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Old 11-28-2012, 03:25 PM
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hyperskeptic hyperskeptic is offline
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Default The Flaw

Originally Posted by nycindie View Post
For some people. Not all. I see poly as something so much simpler than many others do. It seems many folks really complicate the shit out of having multiple love relationships, when it can be as easy, simple, and rewarding as having multiple friends.
If you think this can be simple, I can only assume you're not really paying attention.

There is a fatal flaw in poly ideology, one that can never be spoken aloud in these forums without eliciting either protest or condescension.

Polyamory is premised on the very noble and right-seeming notion that relationships should be based on consent, freely given. As there is, in principle, no limit to the number of times one can say "yes", there should be no reason for love to be bounded in anyway.

As I say, a very pretty notion.

The fatal flaw is that we humans are never wholly, perfectly free. As much as I think we are obligated to recognize and respect the autonomy of others, I also think autonomy is a very difficult thing to manage in practice. The human will is always limited, constrained, entangled in existing commitments, existing relationships, existing practical arrangements, existing institutions.

We are obligated to respect autonomy, yes, but we are also obligated to act so as to foster others' autonomy as well as our own, acknowledging all the ways in which we are constrained and vulnerable. This may require us to refrain from doing things we might otherwise be perfectly entitled to do.

Two examples, from my own experience of polyamory.

In my relationship with Nyx, I'd like to think we regarded one another as equals; we respected one another and were careful of one another. The unhappy truth is that we were in very different situations, subject to very different pressures and entanglements, and vulnerable in different ways. To be honest, I think Nyx had the worst of it: she always had much more to lose than I did.

Thinking of this in narrative terms, our relationship had a lovely and passionate beginning, but very few good endings were possible. In hindsight, I honestly think her decision to break off with me may have been the best possible ending, the one that most allowed her to keep her dignity intact.

I consider it an act of moral courage.

The other example is the crux of the matter: the current state of my relationship with my wife.

As already noted in this blog, I have decided that it would be irresponsible for me to continue trying to be polyamorous. As much as it tickles my fancy to imagine the beginnings of many lovely stories with many intriguing women - one or two in particular come to mind - I really cannot imagine any good endings to those stories, endings in which no one ends up neglected, or wronged, or feeling taken for granted.

In choosing monogamy, I am bowing to a necessity imposed by circumstance. I am a married father of two children, and I have responsibilities to my children, my wife, my profession, and my community that all serve to hold me in place. To do justice to a relationship with someone new would necessarily involve failing in one or more of those existing responsibilities, simply because of the limits of time, energy, and attention.

I need to sleep, from time to time, after all.

My wife's situation is different. She has fewer entanglements because of the past history of our relationship. She has had a hard road, following me around through the various stages of my career, and now putting up with the bad health that comes with breathing the air in the place in which we are currently stuck.

I owe it to her to let her be more free, to travel, to explore. So, she's leaving again for Europe very soon, to spend a few weeks with her boyfriend there. She spent some time on Monday with another guy who had "expressed interest", and went away on a weekend trip last week with yet another guy who had "expressed interest".

When she's away on her longer jaunts, I feel the full weight of being a part-time single dad, and the isolation and exhaustion that comes with it. As she is constantly distracted by various other relationships and possible relationships, our household slips ever further into chaos . . . abetted by my own infernal busy-ness, my own distraction and, increasingly, my growing despair.

Here's the crux of the matter. I have chosen to be monogamous. My wife has chosen otherwise and, where her other relationships and her adventures in Europe and at home are concerned, my consent is irrelevant.

Let me state this clearly: I do not freely consent to my wife pursuing intimate relationships with other people.

I am, however, constrained from enforcing my objections.

I see no happy ending to this part of our story.

Separating is not a live option: we do care for one another, and we have standing obligations to one another and to our children; we are tangled together in all sorts of ways, including in the practical arrangements of our household. Were we to break up our household would do untold harm and untold wrong to one another, to our children, and even to the communities of which we are a part.

That's not a way I am willing to go.

Demanding that my wife practice monogamy is also not a live option. I don't pretend to have that kind of authority over another person's conscience, and there are other, more particular reasons, rooted in our history together. It would both harm and wrong her to demand a narrow kind of fidelity from her.

So, all I can do is bow to the necessity bred by circumstance. I withhold my objections, and groan under the weight of them.

I am trying to learn to live without hope.

There are also some palliative measures to be taken. One is a strict DADT policy regarding her other relationships: I really just don't want to hear about them. Another is an agreement on her part to limit the number of strays she takes in.

(Sorry, but that's my own derogatory term for it. She does seem drawn to guys who are odd and who seem slightly lost. But then, I may just be the stray who stuck around the longest.)

But, really, palliative measures are all I have to go on.

The core of the problem remains, and it is a problem with no solution.
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