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Old 06-30-2018, 03:37 PM
Ravenscroft Ravenscroft is offline
Join Date: Oct 2015
Location: NW Minnesota
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Lightbulb the power & danger of terminology

Elsewhere, I refer to a series of threads that were created to deal with the problems of just one relationship, & a relatively new one at that. I know that everyone means well, but as I read down the latest thread, I increasingly get the impression that word choice is a major negative factor there. Responders contribute to the downward spiral by reinforcing through repetition. So, I thought I'd put out a separate thread for discussion of some thoughts on general semantics & the pile of "poly-related" memes we've accreted.

Word choice certainly indicates how we think, but the words used (& the way they're used) plays a significant role in how we are able to think. If a term is questionable, or doesn't really apply at all, saying it over & over again is a sort of hypnosis or autosuggestion, similar to NLP techniques. It's a major flaw in Romantic thinking, where people repeat "what ought to be" thoughts intending to slide conveniently past "what is" problems without addressing or even acknowledging them.

There's nothing particularly wrong with Romance... except when people use it to override rationality. As a business coach said, "There's nothing wrong with 'fake it 'til you make it' -- so long as you make it or are at least trying hard."

For instance, life partner. Without some sort of binding contract, then that is -- really, both components, "partner" & "life" -- at best nothing but well-intended gassing. (It also implies that the wielder is superior to those of us who settle for mere "momentary" relationships.) Repetition encourages the belief that it is thereby so, without requiring any actual effort, or even that the term be clearly defined so that everyone involved can agree on its accuracy. Whether someone is ACTUALLY a life partner can be determined when someone dies, not before.

In the aforementioned threads, there was extensive usage of polycule. I first heard the term a couple decades ago, referring to our open-poly household, & I felt it's too cutesy when "household" works just fine. It became similar to the Keristan B-FIC, but can refer to an entire intimate network, a highlighted portion of a network, or even polyfolk who share a dwelling but aren't themselves intimate. Nowadays, "polycule" means pretty much anything, & I've seen reference to "a polycule of one" so there ya go. A unicorn-hunter couple, though inexperienced at anything but closed monogamy, can declare themselves polyculized.

The term seems really popular as a PC substitute for "our marriage+1" with an (unfounded) added claim to respectability -- again, that sense that people who don't particulary want to cohabitate are somehow sub-par.
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Old 06-30-2018, 04:19 PM
lunabunny lunabunny is offline
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Posts: 727

Oftentimes, in the general "paradigm" that encompasses polyamorous and non-monogamous relationships, there simply is no expedient, one-size-fits-all terminology for what a poster is trying to say.

Hence, people choose the word or words they think best fit the situation.

I thought we'd covered much of this in the thread "Why Polyamory is a CHOICE". Clearly, words such as "polycule", "relationship", "partner", even "polyamory" itself mean slightly different things to different people.

Sometimes there IS no widely-accepted word for a particular situation or relationship dynamic (someone here once asked if there was a term for a metamour's metamour, for example).
Me, Lunabunny: F, 50, heteroflexible
Jester: M, 59, straight, primary partner (LD)
Boho: F, 57, heteroflexible, primary partner (LD)

Red: M, 53, straight, ex-husband
Bud: early 20s, son
Lola: early 20s, daughter

Last edited by lunabunny; 06-30-2018 at 04:29 PM.
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Old 06-30-2018, 07:49 PM
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kdt26417 kdt26417 is offline
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Location: Yelm, Washington
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When I am reading someone else's post, I figure the best I can do is try to guess how they're defining their words based on their context. No two people speak exactly the same language.
Love means never having to say, "Put down that meat cleaver!"
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Old 07-01-2018, 05:02 AM
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SlowPoly SlowPoly is offline
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I use “life partner” to distinguish from “business partner” without the awkward dance of a request for clarification and a response. Yes, it also (for me) implies a mutual intention of lifelong care and support. I don’t see that as a claim to superiority any more than saying “friend,” “significant other,” “partner,” or (not that I’d use these) “wife,” or “primary.”

But maybe with “life partner” I’m using a term that already means something else. Sometimes I assume a thing is what it sounds like. A very recent thread hit me with enough contextual clue-bats that I now realize “demisexual” doesn’t mean “significantly less sexual” or like “halfway between asexual and the norm” or something. I haven’t used the word, and still won’t, even though it apparently (?) describes me. I don’t expect a context where I’d need it.

So what might I call my life partners to be as clear about our relationship, without seeming to lord it over people who choose other terms?

SlowPoly • hinge in an open V • living between two homes

Mitch • life partner • co-parent • former LDR
Woof • life partner • co-parent • former spouse

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Old 07-01-2018, 10:57 PM
MsEmotional MsEmotional is offline
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Posts: 535

I use the term polycule to refer to a highlighted portion of a network. For example, when talking to Laptop, if I want to refer to LadyLaptop’s boyfriend and his other partners/metamours as a whole, I would refer to them as her boyfriend’s polycule. Laptop and LadyLaptop are part of that network as well, of course, but if I was including them I would say “your polycule” or “your wife’s side of the polycule” or something. It all kind of depends on context.

I have also heard it (similarly) to refer to “the people in our network who are present” — for example, at a poly game night someone referred to their polycule as playing a particular game together. Not all their partners were present, but for the purposes of conversation it kind of meant “the people I came to the party with.”

I have never heard it used to refer to a household. It seems a little redundant if your polycule and your household are exactly the same entity. Household also (at least in my view) includes children. I wouldn’t count children as being part of a polycule, though. I think of polycule as only involving the adults who are connected through romantic/sexual relationships with one another.
Me: 34, F, Bicurious

Glasses: my husband of 9 years --> 36, M, Queer
Ponytail: my first-poly-date-turned-boyfriend --> 36, M, Pansexual
Whiskers: boyfriend —> 42, M, Queer

Metamours and In-Laws
Ginger: Glasses's partner --> 30ish, Transgender (FTM), LDR
Curlycue: Whiskers's wife --> 40, F
Kitchenbear: Curlycue's partner and housemate to Whiskers --> 36, M
Rapunzel: Whiskers's girlfriend --> 40s, F
Chameleon: Rapunzel's husband --> 40s, M
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Old 07-02-2018, 04:14 AM
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vinsanity0 vinsanity0 is offline
Join Date: Aug 2015
Location: South Florida
Posts: 2,060

I don't see any danger in these terms. Polycule is just a play on molecule because a diagram of a set of interrelated poly relationships vaguely resembles a molecule. Life partner can be whatever the people think it means. For some, especially same sex couples, it is a substitute for spouse. For others it means a partner in life, not necessarily a partner for life. I might use it to describe Mary because she is more than just a friend.

English is a funny language. I had a Nicaraguan friend who used to ask me to help him with English. One day he asked me to explain the word " tire". It confused him that the same word would describe fatigue and the big rubber thing on the wheel of a car. As a native English speaker I had never given it much thought. We understand words in the context they are used.
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