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  #1  
Old 04-18-2013, 05:39 PM
Octopus Octopus is offline
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Question Commitment beyond Exclusivity

This is inspired by a discussion I frequently lead with monogamous-minded people.

The conversation normally goes something like this:

Me: I am in a non-monogamous relationship.
Mono: Oh, okay. So you are seeing this person casually.
Me: No, it is not 'casual'. The fact that we sleep with and sometimes date other people does not mean we are not serious about our relationship. In fact, we are both very committed to each other.
Mono: Except you're not committed to each other - you sleep with others too.
Me: We are very committed to each other. The fact we sleep with others has nothing to do with that. It also does not change or diminish this commitment.
Mono: It does! You're obviously not committed.
Me:

After thinking about this a while, I realised that some monos equate commitment with exclusivity.

For me, commitment means a willingness to respect each other, care for each other, reach out and help or support the other person. It also means being invested to do so for a long time, even if things may be difficult sometimes.

So the next few times this came up, I tried to react differently:
Me: I am in a non-monogamous relationship.
Mono: Oh, okay. So you are seeing this person casually.
Me: No, it is not 'casual'. The fact that we sleep with and sometimes date other people does not mean we are not serious about our relationship. In fact, we are both very committed to each other.
Mono: Except you're not committed to each other - you sleep with others too.
Me: To me, commitment means being honest, supportive, loving. It means being respectful and invested in a relationship. It does not mean monogamy.
Mono:

So, I didn't really get further. It's just - I've literally observed this so many times with different people of different background, and they respond equally. It confuses me.

Do you have any thoughts on this?

Why do people fail to understand how commitment can go beyond an exclusive relationship? How can I better explain that one can indeed be committed to one's partners while having relationships with others?

Last edited by Octopus; 04-18-2013 at 05:41 PM.
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  #2  
Old 04-18-2013, 06:17 PM
GalaGirl GalaGirl is offline
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Why do people fail to understand how commitment can go beyond an exclusive relationship?

When I get to that place it is like "Hey blinders on dude, why you no see?" kind of frustration to me. *shrug*

WHY stuff I do not find helpful in conversation sometimes. It makes me feel frustrated if I spend too much time wondering why. There's a point where it is no longer fruitful. I rather move it on WHAT I want to get across and HOW to best do that.

How can I better explain that one can indeed be committed to one's partners while having relationships with others?


Hrm. How about seeing them where THEY live first? And see if that makes them more willing to see where YOU live next?
Me: I am in a non-monogamous relationship.
Mono: Oh, okay. So you are seeing this person casually.
Me: No, it is not 'casual'. The fact that we sleep with and sometimes date other people does not mean we are not serious about our relationship. In fact, we are both very committed to each other.
Mono: Except you're not committed to each other - you sleep with others too.

Me: Yes. If you are coming from a place of monogamous relationship structure? Where commitment is demonstrated through sexual exclusivity? Nope. On that front we are not demonstrating committment in that way -- through sexual exclusiveness.

Other than sexually exclusive, how do people in a monogamous relationship demonstrate their committment to each other?

Mono: Well.... they do lalalalalala? And lalalalala?

Me: That we do have in common then. In my nomonogamous but committed relationship, we do those things too. That is some of how we demonstrate committment to each other in a nonmonogamous relationship. See? Compare and contrast. Some things are different, some things are same.
Maybe that could help bring on the lightbulb moment?

GL!
Galagirl

Last edited by GalaGirl; 04-18-2013 at 06:21 PM.
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  #3  
Old 04-18-2013, 06:24 PM
kkxvlv kkxvlv is offline
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The troubling part to me is wondering if that is all commitment means to them.
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Old 04-18-2013, 07:04 PM
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NutBusterX NutBusterX is offline
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In our relationship, we each commit to giving each other the not-always pleasant truth. We also each commit to trusting the other to accept that truth. We then commit to coming to agreements in how we proceed, equipped with the truth.

For us, that commitment is more challenging, but also more rewarding than what we have found in a mono situation. I suppose our truths were always more or less the same as they are now, but the freedom to share them, the skill of handling them, and the closeness that comes from them, are some of the rewards. The sticking through the uncomfortable parts is the challenge.

I guess i look at it as though we have bigger and more complex challenges that we agree to see through to their end. Therefore, we have a bigger commitment.

Additionally, as a mathematical statement...

(Commitment x 1) < (Commitment x Many or multiple)

Do we not commit to all of our loves rather than only 1 love?

Math always tells the truth. Especially polymath.

Last edited by NutBusterX; 04-18-2013 at 07:08 PM. Reason: omission
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Old 04-18-2013, 08:51 PM
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YouAreHere YouAreHere is offline
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There are also multiple forms of Poly... I can definitely see a "Poly Family" situation looking very different than an "I live with my Primary and date my Secondary" situation from a Mono POV.

What are other "commitment" steps a Mono relationship goes through besides sexual exclusivity? (Or, what do I, as a Mono, see as the stages of commitment?)
  • Introduction to Friends/Family
  • Building a life/home together (in a Mono relationship, "Moving in")
  • Marriage/Commitment ceremony

Going in reverse order cuz I'm weird that way:

You can't marry more than one person, so if you're married, it's going to be a hard sell to many folks that you're equally committed to the person you're not married to. And in reality, as committed as you might be, there are other privileges and legalities that apply to one that don't apply to the other, and this may sway opinion as well.

