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Friday, January 11, 2013

Evolution Has Nothing to Do With It

Posted by on Fri, Jan 11, 2013 at 8:50 AM

Sinclair Sexsmith interviews sex educator, author, and activist Charlie Glickman about polyamory:

What insight about polyamory/open relationships would you share with your younger self?

My partner and I have been together for over 20 years and we’ve been poly the entire time. There have been a few times that we stepped back from having other lovers because we needed some space to focus on each other. I’ve had lovers & playmates, as well a few ongoing secondary relationships. So one thing I’d tell my younger self is that things will change, and then they’ll change again. Don’t expect otherwise- there will come times when you struggle against changes that will happen anyway, and fighting them only made it harder.

Something else I’ve learned from being poly is that it requires the ability to talk about and process feelings quickly and efficiently. Of course, that skill will benefit any relationship, but when there are multiple people, each with their own needs and desires, as well as their feelings about each other, there are a lot of moving parts. If I could, I’d tell my younger self that the best way to learn how to process well would be to build social networks full of people who are dedicated to open-hearted, honest communication. Yes, therapy helped. Yes, workshops and books helped. But getting to see how other people do it and getting to practice it with lots of friends made it much easier to develop those skills in sexual/romantic relationships.

It’s also really easy to get smug about it. Being poly doesn’t make you more evolved or better than anyone else. If you think it does, you’re being a jerk. Don’t let it happen.

Yes, poly folks shouldn't be smug. But almost all of the people I hear from who believe that their preferred relationship model makes them better and more highly evolved—almost all the relationship-model smugsters I hear from—are monogamous people. I've heard a few poly folks claim to be more highly evolved, but I've never heard a poly person suggest that a monogamous commitment isn't really a commitment or that two people in a monogamous relationship don't really love each other.

 

Comments (23) RSS

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1
No, but I've heard poly people use the implication that monogamy isn't ~natural.
Posted by treehugger on January 11, 2013 at 9:06 AM · Report this
2
Poly people get the joy of being lectured by monogamous folk about how immature/irresponsible/misguided they are, while watching many of those same monogamous folk lie and cheat and screw up their own relationships. It's not hard to imagine they'd get a little smug after a while. (If wrongly so.)
Posted by Morosoph on January 11, 2013 at 9:09 AM · Report this
Supreme Ruler Of The Universe 3
I wish my older self looked more like my younger self, so I could get the kind of girlfriends myself would prefer.
Posted by Supreme Ruler Of The Universe http://www.you-read-it-here-first.com on January 11, 2013 at 9:31 AM · Report this
Arsenic7 4
It's definitely improved my social and scheduling abilities. When you have to juggle so much information about individuals, someone with a poor memory like myself has technology to rely upon, thankfully.
Posted by Arsenic7 on January 11, 2013 at 10:10 AM · Report this
Will in Seattle 5
Religions, like polyamory, always look better from the outside than they do from the inside.
Posted by Will in Seattle http://www.facebook.com/WillSeattle on January 11, 2013 at 10:18 AM · Report this
6
I've never heard a poly person suggest that a monogamous commitment isn't really a commitment or that two people in a monogamous relationship don't really love each other.


No, but they will tell monogamous people that they can't guarantee their partner is being monogamous and that if they don't think they want to be with other people, then they're lying to themselves. Both of which imply that being monogamous isn't a real and valid relationship preference.

Being a smug dickface is a human trait. Anybody can do it.
Posted by Zuulabelle http://www.mellophant.com on January 11, 2013 at 10:18 AM · Report this
Arsenic7 7
@5, How does that not apply to any relationship, Will.
Posted by Arsenic7 on January 11, 2013 at 10:41 AM · Report this
Keekee 8
Yes. How does the whole "monogamy is not natural" fit into this discussion?
Posted by Keekee on January 11, 2013 at 10:55 AM · Report this
9
Polyamory is a religion? News to me.

A personal, and unusual, story. My married best friend is infertile. I'm single, over 35, and lost my left ovary to cancer when I was only 26. Over 2 years ago, we started discussing the crazy idea of, as she put it, "Solving our problems and just being happy." Eventually we ended up in fertility clinics for testing and, to our and the doctors' surprise (given my tests results, in particular), got pregnant on the first try (her husband's sperm, my egg).

Our daughter is just shy of 9 months old, and she's a total miracle--crawling at 4 months, walking at 8, talking already, just crazy inquisitive, determined, and happy. She is an incomprehensible joy.

We've been friends for 7 years, living together since before she was born, and couldn't be happier.

