Interesting discussion. Thanks to AggieSez for starting it. I learned more about peoples’ attitudes to married people getting into polyamory than from any other source I have seen.
Still, I have questions and comments about some concepts raised:
The concept of harm
, as in:
Originally Posted by LovingRadiance
Is couple privilege harmful, neutral or beneficial in poly/open relationships, or in the poly/open community? Why or why not?
I think it's unrealistic to expect people to negate it without time to move towards the negation of it - but I think overall it is harmful.
Harmful to whom? How do you define harm?
Arguably, an extramarital relationship is ipso facto
harmful, possibly to all three of the people involved, and should never have been entered. Your grandmother could have told you that.
Times have changed, however, and polyamory assumes that such relationships may
work out to the benefit of everyone concerned. If this was not thought to be likely (or even possible), relationships involving married people would have been specifically excluded from the writings of the people advocating polyamory, and this is not the case.
I therefore question the use of the word “harmful”. If you enter an informal relationship of any kind, there is always the danger that the other party may wish to end it one day. This may well be hurtful, but it should not be damaging. If you are healthy in spirit, you will get over it. How else do you propose dealing with relationships that have run their course? It really does not matter why the other person has ended it – it could be because of “couple privilege”, but it could also be because (s)he has become bored with you, or feels that you have not lived up to some image (s)he has of a long-term partner, or because you said something that you shouldn’t have, or did not do something that (s)he expected of you (without ever saying so). None of this matters much – no-one can be expected to live up to imagined commitments (s)he has not formally made or to qualities that (s)he does not have.
(I am clearly not talking of psychotic behaviour. If I abuse someone physically or psychologically, or burn her house down Alan Harper-style, she is not going to break up with me because of couple privilege, but because I committed a deep wrong towards her.)
The concept of a happy marriage
, or “Holy Dyad
”, as in:
Originally Posted by nycindie
I personally call this attitude "revering The Holy Dyad," and I do find it distasteful. I would not get involved with anyone who operates that way, as I do not recognize the idea that there is any sort of privilege a couple should have. I feel that if people in a couple want additional relationships, they just need to embrace and accept the idea that everything is going to change, and holding onto this kernel of having the couple at the center of their poly universe makes absolutely no sense.
Oh, so you find distasteful relationships such as mine or that of any number of couples I know, married for 30 or 40 years or even longer?
If it’s not that, what you find distasteful is the fact that a participant in such a Holy Dyad would try to enter other relationships? How is that different from mainstream attitudes? Oh you cheating bastard, how could you do this to your darling spouse, or to the innocent third party who has no idea what (s)he is getting into?
Fortunately for me, I don’t have to get the approval or understanding of most people. I am extremely open about my circumstances in life, and if someone doesn’t like Holy Dyads, go and take up with someone not in one. And, fortunately for the naive young innocents out there, I am not so hot and sexy (or young, more is the pity) that someone would take up with me in a moment of passion, to be let down later by the need for submission to a Holy Dyad.
Sorry to be sarcastic, but really! Intelligent people know how to evaluate social possibilities, and know what to expect from specific kinds of situations. One of my first romantic interests, whom I pursued with extreme ardour, turned to me with some exasperation at one point, and asked me: “You know that I have a boyfriend, don’t you?”. The subtext being: “You know how far this can go, don’t you?”. My excuse was my youth and inexperience.
Finally, the concepts of “off the hook” and “hard work” (in the context of relationships), as in:
Originally Posted by rory
Originally Posted by WhatHappened
Honesty requires, in part, admitting that the egalitarian ideal works better as a theory than as a reality.
The reason I disagree with this is not because there aren't people who claim to live by that ideal and fail to do so (whether intentionally or not). The reason is that this line of thought lets them off the hook way too easy. It is not the ideal that is at fault, it is the person who isn't able/willing to put the work into what they say they will. I.e. being honest about hierarchy doesn't mean saying "it's probably impossible to reach an egalitarian situation", it means saying "I am not willing/able to prioritise my relationship with you, or your feelings, to have those difficult talks with my other partner, or to go through the challenges of making changes that would make things more fair towards you". It's not because the ideal can't work, it's because making it work requires hard work.
What is the hook one should not be left off? Who is the hooker and the hooked (and I mean no puns) here? In my view, it is the person who has more to gain is the one who should do more work.
I am trying to envision the situation. V is at the centre of a vee (very suitably named), he is married to A and has girlfriend B. (V could also be a woman, with A and B men, or they could all be gay – I am simply using this configuration for simplicity).
V’s relationship to A could be almost anything, as long as A and V run a common home together. Talk of hard work – this is hard work. B may not get as much out of the relationship as A does, but then she does not have to invest the same amount of resources (time, money, effort) in it either.
Anyway, when B and V are together, they are having a great time. If they don’t, why are they together at all? If it’s not enjoyable for B, she can just say goodbye.
OK, so it’s enjoyable. But, after a while, she wants some certainty, some stability, some sense that she matters to V. Unfortunately, our V is a bit dense, for he does not realize that B needs reassurance and act on this realization. Alternatively, V does not care that much for B as a person, but he likes the good times. Who doesn’t like good times? He is a bastard in this case.
Now, B doesn’t know whether V is just dense or is being a bastard. She can test the waters. Ask for some sign of commitment, for example. If V is dense, he may now do something to reassure B, or he may give up and crawl back to A, who has known for a long time how dense her husband is, but what the hell, at least he is good in the sack or with power tools (or both). If V is a bastard, why, he will continue being a bastard, for example promise to talk to A and ask for more time off, then not even do this.
It’s not clear to me why B wants to be someone who is either dense or a bastard, but there is no accounting for tastes.
But what I don’t get above all is what this has to do with being off (or not off) the hook, or hard work? What’s so hard about talking over time- and money-management issues with intelligent people? Or about being honest – from the very beginning – about what you are prepared and what you are not prepared to do? What happens at Christmas, who pays for holidays, I feel lonely at times, can you do something about this? Simple issues, possible solutions. And yes, sometimes we all feel alone and neglected, deal with it. What did you do when you were unattached?