Long read: Stuff I would have liked to have seen (Mono/Poly)
A little background regarding this post: My partner set up a "Poly Blog" a while back (if you're interested in the URL, let me know, but I'm not selling the blog here, don't worry) in order to maybe be a resource for anyone looking for one. It's sometimes difficult to find good Mono/Poly resources online that don't say, "OMG, Good luck! You'll need it!" and even less advice for those just starting out. Morethantwo.com has some GREAT resources, but it still can't cover everything that pops up.
I was apprehensive at first, since I felt that we were just starting out ourselves, and in no way ready to suddenly become an authority on anything.
Over time, we've all learned things - usually by doing the WRONG thing at first, and then painfully digging our way out, and I thought, "Yeah, you know, if I'd read/seen some of these things, then maybe it could have helped." So oddly enough, Mono Chick (me) decided to write a post for the Poly blog.
I wanted to vet it by you all and see what you thought - if some things truly don't apply to most people, aren't helpful, are confusing or worded badly, or if you have anything to add, please let me know. If it's clerical, let me know privately so as not to clog the list, but if you think it would make a good discussion point, please feel free. I've edited out the names, but I've kept in some of the "instructions to self" either where I need to add links or am trying to figure out if I want to keep a section in or not. Formatting stinks right now - I'll pretty it up when it goes into Blogger.
I'm hoping it's helpful, and I hope you'll let me know either way.
I’ll be honest. I never believed I would contribute to this blog. Firstly, I’m not Poly. I’m a monogamous chick who found myself in a Poly relationship because it allowed me to HAVE a relationship with someone whom I consider a wonderful person and a very close friend. Secondly, because it hasn’t always been an easy road, I didn’t feel like I really had a place to say anything. Who am I to pontificate on a blog about my relationship when I feel like I’m still trying to figure out where I’m going without a road map? Thirdly, this blog has, up until now, been “this is what I like about Poly” and I have little interest in being the Blog Curmudgeon.
But if that all applied right now, you wouldn’t be seeing this, so what changed?
X and Y have both stated that they’d like this blog to be a place that people find in their search for resources - things that help, maybe, or just to know that there are others out there like them trying to just poke through life in this unconventional type of relationship structure.
Over time, I’ve kept track of a mental list of things that *I* sure would have loved to have known ahead of time. Or would have loved to have had OTHERS know ahead of time, in order to help things go a bit more smoothly, or make fewer trial-and-error mistakes. Keeping it a mental list isn’t going to do that, now is it? So here I post.
I don’t want to rehash the Mono/Poly articles that are on Franklin Veaux’s “Morethantwo” site <add link>. These are GREAT resources, and were quite helpful in helping us all see this relationship from each others’ (very different) points of view. If you’re reading this because you’re lost without a road map of your own, go there first. Really. I’ll wait...
While your mileage may vary, here are some other issues/pitfalls/things-I-wish-I’d-realized-earlier that maybe could be of use to someone.
** PLEASE note that I am not speaking for all Mono/Poly relationships or people here. I am speaking from a combination of personal experience and from other people’s experiences. Your mileage may (and will) vary. **
Section 1: Possible pitfalls for the poly partner (Say it, don’t spray it!)
1. Enthusiasm is great. Proselytization, not so much.
You have discovered Polyamory and a light bulb has clicked on. You finally have a word to describe the way you’ve been feeling all these years, or a concept of loving relationships that you find free and non-restrictive and you are beside yourself with excitement. You are happy to embrace the new you (and honestly, you should be!), and you are happy to share it with others.
And then you start thinking... Maybe monogamy really isn’t all it’s cracked up to be. Maybe, inside, we’re *all* just a little Poly. Or a *lot* Poly, and denying our own inner natures based on what society tells us is right due to outmoded concepts of fidelity dictated by religious and controlling patriarchal societal models.
Okay. Stop. Breathe.
Regardless of what you do believe, there is no quicker way to alienate not only your monogamous friends and family, but your Mono PARTNER than by intimating that they are not only wrong, but backwards-thinking. Making someone feel disrespected, especially someone you love, is no way of earning respect toward your beliefs, and in fact, is a quick way of getting someone’s rational mind to turn off and raise their emotional hackles in defense of what they see as an integral part of themselves.
In other words, the people who are close to you may be happy you’ve found God, but don’t want you to save them.
So, what if you really DO believe that monogamy is a socially-created construct? Well, this leads into...
