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Old 11-01-2014, 07:07 PM
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Default The "no breakup" dynamic

This is an idealistic theory I first posted to a facebook polyamory group and later as an essay on fetlife. Like I said it's idealistic and might have a lot of practical drawbacks but I would like to know what some of you think. I'm including the two comments from the essay.


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Note: I originally posted this as several comments on a polyamory facebook group. It's been altered to essay format.

Breakups are common in monogamy but why do they happen? After all, you don't "breakup" with the other people in your life such as your friends and family members. Friends come and go due to several reasons, usually when they move or you do. Kids grow up and move out of the house etc. The closest thing there is to "breaking up" with them is a "falling out" but that's usually due to extremely serious problems. Monogamous couples break up for a lot less.

So why do breakups happen? Answer, monogamy, particularly "serial monogamy". We can have multiple brothers, sisters, sons, daughters, aunts, uncles etc. and friends but only one romantic partner and if that partner for some reason doesn't fulfill all our needs, then we have to either live with that need not being fulfilled or dump that person and go find someone else (or cheat). This puts a lot of pressure on mono people as they have to fulfill more of their partner's needs then any single friend or family member does. However, what if we could go out and find another partner without breaking up with our current one? This would put a lot less pressure on any one partner. A partner doesn't have to be our "everything".

So in theory, "breakups" would not be necessary in poly relationships unless a given relationship was toxic. Yes partners would still come and go for various reasons just as it is with the other people in our lives but there would be no "Joe we have to talk", no "drop all contact" no "rebound" etc. If someone left for some reason we of course would miss them but we wouldn't feel broken hearted or "dumped" or feel the need to "get over them".

Of course you're going to lose partners as people drift in and out of your life for various reasons but it's the "big dramatic breakup" that's so common in serial monogamy that doesn't have to happen. There simply isn't any need for it baring some serious issues.

I'll give you an example. Let's say I'm mono and I have a girlfriend who's also mono and maybe a little needy. Now this girlfriend takes a lot of my time but since I love her I give her that time. Now let's say that something happens in my life and I can no longer give her all the time she requires. I no longer have time for a relationship so I break up with her. I didn't want to do it but I had no choice. Letting her be by herself in a monoexclusive relationship when she can be out finding someone who can give her the time she needs would be the greater evil.

Same situation but were both poly. I tell her that I have some serious shit going on in my life and I don't have the same time to spend with her that I use to, she says "hey that suck but I understand" and goes and plays with one of her other partners. Breakup not needed.

Another situation. Me and my girlfriend are mono and have been together three years. I then meet another women. She turns me on intellectually, emotionally, and sexually and we both hit it off big time with lots of NRE and Disney.. The only way I can pursue her is to break up with my girlfriend and that breakup will be painful and dramatic. However, if we're both poly (and so is my new crush) then no breakups are necessary .

However, I did say "in theory". Perhaps people practicing egalitarian polyamory or relationship anarchy could come close to this ideal but in practice, things like legal marriage, cohabitation, shared expenses and kids may throw a monkey wrench into this idea but in an ideal poly world the only people "breaking up" would be rock bands.
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Username_Deleted: 4 days ago | report | delete

Well.... It sounds nice ideally, but in practice I think that people aren't always synched up emotionally enough for this to work. To keep it short.... Bob and Janet are a happy couple. Janet meets Rhonda and wants to start spending 2-3 nights a week with her. Bob now feels like he's on the shelf even though they haven't broken up, because unlike Janet, his feelings hadn't cooled off. Bob & Janet then have a serious point of contention.

Curious_Ron: 1 day ago | delete

Well, Bob and Janet are poly so Bob could also meet someone else and spend 2-3 night a week with her. (or him) The same kind of "cooling off" can happen with friends too but you don't "break up" with a friend because he no longer has time to play golf with you 2 days a week.

I do recognize that this is an "idealistic theory" and lots of things can throw monkey wrenches into it such as couple privilege based hierarchical polyamory with rules and vetos. It would be kind of hard to temporarily "go your own way" if you still had to theoretically "get permission" from your partner to see somebody else. However, I can see this dynamic coming into play in forms of polyamory without strict rules or in RA. (no need to "break up" if you don't call what you have with someone a "relationship) It could also come into play among one's secondaries in hierarchical polyamory depending on the rules .

One possible way of making this work in more structured forms of poly might be with something I call a "polybreak" which is a loose approximation or a marital separation. A couple who no longer can give each other the attention and time they need with each other can agree to not end the relationship but to suspend whatever rules they have in place concerning other partners.
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Old 11-01-2014, 09:41 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by CuriousRon View Post
So why do breakups happen? Answer, monogamy, particularly "serial monogamy". We can have multiple brothers, sisters, sons, daughters, aunts, uncles etc. and friends but only one romantic partner and if that partner for some reason doesn't fulfill all our needs, then we have to either live with that need not being fulfilled or dump that person and go find someone else (or cheat).
I suppose it depends on the need. Something intimate, that is typically reserved for a partner? Sure. Something like a shared interest? Not at all. I had plenty of friends with whom I did various things, none of which impacted my relationship. I didn't need to make any of those friendships into partner-type of relationships simply because I now hung out with them and, for example, did photography stuff.