As for building a life/home together, if you're living together (again, the Poly Family situation), this is easy to see. If it's a part-time living arrangement (my partner lives with me half time and his OSO half time), it *can* look "less committed" to outsiders. Heck, that's one of my issues in my own Mono/Poly relationship - I see we're building a life together, but I can't emotionally grok how he can leave and do it elsewhere as well. Doesn't compute. I accept it as truth, but I just can't truly understand the why/how behind it.

Introductions to family/friends... it makes the relationship seem more "real" - more "formal" when it's acknowledged. Like they're important too. "This is my GF/BF, and I'm introducing them to the other important people in my life." Being closeted would make this extremely tough (not saying that's what's happenning here).

Just a few of the "commitment steps" that nobody really thinks about. There may be others, but those are the ones that popped into my head while avoiding tedious planning work.
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Old 04-19-2013, 12:17 AM
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YouAreHere YouAreHere is offline
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Okay, now that I'm home from work and avoiding laundry, I can type up the rest...

The thing is, absent of any of these "commitment steps", we're going to see things through our own filters.

I am Mono-wired. I do not feel love like my partner does. He loves like a fountain... it's all on. Period. If I stand in the spray, I get wet. If his partner also stands in the spray, she also gets wet. If I try to redirect the spray, I end up with a mess and a lot of water everywhere.

I, however, love like a pendulum. If I'm all-in, romantically, that pendulum goes swinging in that person's direction. If I were to ever try to maintain multiple romantic relationships, I could not be "all-in". That pendulum would have to be somewhere in the middle, in between those relationships, and I could never love multiple people with the same intensity that I can love one.

So, from my POV, I really can't empathize with how a Poly person feels. I can accept it; I can come up with lovely analogies; in the end, however, I will probably never "get" it. I will not be able to emotionally feel it the way my partner does. And, to be honest, he doesn't get me, either. When my marriage was failing and I had to put everything I could into it, he didn't understand why remaining in contact with him (while I was falling for him) would negatively impact my marriage.

So, outside of any external signs of commitment, people relate what they see to what they know and feel. If it's not just societal, if they're mono-wired, then they're not going to be able to truly understand how it's not casual without the time and reinforcement it would take to see it as something committed.

Tough row to hoe, but not impossible...
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  #7  
Old 04-20-2013, 07:35 PM
Octopus Octopus is offline
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Hi all. Thank you for all the answers Was great to see everyone's input.
I will comment on some replies.

GalaGirl - I agree it's important to not get hung up on the 'why' but move on to the 'how change it'.
Quote:
Originally Posted by GalaGirl View Post
Hrm. How about seeing them where THEY live first? And see if that makes them more willing to see where YOU live next?

Me: Other than sexually exclusive, how do people in a monogamous relationship demonstrate their committment to each other?
Hm. I really like the idea of just asking them what they understand as 'commitment' before discussing it any further. Often times before anything can be discussed we have to see if we have the same understanding of words.
That was exactly the problem - I understood from them that commitment was ONLY sexual exclusiveness for them - and that I could just not understand. So simply asking rather than assuming seems sensible.
Thank you for the input. I am curious to see what happens when I try this.


Quote:
Originally Posted by kkxvlv View Post
The troubling part to me is wondering if that is all commitment means to them.
Exactly! That is exactly what I mean.

Last edited by Octopus; 04-20-2013 at 07:45 PM.
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  #8  
Old 04-20-2013, 07:38 PM
Octopus Octopus is offline
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Marcus View Post
Letting people hide behind catch-all words like this allows them to be intellectually lazy. I prefer to challenge people to actually be clear about what they are asking me and what stances they will rally behind.
That is the impression I also got. "Intellectually lazy" - exactly. No explanation, just the 'lazy' statement: sexual non-monogamy is not commitment. When I ask why, or blink in confusion? It just is.
Again, the conclusion of this is to simply ask them to clarify. Be less lazy.
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  #9  
Old 04-20-2013, 07:41 PM
Octopus Octopus is offline
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Eponine View Post
I think honesty and respect are part of commitment, but not all. I also think you can have different kinds of commitment, including commitment to your friends.

To me, "committed" is the opposite of "casual", but not the same thing as "exclusive" at all. Commitment means we wish the relationship to last as long as it can, and we should work together to solve any problems in the relationship. It's not something we can (or should) walk away from easily, but it's not the "till death do us part" kind of deal either.
I agree. I am committed to my friends, definitely. It's just that that is a less clearly defined arrangement (with most of them anyway).


@IP : I enjoyed reading your thoughts about commitment. They were very spot-on : I definitely agree with what you had the say. I can never give a life-long guarantee, on anything. Assuming otherwise is simply silly and naive.
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Old 04-19-2013, 12:47 AM
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Marcus Marcus is offline
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Octopus View Post
How can I better explain that one can indeed be committed to one's partners while having relationships with others?
You've already identified that "committed" is a term that comes with baggage. People will use this to mean "long term agreement" or "sexual exclusivity" or "till death do us part under punishment of eternal torture"... you get my drift.

My response when people use these open ended terms like "commitment" or "love" is to ask them what they mean when they use them. Are we talking about life long contract to live with someone? Sexual exclusivity? Sharing bills? We are all grown ups here, we can actually use words which describe what we are talking about. Press people to explain TO YOU what it is that they mean.

Letting people hide behind catch-all words like this allows them to be intellectually lazy. I prefer to challenge people to actually be clear about what they are asking me and what stances they will rally behind.
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