Years, Yardsticks, Yins & Yangs

yin and yangAnother one of the criticisms on my poly rant post, I believe, was something about how “you’re always going to get upset if you judge the success of a relationship by its longevity or potential to be a life-long one.” I feel like a lot of people still judge relationships and whether they are “working or not” on their ability to last forever. And the truth of the matter is that very few do these days.

My friend Sara, who is monogamous and broke up with her boyfriend of three years some time ago, once alluded to this and said that just because she and her boyfriend broke up, it doesn’t mean that it was a “failed” or “bad” relationship. “Three years is a pretty good run, after all. That’s a pretty successful relationship,” she said. And I’d tend to agree. A relationship may have worked very well for a number of years and then maybe one or both of you changed or grew in another direction or needed/wanted different things in life or whatever the case may be. And just because you broke up, doesn’t mean  the relationship was a failure.

My three-year relationship worked very well for a long time and I was very happy with it, actually. We both were. In fact, it was my longest and best relationship to date. And, maybe, one can argue that it lasted as long as it did because it was open. Seeing as our sex life wasn’t as frequent or intense as what I was used to with men, maybe the allowance to have sex with other people and get my kicks elsewhere on that front is actually part of what made it last so long. Maybe if I didn’t have that option I would have left earlier. I’m not sure.

But three years is still a pretty long time. Then again, who’s to judge on what is or isn’t a good run or yardstick for a successful relationship. What’s the “right” number of years? I don’t think there is such a thing. It’s a case by case basis.

Trouble is that when you do break up, it’s rarely, if ever a mutual decision. It’s usually one person’s decision and leaves the other partner shattered. But there is nothing you can do when you feel like your partner is no longer the yin to your yang. Believe me, I’ve tried in this last relationship, and many others to stick it out past what I knew was an expiration date for me and attempting that usually makes the breakup even worse.

The other problem is that, when it comes to polyamory, it makes it all the much easier to break up with someone. Most people I know who are in poly relationships, or used to be, will defend it to death and talk your ear off about how their breakups had nothing to do with polyamory. But a) I usually don’t believe that and b) even if it’s somewhat true and your problems were insulated from whatever you were doing with other partners, still, being open/poly usually means that you already have another partner, or several, lined up. People are essentially hedging their bets. But, come on, this isn’t a hedge fund operation, these are human lives and emotions.

I think polyamory makes people all the more prone to just dump partners instead of trying to work on their relationship problems. It makes breakups seem easy and people seem disposable, in my opinion. Then again, I also wonder whether it’s healthy to stay, or force yourself to stay, in a relationship that’s obviously (?) no longer working for one, or both, of the partners. What came first? The poly chicken or the problem egg?

2 thoughts on “Years, Yardsticks, Yins & Yangs

  1. I agree with you in that Polyamory does give you a more readily available exit strategy/excuse. The option of failure is on the table before the relationship starts. I hear it all the time, one partner is into something (BDSM, Anal Sex, fisting …) and the other is not. Poly people will then go get someone else to do it to them (with them).

    If its just you two and that something is important to your partner and you love them then you learn to tolerate that thing without judgement and hopefully if it brings them pleasure that fact can in turn bring you pleasure..

    I am not espousing monogamy, I don’t think that is the route to go. I think Dan Savage coined the term ethical non-monogamy and the feels more genuine. I think that couples should always think to overcome their issues together as a default. If that does not work then agree to a solution that works for both. People in Polyworld criticize swingers all the time but the one thing that I do see in the swinging world is mutual purpose and lots of long-term marriages and relationships.

    My two cents

    • Thanks for your two cents! I guess that’s why kinky & poly go hand in hand so often. Because a lot of the kinksters have some specific BDSM preferences that their partner can’t, or doesn’t want to, meet, so they seek that out elsewhere and effectively become poly (or something like it).

      Though before I got unto all these scenes, it was never that complicated. I was pretty happy having (mostly vanilla) sex with guys (thought it was frequent, good, passionate sex with men who were dominant, which is what I found I like/prefer after my experiment with my last relationship and the BDSM scene, polyamory, etc.) So I would kind of rather it be like that again. Don’t envision myself getting into a relationship in the future where I’d need to “outsource” any kinks, or getting with the type of person that would need to.

      As for Ethical Non-Monogamy, I don’t recall if that was a term originally coined by Dan Savage or The Ethical Slut ladies, but no matter. The problem is, it’s essentially used interchangeably with polyamory, or as a definition for it, while a lot of people on the scene are doing it very unethically. And everybody knows this, so because of that “poly” is starting to get a bad rap (same as “swinger” has in the past), so now a lot of people that are effectively still doing poly don’t even want to identify as that, which I find amusing.

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