Sunday, 6 February 2011

Why Define by Difference?

colourful rainbow hearts  
CC // Flickr

A monogamist look at polyamory, compersion and all things non-monogamous, and how we need to move past a binary perspective... Or in other words: here be a rant.

Mr NK and I are monogamous. Exclusive. Whatever you want to call it. We've been together for almost two and a half years, and have always been mono (Does that sound like I'm talking about us being a disease to the American folks reading? Hmm).

Up until just over a year ago, I'd say I had limited (non-online) knowledge of polyamory. Then I joined FetLife. Ah, the innocent and naive! Don't get me wrong here, I was aware of the concepts, and knew of people online who were involved in varying forms of non-monogamy, and had no problem or confusion about that. However, none of my "real world" (Ack, I hate that term) friends were polyamorous, and while I would occasionally stumble upon references to polyamorous relationships in blog posts or articles online, I didn't really actively look at the issues at play, simply because it didn't really involve me.

These days, the generally awesome girltype I'd probably class as my best friend is polyamorous, and holds it as something quite important to her. Much as sexuality is key to a person, to be polyamorous is to her, a core attribute (Lilly, correct my post if this sounds wrong to you - and if so, please accept my apologies and boobs for make-up flashing). Between our talks and reading around what other people have to say on the subject, both in poly and mono based boards on FL, there are some things that have been getting on my nerves somewhat. I guess the most accurate way to put them would be sweeping generalisations, and while I tend to logic that they're normally based in a degree of reality, I feel they've become so prevalent, so stated-as-truth, that I need to set a few things straight. These are my truths. They may not be everyones'. YMMV etc.

With that, on to my gripes!

  • Monogamous people are innately jealous

Right... Except, that's about as founded in reality as saying "blondes are dumb". Sure, some are, I'm sure. Hell, we all have our moments. But not always. In my case, I'd say I occasionally am. It tends to relate far more to times when I feel the balance is out of whack and I'm not having my needs met, though, rather than some irrational, paranoid girlfriend moment.
  • Monogamous people don't "get" compersion

I can't speak for all mono types here, but I do. I can grasp the concept of deriving happiness from my partner's pleasure/happiness of his own. I'm not going to pretend there wouldn't be occasional wibble-moments, but I actually do get it. I guess the best way to explain it is that it doesn't feel like some kind of crazy, alien concept to me.
  • Monogamous people are in denial about their needs being met (or rather, not being met) by a single person.

Maybe some are. Sure, I hear couples talking about how they're just perfect. How everything "fits" and that the other person is everything and does everything they could have ever wanted or needed. If that is the case, then that's great. I suspect, though, that for some, who they're trying to convince is questionable. For me, Mr NK probably doesn't meet everything I could possibly desire. Firstly, I'm bisexual. Personal opinion here, but I think any person who is bisexual and says they don't, from time to time (or more) think about fucking a person of differing gender status to the person they are with is full of shit. I know I do. Second of all, I'm kinkier than Mr NK is. We're lucky that I'm subby and he's naturally Dom but he could pretty much take or leave kink, and has limited interest in extended participation (think fet events, full scenes etc).

There are some interesting suggestions being hurled from the other side of the fence too though...

  • Poly people aren't in Twoo Love(tm).

Oh puh-lease. This one's getting old already. I know of some very loving couples, triads, groups etc who have non-monogamous relationships.
  • Poly is an excuse for cheating

I'm not going to deny there are, I'm sure, some folks who go into it so that they can fuck around and avoid hassle. But from the relationships I've witnessed, that really isn't what's going on. And yes, in a great many poly models of relationships, it is possible to be (or feel) cheated on. In all hinges on transparency and trust, y'know?

I can't pretend I can be the best answer of any shit-slinging at polyamory, but it makes me flinch to hear mono people saying (uninformed) negative things about different types of relationship. Besides, if I'd only mentioned what I've heard poly posters say about the mono lot, it might have seemed a little... inbalanced!

My point of all of this is that our differences are less significant than our similarities. We're all in relationships to express our love for another person/people. We're all (mostly) conducting our relationships according to whatever model is working for us. I'd even say we all want largely similar things; to have our needs met and meet the needs (both wherever possible) of the others in our lives, to love and be loved, and to be happy. Why must we continue to define by difference, rather than embracing the whole range of similarity and difference in our relationships as a positive thing? I'm sick of seeing the stirring, truth be told.

Please, comment back, tweet me... generally, I want to know what you think about it all.

NK x


Janie said...

Because non-monogamy is less acceptable in society (not rightly of course, but for now it's not the 'norm') it seems a little off for non-monogamous people to pass negative comments on others' relationship configurations, since they must know how that feels. And of course, it is just as off for monogamous people to judge those who are non-monogamous - especially since they often know less about it than they think. Non-monogamy is so *not* about cheating, and it is possible to cheat in non-monogamous situations through being dishonest with your primary partner(s).

I think everyone just needs to back off a bit. There is no need to judge anyone else and how they conduct their relationship. As you say, everyone is just trying to express their love for each other in whatever way they think best. And that is definitely the thing to focus on.

Great post


Lilly G said...

Love this post, its interesting, and I gotta say mostly spot on!

However, compersion is more usually defined as deriving pleasure and happiness on seeing/experiencing a partner's joy/love with another. I'm not sure mono people can truly appreciate this. but then we are creating words for different types of love everyday, like 'bromance'. You could experience a degree of compersion from seeing your partner with their best friend as they share in-jokes and interests you do not. Not feel jealous, misplaced, inadequate etc (which I've felt in my poly relationships as well as compersion!). Knowing your partner(s) love you, just as you are, wholly, completely is wonderful. Seeing them love another as such, seeing them share the joy and love they have with others, its wonderful. When I feel compersion I feel on fire, I feel glad, I feel...content.

Anyway, loved the post, hun. And I hope I am your best friend, you!!
Loves, Lillith xxx

NymphetamineKiss said...

Damn right you are :)

I can see why it would be questionable as to whether or not mono types can truly appreciate compersion (to me, frubbly sounds like a yogurt in a tube) but what can I say, it feels like it makes sense to me.

I guess what provoked this post was getting tired of feeling like there's this giant gulf between perceptions of mono relationship types and poly types... which I don't see - maybe I'm being a romance-hippy here, but I really do think our similarities are more than our differences <3

And I love to see my friends happy, whether thats with one SO, or multiples thereof!

NK x