I never expect a partner to fulfill all my needs, but I have no need for another partner.
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Old 11-02-2014, 01:10 AM
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Well said Ron, I completely agree with everything you said in this post. That is exactly how I see things and my idea of what relationships should be like.
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Old 11-02-2014, 02:44 AM
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This has been my experience with polyamory too. Sometimes people drift in and out, but, so far at least, there has never been a need for 'breakups' especially dramatic ones.
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Old 11-02-2014, 03:44 AM
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What about with 'nesting partners' (or what ever you want to call your live in partner)? Whould not a change in domicile feel like a 'break up'?
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Old 11-02-2014, 04:06 AM
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Originally Posted by A2Poly View Post
What about with 'nesting partners' (or what ever you want to call your live in partner)? Whould not a change in domicile feel like a 'break up'?
Yea, that's one of the "monkey wrenches" I mentioned.
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Old 11-02-2014, 10:07 PM
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Doesn't the no-breakup dynamic you describe presume that all poly people are compatible with all other poly people?

That isn't the case. Someone who is happiest as a free agent isn't going to be at home in a poly-fidelitous arrangement. Someone who yearns for a close-knit poly tribe is not going to be compatible with someone who puts a premium on keeping relationships separate from each other.

I would wager, based on past conversation, that if I were to determine that it was necessary for me to become celibate for some reason other than a temporary medical one-- say, to join a monastery-- Xicot and I would renegotiate our relationship to acknowledge that it had become a friendship, rather than a sexual relationship, even if he already had other partners in place, and we would take some time ALL THE WAY APART to help mark that transition. Because at that point, the thing that distinguishes friendship from lover-ship to him would be absent.

That, IMO, is a breakup, even if it's called a renegotiation.
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Old 11-02-2014, 11:54 PM
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Hi CuriousRon,

Your essay is well-written and makes several good points ... yet I do have my own take on it and I would share that with you.

Re (from OP):
Quote:
"The closest thing there is to 'breaking up' with them is a 'falling out' but that's usually due to extremely serious problems. Monogamous couples break up for a lot less."
Well, my perception has always been that it usually takes a more serious problem for a monogamous couple (especially if they're married) to break up, than it does for friends or even relatives to have a falling out.

Of course there is such a thing as a "cold marriage." In fact a marriage usually has to go cold for quite awhile before it segues into a divorce.

Re:
Quote:
"We can have multiple brothers, sisters, sons, daughters, aunts, uncles etc. and friends but only one romantic partner and if that partner for some reason doesn't fulfill all our needs, then we have to either live with that need not being fulfilled or dump that person and go find someone else (or cheat). This puts a lot of pressure on mono people as they have to fulfill more of their partner's needs then any single friend or family member does."
True enough that.

Re:
Quote:
"So in theory, 'breakups' would not be necessary in poly relationships unless a given relationship was toxic."
True enough, although I have heard about more than a few toxic poly relationships in my day.

Re:
Quote:
"No need to 'break up' if you don't call what you have with someone a 'relationship.'"
Technically true, though that could mostly be a matter of semantics. (Sort of like saying, "We didn't break up; we just renegotiated.")

Re (from A2Poly):
Quote:
"Would not a change in domicile feel like a 'breakup?'"
Important point I think.

Re (from Garriguette):
Quote:
"Someone who is happiest as a free agent isn't going to be at home in a polyfidelitous arrangement. Someone who yearns for a close-knit poly tribe is not going to be compatible with someone who puts a premium on keeping relationships separate from each other."
Also an important point.

Where I think monogamy tends to cause a climate for breakups/divorce is when one or both partners/spouses are mostly "polyamorous at heart" and only practice monogamy because society has programmed and pressured them to do so. If I can strip away all the social conditioning and still find two people who are mostly "monogamous at heart," then I think they will consider their monogamous life to be worth its drawbacks.

Long story short, I'm not of the school of thought that polyamory is generally better than monogamy, I am of the school of thought that polyamory is just different from monogamy (as long as social pressures aren't taken into account).
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Old 11-03-2014, 01:51 AM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Garriguette View Post
Doesn't the no-breakup dynamic you describe presume that all poly people are compatible with all other poly people?

That isn't the case. Someone who is happiest as a free agent isn't going to be at home in a poly-fidelitous arrangement. Someone who yearns for a close-knit poly tribe is not going to be compatible with someone who puts a premium on keeping relationships separate from each other.
In actual practice the "no breakup dynamic" would work best among free agents who date like minded people, particularly RAs and egalitarian polys. Polifi arrangements, particularly closed triads, tend to be more "mono-like" and are therefore subject to more mono dynamics. Like I said before, it would also not likely come into play in "couple based" polyamory that has more rules and structures but it still might come into play among a primary couple member's secondary partners.
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Old 11-03-2014, 02:24 AM
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Originally Posted by kdt26417 View Post
Well, my perception has always been that it usually takes a more serious problem for a monogamous couple (especially if they're married) to break up, than it does for friends or even relatives to have a falling out..
When I first wrote this as a post to a Facebook polyamory group, it was actually "serial monogamy" I had in mind. Particularly the kind where someone has a series of monogamous relationships that last from a few months to a few years and constantly goes through the cycle of meet, date, exclusive relationship, breakup, drop contact, rebound, lather, rinse, repeat. Those tend to end for the flimsiest reasons but the real reason usually comes down to one partner becoming bored with the other and wanting something different. Some of the shorter ones end as soon as one partner or the other "falls out of love. (NRE wears off that is)

And I will become judgmental on this point. Poly is IMHO better then "serial monogamy". Having multiple partners who you don't necessarily have to break up with is far superior to a series of monogamous relationships with unknown expiration dates.
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