Coming Out as Monogamous
- My belated National Coming Out Day post coming out as monogamous
- Oct. 13th, 2013 at 11:33 PM
- My beliefs about polyamory have changed a lot over the past couple years. I haven't written a lot about those changes yet, as I have been too busy "catching up on life", and I've wanted to simmer my thoughts, as it's a subject I know people have strong feelings about. But I've been reminded several times recently that there are people who heard about polyamory from me and are now experimenting with it themselves, and I feel a responsibility to speak up, so here goes.
- I think that polyamory - multiple consenting partners - is a relationship style that can work well for some people in some life situations. If you want to prioritize freedom (keep your contracts minimal and short), variety (of personalities you interplay with), or exploration of types of partnerships, it might make sense.
- However, if you wish to prioritize true love (depth of intimacy with a hopefully forever partner) or a stable family, I think polyamory is a style which is at best deeply challenging and at worst fundamentally opposed to those goals. So I want couples with these priorities who are considering polyamory to make sure they aren't ignoring the tradeoffs in a setting where the cost of failure is significantly more than a broken heart.
- I'm going to be minimal(ish) here as far as explanations, I don't have time to write a Moldbug-length essay on this now (although I hope to explore my new perspectives in a series of blog posts over the coming months and years). You'll simply have to trust (or not) that there are a variety of other reasons and narratives, and that even if you don't find this one compelling, I may still have a point. So, briefly (relative to my internal body of musings on the subject):
- If you have kids, and you wish to parent them in a long-term partnership with another adult, then relationship stability needs to be a huge priority for you. If you want to create a happily-ever-after, Milton & Rose marriage, then relationship stability needs to be a huge priority for you. And having a stable relationship, given human nature and nurture in the 21st century, is hard. A forever relationship doesn't just build itself. It requires investment. Lots of it.
- And despite the perpetual motion machine promise of polyamory - that nothing about relationships is zero-sum - it is a fact of the world that we only have so much to invest. Time that Yolanda spends learning how to get along slightly better with her boyfriend Zion is time that she doesn't spend learning about her husband Xerxes. Hobbies she uses to intertwine her life with Zion are hobbies she doesn't use to do the same with Xerxes. She may learn new things from Zion (she almost certainly will) - but she does so at the cost of the monomaniacal focus which it takes to succeed in any great enterprise. And make no mistake, true love and a stable family are great enterprises.
- Yolanda may find, at points in her life, that she gets declining marginal utility from her time with Xerxes. If her focus is short-term enjoyment, naturally it makes sense to spend some of her love budget on consuming units of Zion. All I'm saying is that she should be aware of the long-term costs. If she wants Xerxes to continue supplying units of his love for decades to come - if she wants him to not only fertilize her zygotes now but cackle with her over their grandchildren in a half-century - then she should consider a long-term, exclusive contract. And she should remember that in the startup world, a co-founder who is "committed" to multiple ventures is not really committed to any. (Yes, Elon Musk, but you aren't Elon Musk. You aren't even the Elon Musk of love. Also, Elon Musk is now a double-divorcйe).
- Of couse all of this is contingent on your priorities, and I'm not judging those (at least, not now). If you aren't "getting all your needs met" by your partner, and you want to try building a diversified partner portfolio, then go right ahead. Unless, that is, you claim that you are deeply devoted to your children & family life, or that you want an incredibly deep relationship where you and your twin flame have plumbed the icy depths of each other's souls to reach the hot burning magma of true love beneath.
- In that case, I have to say - WTF? SRSLY? RLY? So your children are the most important thing in the world to you...and you've decided to press your wife's primal "GET RID OF THIS MAN" button because you want to cavort with a woman whose energetic temperature is a little different? So you want to build a love that will echo through the ages but you can't be bothered to learn to give and get the things that are hard for you, but important for your partner?
- Sorry, but preferences are revealed through action, talk is cheap, and tradeoffs are part of life. If a stable family or true love are your goals, and your relationship is unsatisfying, then either fix it or GTFO. You aren't going to meet those goals by investing in instability. If your heart, head, or hoo-ha are pulling you away from your partner, then please consider the interrelated possibilities that a) he/she/ze/zir/it isn't your forever love / the right person to have children with, and/or b) you aren't truly ready, committed, and trying. Either way (likely both), the path forward is to think about (a) and (b), not to try to escape problems of partner fit and internal issues by distracting yourself with external experiences.
- Anyway, as always, filter this through your experience and customize it for your personal situation.
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