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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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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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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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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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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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Old 04-19-2013, 01:41 AM
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I think of commitment as a steadfast promise/agreement to follow through on something. There are so many things to which one can commit!

If you're up for a little more reading, here are some other related threads on commitment and how people define it for themselves, mono reactions, etc. (maybe they can all be combined):

Commitment: what is it?

Relationship commitment

Polyamory erasure

Misperceptions of others/how to be candid w/o turning ppl off?

Polyamory, commitment, and emotional investment

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Oh, oh, can't you see? Love is the drug for me. ~Bryan Ferry
"Love is that condition in which another person's happiness is essential to your own." ~Robert Heinlein
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Old 04-19-2013, 02:57 AM
WhatHappened WhatHappened is offline
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Quote:
Press people to explain TO YOU what it is that they mean.
I feel very much in the same position, trying to understand what my poly bf means when he says he's committed to his wife (their agreement is they'll stay married as long as they both feel like it) and to me.

He CAN'T tell me what commitment means to him. He gets flustered and defensive and says, "Can't you see how much you mean to me? Can't you see how I feel about you?"

Quote:
Originally Posted by Octopus View Post
Me: To me, commitment means being honest, supportive, loving. It means being respectful and invested in a relationship.
I don't see most of that as commitment. Good things, but not commitment, because I'm honest, supportive, loving, and respectful to all my friends. I'm invested in those relationships. I hope I'm honest and respectful even to strangers. Honesty is vitally important, but it's not commitment.

What does it mean to be invested in a relationship?

To me, commitment means promising...pledging...obligating oneself to...a future together, mutual obligations, trust (trust with oneself, one's home, children, health, money, etc), a promise to share life's trials and joys, ups and downs, to continue being there...promising to make the necessary sacrifices if the other person needs you in sickness or financial crisis.

It means knowing you will still be there for the other person, waiting if their job sends them away for a time...being able to have reasonable expectations of and obligations to and frome one another, having someone you can count on no matter how bad things are--loss of home, job, health. Knowing the two of you will jointly make decisions for the sake of the couple, each other, or the family unit...rather than making decisions based one individual desires.

For instance, one thing that makes me feel there's no real 'commitment' as I understand it between my BF and myself is knowing if he gets a promotion, he and his wife are packing up and moving. He's not going to pay to move me and my children. It wouldn't even occur to him, whereas it wouldn't occur to him NOT to move his wife. He's going to make the decision about accepting the promotion based on what is best for himself and his wife and their marriage, not on what's best for himself and me.

He and I have no mutual obligations to one another. If my house burns down or I lose my job, a committed partner would be there re-building with me, minging finances, supporting me in every possible need. I would fully expect to do the same for him. I have no such expectations from or to my BF.

I say none of this in a spirit of criticism. He's a wonderful person, I have loved every minute with him, he and I have both grown and become better people as a result of our time together, and it's a wonderful relationship. But I don't fully consider it a 'committed' relationship because of these things.

From my BF's perspective, he does see himself as committed to me. In part because he actually has made some dramatic changes for my sake (things I didn't ask him for, things he gave to me as a gift, one which I treasure by the way.) In part, I think he considers himself committed because he fully intends to stay with me as long as I'm willing.

I don't discount those things. I suppose what I would conclude is they're different definitions of 'commitment' and different levels of commitment. And I suppose as long as I don't expect what he's not offering, and as long as it suits me, that's fine.

I would love to hear from those with primary relationships if they regard themselves as in a committed relationship with their secondaries or non-primaries, and what that commitment entails.
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Old 04-19-2013, 03:12 AM
KerrBear KerrBear is offline
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Octopus View Post

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?
When we became swingers, I was approached many, many times with the idea that I rather did not love my husband or that we did not have a "real" marriage because we shared our bed with others. It happened a lot, actually because there was a time I was really proud of being a swinger and still having a good, working marriage with my husband.

I came to the conclusion that most Americans believe that sex defines a marriage. Exclusive sex means marriage. They base their entire relationship off from sex. How much sex. What kind of sex. How many sexual partners before getting married. Quality of sex. Ect, Ect.

We're talking about a culture where many people (women in particular) feel that watching porn is a form of cheating.

To me, it blows my mind how many people would throw away everything in their lives, no matter how happy their marriage is otherwise, because their partner cheats on them. This is proof that there are too many people who define sex as their marriage. It is THE thing that they base it off from. If the sex is not right, then the marriage is not valid or viable.

From what I have seen, some mono people don't know what commitment really means because they are confusing commitment to sex. You cannot have a commitment without having strict rules to sex. If the rules of sex are not followed accordingly, than commitment fails and marriage is no longer savable.

I honestly find this sad and is one of the main reasons why marriages fail so easily in today's world.
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Me: Late 20's "hinge" to a V. New to Poly but previous swinger for roughly 4 years. Married since 2008 but together since 2007.

Husband: Mid 30's. Maybe Poly but not monogamous. Swinger.

Beaner: My recent ex and my first poly relationship.

Last edited by KerrBear; 04-19-2013 at 03:17 AM.
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