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Old 05-08-2014, 02:28 AM
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YouAreHere YouAreHere is offline
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Default On analogies...

I posted this to my blog thread, but figured it might make for an interesting discussion, so I figured I'd dump it here too...

One of the more prevalent communication issues I've seen (first hand and on the Mono/Poly Yahoo list) between Mono and Poly folks is explaining Polyamory to someone who just doesn't get it. Some folks use the "but you don't love your kids any differently, do you?" analogy to explain the way they love their partners, but that analogy can fall flat with many, including me.

Why? It's very difficult for many of us to equate love for a partner with love for a child; they're two very different types of love. When I love someone like a partner, I want to share my life with them, integrate with them somehow. My love for my children is completely different - I want to raise them, guide them, protect them, but ultimately raise them to be functional human adults with the goal of them growing up, going out on their own, and leaving to live their own lives. Not with the goal of growing old with them, retiring with them, and don't even try to equate a sexual relationship with someone using this analogy. It raises an "ick" factor that's hard to get past.

Many folks try the friend analogy instead: you have multiple friends, and your friendship with one doesn't suffer when you have another friend, right?

Well, sure. But you still have very different relationships, and why not just be friends with people if you want that connection? Why does sex have to be involved? Why does it have to be a romantic relationship to be able to enjoy that person's company?

It still falls flat, because the interpersonal relationships in the analogy overshadow what the person is trying to say. Both sides end up frustrated at times, unable to just get the other person to see what they're saying.

With a recent change in Chops' life, another analogy popped to mind, and I shared this on the Mono/Poly list during a time when a few new folks were struggling with having the "poly bomb" dropped on them by their spouses (and for some, in a pretty spectacularly awful way).

If we're going to be talking apples and oranges anyway, let's go all the way to comparing apples to elephants and just focus on the feeling behind it, not the relationships.

Motorcycles.

This is what I posted recently to the list:
Quote:
My ex-husband made me promise to NEVER ride a motorcycle - that they were too dangerous. I'd end up with a messed-up leg, walk with a limp, die and my children would have no mother, etc.

Now, my partner has a motorcycle. He loves the feeling of riding a bike. There's a freedom he feels, an openness, and a bit of a brotherhood (you wave at EVERYONE ELSE on a bike - LOL).

Where my partner sees freedom and enjoyment, my ex saw sketchy people, potential death, "stupidity", and pain.
And I'm somewhere in the middle, where I know that not all people who ride bikes are morons, but getting on the back of a bike at highway speeds terrifies the CRAP out of me. But I'll take the test, and I'll learn, and I'll get out there until I can't take it, or I get hurt - because I want to enjoy the ride, even if I never drive a bike myself. And I'll have a few scares, no doubt.

Some folks wouldn't want to take the chance - too risky. And that's okay.
Some folks would go, "OMG, I can do this too?" and go out and take the test the next day. That's okay too.
And some folks would swallow down their fear and go for that ride, and see how it feels.

But if a crazy rider and a risk-averse person are trying to ride together, it's going to fail miserably unless you get some ground rules in place.
There aren't any helmets in Poly, though.
It also seems to work when people make the comment, "Well why does it matter where I go when I'm out? Why is it different if I'm out with a friend versus being out with a partner?"

The circumstances DO matter, though, when it's something that causes you stress. If you're concerned about motorcycles, then it's a huge difference between your partner taking a nice long drive and taking a nice long bike ride. You may be completely stressed out (worrying about their safety, in this case, but the reason isn't what matters here - it's the emotion).

The worried partner may ask for the partner to not go. They may ask for their partner to drive. Or they may ask their partner to check in at regular intervals, so they know that they're safe.

Some die-hard bikers may find any of those options unbearable or controlling, and may completely chafe at being restricted in any way. Others may be willing to compromise and call in, or drive up with their bike in a trailer and just bike around smaller, slower roads... or they may give their partner time to get used to the idea of a longer ride with the hope (or plan) that they will ride again later.

Some worriers may never stop worrying. Others may ease up over time, but still want the check-ins. Others may just stop worrying over time and let it become the new normal. At any rate, though, the circumstances (travel by motorcycle) are the thing triggering the stress, not the action itself (long trip).

