vice versa. There would never be an issue of she's sick but my other is in the hospital so they take priority or that both were in the hospital and time had to be divided.
I couldn't divide my time between the things that she wanted to be involved in and the things that someone else wanted to be involved in. I'm far too focused on the person I'm with for that, and she is as well.
This is really what I mean by quality time in monogamy as well as getting to know someone on a level that's really impossible in any other way. Of course it seems that for you this isn't even something that's desirable which is great. Some of my early reactions to poly were that it was breaking all the rules and norms and moving relationships forward. I think it has created valuable discussion in relationships, but my perspective is more balanced now.
What I think is really moving forward is the understanding that there is no fairy tale relationship of any kind, and that a relationship is based on what the individual desires. What was most important to me here is to articulate my personal discovery that monogamy is not just some outdated immature fairy tale way of looking at the world but for some of us provides a mature, realistic and practical method of forming a relationship with another person. It doesn't inherently work on codependency or ideas that you could never love another. The mature understanding of it takes all of the available options into account, and then makes a decision based on them.
Finally, I felt it was necessary to articulate that, just like any variant of polyamory, monogamy also has a lot to offer for the right person that couldn't be found for them in another style of relationship.
You mentioned how different people feel crowded, lonely, etc. My preference is to divide my time between me-time, time spent with a single partner who I live with, and somewhat more minimal (not too minimal though) interactions with others. In that sense I like to be alone sometimes, love being with a partner I know intimately and trust, and don't like frequent amounts of strong interaction with other people. I'd rather keep them to friends, acquaintances, and people I have interesting conversations with where the majority of time will still be focused on myself and my partner. Some time would still be set aside for friends but possibly the amount of time devoted to a single poly secondary relationship for all of the friends combined.
But I agree in this quickie sense...
1) Poly and mono are both valid rship structures
2) Yes, there can be immature ways to do mono and immature ways to do poly. Yes there can be mature ways to do mono and mature wats to do poly.
Yes, I do not think mono is not just automatically the "immature" form of poly.
3) When you go mono, you have the possibility of going deep. When you go poly you have the possibility of going wide. Neither is guaranteed, of course because people are not things and the other partner's have their own wants, needs and limits. They may be mono but not WANT to let you know them deep. YKWIM? Ditto poly -- how far wide? Everyone has a polysaturation point, and I view this both in terms of number of partners and how deep you can even get to go with them because of that number.
Now I have to run, but I'll enjoy mulling all this over some more later. Thanks for the food for thought! :)
When around both kids as often as possible, sure, I knew both just as well (and knew what was going on pretty well, too).
It's not two kids versus one. It's about time-sharing however many kids there are. That's my angle, anyway.
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