Challenge to all poly thinkers
When I say challenge I donít mean that I want to ďbring all you heathens downĒ haha or anything like that, just a friendly, intellectual challenge.
So, first off, Iíve been very impressed overall with the postings and the depth with which people deal with their own issues as well as their relationship issues, and the relationships of others. Every group has its bad apples, but no more here than in any others that Iíve seen. GalaGirl in particular Iím very impressed with. She has a knack for combining the difficult to navigate worlds of love and logic, and balances an honest, blunt assessment of someoneís situation, with an obvious care for their well-being.
What I want to challenge (partially) is the core value of openness and honesty. I wish I remembered the exact tagline someone had because it strikes to the heart of the matter. It was something like, ďif youíre not honest, itís not poly; youíre just fucking around.Ē Like any bumper sticker Iím sure it has a good deal of truth to it, but imho itís probably overly-simplistic. Maybe this has been discussed in threads before and someone could point me to that. But this idea seems to alienate a large number of people who could enrich the poly world.
Now, I readily concede that openness and honesty are the ideals that everyone should be working toward with regard to all of their relationships. But monogamous marriage is structured such that it rarely happens that way. Possibly 90% of people are in the realm of monogamous marriage (and many homosexuals would like to be), even if they get divorced, remarry, etc. Yet that is only one of the multitudes of various possibilities for structuring a long-term relationship. And the remaining minority of people are left to experiment with those multitudes. Monogamous marriage and the ideal of romantic love, however, are the dominant structures. They are reinforced by churches, by Hollywood, by infinite love songs, and then by peer pressure, family pressure and so on. So unless someone has been lucky enough to be influenced by the minute number of people that have the radically different poly mindset, they if for no other reason, fall into monogamy by default.
Once the marriage bond takes place (still speaking from within the monogamous realm here) it is supposed to be irrevocably permanent, upon pain of hellfire, according to some. But even before the contract/ceremony occurs, a couple on their way toward marriage is enmeshing themselves in a web of bonds that everyone else expects to be permanent too. They get to know their future in-laws, their future spouse meets their own family, and their friends begin to interconnect.
Now what happens when someone who by default gets married between 18 and 30 even, wakes up later on in life and finally realizes who they are, who they want to be, what they need, and they realize it doesnít have anything or little to do with monogamy? Even if you love the person you are with tremendously and want to be open and honest, the web that one is enmeshed in, does not easily allow for a person to be so. They would be disrupting an entire chain of being and interconnectedness that gets even more complicated once children are added to the picture. So a person may feel that they are forced to choose between A) being open and honest, but possibly destroying all of these layers of relationships that have developed for years or decades, and B) having secret relationships whether sexual, romantic, or both (with the hidden potential to destroy those same long-developed webs).
I am not saying that choice B is right or moral. What Iím saying is that given the large number of adulterous monogamous people, a large percentage of them are choosing B over A, but would like to get to A, they just donít know how. They are also likely more afraid of the consequences of being truthful than of the consequences of getting caught, because the truth guarantees some consequence, but hiding their relationship may prove never to have a consequence at all and thatís what they are gambling on.
I know that, especially with men (we can be lower than slugs), this is not the only reason for having affairs and hiding relationships, but I have to think a large number of people choose that path.
So, poly people, what do you say, both about their logic, and to give them practical advice on how to do so, to move this group from choice B to choice A?
People come to poly via various routes - cheating, swinging, idealism. I don't have any particular advice for someone who has "bought into" the monogamous "ideal" and later discovered that it was not for them. My own marriage, now 16 years strong, was NOT based on monogamy but on the idea that we had the intention of spending the rest of our lives pursuing a satisfying life together and pursuing our mutual goals - that being said, I have no idea why most people get married (I would not want to be a member of most marriages that see). (More details in my "Journey" blog as to how we happened to get married).
From my standpoint, a marriage where two (or more) people cannot be honest with each other about their needs/wants/desires/goals/thoughts/feelings etc. and receive validation is not a satisfactory situation and should be addressed. Having children together is certainly a complicating factor (a factor that I would have liked to incorporate but, unfortunately, was not in the cards) - but not insurmountable. It is possible to be awesome co-parents WITHOUT being life-partners (I have seen this happen).
If you take the "hellfire" out of it (something that I can't speak to - I'm agnostic)...WHAT IF this is the only chance you get?, WHAT IF the span of your life on this earth is the sum total of your existence?, Is THIS how you wanted to have spent your only chance? I am not saying ("God forbid") to ignore your responsibilities or to break your promises - but would you rather be honest or spend your "one chance" living a lie...for years, and years, and years? I'd pick an honest separation/break-up over lies and deceit any day of the year....
Yes, "society"/the world at large has certain expectations - do these over-ride the needs of the individuals involved? My answer is no...but YMMV.