Apples and elephants, but the emotions are expressed in a way that doesn't bring almost-comparable-but-not-quite relationships into the mix. It helped me relate a bit better, anyway.

Thoughts?
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Dramatis personae:
Me: Mono. Divorced, two kids (DanceGirl, 13; and PokéGirl, 11), two cats, one house, many projects.
Chops: My partner. Poly. In relationships with me, Xena, and Noa.
Xena: Poly. In relationships with Chops and Noa, and dating others.
Noa: Married, Poly. In relationships with Chops and Xena (individually).

Blog thread: A Mono's Journey Into Poly-Land (or, "Aw hell, there's no road map?!")
Slightly more polished blog with a mono/poly focus: From Baltic to Boardwalk
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Old 05-08-2014, 12:11 PM
bookbug bookbug is offline
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Like you I logically understand the analogy of loving more than one of your children, but it doesn't speak to the emotion. I do relate to the friendship analogy better, because I have a few friends who I am as open, trusting, and allow myself to be vulnerable with them as I do a partner - just without the sex.

Your motorcycle analogy is certainly another avenue to help the explanation along. I think the trick is to get someone to emotionally view the subject differently.

The following actually takes the idea out so a person can view his or her own thought process - something else that *might* help.

The Philosopher and I have been having the discussion about how many times people automatically attach a meaning to a behavior. We call it the IF(action)/THEN(meaning) equation. It has many applications, but in the mono viewpoint it goes IF you love someone else / THEN you don't love me. Very common assumption, but when dealing with poly people, totally incorrect. Yet this "equation" is programmed as truth from a very early age.

I like the use of the equation because it allows people to study their own thinking. Of course, they have to want to. Many people have no desire to do so. They are comfortable with their assumptions and underlying worldview.
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Old 05-08-2014, 01:15 PM
PolyinPractice PolyinPractice is offline
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The motorcycle analogy may be easier to process as symbolic (you have a literal symbol in the bike), but the friends or children analogy is also supposed to be symbolic. It's just most people take it literally, since they're closer in type, both affectionate relationships.
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Old 05-08-2014, 01:37 PM
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Grabbing this from the blog and adding here to the discussion:

Quote:
Originally Posted by opalescent View Post
Hmmm. I guess I don't see poly as being more risky than monogamy. (I assumed the 'crazy rider' person is the poly person and the risk-averse person is the mono person. This may not be a correct assumption on my part.)
I realized after I posted it that this could come across as offensive, but I decided to leave it in, and not have to put a (sic) next to my edit.

The context this came out of was a new list member whose husband had dropped the poly bomb rather badly - this is what's happening, having her meet the couple he was talking with without understanding what was happening, and getting the "I love you but I'm not IN love with you" bomb dropped on her all at the same time. She reacted to the friend/child analogies with one of juggling chainsaws, so the "risky" thing was already built up.

However, from many mono people's point of view (not trying to make a broad generalization here - this is just from observation and experience), it *does* feel risky, though. What does our newly opened marriage even mean or look like now? Are you just going to leave me? Are you shopping around? Am I going to get an STD? Am I going to feel trapped and displaced in a financial/living situation with someone who moves someone else into my home? What does retirement even look like? What happens when I'm old? Can I count on you to be there for me?

It all deviates from script - the "I will be there for you, loving you, forever."

That said, it isn't just motorcycles that can run into problems; there are many more car accidents on the road. Likewise, monogamy isn't a silver bullet that eliminates these issues. It just makes you FEEL safer, even if you're going at unsafe speeds. Being on a motorcycle brings all those vulnerabilities to light.
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Dramatis personae:
Me: Mono. Divorced, two kids (DanceGirl, 13; and PokéGirl, 11), two cats, one house, many projects.
Chops: My partner. Poly. In relationships with me, Xena, and Noa.
Xena: Poly. In relationships with Chops and Noa, and dating others.
Noa: Married, Poly. In relationships with Chops and Xena (individually).

