I have spoken about this issue before, addressing feminist critiques of marriage, and the assumption that all open-minded people are polyamorous.
Learning about free love
I was happy to be introduced to the ideas of polyamory and free love when I was in my teens. I thought it was interesting, and wonderful that people could be fulfilled in those types of relationships. However, as I got older, I was more exposed to the harsh judgments of people in the polyamory community, radical leftists, and anarcha-feminists who were into free love.
I do not care about people having different types of relationships. Why would I? That would be like caring what gender somebody’s partner was, or what race they were. I do not care about my friends being in different relationships, telling me about them, explaining their logistics and politics. Just as I don’t mind having friends from different cultural backgrounds describing their cultural history.
I do not even mind people criticising societal pressures to be in monogamous relationships, or talking about the evolutionary history of polygamy or the political history of monogamy. What I do mind is people condemning the type of romantic relationship that I am fulfilled by. That, to me, is the same as condemning my choice to be monogamous. And I am not just monogamous, but hard-core monogamous.
Jealousy and relationships
I am a jealous person. I will not condemn myself for it or feel bad about it; I have spent plenty of my life doing that, and it did not improve my life or anybody else’s. I am not abusive or restrictive towards my partners – I tell them up front how strictly monogamous I am, and that I have insecurities. If they wish to be with other people, they can, just as long as they’re not with me. I am one of the most communicative partners you can find. I make sure that my partner and I have verbally agreed to a monogamous relationship. But I cannot, and will not, be in any other type of romantic relationship.
I recently went to a conference, where somebody spoke about free love. They suggested that domestic violence was caused by monogamy, instead of its obvious causes: A history of abuse, misogyny, entitlement, and patriarchy. The idea that domestic violence is caused by jealousy is laughable. Yes, people sometimes are triggered by jealousy to hurt their partners. They are also sometimes triggered by anger. Is anybody going to seriously claim that people in poly relationships don’t get angry with their partners? So why is it that most people don’t physically hurt their partners when they’re angry? Why don’t most people hurt their partners when they’re jealous? Why is it that most domestic violence is perpetrated by men? Is somebody going to claim that men feel more jealousy than women?
Domestic violence usually involves a feeling of entitlement. That the partner is owed sex, or “respect” (i.e. constant agreement). This has little to do with how many partners a person has. It has everything to do with our entitlement-based society, where women are treated as objects to be owned by men, and parents are entitled to beat their children (leading to aggression later in life). Our culture believes that parents own their children, and people own their partners.
Monogamy isn’t ownership. If my partner wants to be with other people, I won’t stop them. I just won’t be with them too. It’s really that simple. It will hurt me, and I can’t change my emotional response just because some people think it’s conservative to feel jealousy. But I will not bar my partner from ending the relationship, or seeing other people afterward.
Arguments against monogamy
The person at the conference I referred to also compared seeing other people to “deciding to take up Moorish Dancing,” as if they were both similar hobbies. This is a ridiculous comparison. First of all, people don’t become attached to Moorish Dancing – Moorish Dancing doesn’t cause you to release oxytocin. You can’t fall in love with dancing the way you do with a person. It is frankly offensive to human beings to compare them to hobbies. Sex for me is an incredibly intimate thing, something to be shared with a person that I find very special, where we essentially share our souls. Some people do not feel this way about sex, and that is fine. But I would want my romantic partner to feel this way about sex, because I would want them to feel that way about sex with me. And I don’t want somebody who can switch off their emotions at will, depending on who they’re having sex with.
I’ve had poly friends compare romantic relationships to friendships. That is how they explain lack of jealousy. But I have a hard time believing that people in poly or free love relationships don’t feel jealousy. Sure, many of them don’t feel sexual jealousy. But I have never met somebody who didn’t sometimes feel like their friend was spending more time with another friend than with them, and this made them feel bad. Or that their parents gave a sibling more attention. That is jealousy, and romantic jealousy is simply another type. It is not ownership, as so many claim – after all, you don’t think you own your parents or friends, do you?
My best friend and I have a special bond. Nobody else has that specific type of bond with me or her. Romance is another unique bond. For me, I will only have that bond with one person at a time. I do not feel the need to feel it with more than one. I do not think about other people in a sexual or romantic way when I am with my partner. Many people who criticise monogamy see it as stifling. Why? I’m not stifled by my desire to be with only one person at a time. And they’re not stifled either. If they were, I wouldn’t want them to be with me. I don’t want to be the reason my partner feels held back.
Distrust and jealousy are not evil
My last point will be the one that many people, poly or monogamous, may have trouble with. I am not a trusting person. I have struggled with this all my life and have finally accepted it. If a parter accuses me of not trusting them, due to my jealousy, I cannot deny it. I have never completely trusted anybody in my life – not my parents, not my best friend, not my partners. Trust is something that grows with time. As my partner shows themself* to be trustworthy over time, my trust will grow. Will I ever completely trust them? Probably not. And I frankly don’t see anything wrong with that. If my partner behaves in a completely trustworthy way, yet somebody gives me definitive proof that they’re cheating on me, am I going to ignore that proof? Of course not. That is why I don’t believe that anybody completely, 100% trusts anybody else, or needs to.
Jealousy and distrust are not evil emotions. They can trigger abusive behaviour, but so can anger. That has more to do with the individual, not the emotion. And I really wish that people would stop demonizing some of my emotions.
*I use they/their/they’re/themself as gender neutral, singular pronouns
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~ by owlcat on 19 December, 2012.