Who is so super enlightened now?
Poly seems to be in the news a lot now. Or maybe I just never noticed how often it gets talked about till my partner and I began exploring an open relationship model – who knows? But it’s been two years since we took the plunge. We’ve experienced an unplanned triad attempt that went south quickly, two periods of time where we were both seeing someone separately, and we’ve both experienced now, situations where one of us was seeing someone while the other was not. All the way, I’ve poured through poly friendly sites to gain insight and wisdom from others who’ve experienced more. I’ve noticed a few of commonalities that rub me the wrong way.
There is currently a thread up asking how rare it is for a long term open relationship to be successful and lists many of the assumptions people make about why someone might even attempt it. I chalk this up to people giving a pass to monogamous relationship drama and lows as being “normal” and there for all acceptable situations that one should expect and be willing to go through. The alternative of poly, is seen as not normal, making the drama and lows unacceptable indications of dysfunction within the relationship. Basically what is normal is all relative to what you’re use to and anything else is odd or wrong if you’ve never experienced it. “You don’t know because you don’t know” becomes this bubble wrap shield against these assumptions and questions posed by the monogamous world. But I think interpersonal relationships all have their ugly side that gets cultivated in the name of what is normal to us. When dealing with more than just yourself there is going to be a struggle now and then no matter the style.
(A, B, and C are universal people in following scenario)
Like example one I have noticed. Say partner A is a cycling enthusiast and wishes their primary B had more interest in joining them on a ride. They’ve gone more than a few times and B just doesn’t enjoy it much for a myriad of reasons. Really it doesn’t matter what the past time is, the situation gets peppered with a common solution from the poly community: find someone new to enjoy these things with instead. I remember when we called these kind of associations friendships. A starts going riding with C instead. B is no longer pressured or guilt tripped over not participating. All should be cool if it’s just about finding someone to go cycling with right? So why do A and C also need to have a sexual association just because A wants someone along when bike riding? B was happy to not get pestered onto a bike anymore. Is B still happy when not getting on the bike means A is fucking someone else too? I also notice that people who get used to fill the spot for A, even in a poly relationship, often find little vacancy elsewhere in A’s life. A only needed someone to join them in this particular past time and perhaps some other sweaty activity in the shower afterwards. But sometimes it can get problematic to branch out of cycling and showering in a more encompassing fashion without causing more instances to find others to fill spots the situation creates. The alternative is A and C invest more intimately in each other so C isn’t being “used” or “marginalized”.
Now B has a vacancy not just while A is out on a bike ride but before and after and oh I don’t know……every Saturday night too because A and C couldn’t just enjoy cycling together even with the shower show tacked on. Awww B don’t pout! You can find your own C to fill this new space with! Go nuts!
I get that no one person can meet every “need” (more on this later) for another. I get that we build many connections around our different interests. But when it’s posed as needing someone else for some specific reason it seems often to be a cover for a lot more than one unmet need for company during a specific instance. And just when does it go from being one or a couple of unmet needs to a whole menu of them that, in a monogamous relationship, would indicate a large lack of compatibility? Isn’t that something that should be worked on rather than using someone else as a repair patch? Will it ever get worked on if the vacancy is filled and an intimate relationship with someone new is currency in trade? The flip side I see often as well is that monogamy creates opportunity for betrayal. So B should accept an open relationship before A and C resort to sneaking. Really? Where is the choice in that? Say yes to poly or face the consequences?
Which brings me to another commonality I’ve noticed; the huge tendency to inflate wants to the point of calling them needs. This is a manipulation tactic. I see it shared so often in posts on poly forums. First off, no one NEEDS to have sex. There are people all over the world who, for whatever reason, can’t or just don’t have interest in attracting people for intimacy. They keep on breathing day after day. Some people are asexual from what I hear. I don’t get it but they exist. So clearly sex isn’t a need. But with this, we are talking about people who do have someone they can share intimacy with already; arguing about whether it is a necessity or not is a point not worth arguing because they already have it. This is why in the relationships between poly and mono people, I always cringe a little when I hear about some mono person struggling with finding peace over their partner’s “need” for being intimate with others. Its why we get posts like A “needing” to have an intimate relationship with C so that A has someone to go cycling with while B meditates and medicates their feelings all the while reminding themselves how lucky they are for not having to get on a cycle anymore.
Lastly, I also notice this really awful way some of the C people sooth themselves when experiencing envy or jealousy that makes them no longer really qualified to be what I call a friend to their A’s relationship with B. Lots of noble talk about rising above negative thinking and enjoying the relationship they have for what it is and that is very nice and all. But rarely will the thread plod on without C eventually commenting on how A and B’s relationship is really all screwed up or empty like it makes their role in A’s life more important. Isn’t this finding comfort in the dysfunction of others? This tells me they really want to be the bigger better shinier person in A’s life. They need to believe they are this to feel better about being in the relationship and really would rather B fade out of the picture or at least acknowledge and validate that indeed C is more important to A than B now. I almost understand when A or B might feel that way if the relationship began monogamous. It’s how they thought of themselves when the bond and commitment was created and moving away from that can feel like stepping down. But C didn’t have to begin marching to a different beat mid relationship. If they can’t dance to it, they don’t have to stick around for the encore set. They could just realize they might not be this super poly individual they are trying to be. Truly metamours don’t have to be friends. But while I’m not friends with the person who lives across the hall from me, neither am I consumed with an inner dialog about how much better suited I am to their primary and how crappy their relationship must be in comparison to whatever relationship I would be having with them. The reason for this is I am not posturing myself in direct opposition to whatever relationship my neighbor across the hall is having.
I guess in the end I’m saying the more I learn about it, the shine of poly wears away and it’s all starting to look like how I see political parties - republicrat/democran circus show. Pick your favorite flavor of dysfunction and hope like hell it’s more enjoyable than not until someone “needs” more and cultivates an association built on believing my partner and I have a dead relationship.