Blog thread: A Mono's Journey Into Poly-Land (or, "Aw hell, there's no road map?!")
Slightly more polished blog with a mono/poly focus: From Baltic to Boardwalk
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Old 05-08-2014, 01:39 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by PolyinPractice View Post
The motorcycle analogy may be easier to process as symbolic (you have a literal symbol in the bike), but the friends or children analogy is also supposed to be symbolic. It's just most people take it literally, since they're closer in type, both affectionate relationships.
True - all analogies are symbolic. It's just difficult to bridge the communication gap when the folks you're trying to get your point across to don't get your analogy because it fundamentally feels wrong to them, or at least feels very differently to them than it does to you. Which is the whole point of trying to find an analogy in the first place.
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Dramatis personae:
Me: Mono. Divorced, two kids (DanceGirl, 13; and PokéGirl, 11), two cats, one house, many projects.
Chops: My partner. Poly. In relationships with me, Xena, and Noa.
Xena: Poly. In relationships with Chops and Noa, and dating others.
Noa: Married, Poly. In relationships with Chops and Xena (individually).

Blog thread: A Mono's Journey Into Poly-Land (or, "Aw hell, there's no road map?!")
Slightly more polished blog with a mono/poly focus: From Baltic to Boardwalk
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Old 05-08-2014, 01:47 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by bookbug View Post
I think the trick is to get someone to emotionally view the subject differently. [...]

The Philosopher and I have been having the discussion about how many times people automatically attach a meaning to a behavior. We call it the IF(action)/THEN(meaning) equation. It has many applications, but in the mono viewpoint it goes IF you love someone else / THEN you don't love me. Very common assumption, but when dealing with poly people, totally incorrect. Yet this "equation" is programmed as truth from a very early age.

I like the use of the equation because it allows people to study their own thinking. Of course, they have to want to. Many people have no desire to do so. They are comfortable with their assumptions and underlying worldview.
As a software engineer, I love the IF/THEN model.

In the beginning, it's very difficult for someone to be told that an assumption they've held for their entire lives is wrong. Many folks take that as a blanket, "You're wrong" (and it doesn't help if they get hit with proselytizing and are actually TOLD their beliefs are wrong).

In reality, it's "this assumption is wrong in this situation for this person", but it takes some good communication skills to get the full meaning across and not just end that sentence at the word "wrong".

You're right about it being hard to do the self-introspection. It's extremely counterintuitive, though, for someone to think, "You're asking me to open our marriage. The fact that you say you still love me goes against everything we've ever been taught. And *I'm* supposed to do a lot of work to accept this behavior, when it's deviating from the norm?"

In my case, it was easier to realize I had to do the work, since I was going in with my eyes open (even though I didn't realize how much work it'd be). Someone who feels like they've had a bomb dropped on them will probably be less inclined in the first place, as their hurt will need to heal first.
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Dramatis personae:
Me: Mono. Divorced, two kids (DanceGirl, 13; and PokéGirl, 11), two cats, one house, many projects.
Chops: My partner. Poly. In relationships with me, Xena, and Noa.
Xena: Poly. In relationships with Chops and Noa, and dating others.
Noa: Married, Poly. In relationships with Chops and Xena (individually).

Blog thread: A Mono's Journey Into Poly-Land (or, "Aw hell, there's no road map?!")
Slightly more polished blog with a mono/poly focus: From Baltic to Boardwalk
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Old 05-08-2014, 02:52 PM
opalescent opalescent is offline
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Default Crossing the stream (of threads)

Here is my comment on YAH's blog that she quotes from above. It's more appropriate here than on her blog so I'm cutting and pasting it.

"Hmmm. I guess I don't see poly as being more risky than monogamy. (I assumed the 'crazy rider' person is the poly person and the risk-averse person is the mono person. This may not be a correct assumption on my part.)

Any way, both are subject to disappointment, relationship failures, people behaving stupidly or thoughtlessly. There is more opportunity for people to be people when there are more relationships, or potential relationships. I suppose that could be perceived as more risky. Still, I just don't perceive poly as being inherently more risky - the risks are pretty much the same as mono relationships.

Interesting!"

If/Then statements take me back to learning Basic in middle school. Ah memories.

