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.