Hey there, welcome.
I will answer this question from an extremely subjective point of view; mine :)
I obviously (my own story may shed some light on the direction I am coming from), would always say that poly relationships are about and live through love, openness, honesty and respect. Have been in a monogamous marriage, have been really afraid of telling my partner or confronting my family /our surrounding and still decided that this was the only path to take. It went more or less great, we achieved a stable place and I believe that this is due to the way we/I choose to get there.
Just because you are afraid and just because there is an easier way out (btw I don't think that it is easier to lie to your spouse or family about who you are and what you do) doesn't mean that this is any justification to go down such a path. Again solely my point of view but I always question someones motives and feelings when he/she is able to cheat on a partner, break the partner's trust and still claims to be so in love with him/her. I miss love and respect in every situation where cheating is involved.
This may sound simple, but I am the person I am. If I decide to hide who I am and feel more comfortable that way, fine. If I decide that I will live up to my standards and my true feelings and desires, fine as well. I would have felt like cheating my partner just by pretending to be someone I am de facto not. Therefore I couldn't live with your B option at all. There are people out there who can. I won't judge them as far as they aren't involved with me and don't ask for my opinion. If that choice is valid for them, fine again. But I personally would never accept such behaviour in my direct surrounding when I am involved.
Without those core values (as you said in the beginning) poly isn't poly in my book.
I'll challenge you right back in the same spirit. You suggest that we might be alienating people who could enrich the world of poly by excluding cheaters (cheating meaning breaking the rules, whatever ones you and yor partner or partners set for yourselves, whether examined or by default). But what value or enrichment could people who are lying bring to the community?
They can't help us figure out how to have respectful relationships with your metamours, because the metamours don't know about each other. They can't enter the conversation about how people deal with jealousy because they're attempting to skirt the issue of jealousy entirely. They can't speak to the process of coming out, or co-habiting with multiple partners, or when to introduce a new partner to the kids, or rules negotiations with your partners.
I would say that cheaters don't have a valuable role in the poly community because, aside from loving more than one person, which we already know how to do, they don't deal with any of the same issues, questions, or practicalities.
Perhaps cheaters don't have anything of value to contribute to the poly community, but the poly community may have plenty of value to contribute to their lives. Especially, as InquiringOne described, those who would like to move from deceptive-cheater status to open-and-honest-poly status, but they are not sure how. If anyone has the resources to help them, we do.
In my opinion, if you don't feel emotionally safe bringing up poly in the context of your marriage, then your marriage has a problem. You are not free to be unconditionally who you are around your spouse. That is not real love. Even if you never bring up poly and never cheat, this lack of unconditional love will show itself sooner or later and cause problems in your marriage. I myself had it easy, because I was already going through a divorce when I realized I was poly.
I think the real question is: Can we help cheaters become non-cheaters, and if so, how?
"Perhaps cheaters don't have anything of value to contribute to the poly community, but the poly community may have plenty of value to contribute to their lives. Especially, as InquiringOne described, those who would like to move from deceptive-cheater statusto open-and-honest-poly status, but they are not sure how. If anyone has the resources to help them, we do."
I agree completely.
"I think the real question is: Can we help cheaters become non-cheaters, and if so, how?"
Yes, I've seen it happen here on the board! How? Not, I would say, by de-emphasizing the central importance of honesty, or by letting cheaters rationalize their behavior as a form of poly. Rather, by holding to our principles, kindly but firmly explaining why their actions are problematic, and showing by example that it's not just possible but preferable to live a life based on truth, even if it's hard.
I think the most important point to consider is that there comes a point in life where an individual and/or couple should begin to create their own reality- independent of culture and society. An objective view of the "reality" of monogamy easily shows that it it is simply not that successful. The Fairy tales, love songs and idealistic ideas of long term monogamy are just stories and lies for the most part. That can be difficult to admit at first, but once an individual or couple admits it and goes through the grief that comes with letting go of a dream or an ideal- there is a freedom and with that freedom comes the opportunity to make personal decisions which are no longer based on the fantasies of society and culture.
I was in a mono marriage, cheated and found my way to poly. My story is elaborately outlined in my blog.
My advice to anyone wanting to improve any relationship, including the relationship they have with themself;
Become authentic by being deeply open and honest. First with yourself, then with your nearest and dearest and finally with the world. There's always room for self-improvement.
It may APPEAR easier to lie.
It may APPEAR to have no consequences.
But, those of us who have been there, done that and now found our way out-know that the consequences of living a lie are incalcuable.
I'll chime in on this one.
I grew up in a very traditional family structure. Both of my parents were heavily involved in the Lutheran church (father almost became a Pastor). I also watched (from a very young age) how lies, cheating, and divorces can tear families apart.