2. What *is* monogamy?
From everything I’ve seen, the “monogamy is <insert negative word here>” seems to stem from an oversimplification of monogamy as a whole. There are two distinct aspects of monogamy, and defining it as purely a social construct completely ignores one of them.
a. The desire to love only one person
Yes, I agree that for many Poly folks, they didn’t realize the concept existed as such. But for every one who seems to identify as Poly at the personal level (“wired that way”), they have always been able to feel (romantic) love for more than one person.
Some of us do not.
For some of us, who self-identify as Mono, when we develop romantic feelings for one, they wane for another. I have never, EVER “crushed on” more than one person at a time, even back in Junior High (okay, my unholy obsession with Alan Hunter doesn’t count - I’m talking real people, here). That type of emotion toward another always had one target and one target only. I am “wired” that way.
This is completely different from
b. The desire for the one I love to love only me.
This seems to be the aspect of monogamy that most non-monogamous people deride. Yes, in some cases, it is societal. In come cases, it is driven out of insecurity. In some cases, however, it is a desire of that one person’s attention and time, and any less than that does not create a bond that is close enough to have a lasting, lifetime relationship (whether or not you really believe those exist).
In some cases, this can change. If the Mono partner truly wants to work on a relationship with a Poly partner, this will HAVE to change. Some people don’t want to change. Some try, but find that it’s too hard for them and therefore non-negotiable.
Statements that deride monogamy as a whole unwittingly deride that first part, that piece that is integral to US as monogamous folk, and is INCREDIBLY insulting when heard from a Mono point of view.
In other words, please don’t build yourself up by putting us down. There’s more to monogamy than convention.
2. Using analogies that don’t fly
“But you don’t love your children any less because you have more than one!”
UGH! UGH! UGH!
I hate. DESPISE, even, the typical “child analogy”.
Romantic love is NOT the love for a child. Period. I can not equate the way I love my children to the way I love a romantic partner. One is a love designed to protect, guide, and eventually lead my children into becoming independent people, who will (and SHOULD) leave in time. One is a love that invests heavily of my self into the relationship. Equating the two is like equating apples and elephants, and adds an “ick” factor when you try to equate romantic love to a parent’s love for a child.
I realize you’re trying to relate the way you feel about other loves to your Mono partner, and you really have no tools to do it. I sympathize. It is NOT an easy thing to do, because many of us just. don’t. get it.
However, the great folks on the LivingPolyMono mailing list came up with some wonderful alternatives that actually worked for ME much better than the “child analogy”. It’s no guarantee it’ll help you, but maybe one of the following will be better received:
a. A slightly retooled version of the child analogy - a question.
“Why did you have more than one child?”
When you put it that way, why *did* I have more than one child? Because I wanted more. Why did I want more? Um. Because. I wanted a fuller home, more laughter, more kids. Just more. (Okay, maybe the answer “as a playmate for the first one” came in, but let’s disregard that for now... it certainly wasn’t the only reason. ;-)
This question totally removes the type of love from the equation, instead focusing on the emotional feeling behind the “why”. I didn’t want more children because my oldest child was lacking. I wanted more because I wanted more.
However, if you don’t have children, it may not resonate.
(Continued in next post)
Continued from previous post...
b. “Why do you have more than one friend?”
This one didn’t resonate as well with me, but it still worked better than the initial child analogy. It seemed to work well for others. Same deal. You acquire friends, not based on any lack of what your current friendships offer, but because you find something in this new person that you like and want to see more of.
This may not resonate all that well, period, because even though people have multiple friends, many people still have one “best friend” - one person they confide in, etc. But it’s worth a shot.
This does NOT equal the statement, “No one person is enough to meet anyone’s needs. You have more than one friend, right?” Be prepared for the rejoinder, “Well, I don’t need to have sex with my friends!” if you use that one.
3. “But love is not a zero-sum game... I have plenty of love for everyone. Love for person <x> doesn’t mean less for person <y>”
Okay, but there are other pieces of a relationship that are zero-sum, time and money being two HUGE ones.
As a Poly partner, as you add relationships, you may find yourself coming up against your saturation point (you’re polysaturated... har har har) - how much is too much before you just can’t manage it anymore?
Your Mono partner may have the opposite: a Mono-Dilution point, if you will. How little time is too little? As a relationship grows into something a Mono person sees as a lifetime relationship, the traditional model is to spend *more* time together. Limits on this may limit “how far” your partner may see this relationship going.
Your Mono partner (especially if you’re opening up a marriage, where you share resources) may resent money from your joint account going to fund date nights and gifts for your other partner(s). Don’t assume that mi dinero es su dinero. Nobody likes talking money, but in any relationship, it can be a major cause of discord. Talk about it.
