Responding to Critics on Poly Post…

emerson quoteI figured I’d get an avalanche of hate mail/commentary on my Let’s Talk About Polyamory post/rant, so I thought I’d dedicate a whole separate post to respond to critics (there will always be critics, of course, regardless of what you say, but I at least want to clarify some points). So in no particular order, here are my thoughts on some of the issues that were raised:

1)   That I should never have gotten involved in the lifestyle if I felt like it wasn’t for me or that I was uncomfortable with it.

Maybe, but it’s not like I KNEW for a fact that it wasn’t for me until I tried it. And the same can probably be said of most people in poly/open relationships. Unless you grew up in a hippy commune or something like it, most of us grew up with monogamous parents and even if those parents divorced or remarried or cheated or whatever, monogamy was still presented to us as the prevalent relationship model and one we probably thought we should adhere to, so polyamory is an experiment for everyone. And as we got into it, most of us began by dipping our toes in the water… maybe making out with other people at parties first, then eventually actually having sex with other people at parties, then dating other people, then full fledged multiple relationships. We were all basically trying to see how far we could go without “hurting anyone” (as the articles I mentioned suggest) until we wound up hurting someone or ourselves. And now, having tried it, I know it’s not for me, or, rather, is not a relationship model that I’d prefer. But I’m glad I tried it. And I like that about myself, actually: my willingness to try everything before deciding that it sucks in a completely uninformed way (as most other people do). Which brings me to the next criticism:

2)   That I’m not in a position to judge.

Pfft. Says who? First of all, for better or worse, in a day and age of internet comments, everyone is in a position to judge everything. Second of all, I think I’m very much in a position to judge when I’ve been involved in the lifestyle for four years, and still kind of am, as I’m friends with a lot of people that are part of it in New York and still attend their parties/events. The only difference being that I myself am no longer involved in poly relationship(s) and no longer want to be. There are a lot of people out there that are judgmental about polyamory/open relationships, who don’t know jack shit about it and make stupid uninformed comments like “if you’re in an open relationship, you’re not really in a relationship” or “if you’re fucking other people, then you don’t really love your partner” or “you just haven’t found the one yet, that’s why you’re still doing this stuff.” And I’ll gladly tell them that they’re full of shit and don’t know what they’re talking about. You can very well be in a happy, healthy, committed relationship and still be open. I know many people who are. I’ve been there myself until my relationship went south. But three years of “doing it right” is a pretty good run after all. So I feel like I’m in a much better position to judge than someone who’s never tried it and goes around making derogatory comments about it. Additionally, I’m not basing my opinion on just my own experience. I’m basing it on many people’s experiences. And, trust me, my circle of poly/open/alternative lifestyle friends is very wide.

3)   My friends aren’t a good yardstick/are probably all lost/confused people, “just like me,” who don’t know what they want and are a bad example.

No. My friends are very well educated, intelligent, kind, witty, funny, successful and awesome people. They’re the bestest friends anyone can ever have. I wouldn’t trade them for the world (you’re welcome to keep crying/bitching to me whenever you like, by the way, I love you guys! Lord knows I’ve done it myself). But, like many people experimenting with polyamory, they’ve hit some painful roadblocks and are now at a crossroads of deciding how to move on with this stuff. We’ve all been there. Most people I know that are currently in polyamorous/open relationships or have been in the past, have all come to a crux of some sort. As I described above, most of us were experimenting with how far we could go, and most of us came to a turning point: where either you fell deeply in love with someone else and wanted out of your existing relationship to make more space for the new one, or your partner fell in love with someone else and wanted out. Or your new hot flame suddenly wanted you all to themselves when you were originally someone else’s partner, etc. Most of us have gotten to this point. Some have wound up breaking up with their original partners, some managed to work through it and just wound up writing new rules around their existing relationships, some have quit polyamory altogether, others have become more streamlined in their use of it, etc. But all of us learned and grew from it. I did, too, and I’m glad about that.

