Tuesday, November 1, 2011

Clumsy Reactions to Polyamory

Here’s a well-written take on the prejudice someone may encounter from family and acquaintances because of the their polyamory.

You probably think you don’t know anyone who’s in an open relationship, but there’s a good chance that you do. They’re probably afraid to tell you, because they assume you’ll tacitly judge them (at best), or (at worst) flat out recoil in horror and insist that they need to change.

For sure.

My husband, Phil, and I wish we could be more open about this aspect of our lives.


She talks about why “Mary and Rick” went back in the closet about their polyamory.

Even her most open-minded friends did not react well. She endured lectures about the importance of “having self-respect” (the whole thing was her idea, mind you!), about the sacredness of marriage, about “hot monogamy” (even though she and Rick had a great sex life; one that neither of them was complaining about). Friends sent her endless links to articles about how non-monogamy destroys relationships.

It wasn’t pretty.

“Nowadays, we only tell people on a need-to-know basis.” Rick said.

Sad. People can talk about their monogamous, heterosexual relationships all day long without giving it a second thought. But some other people have to keep quiet about what they've been up to and with whom.

This is all too familiar. Most of the people I know who have open relationships have experienced exactly this. It was refreshing—albeit disheartening—to hear that we’re not the only ones.

Mary noted that her friend “Mel,” a free-wheeling party girl who habitually cheats on her ever-changing string of boyfriends, was one of the first to pass judgment.

“But, you guys are so in love!” Mel cried. “Your relationship is the one that gives me hope!”

And it should. Mary and Rick seem incredibly happy. They’ve both had other lovers, both together and separately (full disclosure: I’ve been one of them).

“Oh, no!” Mary rushed to explain to Mel. “I’m not cheating on Rick. Everything is in the open!”

This didn’t seem to matter to Mel. Nor did it matter that her friend was happy. In her mind, it was just wrong.

It’s not just the uptights old fuddy-duddies.

Some of the people who were the first to judge their open relationship were, strangely enough, the same people who were very accepting of the fact that Mary is bisexual. I had a similar experience with sharing my same-sex relationships (which, granted, have been somewhat few and far between). My liberal, open-minded friends were more than accepting of that aspect of my identity. As long as it was only one person at a time.

When you tell people you’re in an open relationship, a typical response is, “I didn’t know you and Phil were having problems!”

“Oh, we’re not!” Next comes that expression on their faces. You knw, the one that says, Poor thing, she must be in denial. How sad.

Then, the well-intentioned friend speaks her peace. “Because, I knew this couple once? And they had an open relationship? And they’re not still together.”

To this, I always reply, “How many people do you know who were in closed relationships, who’ve broken up?”

There’s nothing with with being polyamorous, if that is what suits someone. Someone who needs or prefers monogamy should have a monogamous relationship. Someone who needs or prefers polyamory should have that. Let people have the relationships in which they’ll function best. One size does NOT fit all.

There are many forms of nonmonogamy. While someone who is cheating is not being monogamous, there are many forms of nonmonogamy that don’t involve cheating.
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  1. That is sad D: My friends know I support polygamy and other taboo relationships...and while a few don't necessarily agree with some aspects, they agree with me on the fact that it's really not something they should be sticking their nose into.
    But yeah "ohh it's cool that you are bisexual! But omg you have how many wives/husbands? *o*???"
    I love the saying "Those who do not learn from history are doomed to repeat it." --George Santayana. I really hope we can just make the transition to accepting polygamy easier than the transition the the gays are going through.

  2. vegan, thanks as always for your comments, and for your great heart in promoting full marriage equality. A gentle way of opening minds is asking questions. If someone says, "That's sick!" it can be good to ask, "But what if THEY don't feel that way? If it doesn't feel sick to them, where's the problem?" Asking in a friendly tone, not an accusatory tone, helps.

  3. That's a good point...and I try to keep things non accusatory generally when I have a discussion with people. Although even if you say "what if they don't feel that way?" some people are just gonna say "well then they are crazy sickos." yeah....tough crowds nowadays....tough crowds xD but being polite usually wins a few stubborn ones over :)


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