Both my best friend (by now partner is probably more appropriate) and I are bisexual, so our little parenting triad exists somewhere between friendship and polyamory, and all three of us have tremendous love and affection for one another. However, we don't really know what to officially call ourselves, save just "a family," because we all are in agreement that no matter how our relationships to one another evolve or change (and we know they will) our primary focus and consideration is doing whatever we need to to provide our daughter with a stable and happy home. So we are "poly" in the romantic sense, but we are together first and foremost in order to raise our daughter. And we're most certainly not smug about it. Nor are we naive about its challenges (it's often quite hard to juggle 3 parenting philosophies, e.g.) but we love our daughter more than anything and our love for one another has grown and deepened because we've given each other such an incredible gift, one premised on trust and moving beyond so many smug presumptions of what a "Real" family should be and despite our own families' ongoing struggles to accept us.

We anticipated that resistance and, in some cases, ostracism. And we don't anticipate it getting much better over time. People with vested interest in "traditional" families can be remarkably hateful when they emotionally need to bastardize those whose lives threaten their beliefs.

What we didn't expect, however, was the outrage of folks we presumed natural allies.

Case in point: I lost one friend in the past 2 years as a result of my new family. She too found herself past 35 and desperately wanting a child. She was recently married, however, and her husband refused to have more children, having 2 from his first marriage. So she found a sperm donor on her own and after months and months and months of failed attempts, finally got pregnant. Early in the third trimester she was hospitalized with pre-eclampsia. Her premature baby survived and, to his credit, her husband agreed to raise as his own the baby that he didn't want and wasn't his. That baby is now in college.

I thought she was a logical ally given the lengths she was willing to go to become a mother and because she was married to a man who did a tremendous thing for her out of love for her (especially since what she did was, to my mind, grounds for divorce).

She has barely spoken to me since I told her I was pregnant, save to tell me that I'm crazy and that I'm gonna bring heartache and suffering to my daughter. She spreads our story like it's malicious gossip, not considering that we are happy and our daughter is thriving.

So... the lesson?

People are quite remarkable at convincing themselves that they are the only legitimate exception, regardless of what label they claim for themselves in doing so. While the defenders of "traditional" families do the most harm in their persecution of the rest of us, the rest of us can be, surprise surprise, smug dipshits too.

And, oh yeah: polyamory is not a religion. FFS.
More...
Posted by maddy811 on January 11, 2013 at 11:12 AM · Report this
Fortunate 10
"No, but they will tell monogamous people that they can't guarantee their partner is being monogamous and that if they don't think they want to be with other people, then they're lying to themselves"

Yes, this is the one that irritates me the most. The whole, "you just think your monogamous" tact. I'd sooner believe that my partner is an international super spy than that he is cheating on me, and not out of naivety. I just know him too well to believe he would, or for him to be able to get away with it if he did.

And I could easily hook up with any number of people I find attractive. If that's what I wanted that's what I would do.

There is also the whole, "monogamy is hard" line. It may be for some people, but it's not for others. The whole thought of going through the finding, dating, getting to know each other, establishing a relationship phases with multiple people until you find one that is compatible with you is a total turn off to me, and I know for a lot of other people as well. I have no desire to go through all that again one of the benefits to me of being monogamous is not having any reason to. Just the thought of having to go through all that again makes monagamy a very easy choice for me and a very easily attainable state.

I'm all for people having what ever kind of relationship they want or that works for them. In fact I think it is a big mistake for people who aren't monogamous by nature to try to force themselves into monogamy. But the idea that monogamous people don't get shit from poly people is wrong. They may not come out and say "monogamy is wrong" but there are tons of more subtle messages being sent that it doesn't work, that we are really just conforming to social expectations, that we are not really doing what we want, and that we aren't really happy.
More...
Posted by Fortunate on January 11, 2013 at 11:19 AM · Report this
11
@10 I was getting to this point in my much longer post above, but let me say again: Of course some poly people can be smug to the monogamous. As can bisexuals to gays or straights. As can gays to "breeders." As can vegans to meat-eaters.

Have you ever spent any time around home birthers? HOLY SHIT...

I think the broader point deserves emphasis: those on the oppressive side of any binary you want to name can do more damage in their smugness. It's why we academics came up with an overused and annoying term for it: privilege. A smug person at Focus on the Family causes far more suffering than the asshole at your dinner party who lectures those at the table eating meat.
Posted by maddy811 on January 11, 2013 at 11:28 AM · Report this
12
I think everyone should do what they want, leave everyone else alone, and shut the fuck up about it.
I think "poly-whatever" is stupid. So what? You might think being monogomous is stupid. I don't care.
Shut up.
Posted by tacomagirl on January 11, 2013 at 11:31 AM · Report this
seandr 13
but I've never heard a poly person suggest that a monogamous commitment

Not sure I'd call that kind of thinking "smug" - more like ignorance and prejudice.
Posted by seandr on January 11, 2013 at 11:43 AM · Report this
14
No, monogamous couples don't tend to get mocked for being insufficiently committed. They get mocked for being presumably unrealistic, prudish, undersexed and restrictive.