"However, from many mono people's point of view (not trying to make a broad generalization here - this is just from observation and experience), it *does* feel risky, though. What does our newly opened marriage even mean or look like now? Are you just going to leave me? Are you shopping around? Am I going to get an STD? Am I going to feel trapped and displaced in a financial/living situation with someone who moves someone else into my home? What does retirement even look like? What happens when I'm old? Can I count on you to be there for me?" (Quoted from one of YAH's comments above.)

I totally get that it feels more risky to folks who are either mono, or mulling over shifting to poly or other variety of ethical non-monogamy. But all these questions come up in mono relationships all the time (ok maybe not the moving other people in). I think the feeling of risk is from the lack of a road map, or set expectations. Monogamy does have an established order and expectations that people are aware of. It doesn't mean anyone who is monogamous has to follow these expectations but there is the option of, well, autopilot. Some folks find that deeply comforting - that they are doing what most people do.

I think the socially approved set of expectations mask the risk of monogamy. Thinking about or moving to poly removes that mask, exposes the assumptions, and people have to spend time and think about what they want and need, as opposed to following the script. Most monogamous relationships end before death. Given the expectations around monogamy, that means most monogamists fail at monogamy. Monogamy is a risky business! Anyway, while I see how it feels so much more risky, poly is actually not more risky than monogamy (except perhaps in sheer numbers - more relatiionships equals more chances for people to screw up). There are questions that come up that never come up in monogamy (moving in the girlfriend for example, dealing with one's couple privilege) but I don't see that as increased risk. Just the increased need to make conscious choices instead of being on autopilot and doing the accepted thing.

And this has moved away a bit from the analogy angle but, to my knowledge, the risks of poly vs. risks of mono have not really come up before here.
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Old 05-08-2014, 03:24 PM
FullofLove1052 FullofLove1052 is offline
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Fastest way to make my skin itch is to bring up the children analogy. I have three children who I love with every beat of my heart. I am not in love with them. I love them equally, but each love is a bit different and special. I bond with all three every day, and I bond with Matt. The bonds I share with each them are not the same either. They are all amazing little humans, but the love I share with their father is not even in the same realm. This analogy will always fall short. This is like comparing the love I have for my siblings and the love I have for each of our parents. They are not the same. There is an ick factor for me. The only similarity between parenting and poly dating is a schedule, but even then, it falls short because not every child is involved in after school co-curricular sporting activities, music lessons, practise, etc.

Quote:
However, from many mono people's point of view (not trying to make a broad generalization here - this is just from observation and experience), it *does* feel risky, though. What does our newly opened marriage even mean or look like now? Are you just going to leave me? Are you shopping around? Am I going to get an STD? Am I going to feel trapped and displaced in a financial/living situation with someone who moves someone else into my home? What does retirement even look like? What happens when I'm old? Can I count on you to be there for me?
To me, both are risky. Those are all valid concerns, and in the beginning, Matt actually asked similar questions. Only our relationship was not newly opened after being established. In theory, he knew about my past polyamorist choices, but he had never had any experience with it because it was just us for almost a year. When my ex came in to my life, those questions cropped up. It took me being in his shoes to understand why he was concerned.

I turned back the hands of the clock--so to speak, and I felt this was risky. The risk was not so much dealing with Matt all the time. It was more so no longer free falling (read that as doing what the hell I wanted) and learning to adapt to expectations (being more than a wife on scheduled days and actually tending to the relationship the way I always believed). I had never been mono a day in my romantic life. I asked my husband the opposite of all those questions. What does our closed/psuedo mono marriage mean? (I recently asked, "What is now inappropriate when it comes to dealing with others?") Am I going to like you once the dopamine levels simmer back down to normal? Are we even compatible now? Are you going to feel smothered and trapped by my constant presence? What is life going to look like with just the two of us? It has been a daunting prospect.

I dislike when people imply or flat out say that a way a person believes is wrong. It should never end there. I actually would not call a belief an assumption. There are some people who are incapable of loving more than one person at a time or even being sexually involved with more than one person at a time (me). I learned that over time, and it has nothing to do with being sex-negative, cultural beliefs, religious beliefs, or even childhood teachings. I am just waiting for the day that someone tells me I am sex-negative or whatever. It is out of my personal comfort level, so I do not believe that choice is wrong for me.