My brother went through a divorce after having two children with his (now) ex-wife. My uncle went through a divorce after having three children. My cousin got a divorce after cheating on his wife 3-months after the wedding. And my parents would have gotten a divorce (my dad had an affair) if it weren't for the fact that my mom knew that something was wrong with my father (we found out later that he actually had a brain tumor that affected his personality and caused him to do things completely opposite of his nature).
Knowing how many marriages end in divorce, I've never wanted to get married, but I always wanted a loving, monogamous relationship. My dad's eventual death and the turmoil his affair caused within my family, and also seeing how my brothers divorce affected him and his family, resulted in me often being left to figure things out on my own with very little parental guidance (due to all the drama happening in my family). I grew up with a lot of trouble talking to women, a lot of failed attempts at relationships (mostly from being emotionally unstable myself), but always wanting a relationship because I knew I would be good at it.
Fast-forward to 3 years ago when I met my currently girlfriend (she's basically my wife). Our relationship is the longest I've ever had and the most stable one either of us have enjoyed. We both love each other and have a child on the way (due in 6 weeks in fact). I actually never really considered polyamory until about a month after our child was conceived. I always thought of myself as mono until the moment I met this amazing girl who I'm totally in love with right now. We connect on so many levels and I can be totally open with her. I connect with this girl in many ways that I don't with my wife (we have very similar spiritual beliefs, whereas my wife is Agnostic / Atheist). My wife is my rock, but this new girl is like a pair of wings. She makes me feel like I can fly. They both bring something very special to the table and I have no interest in leaving my current relationship for another one that may or may not work out.
So I'm pretty much in the situation that InquiringOne defined in his original post. I'm "married" with a child on the way and in a position to lie to my wife and cheat on her with this new girl. Knowing how affairs and lies and poor communication have negatively affected other members of my family, I wasn't going to have any of that.
So one night, a few weeks ago, my wife and I had a conversation about "Love" and what that word means to each of us. My definition of love hinges on "trust" and "freedom". To me, real love cannot exist without trust, and trust requires honesty, openness, and good communication. The conversation evolved from there and I began to explain to her that:
- I believe it's unrealistic to expect two people to only love each other for the rest of their lives;
- I believe that it's possible to love more than one person at the same time without one love taking away from the other (after all, you don't love your first child less when the second child is born, so why would you love your current lover less when a second one comes along?);
- Marriage and monogamous relationships have a long history of being about "ownership." Marriage for most of our history has been about a husband "owning" a wife. I don't believe relationships are about ownership of the other person's love, but about allowing your partner to have the freedom to express his/herself (and his/her love) freely;
- Society is screwed up and wrong about almost everything. We live in a world where it's perfectly acceptable to hate a person for loving someone else, but it's unacceptable to love two people at the same time. The world needs way more love and much less hate;
- Cheating is fundamentally about a betrayal of trust (and thus love) not about the actual sex act;
- It's perfectly natural to be attracted to other people and I believe that forcing your partner to abandon what could become a loving relationship only breeds negative feelings.
- I want to be happy and I want my wife to be happy. Which means I want her to be free to pursue other relationships if they come up, and I would like the same freedom;
- Knowing that my partner will allow me to express my love for other people outside of our relationship only makes me love her more and want to keep her in my life;
- If we do pursue other relationships on the side, our child has to be our #1 priority and the other partners need to be good influences on our children.
I said more, but ultimately I laid it out rationally and logically and my wife agreed with everything I've said. It also helps that she's not hung up on sex like a lot of people are in society, so she's much more open to the idea of polyamory and open relationships.
Fucking around is fucking around. It doesn't matter if everyone is doing it, it's still fucking around. There's a lot of stupid shit that everyone's doing, like getting up to their eyeballs in debt, helicopter parenting their children, driving SUVs that never leave paved roads... Convention doesn't justify anything.
Marriage today is sorta fucked-up compared to way-back-when. It used to be a necessary business contract. Women lacked the means to support themselves and their children. In return, men were guaranteed paternity of the children they were raising. People didn't used to expect happiness out of their marriages, because that wasn't the point. You did your duty, and maybe you grew to love your spouse. Rare and blessed were they who married the one they already loved.
In the 1960s, the whole point of marriage was turned on its head. The motivation gradually became more about love and support than making and raising babies.
Nowadays, it's easier to get a divorce than a driver's license. Many people expect perfection, and they walk away if they don't get it. Or they play along, going through the motions without really being present. But one thing most people don't do is the really hard work required to make relationships work. That really hard work includes learning to communicate honestly with your spouse. The fact that so many people chicken out doesn't let everyone else off the hook, they'll just go find someone else to fuck it up with.
I also "invented" the idea that people see colours differently, i.e. my blue could be your red. Turns out someone beat me to that, also. My girlfriend's daughter "invented" "brain in a vat" (aka The Matrix) when she was all of 6.
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