Conversely, if you are “getting more serious” with a Mono partner, there may be different financial questions that need to be asked. If sharing a household, how much contribution should be expected? Who pays the bills if the poly partner is going back and forth between homes? Groceries? How do you split up chores (more of a different topic, but you get the point)?
Talk about it. Don’t assume that just because your love is infinite, other resources are as well.
Okay, Mono partners, stop nodding your heads and pumping your fists. It’s your turn.
Section 2: Potential Pitfalls for Mono Partners
1. “But he/she has <x>! I want <x> too!”
Really? Or are you just bristling against something you see as “unfair?”
Do you REALLY want to go see that band, or is it a style of music you really don’t like?
Do you REALLY want to hang out with that friend you really can’t stand just because they did?
Take a step back and think about what YOU want and need out of your relationship with your partner, aside from any other person in this relationship. What do YOU want?
More time with your partner? Ask for it.
To try that new Italian place? Make a date.
To go see a concert? Find something you both like and go.
Figure out what it is that you’re missing in YOUR relationship. Talk about it. Figure out how to get it, or compromise in a way that works for YOU. Renegotiate as needed. No, it’s not always that easy; life tends to get in the way. Money and time (see a pattern here?) can dictate how often a couple goes out or what they do, and you may need to compromise on the things you’d like to do. This happens in any relationship, though - you can’t always go the places you want for vacation, and you probably can’t go out every night. A Poly relationship can bring out this difference when the other partner CAN, but it isn’t the cause of your inability to do so. Don’t shoot the messenger, and don’t hold your partner back just because you can’t do something. Therein lies resentment.
If you REALLY can’t stomach seeing that they’re going out and doing <x> when you can’t, then talk about it. Are they posting pictures or statuses on Facebook about every single event? Figure out why you’re upset and talk about it. Does it feel like they’re rubbing it in your face (“Nyaah nyaah, I can go out and you can’t!”)? Does it feel like “everybody will see THEM together and not US”? Understanding the reason behind why you’re upset goes a long way toward solving it.
2. Poly means ‘casual’
“How can we build a future together when you won’t commit only to me?”
“Why does she want to move in with him? She’s Poly!”
This one took me a while to grasp.
Poly means “multiple”. It doesn’t mean they don’t want the same things out of their relationship that you do. It means they want to be open to more relationships if they come up, with everything that goes with them.
You want to build a lifetime with your partner. He wants to build a lifetime with his partners.
A Poly relationship CAN be a casual one, but it doesn’t have to be. A commitment to one does not negate a commitment to another, although it may make logistics more difficult.
If your partner’s OSO is Poly, don’t assume that it’s casual or playtime. Don’t get caught off-guard and get pissed off when they start wanting to move forward in their relationship. Be prepared for their relationship to be every bit as close and important as yours is. If you need some level of hierarchy, communicate that NOW to your partner. Unless you’re opening up a marriage (where shared history and assets may dictate a hierarchy), don’t be surprised if you meet resistance.
In other words, your “couple” relationship with your partner is not more “real” because you are monogamous.
3. “You’re going to see that she’s <better / sexier / nicer / more awesome> than me and leave me!”
If he were monogamous and fell in love with someone else, you’d be right.
But he’s not. Being Poly means he can love her without falling out of love with you. You CAN have a relationship with him while he’s in a relationship with her and you WON’T lose him.
Things will change - you’ll have less time and attention than you may have in a monogamous relationship, but if that’s not a deal-breaker for you, then you still have him. The choice is left up to you as to whether or not “less him” is better than “no him.” Answering “no, it’s not” is a perfectly acceptable answer, by the way. If you can’t handle sharing your partner, don’t try to settle for something less than what you need, but this will be YOUR decision. Not his.
Some of the advice you see floating around about Mono/Poly relationships equates to “Oh God - good luck with THAT!” It’s discouraging. And the emotions that can accompany the changes involved in adapting to such a relationship can certainly feel insurmountable some days.
The most important lesson? Time and experience.
It’s cliche, but it’s true. Having gone through our issues, working through them in non-productive ways until we beat our heads into various walls and find something that works - going through that process has shown me that we WILL work at this. That we’re not just going to give up when emotions get squirrely or things get hard. We know what works for us (talk ‘til ya puke!) and what doesn’t. And we know that even if we get it wrong, we will still be accommodating and work toward getting it a little more right next time. Finding one thing that works for one issue doesn’t mean there won’t be more, but you’ll be more confident in your ability to handle them as they come up.