Quote:
You're right about it being hard to do the self-introspection. It's extremely counterintuitive, though, for someone to think, "You're asking me to open our marriage. The fact that you say you still love me goes against everything we've ever been taught. And *I'm* supposed to do a lot of work to accept this behavior, when it's deviating from the norm?"
This. I have often wondered...what--if any--purpose does it serve the mono partner in these situations? I can do self-introspection without someone challenging my beliefs and directly or indirectly implying that everything I have ever believed was incorrect. Then again, I am not keen on changing the way I believe to appease the likes of anyone else.

Quote:
In my case, it was easier to realize I had to do the work, since I was going in with my eyes open (even though I didn't realize how much work it'd be). Someone who feels like they've had a bomb dropped on them will probably be less inclined in the first place, as their hurt will need to heal first.
Mmhm. I know I would have even less motivation.

Last edited by FullofLove1052; 05-08-2014 at 03:26 PM.
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Old 05-08-2014, 05:24 PM
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Garriguette Garriguette is offline
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The analogy makes sense to me. It's not that poly itself is so much riskier than mono (though it may seem that way to those of us who have always been mono without difficulty). It's that big life changes can be destabilizing stressors on a relationship, and they can also highlight problems that otherwise would have gone unnoticed.

Moving in together? There are people who are compatible in dating relationships who annoy the hell out of each other when they share living space.

Shifting to long-distance because someone has to move for work? If you're into peaceable coexistence, rather than making all of your time together into a Peak Experience, this is going to be hard.

Going through pregnancy and raising a child? Taking on a shared task like this is a steep, steep learning curve, exacerbated by lack of sleep and unexplained crying of Tiny Person, and it takes time and energy away from things you used to do together.

Opening a relationship? Especially when one partner was quite happy being monogamous and was surprised by the request to open? Especially when neither party has any experience with poly, and the person who wants to open is in the kid-in-candy-shop phase? I would like to think that even if I were poly, I would understand why a mono person might find that risky.
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Old 05-08-2014, 07:38 PM
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RainyGrlJenny RainyGrlJenny is offline
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I like the motorcycle analogy. Especially considering my experience; in 2010, we were in Pisa, and Fly convinced me to rent (and the shop guy to rent to us) motorcycles with the idea of tooling around the city, despite the fact that neither of us had an endorsement on our license. I had a really, really bad feeling, but I knew Fly wanted to do it and I didn't want to be the scaredy cat who takes away all the fun. So, Fly took off down the road, but I had never ridden a motorcycle and no one had told me how to make it go. In a panic to keep up with Fly, I suddenly made it go - over the curb, through a bistro table, and directly into a brick wall. I was scraped head to toe, had my first ambulance ride, and ended up with broken ribs that still hurt me every day because they didn't heal properly.

I guess my experience could be the analogy of the poly person who is so enthusiastic that they leave their less certain partner into the dust, causing a wreck and lasting pain. As well as the partner who doesn't want to be a wet blanket or stand in the way of the other's happiness, so they throw caution to the wind and do things they don't want to do.

The kid analogy is weird to me. You don't choose your kids, but I am definitely choosing the people I bring into my life. And (for most of us), the love for your kids is everlasting, but I fully expect some or all of my romantic relationships to change or end.

The friend example makes more sense to me, because the categories of friends and lovers are very fluid for me. But I don't think it probably makes a lot of sense to a person who doesn't experience friendships that way.

Moonlight is mono, and I know none of these would really help her wrap her head around it. For her, it's not about worrying or risks, it's about why on earth would you even want to ride a motorcycle when you've got a gorgeous luxury car available all the time?
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- Moonlight, single, leans monogamous, girlfriend since 6/2012
- Punk, married guy, poly, FWB since 9/2011 with an emphasis on the "F"
- No longer lives with ex-boyfriend Fly (1/2006 - 12/2013, my introduction to nonmonogamy, ultimately amicable breakup), and his 10-year-old son Kiddo
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