4)   This makes me a stuck-up monogamist.

Nope. I didn’t expand on this in my last post, but I’m actually not suggesting that monogamy is the best/only way and everyone should be monogamous. Complete and total long-term monogamy is often unrealistic. Many of the people I know that are in monogamous couples cheat on each other. Many break up or get divorced, too, of course. I’m not sure what the “right” solution is. Whatever it is will probably vary from couple to couple and person to person, but there is a wide spectrum of relationship models you can pursue in between complete and total monogamy and free-for-all “we can do whatever we want” polyamory. The point is: you have to actually be actively choosing it with your partner and knowing/being able to express why, not doing monogamy just because it’s “the norm” or continuing to do polyamory because it’s what’s expected in your scene, even if it’s no longer working for you.

All I was suggesting is that polyamorous people don’t go around “advertising” the lifestyle as some kind of holy grail, cause I know it has sucked for a lot of people and left many of them hurt, bruised, neglected and abandoned. So I just have a problem with all the “advertising” and all the articles out there that seem to suggest that polyamory is a walk in the park. It’s not.

Sorry if this was unclear in my original post, but I could only write so much in one post before y’all get bored and stop reading.

More to come in other posts….

3 thoughts on “Responding to Critics on Poly Post…

  1. I’m sure your friends are wonderful people. You are an intelligent and talented writer and likely to attract intelligent, talented friends. But I’m afraid none of the lovely qualities you describe automatically add up to being good at romantic relationships.

    You admit you were all pretty much “experimenting,” to “see how far we could go.” Well, how would you expect any experiment that went against your sexual orientation to end? If you are not oriented for poly, how could you possibly make it work, any more than a heterosexual trying to live a homosexual life would?

    I am not saying your descriptions of *your* experiences (or those of your friends) is invalid. I’m asserting your statement that polyamory is necessarily masochistic is invalid. What is masochistic is a prolonged attempt to be someone you are not. You found that in your experiment with polyamory. I’ve known plenty who found the same thing in their experiments with monogamy.

    • Thanks for your compliment and (more constructive) criticism, Eileen. I guess you’re suggesting that there is such a thing as a “poly orientation,” same as identifying as heterosexual or homosexual, but I’m not convinced that there is. Dan Savage covered this in a column of his some time ago where a man, who was in love with a monogamous woman, but identified as poly, was asking him what to do and Dan said that, “you’re not ‘a poly.’ Poly is something you do, not something you are.” I tend to actually agree with Dan here…and think it’s more a lifestyle choice/preference, rather than an orientation. Sure, some people are more prone to it than others, but overall, most of us had to learn to get there (as I was learning, too). Most people I know, myself including, all initially had a knee jerk bad reaction to seeing their partners hook up with someone else, but eventually managed to “unlearn that reaction” as all the literature on poly would suggest you do: “unlearn jealousy,” etc. Anyway, Dan Savage dedicated one of his next columns to all the negative commentary he got from people that do, in fact, identify as poly, and I could see where they are coming from, too. It’s an ongoing argument and I don’t think anyone has the answer to yet. I tend to still agree with Dan’s original point, but I’m glad he gave room and voice to the people contradicting him, as I will do in this blog, too. Even though I no longer “identify” as polyamorous or want to live that lifestyle, I’ll be writing about people who do.

      As for masochism… you’re right, to extrapolate on that further, it’s more about going against your natural proclivities. So if we decided that poly is an orientation, then OK, there are a lot of “masochists” that are/were doing it even though it may not have been their natural orientation. And if it’s not an orientation, then there are still a lot of people doing it who didn’t properly evaluate the costs or potential for harm/heartbreak/pain/etc. and are still doing it for some reason, or were.

      In any case, this is all still just my opinion, which is based on my experience and those of others I know. You, and everyone else, is obviously entitled to your own opinion and may have had a better/different experience. And I’m glad you did.

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