The Bobbu Writes

Challenging Challenges (part 2)

Take a deep breath, and let’s make the dive into debating territory. What other arguments are there that I hear so often levelled against polyamory…

It will all end in tears

Relationships end, or people die. That’s what happens in life, regardless of the way you structure your relationships. Basic chance would imply that around 50% of relationships that end will end unpleasantly. So this point really does have no relevance to anything at all, does it?

Ok, you mean it will all end in tears simply because it’s a polyamorous relationship, is that it? You mean the relationship style that requires more communication, less reliance upon expected social norms, higher emotional intelligence, and a greater degree of compassion and consideration than your ‘typical’ relationship might have a high chance of ending in pain for most people?

Well, sure, I can see your point there. Poly isn’t for everyone, and it’s definitely something that needs working on, figuring out, and practice to get good at it. Y’know, seeing as we don’t have an entire media institution dedicated to pounding the principles of our relationships into us from a young age. We poly folk are going to go through a lot of tears before we get to a happy relationship – but so are our monogamous counterparts, and I don’t see anyone giving up on the entire concept of relationships just because they’re difficult, and can be painful.

One person should be enough

The question “why?” is an underrated response. It is the perfect retort to most questions that cast doubt upon the validity of polyamory, and it’s particularly appropriate here. Why should I be satisfied with just one lover? I need not be satisfied with one friend – in fact, someone with just one friend is generally seen as an outcast and a loner. That, in and of itself, is absurd; everyone has their own tastes in people, and how many one chooses to befriend is of no real matter. But let’s not go down that road.

You’re happy with one partner – cool. I’m very happy that you are satisfied with your life, and it is a marvellous thing that you and your partner can be so many things to each other. But do you mean to tell me that you don’t have a multitude of friends you hold dear, who fulfil other roles in your life? It’s a fairly standard trope of modern sitcoms that every straight woman has her “girlfriend,” to whom she goes to talk about troubles with her partner. In certain types of drama, a gay best friend is also required for such things.

Now, what if this hypothetical, fictional woman were to also love and sleep with these other people in her life, who are already clearly at least as important to her as her existing partner? Would that really make so much of a difference to their relationship? Is sex really that much of a game-changer, do you think?

But the “why?” really does beg a deeper question – that is, why do people think that you have to be satisfied with one person? It’s all very well and good pointing out that people have different needs, and that poly people have a different way of meeting them from monogamous people – but that does make it all seem rather utilitarian, and what we’re dealing with here is a matter of the heart. We’re arguing on someone else’s terms when we defend ourselves in this; making a comparison to mono-normative behaviour and saying “we’re not so different.”

You know what? We are different. We don’t have this arbitrary limit on the number of people we can love. We don’t need to defend that. Instead we need to ask other people why they think that there should be a limit on how many people one can love. I wonder if anyone can come up with a reasonable response…

You’re being greedy

You refuse to let yourself or your partner get involved with anyone else – essentially cutting two people off from intimacy with anyone else, and you think that by sharing our love (and my lovers) with anyone we wish, we’re being greedy? I’m not sure I follow your reasoning there, my friend.

Of course, there’s nothing wrong with being exclusive in your relationship – be it with one person or more (such as in polyfidelitous relationships); but if there were any validity to the claim that any relationship can be “greedy” it would surely be in a claim levelled against someone who removed individuals from the dating pool. It certainly doesn’t hold any weight against people who share their relationships.

What makes the least sense with this accusation is just how one can be “greedy” with regard to matters of love. Sure, I can want more than I’m apparently supposed to want according to social norms. But how does that translate into greed? Isn’t greed generally agreed (by most dictionaries, at least) to mean wanting to possess something of value to an extreme extent?

So, how can I “possess” love, lovers, or even sex? Unless you’re still operating on the archaic premise that you “own” your partners, then you’re not making any sense. If you are still operating on that premise – get out of my sight and come back when you’ve joined us in the current century.

You’ve just not met ‘The One’ yet

Quite possibly true. And yet also entirely irrelevant to what I’m doing now.

If there is indeed just one person on the entire planet who I’m meant to be with then sure, I might one day find them, decide that I want to be monogamous with them, and change my way of loving. Then again, when I meet them, I might integrate them into my existing poly family and have a wonderful time sharing all the other people I care about in all kinds of different ways.

The point is, even were the myth of The One something I believed in (it is, after all, pretty implausible, as Tim Minchin points out so well) then it wouldn’t render polyamory invalid. Just because there might be something different, possibly even better, waiting in the future doesn’t make what I’m doing now wrong.

And even according to the myth, not everyone finds The One in their lifetime. So why shouldn’t I have a good time while I’m waiting for my ethereal white knight to appear? It’s not like monogamous folks don’t date other people before they apparently meet The One either – poly people are just doing more of it.

But that’s all defensive arguing again. I’m not going to sit here and try to defend myself against people who believe in an evidently untrue assertion, and who often make one hell of a mess of their life as they go through it with this belief in their heads. I’ve dated people who have declared all their previous loves to be invalid because they found someone new that they loved – I’ve had that done to me, too, and it hurts like little else can. You really believe that all those feelings you had for someone are made invalid because you have them for someone else now? When you make a new friend, does that mean all your old friendships are invalid now? Oh no, I forgot that love is mystical, unique emotion that stands entirely outside of rational thought.

You carry on going through your life believing that every new person you love is The One, until you meet another One who makes you think differently. I’m going to keep valuing all the relationships I have, and have had, and believing that love is more than a fairy tale that needs constant chasing.

God said it’s wrong

That depends on how you interpret your scripture. Personally, I like to think that most religious figures were pretty relaxed about declaring things “wrong.” Jesus and Buddha were both so anti-establishment as to be easily compared to anarchists, for example – so I don’t think they were all that big on declaring new things out of bounds.

If you’re going for the old testament God of Abraham, then you might find something in there – after all, he was a very rule-happy fellow: no eating shellfish, no wearing cloth of mixed fibres, and all that nonsense. In short, if you want to argue over scripture, dogma and religious teachings, we can do it all day. It’s not going to change your mind though.

You know what, though? Most religions are based on love and compassion. Buddha emphasised compassion as one of the key virtues of life. Jesus said that love shall be the whole of the law. If that’s the case, I think we poly folks are following those teachings closer than you are. But it’s ok – I forgive you.

I think I need a cup of tea. And I don’t even drink tea.

Don’t worry, I’ve got more of these waiting for me to tackle when my brain has cooled down a bit. I’m not yet done with debunking myths and shouting at people with no reasoning skills!

Liked this article? Why not check out Challenging Challenges part 1?

Published 8 May 2012 at 11:21 am