Well, So What If It’s a Phase?

Every now and then, I get the same insecurities that everyone who makes nonstandard choices with respect to sex and relationships gets. I wonder if this poly thing is just a phase, if I’ll stop being interested in it “when I meet the right person” (whatever that means), etc. Those are the kinds of things you occasionally hear from people when you identify as poly.

Yesterday, I was thinking about that, and I had a moment where I realized that I don’t actually give a fuck whether or not it’s a phase. The idea behind telling people that their sexuality is “just a phase” is that it’s a way of suggesting that their sexuality isn’t real or valid. That’s silly, though, because whatever your sexuality or relationship style is, it isn’t more or less real based on how fluid it is.

Maybe a few years from now I’ll meet someone who I’ll feel like doing something resembling monogamy with. That that possibility exists has no bearing on the validity of the choices that I am making at the moment. What hit me in the face yesterday as I was thinking about this is the fact that it doesn’t fucking matter what happens in the future, because right now, at this moment, I am really enjoying being poly. Right now, at this moment, polyamory feels like exactly the way I want to be living my life. The idea that somehow this period of my life would be made invalid by my deciding to do things differently in the future is absurd.

There is some nonzero chance I could decide to do something like monogamy at some point in the future. Hell, there’s some nonzero chance I could do that, and then later and up in another situation where I decided I wanted to be polyamorous again. There’s also some nonzero chance I could eventually decide I don’t want to be in any relationships at all. There’s really no telling, but in the same way that my decision to be poly at this point in my life doesn’t make the monogamy I used to practice a “meaningless phase”, the hypothetical in which I decide to try monogamy again in the future wouldn’t make the poly I’m doing now a “meaningless phase”, either.

I’m loving poly right now, and that’s all that really matters in the grand scheme of things. Living your life in a way that you love right now at this moment is always valid, no matter what you do or don’t decide to do in the future.

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Polyamory and the Distinction Between Practical and Preferential Considerations

I had an interesting conversation the other day about polyamory and monogamy and what makes someone naturally inclined toward one or the other. There is an aspect of the language people use around poly and monogamy and preferences that I have a problem with that I had never been able to articulate clearly before this conversation. I’m still not sure I can articulate it perfectly, but at this point I feel confident enough to give it a go.

I’ve had a number of conversations with people who have said that they could never do polyamory because they get too jealous. I think this is a completely understandable reaction to the idea of polyamory, and a completely understandable decision to make for oneself. At times, though, I have heard this decision with respect to jealousy conflated with the idea of being “naturally” monogamous*. That idea sits less well with me, and I think I have finally figured out how to express why.

In my mind, jealousy is a different beast altogether from relationship style preference. In my mind, saying that you are “naturally monogamous” because you have too much jealousy in poly situations sounds similar to saying something like, “I’m heterosexual because I always get really jealous in relationships with people of the same gender as me”. The idea that you might choose not to date people with whom you routinely become destructively jealous is a completely reasonable one, but I don’t think that making that decision makes a bisexual** person heterosexual, and by the same token, I don’t think that making that decision is what separates naturally poly people from naturally monogamous people.

Part of this thought process stemmed from thinking about a post that Natalie Reed made a while back, in which she related an anecdote about a conversation she had with Matt Dillahunty:

Matt was describing his days in the Navy, back when he was still a conservative Christian, and told the story of how he once had to fire a guy who was a good sailor and good at his job because of DADT. He then talked a bit about how his views on homosexuality have evolved over time. Matt said that a long time ago he used to find two men kissing to be disgusting, and he had a reaction of revulsion to it. But while attending the recent wedding of two friends of his, gay men, his reaction when they kissed was one of happiness for them. No revulsion, just dawww.

That’s all well and good, but what jumped out at me was how Matt then stated that this leads him to believe that he’s become “more gay”, relative to the Kinsey scale, over time…it wasn’t the spectruming itself that got to me so much as the description of his revulsion with homosexuality as being a condition of straightness…the opposite of attraction is not disgust. The opposite of attraction is boredom.

I’m leaving out a lot of really interesting discussion about gender and orientation theory that goes on in the post for the sake of brevity; read the full post for the full experience. For now, the point that I want to make is that the distinction Natalie Reed makes here is similar to the one that hit me in the brain the other day: that in the same way that the opposite of being homosexual isn’t being disgusted by homosexuality, the opposite of being “naturally” poly isn’t having jealousy issues with poly. The opposite of being “naturally” poly is being uninterested in poly. It’s being bored by the idea of poly in the first place. Jealousy is a practical consideration, not a preferential consideration.

This may be a purely semantic point to make. As I said before, the fact that I make this distinction doesn’t mean that I think it’s a bad idea to decide to be monogamous because you have jealousy in poly relationships. I think that can be a perfectly rational, valid, good decision to make. I just don’t think that it’s exactly the same thing as being naturally monogamous. The point may be purely academic, but it’s helping me think about things up here in my brain, so I’m writing it out.


* The phrase “naturally monogamous” is here being used in a style roughly analogous to “heterosexual”, where “monogamous” would be more analogous to “in practice only dating people of the opposite gender”.

**  Using binary terms for the sake of the simplicity of the analogy. Not sure how to keep this readable and also acknowledge the full breadth of genders and sexual orientations. Any terminology or phrasing advice on this is welcome.