To echo @11, of course people think that their own way of doing things is best. That's why they're doing things that way.
Posted by DRF on January 11, 2013 at 1:09 PM · Report this
15
Okay, Dan, et. Internets, I have a hard time trying to understand something about Polys:

I get that 2+ people can be in love and in a relationship together, but how do they square the peg of equality under the law?
Maybe I'm getting this part confused, but with the term "Primary", that leads me to believe that someone is going to be labeled as "Secondary" or otherwise a lesser partner, which isn't an equal relationship.
Leaving that aside, what's the word on conflict of interest between two parties over the choices made on behalf of a 3rd, to use the common example, end-of-life as with Terry Schaivo. If a partner is unresponsive and does not have a will specifying treatment, and one partner wants to keep them on life support but the other doesn't, what is the deciding factor? Conflict of Interest can come in a lot of forms so how do Polys thread that needle with equal treatment?

Furthermore, I'm assuming that Poly means 2+ adults in an equal relationship and not one man or woman controlling a harem of wives/sister-wives/husbands/sister-husbands(?)
Posted by Drew2u on January 11, 2013 at 1:16 PM · Report this
16
@15 There are poly people who have "primary" relationships and "secondary" relationships. There are poly people who don't hold any of their partners above any of the other partners. There are poly people who have an equal group marriage in which everyone is everyone else's partner. There are poly people where a man has two wives and the wives aren't with anyone but him. There are poly people where a woman has two husbands and the husbands aren't with anyone but her. There are people who are married and occasionally have casual threesomes and consider themselves poly without it being a major part of their life or identity. There are people who are celibate, but consider themselves poly because they romantically love multiple people at the same time. There are far more possibilities than I could list here.

Poly is a really, really broad category of people, so your assumptions are true about some people, but not all and probably not a majority.

People in poly relationships will sometimes (but not always) figure out what legal hoops they need to jump through to protect themselves, for dealing with situations like you described. What happens and what can be done will entirely depend upon the specific situation and what steps the people involved have taken.
Posted by Zuulabelle http://www.mellophant.com on January 11, 2013 at 2:21 PM · Report this
17
You should totally get Charlie to come on your podcast as a guest!
Posted by yetra on January 11, 2013 at 3:45 PM · Report this
18
@12 fuck yeah!
Posted by michael bell on January 11, 2013 at 4:39 PM · Report this
19
Well stated, Ms Maddie. And to Mr Savage, I'd suggest that we all have sampling bias. It would not surprise me at all that someone whose respect for monogamy is notably open to unfavourable interpretation would receive a large majority of feedback of the nature reported.
Posted by vennominon on January 11, 2013 at 5:54 PM · Report this
20
@16, thanks for the clarification and I figured I was going to toe the waters of a deeper pool than I imagined.

I'm still unsure about relationship-definitions past casual sex, but I'm not going to be a concern troll or care bear about it. It doesn't pertain to me or anyone I know and as long as all parties involved aren't being hindered or manipulated into unwanted situations, are free to leave however they want, etc. then I say best to all.
Posted by Drew2u on January 11, 2013 at 9:42 PM · Report this
Skye Blu 21
Being poly is more difficult than being mono, but the rewards are worth the effort I think. And some of the effort is ignoring peoples ignorance about what it is or what it means. We are a family and I think that is all that matters, I don't tell other people that they don't have a real family because they are based off the Neanderthal model- if they say they are happy I believe them. I don't like cilantro, I think it tastes like soap, but I don't tell people who like cilantro that they are wrong, only that I don't care for it.
Posted by Skye Blu on January 12, 2013 at 8:34 AM · Report this
Aurora Erratic 22
Are you kidding? I've never had an in-person conversation about relationships with a poly person who DIDN'T imply that their way is better, more mature and evolved. I'll grant a small sample size - single digits- but still: 100%.
Poly and mono folks both should stick a sock in the smugness.
Posted by Aurora Erratic http://www.finemesspottery.com on January 12, 2013 at 3:04 PM · Report this
23
I have no idea about smugness, but as a monogamous person, I will say this: there is nothing on God's green earth more boring, nothing, nothing, NOTHING, than listening to someone drone about their poly relationship. NOTHING. I don't understand the math, but all the people involved somehow makes it exponentially duller. You'd think it would be the other way around, that it would be more interesting, but trust me brother, it most certainly is not.
Posted by Oh"F"Yeah!!! on January 14, 2013 at 8:32 AM · Report this

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