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I returned from a 10-day vacation late last night and have been spending this morning catching up on Internet reading. My google reader has 1,000+ articles in it, so I have quite a long day of catching up in front of me. However, I feel the need to rant.
I subscribe to many polyamory and nonmonogamy blogs, so I’ve been getting a healthy dose of how our community feels about the new Showtime reality show. I haven’t watched the show and likely won’t based on the reviews as my face can only handle so many palms. I decided to get out of the bubble and see how people being exposed to polyamory for the first time are taking what appears to be a typical scriptality show. Diagnosis: Not going so well.
One of the adjectives I’m seeing most often is “dysfunctional.” These seem to apply mostly to the triad where the “husband” and “girlfriend” apparently went to a coffee shop and intruded on a date the “wife” was having with a new lover? That’s kinda, sorta fucked up. It sounds like there’s some seriously out-of-control jealousy ruling that relationship dynamic.
This is concerning, because one of the most common issues people have with attempting nonmonogamy is the belief that humans aren’t built for it and that’s why we have the emotion of jealousy.
This couldn’t be farther from the truth. The root of jealousy is fear and while fears can be legitimate warning signs they’re often triggered unnecessarily and can be put in check. We’re taught to overcome our fears, because if we didn’t we’d all be shut-ins bathing from a bucket because we’re afraid we’ll slip in the shower.
You might be afraid of getting on a plane because our primal instinct tells us that humans aren’t supposed to fly, but statistically the chances that you’ll actually fall from the sky in a plane are low, so you do it. You trust that all of the individuals that maintain and operate those planes are communicating, so you won’t fall from the sky. You say to fear, “hey there fear, thanks for looking out for me, but I trust the folks at this airline, so I’m going to get into this metal tube and let it throw me through the sky anyway.”
Society doesn’t teach us to treat jealousy the same way we treat fear. We’ve been taught, in the last century, to embrace jealousy. If we feel jealousy that must mean there’s a threat to our relationship. Like with fear of flying if all of the individuals who maintain and operate the relationship are communicating it reduces the chances that it’ll fall from the sky. You should say “hello jealousy, thanks for looking out for me, but I trust the folks in this relationship, so I’m going to put us in a metal tube and throw all of us through the sky.”
I already had issues with this triad when I read in first episode reviews that they embraced “veto power.” “Veto power” is a bad thing as it gives too much authority to extroverts or the most reactionary members of a polyamorous relationships. It also diminishes the rights of “secondaries” in “primary/secondary” models (terminology I also dislike). It’s an unfair power dynamic.
When my live-in partner and I first started to seriously explore nonmonogamy we adopted veto power, because it’s a damn nice security blanket for maintaining a core. However, even though it was never used, we realized it prevented us from evolving because the “core” had authority that people we dated didn’t have. It meant we weren’t willing to go into these new relationships with trust. Instead we’d be allowing each other to date fearful that the people we’d be dating might disrespect the relationship as a whole and we’d need to have the ability to end it.
Veto power is the opposite of open communication.
Most functioning polyamorous relationships I’ve been exposed to operate without the concept of veto power, because new partners don’t have to live under the fear that the person they’re falling in love with is suddenly going to be forced to step back one morning, because they had a disagreement with the other partner the night before and that partner vetoed the new relationship. That’s unhealthy. Talk and include. It still may end in tears and one or two people may feel the end decision is unfair, but at least they had a voice in the end. (side note: and newbies to poly won’t walk away saying “wow, poly people are self-absorbed assholes” because they were just arbitrarily vetoed off your precious island)
The other common adjective is “horny.” Apparently the show is reinforcing the stereotype that polyamory is all about sex, sex, and more sex. Well, I guess sex, jealousy, and more sex. I like sex. My partners like sex. However, it isn’t all sex all the time. I often go more than two weeks without sex, because I have a very busy life and on occasion I just want to go have cocktails with these individuals I care about, so I can find out how they’re doing (and taste more cocktails than I could taste if I was tragically sitting at the bar alone).
Perfect example is the vacation from which I just returned. I spent one week traveling with a partner and our days were so full and fun exploring cities, eating culture, and dancing in waterfalls that when we made it back to the hotel room each night we collapsed, cuddled like nobody’s business, and fell asleep. It didn’t diminish our relationship.
Tomorrow night I’m having dinner with my girlfriend. We’ll eat, I’ll tell her about my trip, she’ll tell me about the music festival she went to. We’ll hold hands, we’ll smile adoringly at one another, at the end of dinner we’ll likely kiss deeply and passionately, but go our separate ways because she’s in the middle of a big project at work and needs to get up early. No sex.
Rant ranted, I’m off to see The Dark Knight Rises.