If you’re here looking for advice? Best of luck - if you want to do this, you can, regardless of what anyone else says. Looking for resources and reading, reading, reading? You’re already trying, and that’s a damn good start. Hang in there.
Nice post. I don't really have comments about changing anything. I disagree with you about the whole "children and friends" part, but it's a point of view thing, and I think it's good you're sharing yours.
For the sake of discussion, though, my opinion and experience is that when you ask people "why...?" they get extremely defensive of it, and in turn aggressive. I get worse responses from "why did you want more than one child" than from "did you love your first child any less when the second was born?"
As for friends, people will say friends just happen, so it's not like they looked for them. I personally think that "how would you feel if one of your friends told you you can only have one friend at a time? What id they all told you that, and you had to pick one? Regardless of how much you love the one you pick, if you can pick at all, wouldn't you mourn the loss of all the other ones?" or something along these lines works better at making people think. Instead of questioning their choices by asking "why?", you present a hypothetical scenario and ask them to figure out how they would feel about it.
And I also don't understand your distinction between "you love all your children, right?" and "why did you want more than one child?" although personally I don't like phrasing it either way.
I think the way I like explaining it is such:
"There are many types of love. There is the love you have for your family, there is the love you have for your friends. And there is romantic love. For monogamous people, romantic love is the exception in that you only feel it for one person. For polyamorous people, romantic love is not an exception. Just like the others, you can and will feel it for several people, just like you love several members of your family or several friends at the same time."
As for the sexual aspect, people don't have trouble understanding that sex can occur without love and love without sex, so I fail to see why bringing love in the picture should make one think of sex. You can be polyamorous and asexual, you can be monoamorous and a swinger, you can have sex with your friends (that's what Friends With Benefits are all about), I think sex is relevant to a lot of people, but not necessarily relevant to a discussion about love. Many monogamous people would consider it cheating if you fell in love with someone else, regardless of the absolute lack of sex, and many people have an easier time with the idea of their partner having "sex on the side" than developing feelings for others.
Sounds like a good post. Thanks for tagging it mono/poly, its great to add it to the numerous other posts on the topic.
You remind me of Mono and I awhile back. Things have changed now as he found himself crushing on a co-worker and now suddenly gets it. Still is mono with me, but is far more willing to let go of the constant battle we had of compromising who we are. Now he believes I am the one for him as I give him all the freedom he needs and wants. He's a free man with a deep love for me. How that is mono to him became up to us. We abandoned the tradition of monogamy being doing everything with ones partner (including developing close relationships) and both decided that what makes it work is unique to us. No one else. We make our own definitions of what monogamy and poly means to us and now there is really nothing to talk about. It took three and a half years. No fast conclusion.
When all is said and done, to me, monogamy really is bonding with one person (in many ways) and poly is the same but with more than one. It seems so incredibly simple yet it takes years to sort out. At least it did for us.
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Thanks, Tonberry and RP!
RP, we're definitely still in the "sorting it out" phase, but it's gotten smoother, and I'm happy for that. There may continue to be sorting for years, but honestly, I was married for almost 17 years and the plan I had in my head for how life was going to go... well, THAT went out the window. No plans now and no road maps. It's scary as hell, but it's probably more honest rather than saying, "I want to be here in <x> years."
Tonberry, I thing any analogy is going to be flawed, period. In some cases, the two different POVs are just SO different, it's like trying to explain what water tastes like. I was happy to find an alternative that worked for me (in print/type - I'm sure that I may have reacted differently in person - and I may want to bring up that point, now that I think about it), but if you can find ANYTHING that works for you, then you should run with it.
Thanks again - I do appreciate the fact that everyone here is (sometimes brutally) honest, and I'm thankful for all the feedback.
Hi there. In the Golden Nuggets forum on this site, I started a thread listing our members' outside blogs (as opposed to the blogs we have here) that relate to polyamory. If yours is off-site, I can add a link to it in the thread, or you can do it. Just follow the same format, linking to your profile here and to your blog. You can visit the thread by going here: Our members' off-site poly blogs
The world opens up... when you do.
"Oh, oh, can't you see? Love is the drug for me." ~Bryan Ferry
"Love and the self are one . . ." ~Leo Buscaglia "
An excellent blog post on hierarchy in polyamory:
Last edited by nycindie; 06-15-2012 at 10:34 PM.
I'm really glad I read your article. Well done!